getting nostalgic w/Brian Losness

The End of Rocky Mountain Raceway?


The Summer Sendoff was run at Rocky Mountain Raceway near Salt Lake City on Aug. 25-26. This event has been a staple of their schedule in many different configurations for many years. In recent history, it has been the next-to-last stop for the NHRA Heritage Series funny cars before the California Hot Rod Reunion.


However, there is irony in the title of the event because, as it is widely known, it is possible that 2017 could be the last year of Rocky Mountain Raceway. There is word that it could continue in 2018, but, according to General Manager Ron Kraft, the management team at Young Automotive (who owns the facility) is supposed to let the RMR team know by September of the impending plans for the facility.


Not only does RMR have a drag strip, it also houses a high bank half-mile oval and a motocross track.


“As of right now we are planning on 2018, until we hear different,” stated Kraft. “But after that we don’t know.”


It is understood that the Young Automotive Group has sold the land that the track sits on and that land is on a lease basis back to the Young Automotive Group.


So, right now there are various possibilities that could play out. The track may or may not close at the end of the 2017 season. The lease could continue until the end of 2018. Or other accommodations could be made and the track ends up with an extended lease and will continue to operate as normal.


The problem is that the SLC area, like many in the west, is growing and suburbia is making its way towards the track, which twenty years ago was out in the middle of nowhere with some trucking company its only neighbors. Now strip malls are just down the street from it.


If the unthinkable were to happen, it would be interesting if another track would replace it. And where would one put said facility?


There is a motorsports complex in Grantsville/Tooele area, which is approximately 30 miles west of Salt Lake City. Miller Motorsports Park, which was built and operated by Salt Lake City automotive tycoon and owner of the Utah Jazz, Larry Miller, until his death. It is now re-branded as the Utah Motorsports Campus. It appears that there is enough undeveloped land to build a drag racing facility, and maybe an oval. However, it is not known whether or not the current ownership group would look at that as a viable business model to pursue. It has been reported that Mitime Investment and Development Group (subsidiary of Chinese car manufacturer Geely) purchased the lease for the property for $20 million. There have been some legal issues that occurred with this lease purchase as the county short-changed another bidder and sold the property at far below market value; however, as of today the facility is open and operating under MiTime management.


Another track that is scheduled to close at the end of 2017 is Sacramento Raceway Park. This property as of right now is up for sale, is listed for eleven million dollars, and is zoned for M1 land development. In addition, unless someone who is a huge drag racing enthusiast wants to shell out $11M and fight the county government who is trying to make the land available for commercial and residential usage, the county will get its way. The county wants this done by 2020, so it would be an uphill battle to save the track.


It’s a story that has played out across the country in recent years. Progress is always happening, and when some of these tracks here in the west were built, they were out in the middle of nowhere, and now houses and strip malls are showing up. And people who build and buy these homes whine and complain to local officials that “that damn race track is so noisy and dirty, and makes our lives a nightmare.” Even though that damn racetrack was there three decades before you decided to build your dream home on that piece of land, and you had to have seen i, when you were looking to build to buy. It’s 200 acres in size; it’s not like it is hiding from you behind a facade of some sort.


Nevertheless, such is life. Both Sacramento and Salt Lake City have the population size and demographics to support both a drag strip and an oval track. The question seems to be how far out can one go to build a facility, how fast will growth catch up to that track placement, and if it is too far out of the way will racers and more importantly fans come to support it?


So was the Summer Sendoff at RMR the last professional show for the track? We hope not. However, as one reads the tea leaves it might be next year when we “sendoff” RMR into the history books, as well as Sacramento. To be added to the places of history such as Ontario, OCIR, and many others, it will be a sad day indeed.   



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