There will be no racing at Illiana Speedway in 2016.
At least for now.
Track owner and promoter Mike Mikuly said that if he finds the right buyer, it may reopen as quickly as it closed.
Mikuly made the announcement via a message on Saturday morning on the track’s website:
“It is with a heavy heart that we make this announcement. Illiana Speedway will not be opening for the 2016 season. The sale listing has ended, but the property is not sold, it is still for sale.
“We do have some interested parties looking at the facility in hopes it will re-open as a race track. If we hear any news, we will post it on our site.”
Mikuly indicated in a phone interview that he was meeting with one potential buyer on Saturday and another next week. Both, he said, were interested in keeping the speedway open.
“I’m trying to entertain people who are wanting to keep it open as a race track,” Mikuly said. “I don’t want to see the track close.”
“I worked my butt off for that place. I don’t want to see it bulldozed down. I want to be able to sit there at the end and watch a race without getting hurt all the time,” he added.
In the meantime, the gates will remained closed.
Mikuly, who acquired the facility from Harry Molenaar in 1999, said he is dealing with health issues. He also stated that he lost “a ton” of money operating the facility over the past two seasons.
He cited negative comments on social media and its effect on attendance as another reason for the track’s closing.
“They’re destroying short track racing, and for some reason, they just don’t want to be believe they are,” Mikuly said. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘Oh, we were going to come out to your place. Then when we went to look up information on Facebook and read how this and that was messed up, we just kind of decided we’ll find something else to do.’”
“They [the detractors]don’t seem to think it makes a difference, but it does. Social media is going to be the demise of short track racing. They need to support these places, not criticize.”
Mikuly said that an ARCA Midwest event already scheduled for Memorial Day weekend has been put on hold, pending his negotiations with potential new track owners.
Illiana Speedway has been in operation since 1945, when Molenaar opened it for motorcycle racing. The first stock car event was held in 1948.
Molenaar remained the owner and promoter until 1999. Mikuly, a former street stock champion, transformed Illiana into a virtually a brand-new track in 2000 with improved walls, lighting and a repaved surface. He later added new grandstands.
Word spread quickly through the racing community after Saturday’s announcement. It caught longtime starter Tom White by surprise.
“I loved the place,” White said. “I had a lot of passion for it, and I couldn’t wait to come every single week. This is a huge surprise. I feel a lot of disappointment.”
Drivers who planned on racing a full schedule at Illiana, meanwhile, will have to find other options.