First it opened, then closed. Then it reopened, then reclosed. The latest in revolving-door racing at Sun-tana Raceway Park is that the track is open, cars are racing and new owners see more races in the future.
Which, for race fans and drivers in Utah, is good news. Cars have been running on Suntana's oval track for more than 25 years.Ownership of the track has been taken over by Mike Barnes, Steve Kener and Kimberly Lloyd. Negotiations began back in early June when Jeff Nish gave up his lease and announced, for the second time, he was closing the doors.
In August 1997 Nish made the same announcement, but investors quickly stepped forward and infused enough money into the raceway to keep the doors open for the rest of the season.
Nish started what would have been his fifth season of racing at Suntana, but on June 16 he announced he was closing.
That's when the trio of new owners stepped forward. Barnes, the new track manager, then announced that racing would be continued for the season and ex-pand-ed in the future.
Along with oval-track racing, Barnes said the track will be open to BMX bike racing and moto racing for motorcycles.
"We'll begin construction on the new tracks this fall and have them ready for racing by next spring," he said. "We also plan to build a three-eights mile dirt track."
Plans are to open the track for practice on Wednesdays, run moto-cross on Thursdays, dirt track on Fridays, BMX on Saturdays in the morning and then oval racing on the asphalt on Saturdays in the evening.
"Down the road we'd like to put in a half-mile oval track, which would allow us to bring in some of the major racing events," said Barnes.
The track was the only NASCAR sanctioned racing in Utah. When Nish closed, he gave up the sanction. Barnes said he is currently in negotiations to bring back NASCAR in 1999.
Once the dirt track is complete it will host such classes as the wing sprint, IMAC modifieds and legends.
"One reason we're putting in a dirt track is the drivers want it. It's a very exciting race for both drivers and spectators," he added.
Classes on the asphalt track will remain the same and include late models, wing sprints, modified, truck series, pro stock, street stock and mini stock.
"If you expand the racing opportunity, and put up larger purses for the drivers, you're going to get more cars, which will mean better racing for the fans. That's our goal," Barnes said.
Suntana is located east of I-15 in Springville.