South Bend Motor Speedway, a fixture in the South Bend area for racing fans since the '40s, is back on track for the 2012 season.
After sitting empty for three years and nearly sold at a tax auction, new owners are striving to put racing back on track for area fans.
"Our long term goal is to make it successful," says Bill Brown, patriarch of the Brown family.
Brown, 68, his wife and three children are new owners of the Speedway property.
The racetrack had been having a rough go.
The track, which opened in the '40s and helped to launch the careers of Ryan Newman and David Stremme, sat empty and rundown for three years.
It was sold at a tax auction in 2009 ... but the previous owner Mike Bird, was able to pay those back taxes before the facility was handed over. Bird put the property up for private auction. The highest bid was $250,000, but the bidder wasn't going to use the property as a race track so a deal was never reached.
Bill Brown and his family eventually purchased the property at 25698 S.R. 2 in 2010.
"We promote a family atmosphere out here," says Brown as he walks the property.
The family owned the M-40 speedway in Jones, Mich., and have been involved racing for decades. They are spending thousands of dollars renovating grandstands and rebuilding concession stands.
Other improvements include a new scoring tower, plans for new restrooms, skybox, children's playground and eventually a new racing surface.
Brown hopes those results mean racing will return to South Bend.
"I hope everyone who comes out here enjoys it, if they don't enjoy it, come see me and I'll make sure they enjoy it," says Brown.
Brown is especially proud of the food selection the race track will offer this year. He compares it to fair food, but better.
"I say we have to take care of the fans first, they pay the bills. So you have to make them happy," says Brown, "give them good food and good service. So we do. We have the best food out here. We do anything from a hot dog to a steak sandwich."
On average about 2,000 people came to each race last year. It was the first year the track was open in three years and the first year under Brown family ownership.
An open house is planned for Saturday (April 21). Brown says people will be able to come out and see all the improvements.
Then, on April 28, the track will host its first demolition derby of the season.
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