Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., was one of the premiere sprint car tracks in the upper Midwest. The historic racetrack was sold in 2015 to Chuck Brennan, who made big money as the owner of a payday loan business Dollar Loan Center.
The track was renamed Badlands Motor Speedway after the sale and raced a season in 2016. For most of 2017 and for all of 2018 it has sat idle as Brennan has tried to sell the facility. In Nov. 2016, South Dakota voters voted to ban payday and short-term, high-interest loans — forcing Brennan to sell or shut down his business assets in the state. One of those assets was Badlands Speedway.
Now, the clock is literally ticking on the future of the 3/8-mile racetrack, to the point where the facility may not exist at all in a few months.
Badlands Speedway announced on its website that if a buyer is not in place and finalized by Dec. 31 — all buildings, bleachers, the race track itself, electrical, sewer system and lighting will be removed and the acreage will be turned into a natural wildlife sanctuary. The Badlands website has a countdown clock to a deal — down to 79 days as of Oct. 12.
Personal note: I have been to Huset’s/Badlands a handful of times for USMTS shows. It is a nice facility and one of the most uniquely shaped tracks I have been to.
I realize this is outside my normal racing coverage area but I write this for two reasons: first, many Fargo/Grand Forks area sprint car racers have raced at this track, not to mention that most sprint car fans have been there to see a weekly or World of Outlaws show over the years.
“Sprint car racing at Huset’s was very unique,” said Mike Spieker of Fargo, an expert on sprint car racing in this part of the country. “The track is a big 3/8 mile, but it raced like a little bullring. The fast way around was usually right up against the outside wall up on the cushion. Even if the leader checked out in the feature, the racing was still exciting because the drivers had to race the track as much as each other.”
Second, and perhaps most importantly, the threat of a track locally closing down is always a possibility — whether it is financial reasons, facility issues, disputes with county/fair board members, etc. This could happen in our own backyard at some point. Remember when Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo closed after the 2012 season, it sat idle until 2016, leaving a big void in the racing scene up this way.
The Badlands website says the purchase price is $6.3 million. I am guessing there aren’t many individuals in the Midwest who are race fans who have that kind of cash at their disposal. The Badlands website says $15.75 million has been invested in upgrading the facility — which seems high and honestly I’d like to see the proof of that number. Huset’s was an older facility but was in pretty good shape the last time I was there in 2012 so I can’t imagine it took nearly $16 million to update the place. Brennan wanted to turn Badlands in a huge entertainment venue that was used beyond racing. That plan did a 180 after the Nov. 2016 vote about payday loans.
One person who has watched this Badlands situation closely is Rod Pattison of Sioux Falls. Pattison has long been involved with Huset’s Speedway and racing in the eastern South Dakota region. At Huset’s, he did radio broadcasts, was the infield pit reporter from 1995 to 2012 and has been on the track’s Hall of Fame committee since 2001, serving the last 14 years as chairperson.
The news of the potential end of the track, is disappointing to many race fans, Pattison being one of them.
“When I heard the announcement that Huset’s was closing, it’s like I lost a close friend,” Pattison said “Huset’s was more than just a race track, it was a family reunion of sorts. The racing family is the most unique, passionate and loyal people in sports. From the time I was one year old to the time the doors were locked, it was a ritual. We all cheer for different drivers and marvel in their skill and bravery, but when the chips are down with one of our ‘family’ members, we rally around them like no other. Huset’s Speedway was not just a dirt track, it had become an international dirt track brand that will be missed by tens of thousands of people.”
It would be total shame of the track is demolished. Much of the blame for its potential demise is pretty easy in my opinion — that’s on Brennan. I don’t have time to describe what a mess he has made of this, but the most recent is that that asking price of $6.3 million is too dang high. Basically you are making it almost impossible for a local buyer to be found. Maybe, someone, or some group is out there to get this done.
If fans are looking for some hope, Chateau Raceway near Lansing, Minn., sat idle for the first half of 2018 but found a buyer. Maybe someone or some people will step up for Husets.
Right now, race fans in southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa need a Hail Mary to save the place. There is a Huset’s Speedway Timeline Facebook page that put out a post on Oct. 2 with a plan to save the track. They are looking for 3,150 fans to contribute $1,000 apiece (and , hoping that offer would be accepted by Brennan and the Badlands group. The $1,000 can be used as one owner’s share of stock, one free pit pass for every race in 2019 or a season ticket for 2019 and 2020.
The clock is indeed ticking.
If it does go away for good, it will leave a major void in racing, particularly for sprint car fans.
“It would be a huge loss to Sprint Car racing,” Spieker said. “The track has been a home to sprint cars since pretty much the beginning and has hosted some huge races and developed some great talent. Already, we’ve seen a few prominent 410 Sprint Car teams close shop with the closing of the track. Outside of the Sioux Falls area, there just isn’t much for 410 racing. Thankfully, series like the Midwest Sprint Touring Series have kept 360 Sprint Car racing in a healthy state. Right now, it’s one of the nicest facilities in all of dirt track racing and it’s just sitting dormant. The new ownership seemed destined to make it one of the top tracks in the country, but that obviously hasn’t panned out. I’m hopeful the right person or group of people can take control of it before the so called ‘deadline.’”