Updated: May 29, 2013 7:29AM
Sometimes just cutting the grass at Illiana Motor Speedway can be a challenge.
All the rains that have hit the region lately have added extra work for track owner Mike Mikuly, who can’t wait for the start of the season. Illiana Speedway, an ASA member track, will open its gates for the 66th consecutive year on Saturday with five divisions of racing.
“I’m looking forward to the good weather more than anything right now,” said Mikuly, who bought the track in 1998 and opened his first season in ’99. “This rain, good grief, it’s insane. I was trying to mow the parking lot on Tuesday and I kept sinking in.”
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mikuly has been in business for himself since he was 17 years old. He’s owned the track for 14 years and despite challenges from the rain, cold, rising food costs, higher fuel prices and wear-and-tear of the race track, he still loves Illiana.
“It has not been easy, trust me. But it’d be like walking away from one of your children,” he said. “I love racing and I enjoy the people and the drivers. I’ve been around racing my whole life.
“It has its ups and downs and it has been very tough the past few years and I sit there and I look at how all the costs have gone up. We’re just now getting our food cost for the year and ‘Oh my gosh!’ I see the economy coming back a little bit and when we get into this kind of economy where you don’t know what’s going on you have to learn to cut corners and scrimp.”
Defending 2012 super late model champion driver “Fast” Eddie Hoffman has been racing at Illiana for more than 30 years and thinks Mikuly has done a great job keeping the track going during the tough times.
“He re-did the track and put up new lighting; the track has nice hard concrete walls and a good grandstand so it’s very appealing,” Hoffman said. “I think there’s a good market here and there’s a lot of history and a couple generations of drivers. That’s helped in a down economy.”
Besides five divisions of racing each Saturday at Illiana, Mikuly is planning to bring back “Crash Fest” this year and he’s trying to work in a monster truck show sometime during the year.
Special events such as the Molenaar Classic, the Musgrave Memorial and the 52nd Annual Tony Bettenhausen 100 will also take place this season.
The gates will open at 4 p.m. Saturday, with time trials set for 5:30 p.m. The first green flag will drop at 7 p.m. The five divisions this year are super late model, turbo stocks, legends, pure stocks and bandoleros.
Tickets start at $12 for adults; children ages 8-12 are $5; children 7-and-under are free. Parking is also free.