Mike Neff · Wednesday July 25, 2012
Promoting a local short track is no easy feat in today’s tough economic times. Add in the challenge of trying to grow a form of racing that is popular elsewhere but in its infancy in the region where the track is located, and the difficulties multiply. Jeremy Burnett promotes Millbridge Speedway with his wife Ashly and help from anyone who is willing to pitch in and try and make the 1/6th mile dirt track between Mooresville and Salisbury North Carolina a success. This is the second season under the Burnetts’ leadership and the track has undergone some improvements, with more planned in the future. New lights, a new retaining wall and new dirt recently added to the surface are all helping to entice more competitors and fans to visit the bullring every other Wednesday throughout most of the year.
The Mini Outlaw Racing Series runs four divisions at the track from Beginner Box Stocks with restricted engines and drivers as young as four years-old to the feature division, the Open Mini Outlaws. The Open karts have a 500 CC engine and a large wing on the top which helps lend them the name of Outlaws because they look just like an Outlaw Sprint Car, only smaller. The combination also gives them the same power-to-weight ratio as their full sized cousins.
The series is designed around two main premises. First it is a fun place where drivers who aren’t busy on a Wednesday night, or who haven’t been able to make it as full-time drivers, have a place to race. Second, it allows kids who want to try their hand at racing an affordable means to race on a bi-weekly basis in a very safe vehicle, with a chance to learn and move up the ranks as their skills progress. Some well-known drivers who have competed at Millbridge this season include Justin Allgaier, Kyle Larson, Nelson Piquet, Jr, Kyle Strickler and Jimmy Elledge.
Jeremy Burnett took a little time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for the Frontstretch about promoting Millbridge, how he came to do it and some of the challenges he faces.
Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com: When did you start working with the Mini Outlaw Series and why did you end up there?
Jeremy Burnett: I started helping the Mini Outlaw Series in 2010 full time. I went to a few races with Nick Tucker (NASCAR driver) where he was trying to do all of the promoting and race himself. Then in 2010, we decided to run a Wednesday Night Thunder division to have a playground for everyone to come out to race during the week.
Neff: What made you decide to have the series based at Millbridge Speedway instead of traveling to different tracks?
Burnett: We tried the traveling series and as kart counts dwindled, our Wednesday Night division started picking up steam. So halfway through the 2010 season we went to running on just Wednesday nights.
Neff: Why did you decide to lease Millbridge and become a promoter?
Burnett: In 2011, during the off season Nick Tucker and myself decided we were going to race at Millbridge and Woodleaf Speedway each once a month. The previous promoter of Millbridge decided in Febuary of 2011 that he was no longer able to run the track. We made quick work of some things, signed the lease on March 13th, and had our first race on March 18th. It worked out great because Millbridge is in the perfect location and about the perfect size track for the outlaw karts.
Neff: How hard is it to find sponsors to help out with a local short track these days?
Burnett: It is very difficult for sure. Everyone around is trying to get the best bang for their buck. We are very thankful for the great sponsors we currently have. Without them we would not be able to have the great facility that we race at.
Neff: What made you decide to run on Wednesday Nights?
Burnett: Mainly because everyone around the area is in some way involved with racing. Whether it is local short track Late Models or racing in the top 3 NASCAR series. With our track racing on Wednesday, it has allowed us to get a lot of exposure with many NASCAR and big dirt drivers in the area. We have also had Speed TV out at the track and we were also recently featured on NASCAR Race Hub. ESPN.com even quoted Millbridge as “ a regional mecca for those breaking into or furthering a passion for the sport, including members of the NASCAR community and their children”
Neff: What is your vision for the Mini Outlaws in the coming years?
Burnett: To be the premiere dirt racing series in North Carolina and the Premiere Outlaw Kart series in the country. We already have the second largest paying Outlaw Kart race in the country, that being the East Coast Nationals at the Iredell County Fair coming up September 5.
Neff: Do you feel like more NASCAR personalities will start participating?
Burnett: There is a lot of interest from many different NASCAR personalities. I feel like it is only going to grow. You never know who you will see racing at Millbridge or even walking through the pits. We have had guys like Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Dale Jr, Brad Keselowski, Justin Allgaier and many others out at the track scoping things out and even a few of them have raced or hot lapped after the races!
Neff: Anything else you’d like to share?
Burnett: If you haven’t been out to Millbridge Speedway this year or in the last two years, I highly suggest you come check it out one Wednesday Night! The Mini Outlaw Karts put on a great show week in and week out. Also I would like to thank some of the great sponsors that have made all of this possible. Boschele and Boyle, Hoosier Tire, L&M Construction, SKE Karts, JR Motorsports and everyone else involved.
The challenge of promoting a local track and racing series has been daunting with the outlook of the economy being less than ideal, but things are beginning to turn around. The races last Wednesday at Millbridge had some of the biggest fields of the year in the Beginner Box Stocks and 125 CC classes while the Box Stocks continue to have large fields and more Open karts are coming out every week. The track is working hard to try and arrange for a large race the Wednesday after the East Coast Nationals so that drivers who travel to the area for the Nationals will have more incentive to make the trip with two big races in a week.
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