RACEWAY TO CLOSE IN OCTOBER
Reprinted with permisson from The Ottowa Daily Times
By JOHN SCARBECK - Staff Writer
UTICA - Owners says it’s become too costly to keep Bennett Raceway open, so the 35-year-old go cart track at U.S. 6 and Illinois 178 will close this October. Bob Grusk, one owner, said Bennett Raceway is closing when racing season ends during the Burgoo Festival - the second Sunday in October. “It’s just too much of a liability,” Grusk said. “It’s not a money-making proposition - there’s only one club that races here as far as go carts.”
Grusk, who owns the track with his wife, Bonnie, and her brother, Dee Bennett, said a Utica go cart club rents the nine-acre track when its members want to use it. Other car clubs use the track too. The track and the land it’s on aren’t being sold. “The only thing we’re doing is we’re stopping the racing,” Grusk said. The track may disappear after it’s closed. “Probably what will happen is we’ll tear out the track,” Grusk said. “We have no immediate plans.”
Utica Mayor Joe Carey said the town shouldn’t be adversely affected by the closing. “I don’t think there’ll be that great of an impact on Utica,” Carey said. “Most of the people who use that track are from out of town.” He said racers using the track usually don’t shop downtown, and often bring their lunches with them. He was philosophical about the closing. “Economics is the name of the game, and I think that has a play in it,” he said.
Mike Olsen of the Chicagoland MG Club, which raced at the track for the last six years, agreed that costs make it tough to run a track that isn’t always in use. “It’s just used on weekends and during the week it sits idle,” said Olsen, of Hoffman Estates. “It’s hard to pay the insurance costs which today are just phenomenal. “It’s not cheap.”
Jeff Mueller raced with the MG club on its last visit to the track ealier this month. He brought his MG - a small English two-seater sports car - though he hasn’t yet joined the club. Mueller, of Darien, said he liked Bennett Raceway because its track doesn’t have walls. “I enjoyed knowing if I did go off the track, I’m not damaging the car,” he said. Drivers losing control roll off the track onto grass.
Olsen said 14 of the club’s members raced at the track at its last visit July 8. “We’re going to miss the track,” he said. “We’ve had an awful lot of fun there. “The track is very safe, so you can kind of let it all hang out.” Because Bennet Raceway features a short, twisting track, speeds reach only 40 to 45 m.p.h., Olsen said. No nearby track exists to take the place of Bennett Raceway, he said, so the club probably will race on a large parking lot on weekends by setting up traffic cones and slaloming around them. Members will miss scenery as well as the track. Olsen said that when returning to the suburbs, they’d drive through Starved Rock State Park. “What a scenic route that was, especially in the fall when the trees were turning (colors),” he said. “What a beautiful drive.”
And another note:
from Lonny Cain, Managing Editor, The Daily Times, 815-433-2000:
Would love to hear if you get any response or feedback on the closing of the track in Utica.