CONCORD, N.C. — When Gregg McKarns and his wife, Angie, were announced as promoters of Angell Park Speedway on Feb. 22, it was the culmination of a process that started in late 2019.
Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis., has been a part of McKarns’ life since his youth. He’s spent years attending races at the third-mile dirt track, taking in the sights and sounds of the midgets and sprint cars that have frequented the facility through the decades.
“The track is a half hour from our house, it’s a half hour from our other race track (Madison Int’l Speedway). We would go there as a family or Angie and I would go there on date nights on Sunday nights,” McKarns explained. “It’s kind of been part of my racing scene since youth.”
The track, which first hosted auto racing in 1923, is owned by the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Co. The facility was leased to promoter Kenny Brown, who owns the POWRi sanctioning body, from 2013 through ’19.
However, when McKarns got word in 2019 that the lease with Brown was set to expire, he threw his hat in the ring to promote racing at the historic venue.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making racing in the United States difficult in 2020, it took some time for the negotiation process to move forward. Then, much to McKarn’s disappointment, in late December he was informed that SLS Promotions and Hans Lein were selected as the new Angell Park promoters.
SLS Promotions and Lein were formally announced as Angell Park’s promoters on Jan. 29.
“We were told Dec. 1 that they were going to go with the other group. It was a big letdown in our family. We just kind of kept in touch with what was going on,” McKarns said. “We were hoping we could get the track for long term and start making it part of our promotional plan moving forward right through retirement.”
Fast-forward a few weeks and McKarns said he and his wife were at an auction when they got an unexpected phone call.
“Low and behold we’re at an auction and there is a bunch of equipment and we kind of joked that we probably would have been bidding on the equipment had we had Angell Park,” McKarns recalled. “We stopped for a beer and the phone went off on Friday, Feb. 12 and they basically said if you still have interest, we want to talk with you again.”
As it turned out, the arrangement with SLS Promotions and Lein had fallen through. Ten days later, the McKarns family was announced as the new promoters of Angell Park Speedway after agreeing to a five-year contact.
“It was funny, I actually mentioned at the promoters’ workshop in Daytona that yeah, we were trying to make a play on a dirt track and it didn’t come through, but hopefully in five years we’ll be able to circle back and make another play at it,” McKarns said. “Just days later, here it was back in play. It’s funny how things work out.”
Angell Park Speedway is now part of McKarns’ extensive racing portfolio, which includes Madison Int’l Speedway and the ARCA Midwest Tour asphalt super late model series. He believes his position as a local promoter will be a big benefit to improving fan and car counts at the track.
“We just feel that being in market versus having promoters from outside the area, we feel that we can do a better job marketing within the community and be more involved and be back on people’s radar, so people know when the races are going on and who is running,” McKarns said.
McKarns is working to finalize a 10-race schedule for Angell Park, which includes the prestigious Pepsi Nationals, which will be sanctioned by the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series on Sept. 5, multiple visits by the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Series, an All Star Circuit of Champions race on June 6 and more.
In addition, the Badger Midget Auto Racing Ass’n, which first raced at Angell Park in 1940, will run numerous events at the track.
“The Badger midgets are a great division and they’ll be a part of everything we do there,” McKarns said. “The USAC midgets, that was something where I had reached out to them when we thought we were going to get it (the track) the first time around and had that event scheduled. So I was glad to see that it was on their schedule when it was released even though it was with a different party than us.
“Then when the track came back to us, the event that we wanted to bring in with the USAC midgets was still on the schedule and we were able to keep that.”
McKarns he has no plans to expand the racing schedule at the track and make it a weekly racing facility.
“I think it is more of a special-event track,” McKarns said. “Obviously, that is going to be dictated to us in the long run. It’s been a special-event track, it is a special-event track. Maybe it becomes a weekly track, but at this point as we sit here today, I don’t foresee that being the case.”
At this point, McKarns said there are no plans for extensive changes to the track, though he does plan to make a few minor renovations, including the installation of Whelen caution lights around the track.
“We’re going to bring Whelen caution lights and some of those things and do a little bit of cleanup and really just get the word out there and try to do a good job promoting,” McKarns said. “We’re looking forward to it.”