Shelby Development, a company with a proven track record, plans to literally smooth out all the rough spots at National Trail Raceway.
The new owners of the 270-acre drag racing complex on U.S. 40 have already made more than $500,000 in improvements since it purchased the property from the National Hot Rod Association less than two months ago. The company hopes to add about six more major events that attract a national audience.
Scott Gardner, chief operating officer of Shelby Development, said there are immediate improvements being made to the track surface and staging lanes, but many other long-term improvements are also planned.
"We felt it was a diamond in the rough," Gardner said. "It needs a shot in the arm, with marketing and physical improvements. The NHRA had a lot of eggs in their basket and didn't have the vision we have to redevelop the facility and make it a marquee facility." Gardner said the appeal is a strong market and a good foundation of events at National Trail.
The 53-year-old raceway hosts about 100 events annually, including Mopar Nationals, which brings fans from Europe and Australia, and the state high school cross country meet, which draws 15,000 participants and spectators. The NHRA has owned it since 1995, when it purchased the track from the Rader family.The National Trail Raceway schedule includes about eight major events that draw from beyond central Ohio, according to raceway consultant Mike Fornataro.
"It has the possibility to draw even more, and bigger, events to the area," Fornataro said. The NHRA "took it to another level and that's the case now. They're really looking to do amazing things here."'
Shelby purchased Heartland Park Topeka, in Kansas, in 2015, and turned that facility around in a hurry, Fornataro said. "Topeka had been in foreclosure and not operating and they did amazing things in a short amount of time, and now it's a jewel," Fornataro said. The immediate improvements at the local raceway include widening and resurfacing the staging lanes, repairing the concrete starting line, and putting down 3,000 feet of new asphalt to the racing surface all the way to the return road.
Long-term improvements include: the lighting, especially in the shutdown area; new grandstand seating; expansion from 10,000 to 15,000 seating capacity; face-lift to the tower; all new fencing; upgrade of entrances; and improved drainage.
Fornataro said the agreement with Shelby includes a 10-year guarantee National Trail will remain an NHRA-sanctioned drag strip. The new owner will also honor all the commitments in place for this year.
Note: Some of the improvements will effect the Manufacturer Midway layout this year. Every effort will be made to position Vendors in a "like" location.