Why Mansfield, Ohio? And more specifically, why an old asphalt track?
After the success of the Gateway Dirt Nationals Cody Sommer went and bought a race track. The Charlotte, NC resident didn’t just buy a dirt track. Instead, he went a more complicated route.
Cody Sommer purchased an old retired NASCAR track in Mansfield, Ohio. He then dug into the racing surface and began converting it to a dirt track.
It was a roundabout way of getting to the same point. From the outside looking in, it seems like it would have been easier to just buy a dirt track from the get go. Yet, looking deeper, it all makes sense.
Why did you go that route?
“Well, I think that people can see now, why,” Cody Sommer states to RacingNews.co . “Maybe then, they didn’t understand. But, I think they are beginning to understand why.”
“In order for our sport to escalate to a new level, we have to position ourselves to be able to do that. It’s nothing against these race tracks that have been run down and used up. They’re not exactly the most pleasant experience for a new fan.”
“The facilities are used up, they’re old. So, take that into account. If you’re ever going to try to do something bigger for a sport you probably wouldn’t want to do it at kinda an older facility.”
“Nothing against those facilities. It’s just that I was not interested in that. I’m interested in some bigger picture things here. Therefore, you need bigger picture venues.”
Mansfield Motor Speedway was already equipped with newer styled grandstands and suites. These are both characteristics that are uncommon at dirt tracks, unheard of in reality. Especially for tracks that are listed for sale on the market. At most worn out dirt tracks, you might take a wrong step, falling directly through a rotten section of the grandstands. That’s not uncommon.
Mansfield on the other hand has an aluminum seating capacity of 10,000. Which doesn’t count the hillside seating which can hold a few thousand more.
Full track ownership
“Mansfield is quite interesting,” Cody Sommer continues to explain his reasoning behind the Ohio selection. “I really wasn’t interested in having a full-time property.”
“I was interested in doing the big dirt late model race. I was shopping around for a venue to do that. I was looking in Indiana and I was looking in Ohio because I just felt like it was a good area for it.”
By ‘big dirt late model race’ Cody is referring to the Dirt Million. That race is sanctioned by the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and will be hosted August 24-25, 2018. As of Friday August 23rd, 2018 the purse payout for the event is set at $376,760. That will make it the largest paying dirt late model race since the Eldora Million in 2001.
“There were a few options on the table that I was really heavy contemplating. Mansfield came across my plate. I basically was soliciting the idea doing this event there.”
“When I got through the process it was basically made clear to me that they’ve had a rough history over at Mansfield over the years. With their NASCAR and all the different things that they’ve done. They’ve had some very big high’s and some very big low’s.”
Mansfield Motor Speedway hosted it’s first NASCAR Truck Series race in 2004. In 2006, the then track owner invested heavily in a safety upgrade. Of those items, they installed safer barriers all the way around the turns of the facility.
In 2008, just following the required update, NASCAR hosted their final NASCAR Truck Series race at the speedway.
In 2010, the track closed. In 2013, the property was sold to Grant Milliron of Milliron Industries. Milliron purchased the complex for $800,000.
“Essentially, the property owner gave me the option of, ‘Listen, we’re not doing no one off races anymore. If you want to buy the property. Or at the very least put together a deal to buy the property. We’ll entertain that, but nothing else.’ ”
“After I toured the place, I saw the potential. Knowing how the engine works in my brain. I said, ‘This is something that could be very amazing here.’ It was hard not to just jump in.”
“I fell in love with the place. I fell in love with the potential of it. The rest is history.”
“I think it’s a venue that has great potential in the future of the sport. As we’re seeing with some of the stuff I’m planning this coming year. I think the success of those events is going to really determine how maybe some other venues and other promoters do things.”
Mansfield Motor Speedway is a .44 mile dirt track located in Mansfield, Ohio. 2017 was it’s debut year as a new track. It’s pumped life back into the facility. It’s now on the bucket list of dirt track racing fans across the entire country.
This weekend, the Dirt Million rolls into the speedway. The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event will feature the highest dirt late model payout in nearly 20 years.