It has been a tumultuous few months throughout short track racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which many tracks and series now working tirelessly to line up events while meeting state and local regulations in response to the disease.
One such promoter is Gregg McKarns, whose ARCA Midwest Tour is now slated to start its 2020 season on July 11 at Grundy County Speedway (IL). McKarns joined Speed51’s “The Bullring” on Monday to discuss that event, as well as confirmed and potential future dates for the series.
The Wayne Carter Classic is a special event for McKarns. His parents, John and Sue McKarns, promoted the ARTGO Challenge Series through 1997, and the Grundy County event will mark a return to those roots.
“I’m excited to get our season going for the Midwest Tour. We’ve picked up the pieces, and we’ll go to Grundy for the Wayne Carter Classic. That’s cool because that’s where my parents started with ARTGO in 1975, and here we are restarting with that event during the pandemic.
The series’ first event at Grundy County Speedway will take place thanks in part to a group effort involving promoters throughout the state of Illinois, which have made the Wayne Carter Classic 100 a reality.
“A group effort in Illinois, the Illinois Motorsports Coalition was formed,” said McKarns. “The who’s who of auto racing in the state put their efforts behind it. We went into it knowing it would be a tough task getting any track in Illinois to open.
“Slowly but surely we were able to pry it open with competitor events at the drag strips, more than anything. That helped drive the bus for the oval tracks, with practices and limitations on folks.”
While advance tickets are on sale for the Wayne Carter Classic, it is unclear at this time how many fans will be allowed to attend the event. McKarns hopes the Illinois facility can be at 50-percent capacity for the event.
“Now, we hope to be at 50-percent at July 11. We’ve got to take a leap of faith. We’ll jump through whatever hoops we need to, but it looks like Illinois will be open for business. It’s good to get motorsports back in Illinois.”
From there, the series has a couple of other events planned during the summer months to get the ball rolling on the 2020 ARCA Midwest Tour season, including a pair of prestigious Wisconsin events.
“Then, we’ll go to Wausau, State Park Speedway for the Larry Detjens Memorial at the end of the month on the 25th. Then we’ll roll into our Gandrud Auto Group Dixieland 250, which is $10,000 to win and $1,200 to start.”
While The Milwaukee Mile is currently not on the schedule after the series’ event at the historic facility was postponed from June 14, McKarns is hopeful that a rescheduling of that event can take place to keep the venue on the schedule.
Part of the optimism regarding that event comes from McKarns’ involvement in promoting street drag racing at the facility throughout the year. Those events will return on July 21, and he hopes a successful event on that date could pave the groundwork towards an oval-track return in 2020.
“We’re starting those up July 21. We’re trying to find a date at the Milwaukee Mile, and hopefully we’ll have one in the coming weeks and have an announcement. It was an event that we thought was dead in the water, and then they reached out to us to get the drags back going. That should get the floodgates open to do a stock car race at The Milwaukee Mile.
“Right now, that event is postponed from eight days ago. Now, it’s looking like a real possibility. As we maneuver what we need to there, we’ll be sure to let everyone know if and when we get racing back on the legendary oval.”
While the ARCA Midwest Tour championship season is currently scheduled to conclude on October 11 at the LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway with the Oktoberfest 200, the series will also be involved in another fall classic. McKarns is excited to be a part of this year’s All American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (TN), which will be a non-points event for the series.
“It’s pretty cool. Growing up, with my parents and the ARTGO Challenge Series, we went to Nashville a few times with Bob Harmon. Tom Deery and my dad did a big consulting project down there, so they spent a lot of time down there.
“My wife Angie and I went down there in 2016 for the spring race. It is such a cool fairgrounds facility with a lot of history and its neat to be involved in that.”
The All American 400 was already an event drawing a strong contingency of the Midwest Tour stars on a regular basis, so the partnership was an easy one to make from McKarns’ perspective.
“We had eight guys in our tour try their hands down there last year, so it seemed like a natural fit. I know our guys are looking forward to it. They love taking on that track and being able to meet their southern and eastern counterparts, and even a few guys out west.”
Fans who missed McKarns’ interview on “The Bullring” can watch it in its entirety by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo