Since Ashly and Jeremy Burnett took over ownership of Millbridge Speedway in 2011, they have steadily improved the racing facility to become one of the premier Outlaw Kart tracks in the country. That growth has only continued in 2020, both on and off the track.
Ashly Burnett joined “The Bullring” from Studio 51 Monday morning to discuss that growth, which is on full display currently during DIAEDGE NC Race Week at the Salisbury, North Carolina track.
The most notable change for 2020 has been the addition of a new class of racing, the 600cc Micro Sprints. Alternating between winged and non-winged competition throughout the season, the Micro Sprints have consistently drawn full fields and big names.
NASCAR Cup Series competitor Christopher Bell and ARCA Menards Series East racer Chase Cabre are among the drivers who have won Micro Sprint races at Millbridge in 2020, with other notable names such as Hailie Deegan and Max McLaughlin also making appearances.
Micro Sprint racing at Millbridge started as a one-off event, the TRD Micro Showdown last November. It has grown into a much larger scene, with teams committing to running the new division.
“We started high with the big race last November and decided we’d do our first full schedule of the Micro Sprints. It’s actually taken off. For our first year, we’ve had a full field every week, I’m pretty sure. It’s interesting to start a brand-new series in the area. There were a few in the area, but not a ton of them.”
The marquee event this year at Millbridge for the Micro Sprints will be the return of the Keith Kunz Giveback Classic. The Non-Wing Micro Sprint event scheduled for November 2-4 will offer the winner $5,000 and a Chili Bowl ride with Keith Kunz Motorsports in 2021.
With the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there has been some anxious moments regarding this year’s KKM Giveback Classic. However, all signs point to a successful event in November.
“As a promoter, you get nervous that the big race you’ve geared up for all season, if it’ll happen or how many will show up. We’re all on board 100 percent going into November and it’s going to be a big event for them.”
One change that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has been splitting Millbridge’s weekly racing into two nights. Unexpectedly, Tuesday nights at Millbridge are now a showcase for the next generation of racers, with strong counts in the Beginner Box Stock and Box Stock classes getting their own night to shine each week. Second-generation racers such as Owen Larson (son of Kyle Larson) and Brexton Busch (son of Kyle Busch) have also competed in a handful of Tuesday night events.
“We knew that we were growing to a capacity that we weren’t allowed to have at the facility, so we decided to cut our nights into Tuesday and Wednesday nights. We’d have our kids with the Box Stocks and Beginners on Tuesdays, and that would allow us to still have Micro Sprints, Opens and Intermediates on Wednesdays.
“Everybody is begging me to stay with that next year. The Wednesday night thing started a long time ago. We had a lot of people that are in all types of racing in the Outlaw Karts, and we just had to think. The Saturdays weren’t working for us and the Wednesdays did work for us, so we stuck with that.”
Those nights have been the most rewarding for Burnett, who admits her favorite part of running Millbridge is developing young racers.
“Everybody knows at Millbridge that the kids are what I’m there for. Jeremy gets excited about the Micro Sprints and the Opens. I get excited about the kids. Kids’ Night is my race of the year. I put a lot of time into Kids’ Night. To see more than 60 karts at Kids’ Night was awesome.
“Usually, after Kids’ Night, it falls off, but this year, they surprised me. We were up again, over 30 karts in the Beginners and 25 in the Box Stocks. It’s great to know this is a safe and less expensive alternative for some people.”
Just as Millbridge Speedway has grown, so has its graduates, starting to make their imprint around the racing world. Drivers such as Boschele, McLaughlin and Ethan Mitchell first cut their teeth at Millbridge and are now traveling the country in their racing endeavors.
“It’s great to see my kids racing in 600 micro sprints all over the country. Gavan Boschele started in a Beginner Box Stock at Millbridge at age four. He is now all over the United States racing Micro Sprints.”
“We follow a lot of our kids wherever they go. Ethan Mitchell, we’ve watched him run in his Midget. We’ll watch Max McLaughlin in the Modified. We like to follow our kids throughout whatever they decide to do. If one of our kids decided to play football, we’d follow their football career.”
The Millbridge Speedway facility has also improved over the years. Just in the past year, the facility has seen an expanded pit area and a new victory lane among its upgrades. However, the biggest addition for 2020 was a new and improved tower, with plenty of space for both race control and media on even the biggest nights.
“Mama’s been wanting a press box for years. I always get on the backburner. It’s fencing or walls or asphalt in the pit area. Finally, I put my foot down, it is my year to get a new tower, so when Bob Dillner comes in, he doesn’t kick me out of my tower.
“With the tower, for big races, our tower was only so big. Speed51 would come in and take my side of the tower, and I’d get booted to the party deck and have to score races in 100-degree weather. It’s great that now Mark [Keeler] and Bob can have their air conditioning and I can, too.”
While Millbridge has grown significantly over the years, Burnett is never content. In her eyes, a promoter always has to be looking forward, to the next big step.
“I don’t think any promoter needs to be that way. If the promoter is done, then everyone will end up being done. I don’t ever want to be done.
“You can’t ever be 100 percent satisfied, so we’re just going to continue. Right now, we’re in the process of getting more parking. That’s the next big one.”
Race fans can watch the final two nights of DIAEDGE NC Race Week on Speed51.TV by clicking here. Beginner Box Stocks, Box Stocks and Cadets will compete on Tuesday, September 8, with the Non-Wing Micro Sprints, Open Outlaw Karts and Intermediate Outlaw Karts in action Wednesday, September 9.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo