Luxemburg Speedway prepares for May 6 Opening Night
It has been a busy and stressful week at the Luxemburg Speedway, according to Eric Mahlik.
Mahlik was out at the racetrack with his partner, Ron Cochrane, and his father, Arnie, preparing for the track’s first week of the season, which will include an open practice for race cars on Friday, April 29 and opening night on Friday, May 6.
“We are doing this for the first time, and there is no checklist or manual that comes with our contract,” said Mahlik.
Mahlik and Cochrane, who signed a contract with Kewaunee County in February to operate the racetrack, were examining the graded dirt track that had been prepared for the race car drivers’ practice.
“It’s an opportunity for drivers to shake the bug out of their cars,” says Mahlik. “Anyone can come watch.”
More than 90 drivers have bought pit stalls and Mahlik is excited about his new Chase Series that will be part of the new season..
“Essentially it is like the playoffs for football,” said Mahlik. The 6-foot-4-inch race car driver is a former University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers football star who played in two Rose Bowls and was the defensive MVP in 2000.
Most racetracks have 19-20 races per season, Mahlik explained. Drivers earn points in each of the races, including points for attendance. So if a driver misses a race or two he can get behind and has less chance of earning a championship, he said.
The new Chase Series at the Luxemburg Speedway will include the last four races of the season. Drivers will be able to carry over some of their points from the regular season and compete for the Chase Series Championship.
There also will continue to be a regular season championship, giving drivers the opportunity to compete for two different championships each season, Mahlik said.
Mahlik has always enjoyed car racing. He grew up in Green Bay and attended Notre Dame Academy, but says the Luxemburg racetrack feels like home because it is where his dad raced in the 1960s.
Both of his parents, Arnie and Arlene Mahlik, grew up in Luxemburg and lived just a few blocks from the racetrack. Arlene passed away in 2012, but Arnie will be at opening night, Mahlik said.
Mahlik has raced at Luxemburg for the last six years and said he was upset last year when he heard it was closing.
“It’s a gorgeous track,” he said. “It’s a dirt track and it’s short and smooth, which really makes it fun for the driver.”
After he heard the track might be closing, he began talking with Cochrane, who works with him on his day job selling orthopedic implants out of Milwaukee, about possibly forming a partnership to lease the track. Cochrane hired him 14 years ago.
“He didn’t know much about racing, but I took him to the races at the 141 Speedway (in Francis Creek) last summer and proposed the idea and he said ‘let’s do it,’” Mahlik said.
Both decided it would be a fun way to spend their weekend nights and it won’t compete with their day jobs. They also thought that some improvements to the track facilities would help draw bigger crowds.
This spring they have been widening the track and installing smaller tires to mark the inside lane.
“We’ve removed the big tires that damaged the cars,” Mahlik said.
They are also installing a beer garden underneath the grandstand.
For the first time, the gate will also be taking credit cards. The cost will be $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for 13-17 year-olds, and 12 years and under will be free.
The operators are anticipating crowds of more than 1,000 on each of the race nights.
They will also be offering courses to train the “racers of tomorrow.”
Ryan Johnson, a technician, will be teaching the “A to Z of car racing” for those 14 years old and older on Saturdays, Mahlik said. There will be two sessions: June 4, 11 and 18 and July 9,16 and 23.
Johnson will be asking some of the drivers to volunteer to help educate the up-and-coming racers.
“It is to their advantage,” said Mahlik. “These are the kids they can be selling their cars to when they want to get new ones.”
Johnson said the courses will cover setting up a car, rules and regulations, safety and driving.
“I love dirt-track racing and I want to get more kids involved in the sport,” he said.
To sign up for the classes, call Johnson at 920-327-3989. Classes are $10 per session or all six classes for $50.
Karen Ebert Yancey can be reached at [email protected], on Facebook at Kewaunee County Star News Facebook, on Twitter at @EbertYancey or by calling 920-559-1235.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Luxemburg Speedway prepares for May 6 Opening Night