The future of the Memphis International Raceway, a drag-racing staple in the mid-south region since the mid-1980s, is in question yet again after information surfaced in recent days suggesting a tentative deal with a non-racing party may have been struck to acquire the 342-acre facility.
According to a statement made online by Memphis International Raceway’s current Director of Race Operations Jeff Miles, a group he’s involved with made an offer of $3 million to acquire the track that was set to be accepted, but was then eclipsed by a later offer of a purported but unconfirmed $13.5 million. This follows a deal with an auto auction firm that reportedly that fell through a year ago in IRG Sports + Entertainment’s efforts to sell the property. The higher bidder is rumored to have visions of uses other than racing for the property. This while local racers have been actively preparing and distributing petitions to halt any sale to developers and keep racing alive in the area.
Miles, in an interview with WREG News 3 in Memphis, said he’s done everything he can to keep the property from closing. “I was in the process of trying to buy the place, along with a business partner, and we placed a bid of what we were told would pretty much get the place on Friday. On Monday another company put a bid in and it was great deal more than we had bid.” He continued, “When you lose this facility your drifters, your street racers or your drag racers, they all go back to the street and they’ll street race, which is certainly unsafe.”
Miles declined to make further comment when contacted by Dragzine for this story.
MIR has had a tumultuous tenure. It opened in 1987, originally envisioned by local investors as a drag strip with an adjacent road course, a dirt track and a go-kart track. It joined the NHRA tour in 1988 and hosted 22 editions of the Mid-South Nationals.
Known then as Memphis Motorsports Park, it was acquired by the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach in 1996, and a 3/4-mile paved oval was built on the site of the dirt track. In 1997, Dover Motorsports Inc. acquired the facility as part of its purchase of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. The property was then owned and managed by Memphis International Motorsports Corp., an affiliate of Dover.
In 2009, Dover had an agreement to sell the facility to Gulf Coast Entertainment for $10 million, but the deal fell through due to a lack of financing. The Dover group then, attempting to minimize its losses, closed the park down in October of 2009 and it sat vacant for more than a year, losing its valuable NHRA and NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series dates for good.
At a live auction in 2011, Dover Motorsports — at the time an independent operator of multiple NASCAR racing venues that has since been acquired by Speedway Motorsports — sold the Memphis facility to what was then known as Moroso Investment Partners for $2.06 million. The latter was a Florida investment group that had already acquired the Palm Beach International Raceway. Later known as IRG Sports + Entertainment, the outfit owned or for a time owned the Maryland International Raceway and Cordova International Raceway, as well as the International Hot Rod Association, International Drag Bike League, and the Palm Beach Driving Club. The Maryland and Cordova tracks have already been sold, and Palm Beach is believed to have been sold to developers, but such a deal remains unconfirmed.
Miles, in his social media statement, said MIR is tentatively slated to close at the end of May, but the deal, as would be expected, hinges on the buyers’ ability to rezone the land for its intended purposes.
MIR is set to be the starting point for Power Tour on June 13, and the start and end point for Drag Week on September 19 and 23. Its schedule also includes the Super Chevy Show April 22-24 and Radial Fest May 19-22. Radial Fest promoters say their event is still a go.