Beloved by the midwest drag racing community as the second oldest strip in Indiana, Osceola Dragway is currently undergoing a transformation. The modest independent track owned by the Chizum family since 1957 is becoming a formidable motorsports complex.
The facility expansion includes dragstrip improvements, a business park, road course, and open arena for mud racing, tractor pulling, and year-round sports such as snowmobile racing.
“We even have plans for many community events, such as a drive-through Christmas light show,” McMillen adds. “We’re trying to make it an event place. We want to keep everyone extremely happy and provide a place that promotes pride to all aspects of the community.”
In October of 2019, the Elkhart County Commission voted almost unanimously to rezone the property to include the expanded business operation. Since that approval, a group of neighbors has filed a lawsuit against the council for sanctioning the zoning change.
“Many don’t realize that the lawsuit is against the council, and not Osceola Dragstrip or Hoosier Motorsports Park,” says McMillen. “It is not a setback, but rather a delay at this point, in my opinion. I want to stress that despite any rumor mill, the dragstrip will open in the spring, whether it be as Osceola Dragway as it sits, or as part of the HMP expanded operation.”
It is true that should the lawsuit by a handful of local residents get the zoning change overturned, McMillen states it would be detrimental to the motorsports park expansion. Many supporters have been quick to point out that the property has been an operating dragstrip since 1957; that is well before Elkhart County even had zoning laws.
Our group of hand-on partners have bigger plans for the track than as it sits. The seven of us agree that to operate a successful business from this investment; you can’t just operate on Fridays or Saturdays. – Terry McMillen
With that said, there are many legal stipulations based around the “grandfather clause” that “disallow new rules or regulation to be enacted that would upset a well-established logistical situation,” such as the grandfathered dragstrip business.
“What is the most frustrating part of this to me is the existence of a railroad yard located less than one mile away from these residences,” confides McMillen. “The rail yard is louder than the racing and spans all hours of every day.”
McMillen explains both his frustration and optimism around the history of the property as an airport and, subsequently, the dragstrip. He describes that there were three houses in the area back then. The locals now complain that they need to relocate the track in a rural area away from them.
It is unheard of for any business to thrive for almost 60 years without updating their business dynamics. Hoosier Motorsports Park is the new model necessary to move the business of racing into the future. That is what the grandfather clause should defend.
“I have been a fan of Bill Bader’s hands-on business approach at Summit Motorsports Park for a long time,” McMillen finishes. “I’ll never forget the first time I met Bader — he personally took the time to drive our Funny Car team to our hotel amidst one of his busiest events of the year. I have always admired the entire Bader family over the years for the customer service that has resulted in one of the most respected and impressive racing facilities in the country.”
The Northwestern Indiana region will be fortunate to see another business model similar to Summit Motorsports Park emerge in their area.