Bob Timm understood the uphill climb ahead of him when he first took over Mississippi Thunder Speedway in 2008.
The dirt track — then known as the Tri-Oval — had its heyday but was in need of upgrades both physically and in terms of its reputation.
The longtime former driver knew he could get a track that drivers would love and provide fans with the type of racing many desired.
But it would take time.
It was a painstaking learning experience at times for Timm and his wife, Paula, who could often be found by his side working into the morning hours doing maintenance on the track. Yet, slowly but surely they started to see the results.
Twelve years later, and the track is as different as night and day with thousands of fans filling the cement grandstands to watch what has become some of the finest stock car racing in the Midwest.
Now, they are ready to take the next step. A step that will see the track’s capacity jump from 1,500 to 4,000 with the addition of metal bleachers that will be ready next year when they hope to welcome in the nationally renowned World of Outlaw Late Models for a weekend event. They are also in the process of buying more land for parking and campers. For Timm, it’s validation for all the work he — along with his team and track promoter Tyrone Lingenfelter — have put in.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Timm said. “It feels like we finally got to right where we need to be.”
“What makes you feel good is that you know the track is going in the right direction,” Lingenfelter said. “I hope people realize that, too, even though financially, things are doing better, we’re sticking that money back into the speedway. … We don’t want to be just a racetrack, we want to be an event center. Everyone can hang out with your friends and family and just enjoy some entertainment.”
The bleachers will replace the smaller wooden ones there now and will go along Turn 1, extending up as high as the VIP suites and offering a view that few dirt tracks can offer. Construction will start sometime this fall.
“You’re going to have a great view, and you’re going to be back on it a little ways, too, so you are going to be out of the dust, out of the dirt,” Lingenfelter said. “You will be able to go sit up there and have a really big broad view, but at the same time if you’d like to be down close and personal, and get dirty, you can still bring your own lawn chair and sit down close. It will be a good mixture for everybody.”
Expansion was something that was always discussed, but they had to wait for the right time. Ironically, the right time came during an unprecedented summer.
Originally, the speedway wasn’t sure it was going to be allowed to have a season, but after working hand-in-hand with Buffalo County health officials, the season went on without a hitch with every scheduled race taking place. Not only did they still have a season, but the dirt track saw record numbers in attendance and driver participation.
“I would have never anticipated it would have been as good as what it’s been,” Timm said. “Very impressed by the amount of support that we got.”
With that, they felt now was the time to make a move.
“The iron is hot right now,” Lingenfelter said. “And when they say the iron is hot, you have to strike.”
Strike they did. Not only do they have expansion plans in place, but they are also in serious talks with having The World of Outlaw Late Models come to Fountain City, Wisconsin. The national touring series defines itself as the nation’s premier traveling tour for dirt Late Model stock cars, features the most powerful cars on dirt and also has a contract with CBS Sports Network.
Timm has tried to get the World of Outlaws to come to MTS since the day he took over. The series had their drivers come test out the track in the past, and they all came back saying the same thing: “Why don’t we have a race here?” Now it’s looking like next season will be the year, as the World of Outlaws actually contacted Timm in hopes of scheduling an event for May 7 and 8.
“The fact of the matter is they’ve never, ever been at this speedway ever since its existence,” Timm said. “It’s a big deal and it’s a highly attended event that gets a lot of media and television coverage. For everybody in this area to be so close to take it in and for the area itself to get that exposure on TV, just to kind of show what there is to experience when you come up in the Midwest here is pretty cool.
“This is something that everybody should be excited about.”
Another aspect that should have fans excited: Mississippi Thunder Speedway isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“There’s other things we want to upgrade,” Lingenfelter said. “We want to eventually upgrade our kitchen, upgrade our bathrooms, it’s not like it ends just now. There’s always other stuff down the road. We want to just keep upgrading and upgrading. So that’s the point where we’re never settling. We’re always looking for the next cool thing to do or add on or update and just keep making it nicer and nicer every single year.”