This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Tooele • The Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series returns to the Utah Motorsports Campus this weekend.
Despite an ongoing legal dispute over ownership that threatened the summer's schedule of major events, Lucas Oil is bringing its high-flying trucks back to the track formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park for the seventh straight year.
Racing will be held Saturday and Sunday.
"Lucas sees this as a prime national location," said Utah Motorsports Campus general manager Willem Geyer. "… It's a beautiful facility."
Still, the ownership battle for control of the track has been as combustible as high-octane gasoline since the Miller family announced last year it would not renew its lease of the property.
The Tooele County Commission, in turn, accepted a $20 million offer from the China-based Mitime Investment and Development Group to purchase the track and keep it operating.
But not so fast.
In December, Third District Court Judge Robert Adkins set aside the sale at the request of Center Point Management, a real estate development company which claimed the county unlawfully accepted an offer that was less than fair market value.
Center Point Management wanted the buy the 511 acres for $22.5 million, but without the long-term investment promises made by Mitime.
At the very least, it appeared the legal wrangling could jeopardize the 2016 season. But in January, Tooele County hired Mitime to manage the track.
"The county found themselves in a very difficult position of having this facility and having no business here," said Utah Motorsports Campus president Alan Wilson. "They had three choices: shut it down, run it themselves or find someone to run it.
"If they put it in mothballs for six months, they would have lost everyone and everything. … It would have taken years to rebuild. So they selected the management process and we were the only ones who stood up and said, 'We'll manage it.' There was no one else offering to do it."
Wilson is adamant that Mitime still wants to own the track, despite the legal delays. He hopes the procedures for making it possible will be determined sometime in the next four to six weeks.
"If you are an international company buying into America and there is a court case that you had every reason to believe would go in your favor but didn't, you probably say, 'What else is out there?'" Wilson said. "… But at this stage, we have every reason to be optimistic and we are certainly committed."
Mitime has already invested close to $3 million in restoring and upgrading the facility, with the hope it will soon own it, according to Wilson.
" … We've put in a hell of a lot of money up front," he said. "It was a necessary step in maintaining and building up the business. Very simply, it had to operate. So it wasn't a difficult decision."
Of course, part of managing the track involved putting together an attractive package of major events on severely short notice. But Wilson and his staff made it work.
Along with Lucas Oil, MotoAmerica, Pirelli, the National Auto Sport Association and the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series agreed to hold events at the Utah Motorsports Campus.
"We had to start from scratch," Wilson said. "… But we were lucky. We had some personal relationships with people in MotoAmerica, Pirelli and NASCAR. That absolutely helped. So we were able to use our credibility, even when we couldn't sign contracts. Every agreement was condition, but they all believed in us."
Major summer events at Utah Motorcross Campus
May 21-21 • Lucas Off-Road Racing series
June 24-25 • MotoAmerica Superbike Championship
Aug. 6-7 • National Auto Sport Association Enduro
Aug. 13-14 • Pirelli World Challenge Championship
Sept. 10-11 • NASCAR K&N Pro Series West