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Tooele • Miller Motorsports Park unveiled its new 22-acre off-road racing track last month. And so far, it seems to be a hit with the amateurs, as well as the professionals.

"It creates the ability for the fan to be close to the action. It's actually close enough to flip mud on your clothes," said Bryan Miller, assistant general manager.

MMP overhauled its off-road facility with $250,000 in upgrades. Improvements included a redesigned track, stadium seating and more shade for spectators. Miller believes the off-road experience is what a new wave of racing fans have been craving from the park.

"This track has a lot of air," said Jerry Daugherty, who's been an off-road racer since 1975. "A lot trucks flying over the grandstands, 15 to 100 feet in the air — it's very exciting for the fans and for us."

The off-road course is also open to the public, so amateur drivers can use their own vehicle and feel the same rush of adrenaline that the pros feel. The cost is $50, and vehicles must pass a rigorous safety check before getting on the track. On Sunday, 13-year-old Tucker Cornia took to the course.

"You can go as fast as you want," he said. "It's really cool, my brother and I just tore it up. We hit every jump as fast as we could — takes your breath away."

Even though he's a teenager, Tucker is a savvy veteran on the track — he's been racing motocross since he was 3. Still, all levels of racers are welcome at the track.

"Pretty much anybody can come out, as long as you have the basic safety concerns taken care of. After that, you can take a run at it," said John Williams, track manager of MMP.

This weekend will be one of the busiest racing days of the season. The off-road track will be in use again, as the American Rock Sports Challenge makes it debut at the park. This unique race combines short track racing with the technical aspects of rock climbing. Pro racer Dave Cole is looking for plenty of wheel-to-wheel action this Friday and Saturday.

"The short course and rock climbing course have never been used before [for this type of race]. We're usually out in the desert, in a 200,000-acre area," he said.

With a smaller area to maneuver in, drivers of modified jeeps and other four-wheelers will almost certainly be trading paint and crunching metal during this two-day event.

"I guess be prepared for carnage," Cole said. "You'll see cars being able to climb a 30-foot wall and jump a 100-foot ditch. From a racing standpoint, I don't know what to expect."

Casey Beach, 25, has been racing for less than two years. However, the Salt Lake City resident has raced in similar events in California and Nevada. Beach said the rock course is tedious and technical, but the short track will offer plenty of excitement for the fans. Each heat will begin with four vehicles side by side, as they try to speed their way through the up-and-down course.

"Racing with four cars, there's always the chance of hitting each other," Beach said. "There's always a chance you could roll, and you can always get hit from behind."

Nothing is safe — even the rock climb presents problems. Vehicle logjams happen, and sometimes drivers will try to blaze a trail over the tops of other vehicles in an effort to win. With a high-caliber field in place and drivers coming in from as far away as Australia and Canada, competition for the $10,000 purse should be entertaining. —

Off the beaten path

This season, Miller Motorsports Park put $250,000 into a new off-road track and grandstand.

The off-road course is open to the general public. For a $50 track fee, drivers can test the new course themselves.

MMP hosts the Ultra 4 American Rock Sports Challenge this weekend.