Future of Thunder Mountain Speedway uncertain with track in foreclosure

- Derek Letergez leads a race at Thunder Mountain Speedway



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- Derek Letergez leads a race at Thunder Mountain Speedway

Local car racers and fans may have to travel long distances in the new year as the future of Olathe’s Thunder Mountain Speedway is slated for the auction block.

The track at 59039 Amber Road, which was owned by Sean Gibbs, is in foreclosure. An auction Jan. 28 in Montrose is scheduled to sell off the 38.75-acre track, its amenities and several related vehicles. The starting bid is $220,000 for the entire operation.

“For the most part, we’re all kind of sitting around holding our breath hoping someone will buy the track as a race track and not as a developer,” modified race car driver Darin Grimsley said.

Grimsley’s father, the late Rocky Grimsley, built the track in 1992 and ran it for the next several years until his health began to fail, Darin Grimsley said.

Then, more than 25 modified race cars at a time would squeal around the track, thrilling crowds that swelled to about 800. Darin Grimsley said the last race, on Sept. 20, attracted only about 200 fans and about eight modified cars.

The facility, which is slowly deteriorating, is suffering from a general lack of upkeep, he said.

The stands are riddled with broken boards, the rest rooms are inoperable and the track has long run without the full-time presence of an ambulance, he said.

Gibbs, who purchased the track in January 2008 with the hopes of giving it a facelift and running more races, was unavailable Tuesday for comment.

Without a local track, Grimsley said he and other racers would have to travel to the next closest tracks in Cortez, Hayden or Price, Utah to participate in the high-adrenaline sport.

Grimsley said he’s not sure whether he could afford to travel the long distances to race. He’s also aware that upgrading the track would require an owner committing big dollars to the project and working around a sound business plan.

Grimsley said he’s heard rumors that both developers and potential future track owners and operators are interested in the nearly 40-acre plot.

“I have an emotional investment,” he said. “I’m the one that wants it the most to stay a track.”
Thunder Mountain Speedway race manager Dennis LeTurgez got involved with the track when his son took up go-kart racing at the track seven years ago, and his daughter has done some racing there.

“I’m very concerned about it because there’s a tremendous amount of race cars around here,” LeTurgez said.

He served as a pit steward when he first got involved with the track but has served as race manager in recent years.

If no new owners are found to keep the track going, LeTurgez said local race enthusiasts will have to travel other places in the region to find local racing tracks.

“It draws cars from all around,” LeTurgez said of the Thunder Mountain facility. “Nobody wants to see it go away.”

The hope is that a new owner will come forward at next month’s sale.

“We’ve all got our fingers crossed that somebody’s going to buy the track and run it,” Grimsley said.

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