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Miller Motorsports Park: On the right track?
Racing » After setbacks, Miller Motorsports Park explores new avenues.

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During the announcement of MMP’s 2007 schedule, director of racing Mitch Wright said, "You will see the top racers in the world at Miller Motorsports Park."

Then-general manager Alan Wilson added, "MMP has gone from zero to 200 mph in less than 24 months. We are attracting race series that typically take years for a new track to secure."

At a glance

MMP schedule

The major on-track events this season at Miller Motorsports Park. For ticket information call 1-435-277-7223 or visit MillerMotorSports.com:

June 22-23, Lucas Off-Road Racing Series

What you will see: Vehicles in seven classes flying through the air in two rounds of competition.

Aug. 3-4, GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing

What you will see: Competitors formerly on World Superbike undercard take center stage.

Aug. 17, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship

What you will see: Miller Motorsports Park unveils its new course for the popular national series.

Sept. 14-15, NASCAR K&N Pro West Series

What you will see: It’s bottom-tier NASCAR racing, but other stops include Phoenix, Sonoma

There was probably a feeling that, “If I build it, they will come.’ But they didn’t.”

John Larson

Miller Motorsports Park manager

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Making those events profitable, however, was difficult and eventually doomed them in Utah.

The American Le Mans Series did not return to Miller Motorsports Park after its 2010 race. Now, World Superbikes is gone.

"We were probably running before we even learned how to walk," Larson acknowledges. "With Larry, there was probably a feeling that, "If I build it, they will come.’ But they didn’t."

This summer, two of MMP’s top two attractions won’t even be contested on concrete.

The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is scheduled June 22-23 on a dirt course constructed three years ago across the parking lot behind the main grandstand.

On Aug. 17, the Lucas Oil Pro Motorcross Series will christen a new course built inside the road race track.

When those plans were announced, Larson said, "Some traditionalists wondered what the heck we were doing — putting a motocross track inside that great facility? But you have to adapt. You have to be relevant."

The trend toward dirt racing at MMP has been dictated by the marketplace.

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"We feel like we are going to get a reasonable return on our investment," Larson said. "More importantly, we’re going to get a bunch of people out to Miller Motorsports Park that have not been there before."

Larson expects a crowd of 15,000 or 20,000 for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series, which would make it the best-attended single-day event in track history.

"We’ve found dirt racing has some legs here in our community," Larson said. "… We realize, certainly, that we have a world-class road racing facility. But we’re trying to adapt and, at the end of the day, have a little money to pay the bills."

There is one certainty about the immediate future of Miller Motorsports Park.

While Larson will continue to tinker with the race schedule, the facility and its increasingly valuable 511 acres of land is not for sale.

"I have never been involved in a single discussion where that has been a topic," Larson said. "Yes, we have changed the model and are doing things that weren’t even on Larry’s radar when he built the facility. But this place is incredibly important to the Miller family. They are committed to it."

And the Miller Motorsports GM isn’t ruling out a return to big-time road racing at some point — but not anytime soon. The Salt Lake market will need to get bigger — with more corporate and sponsorship dollars — for that to happen.

"We could see the American Le Mans series or Superbikes again," he said. "But not for a while. And not until we see where the market takes us."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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