By T.J. Buffenbarger
1. When the sale of the All Star Circuit of Champions took place to the High Limit Sprint Car Series obviously my attention went to the impact this would have on the Great Lakes Region, but particularly in my home state of Michigan. While many of those questions and concerns are still very real in the region, at least the outcome of one of those situations was answered with the High Limit Series adding the Mace Thomas Classic to their calendar.
While Michigan has a great local sprint car scene with the Great Lakes Sprint Series, Great Lakes Traditional Sprints, and weekly competition at Butler Motor Speedway, out of town touring events had largely dried up other than the All Stars coming through town one weekend a year. Gone were the days where we could see the All Stars, World of Outlaws, Interstate Racing Association, and even the United States Auto Club in a single season were long behind us, and fans that wanted to see a series with a larger regional or national presence were largely forced to travel out of state to do so.
It appears those opportunities will increase with the hard work of Tim Wilber’s family at Butler Motor Speedway. The announcement of the High Limit Sprint Car Series coming to Butler is just another step on the progression of the facility under the stewardship of the Wilber family. Along with High Limit other series have shown interest in returning to the 3/8-mile facility, which would have been unthinkable just three years ago.
For now, it appears the biggest paying sprint car race in the state of Michigan with one of the most unique trophies in the sport will have a large presence in the sprint car world for another season.
While I’m already excited for 2024, I’m even more excited about the next 2-3 seasons beyond that to see how the weekly program grows at Butler and what other specials might come about in that timeframe.
2. Those that read this space on a regular basis are aware of my admiration of Tim Wilber and his family and what they have accomplished at Butler during their short tenure. While some of you are growing tired of the narrative of how I feel Wilber and his family are doing a tremendous job at Butler, the story is ongoing, and I think it’s an important story in today’s racing environment.
Working on this site I speak with a lot of track owners and general managers, and I can tell you that Wilber is among the guys who get it. There are certain promoters that you know by interacting with them, they just show a certain understanding of the business that others don’t have, and it shows up in the product. In an era where real estate is more valuable than ever and we see tracks disappearing to become salvage yards and other non-racing businesses, it’s awesome to see a facility making the type of comeback Butler has over the past two years.
I often find myself wondering how certain track owners and operators were able to run a business successfully enough to afford to own and operate a racing facility. It seems like they often forget the same principles that were used in their other businesses that made them successful.
With Wilber and his family, it is very clear how he got to this point. I would put him among the top promoters that I feel have the “it factors” of running a business and a motorsports facility.
Landing a High Limit show just three years into having the facility and the fact that the Wilbers obtained the facility in the spring of 2022, making this only their second off season, I would say the progress at Butler is ahead of schedule of the timeline I had envisioned.
3. It appears High Limit is starting to get aggressive about filling out the rest of their first full season calendar in reason weeks. Promoters are getting phone calls and deals are starting to get done and I am getting a sense that we will see news from both High Limit and the World of Outlaws during the first week of December or earlier.
Maybe I initially expected too much from a relatively new venture with a lot of new employees that were just onboarded. It was difficult to write some of the stories in the past couple of weeks because there are lot of people over at High Limit I have an immense amount of respect for. I have to credit them for starting to take a second look at some of these events that were on the All Star calendar like Butler and programs in New York and finding a place for them on the calendar and not leaving them out in the cold.
While I’m still less than pleased about the mess that High Limit’s acquisition and decommission of the All Stars has caused in other parts of the region, at least it appears the uncertainty of what might take place in my backyard is clearer and from what I’m seeing this could be a great year for sprint car fans in the Great Lakes State.
GLSS should have another strong schedule for 2023 and there are some other things in the works that if they come to fruition could give sprint car fans in Michigan a couple of different programs to attend that have not been in the area recently.
While the 2023/24 silly season has been more track and series based than with race teams, hold on to your hats because its far from over, and it appears the roller coaster has plenty of hills and loops to traverse before we get to actual racing in February.