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Fobbe: What's in a Name?

Lansing, MI (Thursday, March 25, 2021) - It’s the time of year again when all of the tracks in Michigan are starting to get dusted off and shined up for the 2021 racing season. If you follow along with Horsepower Happenings you have seen the updates on all of the various tracks around the area. The benefit of being in a state so rich with racing like Michigan is that some of these tracks you may not have heard of, so you may have fired up the ole’ ‘Google Machine’ to see where these tracks are. Some of them you can get an idea just by the name, others may take a little more digging than that.

One of the more recent fads in the namesake for these tracks comes in the form of sponsored track names. The most prominent of which is the Corrigan Oil Speedway in Mason. Formerly known as Spartan Speedway (and even further back the Lansing Speedway). Many not privy to the intricacies of the deal actually had thought the track had been purchased by Corrigan Oil, but that is not the case, just a long-term sponsor agreement. While these deals haven’t proliferated the scene here in Michigan, overall it is becoming more prominent in motorsports as a whole.

Some of the more fun names in racing are the ones that are geographically less helpful, but usually have a cool tie to history at the track. One of the most fun names in Michigan right now is the Silver Bullet Speedway in Owendale. The track has been around since the mid-50s and previously raced as Owendale Speedway, but you cannot deny, Silver Bullet sounds pretty cool… even if it’s not the most descriptive. Thunderbird Raceway in Muskegon is also a pretty awesome name for a race track. But it does raise the question, do these more unique names that don’t point to specific locations help or harm the tracks? Auto City Speedway in Clio has great local ties with the name, being located adjacent to Flint, known as the Vehicle City. And being in the heart of GM country, the Auto City name is one that has been very accurate for the area.

Some tracks have tried this technique and ventured away from it. When Springport Mid-Michigan Speedway was born, it was known as Michigan Ideal Speedway. Of course, Springport has also been through a variety of more and less specific geographic names over the years being known at different times as Springport Speedway, Calhoun County Speedway, Springport Motor Speedway and Mid-Michigan Speedway over the three decades of operation. M-40 Speedway also spent a spell as Thunder Valley Motorsports before returning back to the M-40 guise it was born with. While the tradition is nice, it does raise a lot of question marks for non-local fans planning their trips.

Now the more common names we find are the ones named after the localities they are in (or in some cases near). Two that come to mind are the Owosso Speedway, though there are more that fall into that category. Owosso is marked with a name for a city it isn’t technically in. Owosso Speedway is located very close to the city of Owosso, but technically the track is located in the village of Ovid. Some tracks are named for the roads they are on (or near). M-40 Speedway in Jones is located on (shockingly) M-40. I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa is located right off of I-96, and has taken that as its name, while also spending time as Ionia Raceway Park, and even Clark’s Motor Speedway named after the then track owner. Birch Run Speedway has had to negotiate geography with brand identity. When the track was purchased by the Suski family, it was renamed from the longstanding Dixie Motor Speedway moniker named after Dixie Highway which the track is located on. While Birch Run gives outsiders a better idea of the location of the track, long-time attendees still call it Dixie, and the track has struggled with some in the community to get the new name to take root. I’ve announced races at the track both before and after the name change and caught myself using the old name out of habit.

Another one with an interesting history is the Berlin Raceway. The track is located in Marne on the property of the Berlin Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds got its name from the original name of the city, Berlin due to a large number of German settlers in the town when it was established. In 1919 the name was changed to Marne, in remembrance of the battle in World War I to try to steer away from the anti-German sentiment in the US at the time. But, for whatever reason, the fairgrounds kept the Berlin name, and when the track was established it followed suit and kept the Berlin name.

While naming a race track is not an exact science, there’s all sorts of different factors that can go into establishing what makes a name work for a particular track. But when it comes down to it, no matter what the name is make sure to get out and support your local short track this summer.

Story - Chris Fobbe, Horsepower Happenings

Photo - Horsepower Happenings File Photo



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