Racing family takes lead as track operators

Mille Lacs County could continue calling itself the home of Princeton Speedway, as the above sign shows.
Mille Lacs County could continue calling itself the home of Princeton Speedway, as the above sign shows.

After a race to the finish line to meet 2013 WISSOTA scheduling deadlines, the Princeton Speedway has a new track operator.

Tim Sierks, owner of Minuteman Press in Princeton, is joining with family members to assume operations of the speedway, pending the negotiations of a contract between the Mille Lacs County Agricultural Society and the Sierks family.

The Sierks team, a family with a long history of racing, comprised of Tim, his father Dave, mother LeAnne and grandfather Bill, submitted a bid to the Agricultural Society expressing their interest in operating the racetrack by e-mail on December 9, said Michele McPherson, director of the county’s land services office and a member of the speedway committee.

Sierks originally submitted a bid to operate the track in early November but removed himself from consideration after three others with strong racing backgrounds submitted bids. Sierks said he originally submitted a proposal with the idea of operating the track on his own. When he saw a good field of track manager applicants, he stepped back from the process, he said.

Sierks was not one of the three original applicants considered by the racing committee of the Agricultural Society on November 27. Nor was Sierks one of the parties interviewed by the Agricultural Society on December 5. Sierks was present at the interviews, however, as a member of the Agricultural Society and someone with a strong background in racing.

Rod Putnam and Ritz Villebrun of Princeton, and Jay Rittenour of Zimmerman were interviewed by the committee December 5. Representatives of Race, Inc., out of Dayton didn’t show. Neither applicant was seen as meeting the criteria to operate the speedway.

That’s when Sierks reconsidered his bid.

“Over the next few days, I thought a lot about it,” Sierks said.

Over the weekend of December 8-9, Sierks had conversations with his parents and grandfather about partnering on the venture.

“I’ve raced the past 17 years. My dad has raced since 1979. And my grandpa has raced since the 1950s,” Sierks said.

With his mom signing up to take on the day-to-day work, Sierks thought he had a pretty good team assembled.

When members of the Agricultural Society’s racing committee received Sierks’ proposal on Monday, Dec. 10, they thought so, too.

By Tuesday, Dec. 11, the Sierks were speaking before the Agricultural Society and winning its support as the new operator of the Princeton Speedway – just one day before 2013 racing schedules were to be submitted to the WISSOTA, the sanctioning body of which the Princeton Speedway is a member.

In his proposal to the Agricultural Society, Sierks proposed a three-year contract at $12,000 per year. Under the proposal, the Sierks would pay the Agricultural Society $8,000 a year to lease the track and grounds and an additional $4,000 for the lease of equipment.

The family will not operate food or beverage stands. They will negotiate with vendors for food, beverage and beer sales.

The Sierks also proposed carrying some of the liability for insurance.

The awarding of the track operations to the Sierks comes after the track fell on hard financial times the past few seasons. The quarter-mile track lost $38,126 during the 2012 racing season and.$19,646 in 2011. The track netted just $314.33 in 2010, according to financial reports.

The Agricultural Society wanted to get out of the racing business and sought to lease the track facilities to an outside operator as one of three options that the Society considered for the speedway’s future. Closing the track was an undesirable option. The Society also considered continuing operating the track as a third option for the 2013 racing season.