CLEARFIELD – Something different is in the works for Clearfield County and during Wednesday’s meeting, the Recreation and Tourism Authority board heard plans and made a decision on a grant to help the project go forward.
Ryan Kirkwood, owner of UMI Performance Inc. of Philipsburg, a suspension manufacturer focusing on old and new muscle cars, said he was searching for an area to construct a test track. He found the former CNB Raceway Park and purchased it.
“I realized it had a lot of potential,” he explained to the board, especially after he researched some of the history of the track.
In addition to making it a place to test parts constructed by UMI, Kirkwood is already planning to develop the interior of the oval into an autocross facility.
Autocross is something that is done out at Mid-State Airport in Black Moshannon State Forest.
Drivers bring their cars, anything from a family vehicle to a half-million dollar vehicle they use specifically for this, and drive around a winding track.
It is not a race in the traditional sense, but all the drivers are working toward the fastest time on the track, often measured in fractions of a second.
Normally this sport does not attract spectators, Kirkwood said, but with the CNB Raceway, now UMI Motorsports Park, that will change.
With the bleachers already in place and also a hillside where people can park and watch events, he said the facility could become an attraction for people across the country, somewhere families will travel to.
To begin with, Kirkwood said they will maintain the oval track, which is the longest short-track in Pennsylvania at 5/8 of a mile, and possibly the longest in the United States.
The oval track, he said, has a 50-year history he does not want to lose. The autocross part will come later as they build that track within the oval and also expand on it. He said it has the potential to be a track that changes from event to event.
Already there are events planned at the track and this is why Kirkwood wants to get up and running with renovations. He said when you go to the site you can immediately see that it was abandoned and it has a desolate feeling.
First impressions are important, he said, and the roadway in will remain gravel but will be compacted. The restroom facilities will be upgraded, the fencing replaced, mowing done, bleachers fixed and so on.
Autocross racing has become an event where the families travel together and he said he has plans to market not only the track, but also surrounding attractions.
Even though Kirkwood and his employees have only just started, he has two big events planned for this year, and one happened very quickly.
He said he had reached out to the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience to see if they would be interested in eventually coming to the track.
The next thing he knew, they were on the schedule for 2018, so now they are under a deadline of July 21-22 to have everything ready.
July 21 will be a Super Cup Stock Series race with Rusty Wallace on July 22, which includes the opportunity to drive a car yourself, or participate in a ride-along with a professional driver.
The next event is even bigger, the UMI Autocross and Cruise In. UMI held one last year at Mid-State Airport and it was well attended, with two hotels sold out in State College, and this one is already attracting attention.
He has 90 cars signed up and 30 on a waiting list, and Holiday Inn Express included a letter in his application packet noting they have already sold half of their hotel rooms for the weekend.
Racers are coming from 13 states, and three are coming from Canada. Events that weekend include the autocross on Friday and Saturday, a tour of UMI, a cruise-in, car show, music and more.
Kirkwood said he wants to focus on a couple big events a year, but also offer the facility to others for rent. Some options include driving schools for cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles and rental for other racing events.
Board members had several questions for Kirkwood. He explained that while UMI Performance is located in Philipsburg, and he and his family live in State College, most of their employees are from the Clearfield, Curwensville, Philipsburg, Houtzdale, etc. areas.
They have been in business for 15 years with 37 employees. Part of the grant requirements include placing the Visit Clearfield County logo on everything VCC money was used for, and he said he already has plans to “splash” the logo everywhere.
Later in the meeting, the board discussed the matter, noting he expects to pay $175,000 for currently planned renovations and asked for a $25,000 grant from CCRTA.
Director Josiah Jones said he checked on whether this falls under current Act 18 guidelines and it does, especially if the work done will bring people to Clearfield County. The board then voted to give UMI Motorsports Park the grant.
More information including photos can be found on Facebook by searching for “UMI Motorsports Park.”