Pikes Peak International Raceway may not host major races, but it sure isn't shut down

August 21, 2015 Updated: August 21, 2015 at 7:21 am
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In front of a record crowd, Greg Biffle takes the checkered flag as he wins the NASCAR Busch Series Goulds Pumps/ITT Industries 250 presented by Dodge at Pikes Peak International Raceway Saturday, July 31, 2004...by Kevin Kreck

The days of Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart or Danica Patrick racing at the Pikes Peak International Raceway are over.

But 10 years ago today after the last major race - the Indy Racing League's Honda Indy 225 on Aug. 21, 2005 - the facility near Fountain may be even busier with its focus on participatory events.

One notable addition is the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which allows amateurs to obtain lessons from former NASCAR drivers and race a NASCAR-caliber stock car around the 1-mile oval track or along its road course. The business, which was once located at the demolished Florida Disney World speedway, announced the move this summer.

PPIR, LLC bought the idle facility from NASCAR in 2008 and the contract included a noncompetitive clause that does not allow comparable races, such as the IRL or XFINITY series there.

That and the need for about $1 million in safety fence improvements means there will be no big-name races coming to the area and no huge crowds in the near future.

"That's not going to happen," owner Bob Boileau said. "We are focused more on being a track that's available 365 days a year for enthusiasts who want to race."

Instead, organizations like The Sports Car Club of America, BMW and Corvette clubs hold events at PPIR. It is a boon for lots of amateur drivers looking for a good facility to race that has both an oval and a road course.

"It's really rare and great to have," Michigan driver Aaron Oberle said. "This is one of the best facilities I have been able to use."

Other improvements are on the drawing board for the facility; which had its 40,000-seat grandstand trimmed down to 10,000 to better suit its new business plan. A large dirt track is proposed for local and regional motorcycle and auto racing. Lots of room remains in the 1,300-acre facility, which holds about 200 events a year.

The problem is getting the word out beyond the racing community. Since the raceway is built into a depression, southbound drivers along Interstate 25 usually only see an empty grandstand.

That's a far cry from the races that filled the grandstands from 1997 to 2005 when Dan Wheldon won the final IRL race.

There will be some races with the SCCA Pro Formula Lites, an entry-level pro open wheel racing division featuring carbon-fiber cars with uniform Honda engines, scheduled to include the PPIR in its series starting next summer.

On Sept. 11-13 is the Extreme Car Experience, which allows amateurs to drive Lamborghinis and other high-end cars around the oval.

"The potential here is huge," PPIR vice president of marketing and business development Charlotte Bockstahler said. "Now, we need to get the word out."

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