South Dakota soybean farmer Til Huset had a vision in 1953.
Huset owned a gas station and bar at the intersection of highway 11 and highway 38, just east of Sioux Falls in southeastern South Dakota. Along with farming and running his gas station, Huset also raced IMCA ‘big cars’ in the area, and his passion for the sport was set.
The course of auto racing in the area took a dramatic and historic turn when Huset towed the stock car to Riverside Speedway in Sioux City, Iowa for a night of racing that summer. What he witnessed was huge crowds to watch the evening’s events, and he knew it was time to bring that form of entertainment to his part of the country.
On a piece of his soybean property just west of Brandon, S.D., a steep hill bordered one of his vast fields nestled next to Split Rock Creek. Huset saw a natural setting for a racetrack, where fans could set blankets on the hillside to view the races.
Towards the end of the summer in 1953, Huset dropped a blade on his soybean field and slowly worked the surface into an oval. It took time, and repetitive effort, but eventually, Huset’s Speedway was born.
Since opening in the spring of 1954, Huset’s has become one of the premier sprint car tracks in the country. It’s one of the few tracks remaining that hosts a winged 410-sprint car event each week, and it has hosted many big names in the racing world over the last several years.
The Formation And Inception Of Huset’s Speedway
It wasn’t always that way, as the speedway has transformed over the years. The inaugural season featured the growing class of stock car racing. Big car and midget racing, powered by Offenhauser engines, was an expensive form of racing, but stock cars were plentiful in the area.
Huset’s was a primitive track when it opened, with no grandstands and no lights. Fans did the best they could to get comfortable on the hill, and they battled the dust as all races were run during the day.
The crowds were good and the car count was solid early in the speedway’s first season, but the incredible amount of dust began to take its toll on fan participation. The speedway was in trouble at the end of the first season, but Huset added lights and reconfigured the racing surface. Huset’s is a tiny bull-ring oval, measuring just 3/8 mile.
Despite the upgrades, the lights and reconfiguration didn’t work, and Huset closed the doors on his speedway following the 1955 season. It sat dormant for two years, and the racing surface began to make the natural morphing back into a soybean field, overrun with weeds, brush and a handful of old cars and trucks from Huset’s personal stable.
Six miles to the speedway’s west, another racetrack was in its infancy stages as well. While Huset’s sat dormant in 1956 and 1957, Soo Speedway was wildly popular, also opening its doors in 1954. But as is the case with many racing programs around the country, there was unrest with the drivers. The drivers were requesting a $1,000 nightly purse. The speedway didn’t oblige, and the drivers boycotted Soo.
The following Monday, the drivers met at the downtown YMCA building in Sioux Falls, and they formed the Sioux Falls Stock Car association. They agreed to buy Huset’s from Til Huset, and they immediately began modifications. Two weeks after making the purchase, Huset’s reopened to new paint, buildings and the original configuration from a circle, back to the 3/8-mile oval. Soo Speedway folded in July of 1958. Huset’s was reborn, and it hasn’t been quiet since.
Social Eruption and The Commercial Success Of The Track
After sitting quiet in 1956 and 1957, the popularity of Huset’s grew tremendously under the leadership of Fred Buckmiller. Buckmiller was resistant at first, but as racecars continued to evolve, he finally allowed a super modified class at Huset’s, which would eventually become the modern day sprint car.
Buckmiller ran the show at Huset’s for the Sioux Falls Stock Car Association from 1958 until his death in 1982, but he was around long enough to see true sprint cars race at Huset’s, which were introduced in 1980.
Bill Leesch and Ed Flowers were co-promoters at Huset’s Speedway from 1982-1989 before the Sioux Falls Stock Car Association sold the facility to Clarence Rubin and his two sons, Steve and Greg in 1989. The Sioux Falls Stock Car Association was dissolved following the sale.
Today, Huset’s is an annual stop for the World of Outlaws, has been host to USAC midget races and All-Star Circuit of Champions events.
“I love this place. It reminds me of some of the bullrings I raced on growing up in California, You can really hammer it at this place.”
– WoO and USAC veteran Rico Abreu during a visit to the track in 2014.
It clearly has become one of the favorites of sprint car drivers around the country. NASCAR star Tony Stewart paid a visit during the WoO’s show in 2013, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson raced earlier in the season of the same year.
Other prominent names to turn a wheel at Huset’s include Indianapolis 500 starters Jack Hewitt, Steve Kinser, Jan Opperman, Joe Saldana and Roger Rager. Daytona 500 veterans who raced at Huset’s include Dave Blaney, Sammy Swindell, Kenny Irwin Jr., and Shauna Robinson. Four-time IMCA champion Jerry Richert also raced at the speedway.
The Evolution Of Huset’s Speedway
The hillside is still there, but bleachers, concessions and suites slowly replaced the vast grassland that used to be covered in blankets. The daytime races have been replaced by Sunday night events, as the speedway is a beacon in the night with its bright lights. The creek, well, the creek is still there, and it’s busted its banks more than once over the past six decades, causing its fair share of cancellations.
There clearly have been upgrades to the facility over the years, but it’s about to get a massive makeover in 2016.
Sioux Falls native Chuck Brennan, owner and founder of Dollar Loan Center and the Badlands Entertainment Group, purchased Huset’s Speedway in April of 2015, and his plans to improve the facility are grand. If Brennan realizes all of his improvements planned for the facility, it very easily could become the finest short track venue in the world.
His news on June 11 put the racing world on notice when he announced that the track would be racing both Saturday and Sunday nights – an unheard of concept for racing an entire season. His Saturday shows will feature 410 and 305 sprint cars, and he’ll continue to have a weekly show on Sundays as well, featuring the popular 360-sprint car class.
“When I do things, I do them big or I don’t do them at all, Moving to Saturday nights is going to be fantastic. We’re going to continue to uphold the history of Huset’s Speedway, but Saturday night is the night to race. We’re going to make Saturday night the big race in the Midwest. It’s going to be over-the-top.”
– Chuck Brennan at the June 11 press conference.
Brennan rose to fame through the music industry, and has helped change the landscape of Sioux Falls. He’s opening a 60,000 square foot pawn shop in South Dakota’s largest city coined: The Disneyland of Pawn Shops. The goal for Brennan is to have Badlands Pawn be the second-largest tourist attraction in South Dakota, just behind Mount Rushmore.
Remastering Of Huset’s Into Badlands Motor Speedway
The Badlands brand goes beyond the pawn shop as Brennan is renaming the racetrack Badlands Motor Speedway. The name change raised the eyebrows of some in the community, but Brennan is making a significant financial investment to improve the facility.
“I could care less what the name of the track is, as long as it gets better and is a better experience for everybody, People are judging way too quickly. Everything sounds good to me, and if he does all of the stuff he says he’s going to do, it’s going to be awesome for the racing around here.”
– 2014 360-sprint car champion Tommy Barber.
Although Brennan and Badlands Motor Speedway doesn’t officially take over until the start of the 2016 season, fans in the area are about to get an eyeful of changes starting in 2015. The infrastructure work alone will vastly improve the facility with a better drainage system, new stadium lighting and sound systems, new grandstands, new parking accommodations, new concession stands, updated food and beverage selections, and a new infield, just to name a few the upgrades Brennan has planned.
The entire fan experience will be enhanced, including the installation of a massive new scoreboard and two 14 x 48 high-definition video boards in Turns 2 and 3. Those boards, and other projects, will begin this summer.
“We want to get some of this stuff done right away, I can’t think of one improvement that’s happened out there since I was 10 years old. I applaud them for keeping it going. I’ve spent money there because I believe in the product. The fans are great. We want to make the entire experience better for everyone and we want to make the general experience as you come safer, better and more fluid.”
– Chuck Brennan
In 2015, Huset’s Speedway is scheduled to run 24 times. Brennan feels the facility is vastly underused, and has already planned for more activity in 2016. The schedule is still being developed for 2016, but more than 40 nights of racing has already been scheduled.
The racing community, and the community around Sioux Falls, has so far been open and excited to the change and upgrades. Some of been skeptics that Brennan has purchased the facility, only to use it as a concert venue.
But Brennan scoffs at that notion, and insists the track will remain the anchor for the facility. His Dollar Loan Center business has been a long-time sponsor at the track.
“This is all positive. This is all for the race fans, We’re going to make this place sparkle.”
– Chuck Brennan