SIOUX FALLS-Two years ago, Rod Pattison rejoined the Wagner Speedway in an attempt to bring the waning 3/8-mile dirt track back to life.
Pattison was successful in his attempt, using his contacts and ingenuity from a lifetime of involvement in the racing world to help draw thousands of fans to events at the track last summer. Now, Pattison has a new reclamation project to undertake.
It was announced this week that Pattison has been named the new general manager of the I-90 Speedway near Hartford, which is set to reopen in May after being dormant for competition since 2015, because of a three-year agreement between I-90 owners Lyle and Dawn Howey and Dollar Loan Center owner Chuck Brennan, which gave Brennan exclusivity at Brandon's Badlands Speedway. After that expired, it opened up a chance for a 2019 racing season.
"I learned some things when I was at Wagner and I don't want to say that I'm going to take them from there, because I'm hoping what they've built at Wagner will continue to grow," Pattison said. "I'm going to use the same types of ideas, but it's a bigger animal, there's no question about that. I have more responsibilities on my plate. ... The team working on this project literally has decades of racing experience."
"Hot Rod" says he is grateful for the opportunity to work at with those at the Wagner Speedway and will still lend a hand if called upon.
He has held a relationship with the Howeys, who helped put together a management team of Pattison as the general manager and Dale Furby as the competition director, while Terry Kjergaard handles media relations and Shawn Neisteadt will assist him and serve as the track's announcer.
What gripped Pattison the most about becoming a member of this venture was the area the track is located in, particularly after racing fans have lost some of the major venues in the state over the last few years with I-90's closing, along with Badlands Speedway closing in 2017. While there are tracks within a reasonable driving distance for local fans, there hasn't been a local track.
"Race fans have been held hostage with no racing in the Sioux Falls area," Pattison said. "The fact that we can open up a racetrack doesn't happen very often. You hear of a lot more tracks closing than opening. To give the Sioux empire its home track again is what's exciting."
At the moment, Pattison and his team continue to attempt to spread the word, while finalizing the schedule for next season, which is projected to include four classes of cars-sprint cars, late model street stock cars, hobby stock cars and d-modified cars-on the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend and run through Labor Day weekend.
Pattison also expects to have a few Midwest Sprint Touring Series 360 shows and Tri-State Late Model Series shows.
The early returns on the announcement of the return of the race track have been red-hot among racing fans around the area, according to Pattison.
"It's been an early Christmas present for a lot racing fans, knowing there was going to be racing again," Pattison said. "There were a lot of unknowns for a long time. Now people know there is going to be racing in 2019 and it's just spread utter joy throughout the racing world."
A press conference to announce schedule dates and rules is slated to be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at the Holiday Inn City Center in Sioux Falls.