ESCANABA - After four years of running the Upper Peninsula International Raceway under the oversight of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, a member-driven non-profit organization is jumping in the driver's seat.
An election took place in December to elect four officers and seven members at large to provide leadership for the race venue. The board of directors has been holding weekly and monthly membership meetings to update members, gain input and make major decisions.
"This is a forward move for racing in Escanaba," said Vickie Micheau, director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce. "The dedicated group of race organizers, racers, fans and local businesses have shown racing is here to stay in Escanaba.
Tom Dubord, president of the Upper Peninsula International Raceway Association, presents the first and second UPIR membership cards to Vickie Micheau (left), director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, and Sheila Krueger, assistant director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce.
"The time has come for us to step back and turn the steering wheel over to the race organization."
In 2009, the Chamber was approached by a group of racers determined to bring racing back to Escanaba.
"We volunteered our time and advice to work with the racing group to gauge interest in racing," Micheau said. "The past four race seasons have proven the race organization has grown to the point of being able to sustain their program and contribute to the fairgrounds.
"As the Chamber is contracted to operate the fairgrounds, it is our responsibility to insure events generate income and promote use of the facilities."
Tom Dubord, president of the Upper Peninsula International Raceway Association, noted the positive working relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, the management agent for the U.P. State Fair.
"It is the recommendation of the authority that UPIR will have exclusive rights to wheel events at the race venue," Dubord said. "Any wheel events independent of the race organization will need our approval to rent the race venue.
"The UPIR group will be responsible for paying rent and reimbursing the authority for all racing expenses."
Membership is open to the public with no age restrictions. Membership cost is $25 and provides voting rights for members age 16 and over. A $5 savings on the $20 pit pass is a membership perk.
Bylaws have been reviewed by a local law firm and will be presented to members for approval at the April general meeting at the Heirman Center at Bay de Noc Community College.