Business Spotlight: Area race track provides indoor racing during winter months
On bitter cold Missouri nights fans, drivers and riders from around the Midwest make their way to a non-descript building in Emma, just east of Concordia, to ease the suffering of cabin fever. On alternating Saturday nights, the rodeo arena-turned racetrack plays host to some of the best winter Karting and Quad TT/Flat Track Motorcycle racing action in the region.
Owned and operated by the Lile family, the Emma Indoor Raceway is the continuation of the legacy indoor race track they previously operated on the Missouri State Fairgrounds and the little brother of the high-banked outdoor track located adjacent to the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Warrensburg.
Terry Lile, who serves as race director and promoter, is the one responsible for getting the track ready and making sure things run smoothly on race day.
“It varies quite a bit,” he said. “Sometimes I spend 20-25 hours a week down here getting ready. Other weeks, it can be upwards of 50 hours. It really depends on what we have planned and how the dirt decides it is going to behave.”
The Lile family has a long history with Karting. Terry’s father, Bruce Lile, raced karts back in the 1970s and became involved again when Terry and his three brothers started racing in the 1990s. Now Terry and his brothers have their own kids that race.
“Racing has been a big part of our lives for about as long as I can remember,” Terry said. He and his wife, Ashlyn, even exchanged their wedding vows on the race track’s front stretch the last year.
In case you are wondering, these are not your average backyard go-karts. These are purpose-built, high-performance, fully-adjustable race machines, just as capable of keeping up with traffic on the interstate outside as they are of turning nine-second laps around the one-tenth of a mile dirt oval inside. Drivers start honing their skills as early as 5 years old in restricted classes. But, make no mistake, this is also a sport for adults — rabid motorsports enthusiasts looking for a more affordable way to turn laps.
ATV and flat track motorcycle racing is a relatively new venture for the Lile family. They started putting on the occasional ATV race back in 2009, but decided a few years back to refocus the effort and put ATVs on the schedule twice a month. They now regularly have 60 to 70 entries per night with classes ranging from young kids on 50cc bikes to Pro-AM and Pro riders. Riders show up on a variety of machines from the knobby-tired bone stock ATVs to fully-customized race bikes to turn laps around the split lane TT track that twists and turns through the infield of Emma Indoor Raceway.
Jimmy Shaw Jr., the owner of SSB Racing, typically fields eight riders across multiple race classes. He and his team are a regular fixture at the track. Riders signed to SSB receive support from SSB, including equipment and engine builds, as well as technical support at the track.
“I do all the mechanical work for the team’s engine builds the rider just has to pay for the parts. If they need a tire or bike to ride because theirs is down I always let them run one of mine to keep on top of their season points,” Shaw said.
As far as other riders and teams go, SSB is always willing to give them a hand or loan some equipment.
“It’s all about giving back to the sport we love.” Shaw said. When asked about the Liles’ efforts, Shaw appeared grateful.
“They give us a place to go during the winter months when it is too cold for outdoor activities,” Shaw said. “The whole family can be involved in a great sport with a great atmosphere. Beats sitting our rear ends on the couch all winter long waiting for the outdoor series to start.”
At the end of the night, when the last checkered flag waves, Terry Lile sticks around, walking through the pits shaking hands and joking with the racers. When the last of them finish loading up their trailers, he waves good-bye then turns to look at the track.
“That spot between turns one and two gave us hell all night,” Lile said. “I made a mistake there. I need to get that figured out. They deserved a better race surface.”
Races start each Saturday at approximately 3 p.m.
Note: Brian Bray contributed information to this article.