MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 25, 2012

Re-opened track attempts to regain footing on busy Fridays

By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer

— Kenny Gariss said he looked up and the naming of the race track, located seven miles south of Muskogee on U.S. 69, quickly came to him.

Outlaw Motor Speedway is out. South 69 Speedway is in at the 3/8-mile dirt oval.

“I was standing on the property and saw an exit sign for South 69 and the name just stuck,” Gariss, the track’s promoter, said. “We’re letting people know that the track’s under new management. There’s a new face and a change of attitude.”

The car count at the track, though, has been low as the track has re-opened, Gariss said.

“We had 27 cars on that first night (on April 18) and that’s not good,” he said. “I’m used to having 80-90 cars. But the count is on the way up. We’ve added four to five cars every week.”

Meanwhile, Thunderbird Speedway, located at the Muskogee Fairgrounds, had 85 cars in its show two weeks ago, according to promoter Dennis Slader. Thunderbird didn’t race last week because of high school graduation ceremonies.

Gariss also said 69’s attendance is increasing, from 70 people on opening night to 272 last week. Thunderbird, according to Slader, had 800 fans in its grandstands for the show two weeks ago.

“We average 400 to 500 for a normal show,” Slader said.

Still, Gariss said his track is not competing with Thunderbird for cars and fans.

“They are a business of their own,” he said. “I don’t acknowledge competition with them.”

Yet both tracks race on Friday night, including tonight. Thunderbird starts at 7:30 and South 69 Speedway begins at 7:37. The same situation occurred last season with South 69 was Outlaw.

South 69 Speedway is owned by Jeff Morgan of North Carolina. Gariss said he owns 35 percent of the track and handles the day-to-day operations, while Morgan owns 65 percent.

Once any issues at South 69 Speedway, renamed from Outlaw Motor Speedway, were resolved, new owner Jeff Morgan decided to reopen the 3/8-mile dirt track, promoter Kenny Gariss said.

Any outstanding liens have been paid, Gariss said.

“When we purchased the property, there was some little stuff out there dangling that we weren’t responsible for such as utility bills and bills for the fire department and EMS,” he said. “But we felt we needed to take care of those things for the community.

“It’s like when you buy a house. A bank’s not going to loan you money unless things are taken care of. The track is lien-free. There are no bills on it.”

Morgan purchased the track in January from previous owners Lynn Skinner and Danny Womack.

“Jeff’s the financial guru,” Gariss said. “We decided not to open it until Jeff and I took care of  the negotiations between us in Feburary. We worked on it three weeks in March before deciding to re-open the track.”

Morgan bought the track as an investment, Gariss said.

The track re-opened on April 18.

Running a race track isn’t anything new to Gariss. He owns the Mid-America Speedway in South Coffeyville. located two miles south of the Oklahoma-Kansas state line.