Who Owns Fairbury Speedway? [Solved!]

We all know the great stories of America’s racing past. There was the indomitable spirit of George Bailey, the legendary Brooklyn-born driver who founded the Indy 500, or the indomitable sonar technician who founded the entire field of sonar scanning, Bill Fairbank. Then, of course, there’s Richard Petty, the man who owns more than 94 percent of the all-time wins at the Daytona International Speedway. We’ll never know what might have happened if those three men hadn’t decided to form a company and build a track.

But what if those men had decided to collaborate? What if George and Bill had decided to join forces and share resources? What if the legendary Richard Petty had decided to branch out and take a more active role in the business?

These are the kind of questions designer Michael Bennett ponders as he works on his new business, Fairbury Speedway. Bennett, a native of Torrance, California, first came to fame with his designs for the Halo lightning system, which he created in collaboration with NASA. But it was his work on the Transformers project that really propelled him into the spotlight. The series, which began in 2007 as a collaboration between Bennett and the Hasbro toy company, was an immediate global success. The next evolution of the collaboration came in the form of the NASCAR-themed miniquestors, created in 2011 for the Hasbro toy company. Since then, he’s designed a variety of miniquestors for a variety of iconic American brands, including Transformers, He-Man, G.I. Joe, and many more.

From NASCAR To INDYCAR

The concept for Fairbury Speedway began in 2004, when Bennett visited the Richard Petty Driving Experience in North Carolina. His visit was in the course of his work on a variety of projects, including the Transformers, but he ended up spending a good deal of time at the racing camp. One of the things that really stuck out to Bennett was the opportunity to see how Petty’s team kept everything so well organized, given the hectic nature of a NASCAR season. “It was just crazy how much time they all had to make sure that everything was perfect,” Bennett said. “Not only was everything running smoothly, but even when things went wrong, they had the ability to fix it and get back out on the track.”

A designer by trade, Bennett got the itch to do something with his own hands and joined forces with two engineers from the Petty team—Jake Kilmer and Jason Jones—to put together a plan. The result was Fairbury Speedway, a motorsport-themed entertainment complex that combines a 5.5-acre speedway with a multi-level entertainment area, a museum, and several guest housing properties. With Kilmer and Jones’ help, Bennett designed the layout of the track, which was then built by Kilmer with the aid of a variety of subcontractors. The project was completed in 2015 and officially opened the following year.

Entertainment Complex

Bennett’s track is designed to accommodate a variety of racing forms, from oval to road course. The most recent renovation added a road course and a half-mile quad oval (half-mile karting), which was a labor of love for Bennett. “When you have kids, it’s hard to fit road racing in somewhere in the schedule,” he said. “I love cars, and I love getting out on a road course and feeling the wind on my face as I drive.”

The track’s design is intended to channel drivers back to the present, evoking the golden era of American auto racing. Its design team drew inspiration from both the late 1940s and the early 2000s. The primary reference points are the indomitable Henry Ford, whose assembly lines turned out the legendary Mustangs, and Richard Petty himself. “He symbolizes the golden era of American racing,” said Bennett. “And what better way to celebrate that era than by making a replica of the track that he raced on back in the day.”

Miniquestors

The most recent addition to the site is a collection of racing-themed buildings that represent some of the most iconic American brands. It’s here where Bennett’s unique design talents really shine through. The buildings are small, compact structures that house entertainment areas, restaurants, and bars. They’re designed to house up to four guests per room and are completely hidden from view, giving the guest the sense that they’ve arrived at someplace clandestine.

It’s a far cry from the spacious, luxurious accommodations one would normally associate with a hotel but fit perfectly for a speedway. Each building is designed to resemble a classic piece of Americana, from a circa-1950s travel trailer to a one-of-a-kind, handcrafted wooden building that mimics a grand piano. But perhaps the most unique aspect of the project is that each building is packed with gadgets and features, giving the illusion that the guest has wandered into a futuristic amusement park populated by robots and cyborgs.

Museums, Galleries And More

While the miniquestors are the most prominent feature of the site, it wouldn’t be a celebration of American history if there wasn’t some pretty spectacular artwork on display somewhere around the place.

There are four galleries at Fairbury Speedway. Two of them, the Siegel Gallery and the Henry Ford Museum, are located on the first level of the complex. The other two galleries, the Bill Fairbank Art Gallery and the Richard Petty Driving Experience, are located on the upper level. The exhibitions, which are rotated on a regular basis, highlight famous American artists and designers, as well as contemporary and emerging artists from across the country.

Also on the upper level is the Richard Petty Driving Experience, a genuine NASCAR Hall of Fame museum that houses more than 50 vehicles, many of which are on display and operated by live drivers. Most notably, the museum stores all of the memorabilia associated with Richard Petty, including his legendary racing suit, helmet, and shoes. The collection is the largest of its kind in the world. Below the museum is a theater that shows vintage race videos and documentaries as well as feature films. The theater is one of the largest in the world if it seats six to eight people, and it was designed with cars in mind, with a focus on aesthetics and minimalism.

One Of A Kind

Given the level of detail that went into putting this track together, it’s no surprise that Bennett and his team of collaborators had a hard time coming up with a design that was truly unique. The answer, they decided, was to keep everything as close to original as possible.

So if you run into Ralphie at the end of the day, you’ll probably find him polishing the same old carburetor or inspecting the tread on the same old tires. The crew at the Richard Petty Driving Experience has gone above and beyond to ensure that every last detail is accounted for, from the position of the switches to the angle of the dashboards. Everything has been crafted with the utmost care and attention to detail.

The buildings at Fairbury Speedway are impressive as they are but even more so when you consider what went into their construction. And that’s not even mentioning the equipment that was used to shape the track before it was laid down, or the paint that was applied to the entire 300-foot length of the thing.

All of which leads to one inescapable question: Where do I sign up?

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