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Pit stop looks likely at I-70 Motorsports Park this year after county raises concerns

ODESSA, Mo. -- A developer hoping to reopen I-70 Speedway in Odessa went before the Lafayette County Planning Commission on Thursday night for a third time hoping to get a green flag for construction and racing.

But it appears that another pit stop and likely conditions for permit approval will derail the racing season before it could even return to the historic raceway.

More than 500 people packed Berry Acres Wedding Hall where the meeting was moved to find out the track’s future.

“It’s been an eyesore for 10 years. Why not fix it up and do something with it?” Cory Martin wondered before the meeting.

Ten years did a number on the old I-70 Speedway. Bushes grew up in the pavement of the race track, trees in the grandstand. A far cry from the 40 years between 1969 and 2008 that saw some of the biggest names in racing get their start.

“There’s a lot of history here way more than I ever realized and probably yet to realize," said Chris Payne, I-70 Motorsports Park developer.

Payne, also the developer behind Heartland MotorSports Park in Topeka, purchased the property last year and decided to rip out the pavement in favor of a 3/8-mile dirt track. He also has plans for interior pits, motocross and a 1/4-mile drag strip.

He’s hauled away 120 tons of scrap, including hundreds upon hundreds of tires and heavy machinery is lined up and ready to go in hopes of beginning racing this summer.

“This is a big hurdle we get through the process and get our special use permit for the property that allows us racing to continue," Payne said as he looked over the now empty track area, with the makings of a dirt track surrounded by a grandstand.

Commissioners asked questions about sound barriers, security fencing, lighting and traffic as the crowd of people mostly wearing racing uniforms and shirts listened.

“We like to support the community and hopefully bring some revenue to this area, bring the old track back so we can race and have a good time and be safe," said Derek Strait, a drag racer.

“There’s a lot of excitement not just to see it reopen but see the progress. It’s way bigger than me. It’s way bigger than new development. As a whole, it’s positive for everybody," Payne said.

Special conditions for the permit discussed by commissioners would include placing fencing around the entire property and conducting noise and traffic studies that could take some time to complete.

Commissioners decided to let the county attorney prepare those special conditions up before they vote on them. That vote will take place April 17 at 7 p.m. at the Lafayette County Courthouse.

Payne said early Thursday the racing season's start had already been pushed back from May 18 to June 15. After the delay Thursday night, he said racing this year seemed unlikely.

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