Garlits, Muldowney, Glidden, Kalitta Among Winners at Michigan’s Fastest Track in Michigan~
When a new expressway connecting Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo was carved out of Michigan farmland in 1961, one of the parcels of land between the new road and its two-lane predecessor was considered by most to be too long and too narrow for future agricultural use.
Fortunately, the 198-acre tract fronting the new freeway near the Martin exit caught the eye of a 24-year-old student at Western Michigan University named John Grivins who thought it was perfectly configured to accommodate something else altogether.
Shortly thereafter, with the help of family members who immigrated with him from Latvia, Grivins began construction on what would become US 131 Motorsports Park, “Michigan’s Fastest Track.”
This year, under the direction of General Manager Jason Peterson, the track will begin its 60th season with a schedule that includes the SFG Half Million (June 27-30), the NMRA/NMCA Power Festival (July 21-24), the Bottom Bulb Bash (July 28-31), the US 131 Northern Nationals (Aug. 5-6) and the Funny Car Nationals (Sept. 9-10) along with the weekly Lane Automotive Bracket Series.
Few tracks have as rich a competitive history; fewer still have operated longer at such an elite level.
Starting in 1969, the track was host to the Popular Hot Rodding Magazine Championships, one of the most prestigious and longest-duration events contested outside of the NHRA’s national series.
Among those who hoisted a PHR trophy at US 131 are legendary drag racers Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Bob Glidden, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, Scott Kalitta, Connie Kalitta, Gary Ormsby, Frank Hawley (as driver of the legendary “Chi-Town Hustler”) and Don “the Snake” Prudhomme.
Grivins, who passed away last year at the age of 83, sold the track in 2000 to Canadian businessman Alec Pinsonneault who, after the completion of a $14 million upgrade, returned it to prominence in 2002 as host to the IHRA Northern Nationals, an event won four straight years by veteran Clay Millican.