Fairbury resident strikes deal to take over operation of quarter-mile oval
Matt Curl will return to Fairbury American Legion Speedway as the majority owner and promoter of his hometown track after finalizing a deal with Fairbury's American Legion John Joda Post 54 that has long owned and operated the quarter-mile oval, Curl and Legion officials announced jointly on Tuesday.
It's a dream come true for Curl, a 42-year-old native and current resident of Fairbury who grew up attending races at the track, worked as a race-day official in various capacities and served as FALS's race director from the fall of 2012 until the end of the 2017 season. He left Fairbury to become the series director of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series in 2018 but reluctantly will depart that position in the future after having a golden opportunity materialize at the speedway he loves so much.
"The opportunity that the World Racing Group and (president) Tom (Deery) gave me this year with the World of Outlaws was fantastic," Curl said. "I felt like I could be in that job for the rest of my career if it wasn't for the, maybe, one thing that excited me more: purchasing and promoting my hometown track. You're not purchasing a declining facility and business. You're investing in something that has an upswing to it, a track that's one of the best in the country and now has one of the biggest events in Dirt Late Model racing in the Prairie Dirt Classic.
"I couldn't be more thrilled to have this chance to run a racetrack that means the world to me. It was simply an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
Curl negotiated an agreement with the leaders of the Fairbury American Legion Post to purchase the majority share of the assets of the speedway, which famously sits on 34 acres of land right in the middle of the idyllic Midwestern town of Fairbury. The American Legion will remain a minority shareholder in Curl's new ownership LLC, allowing Curl to keep the American Legion in the track's title and the Legion Post to continue centering scholarship, veteran and member-outreach programs through the speedway.
With Curl’s acquisition of the speedway, the Fairbury Fair Corporation, which has managed the speedway and the fair for the past 81 years for the legion post, will now be able to concentrate solely on the Fairbury Fair, which celebrated its 142nd annual edition in August. The Fairbury Fair will continue to operate with the full support and help of Curl and his staff. "I'd like to truly thank the Fairbury Fairboard for their hard work and dedication in the continued success of the speedway and the fair," Curl said. “They have a lot to be proud of throughout all the years.”
"The Fairbury American Legion Post wanted to get out of the promotional business for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the speedway had become bigger business in recent years and needed more management and time than the Post and its members could provide," Curl said. "I've lived in Fairbury and been around the speedway all my life, so for me to know the speedway, know the sponsors, know the people, know our community, it's a perfect fit for me to come in as an owner and promoter of the track.
"I'm excited about the future, to be able to put all my energy and resources into it. Our vision is to keep weekly racing at the highest level at Fairbury American Legion Speedway and to continue the strength of the Prairie Dirt Classic. And we are also fully committed to hosting the Fairbury Fair — one of the longest-standing fairs in the state of Illinois — by continuing to give it a home."
Curl plans to continue FALS's successful weekly Saturday night racing programs in 2019 with DIRTcar-sanctioned Super Late Models and UMP Modifieds headlining the action. He will release a full schedule and other 2019 details in the near future, but he expects to open the campaign in mid-April. He already has the 30th annual edition of the wildly-popular World of Outlaws-sanctioned Prairie Dirt Classic scheduled for July 26-27, 2019, with the 100-lapper's first-place prize currently sitting at $30,000.
"There won't be many changes because Fairbury already has some of the best racing and some of the best facilities," said Curl, who will speak more about his new venture when he attends the 2018 Fairbury American Legion Speedway awards banquet this Saturday night. "I don't want to change it. I want it to be Fairbury. I want it to be racing in a small town. I want all the things that have been done there in recent years to continue, just with the assurance that local racing and the PDC will be there for the community for a long time to come.
"I think more than anything, we just want to keep Fairbury, Fairbury, and let everyone know that we're gonna work hard to make sure weekly racing continues on at Fairbury for our community. I just feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do it."