By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief
Southern Missouri’s Osage River basin is famous for its lakes, small towns and lazy living. Kick back, slow down, toss a fishing line in the water. That’s the general feeling you get when Missouri Highway 54 leads you into the easy-going one-ZIP-code town of Wheatland, MO, population about 400.
But as you wind east through the heart of Hickory County, on the right you can’t miss the big sign and entryway to Lucas Oil Speedway, where they never do anything slow or easy.
Forrest Lucas, owner and founder of Lucas Oil, calls his track the “Diamond of Dirt Tracks.” It first opened in 2006 and continues to grow with added features, including a man-made lake for boat drag racing.
“I had a chance to buy this place, so I did, with the idea that we could fix it up and develop a real nice dirt track here,” Lucas said, “but I got carried away. So now it’s a lot more than that.”
It’s definitely a lot more than that.
Arriving at this enormous, perfectly manicured complex, which is nestled in the quiet little Hickory County town, is initially mind-blowing. It features everything you’d see at a big NASCAR race, from Bose Stadium Sound to that cool Musco lighting, and a huge HD Jumbotron. In Lucas’ words, everything about the place is the “best it can be.” Top-notch is the Lucas way.
Along with heading up an international corporation and heavy involvement in the racing world, Lucas is a cattle breeder. He and his wife, Charlotte, own a ranch in nearby Cross Timbers, MO.
When he wants to relax, he says he heads for Missouri. It’s clear to hear him talk about the speedway that it’s his favorite getaway.
“It’s my golf game,” he says.
In April, Land Line staff got a personal tour of the place from Lucas and his crew and even a ride in one of the late-model cars on the dirt track. He made a point to invite truckers to come to Wheatland and check out the speedway. From spring to fall, every weekend is packed with simultaneous events.
Lucas Oil Speedway Motorsports Complex hosts some of the largest dirt track car racing events in the Midwest. This summer’s event schedule features some of the biggest names in racing, including The Lucas Oil Latemodel Dirt Series, Performance Open Wheel Racing, Midget National Series, The Lucas Oil Pro-Pulling League, Casey’s General Stores U.S. Modified Touring Series, Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series, American Sprint Car Series, and The Lucas Oil MLRA race (Midwest Latemodel Racing Association).
New for 2012, the E3 Spark Plugs Monster Truck Nationals will also make an appearance in July.
But that’s not all. Recently, officials with the National Boat Racing Association and Lucas Oil Speedway have announced the addition of a special event on Lake Lucas, which is located on the same property. The NBRA Lucas Oil North/South Shootout July 7-8 will feature boat pilots from several states. The NBRA sanctions boat races throughout the Midwest and beyond through various chapters and organizations.
Big rig parking? Yep, we asked. Speedway General Manager Dan Robinson personally guarantees there’s plenty.
So if you are toying with the idea of a family vacation or you just happen to have a layover in Missouri, you don’t have to wait for a special invitation. Now you have one from Forrest Lucas himself. LL