The last three months have been full of good news for the 2014 Corvette Stingray. In November it was named Automobile Magazine’s Car of the Year, followed the next month by the same honors from Autoweek. Monday, it was named the Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
It’s a car with a long and storied past – and no place is that more celebrated than at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. In August, the museum will celebrate its 20th anniversary. As part of the celebration, the Corvette Museum will open a new Motorsports Park featuring a 3.1 mile road course on 184 acres just across the highway from the museum.
Leading the planning for the track is Motorsports Park General Manager Mitch Wright – a former professional race car driver-turn-motorsports park operator, who’s been behind the wheel for most of his life.
“I started quite young – I was 11 years old when I started racing go-carts,” said Wright. “From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to race…I wanted to race something.”
That “something” during his life has ranged from bicycles and go-carts to SCCA Pro Racing cars.
“In the neighborhood, every time we went somewhere, it was a race, so I had that competitive nature about me,” said Wright. “And then was fortunate enough to be able to make my living driving for a number of years.”
Over the last eight years, Wright’s focus has shifted from racing to operating motorsports parks, from Utah to New Orleans to Pittsburgh and now Bowling Green.
The National Corvette Museum has been a big draw for the city and region, but the attraction has been limited to indoors. The Motorsports Park will let aspiring drivers and individuals from corporate events get behind the wheel. Wright says it’s an experience that’s hard to replicate.
“There is no cell phone, there is no computer. Your attention is 120-percent focused on that particular activity and for me personally, and for a lot of people, it’s a great stress reliever,” said Wright.
The Motorsports Park is even drawing some early national attention with CNN naming it among the “50 States, 50 Spots for 2014”
“People are excited. Obviously the GM plant -- the Corvette plant -- is a big part of the community and the museum is a big part of the community," said Wright. "People are now saying, this is just another extension and another asset that we’re bringing to the community."
Wright says it’s not often that you find tracks so close to town and that will be a positive for the local economy.
“You know we’re 10-15 minutes away from hotels and restaurants and downtown is 15-20 minutes away, depending on what time of day you go.”
Wright says the recent publicity brought about by the highly-acclaimed Corvette Stingray has kept the Corvette name top-of-mind, but he says the Motorsports Park will welcome a variety of different makes and models.
“One of the things that we’re facing is that we’re not a ‘Corvette-only’ facility, we’re open to any-and-all groups,” said Wright. “As a matter of fact, our first group – other than a Corvette event that we’ve planned in late September – our very first client is Bluegrass BMW club.”
And it won’t be just cars – Wright says motorcycle events will be a big part of their business too. He says construction is on schedule with the road base scheduled to be laid down in the spring and the pavement going down late in the spring.
Eight months from opening, he says the Motorsports Park has already booked 118 events.