Just before the 2012 NASA National Championships, NASA made the announcement that the signature event of the season would return to Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, for the 2013 edition of the contest. NASA enjoyed a two-year run at Miller from 2009 to 2010. Since then NASA has added a stand-alone regional program running at the track year-round. So, to give NASA drivers a sense of what to expect at the 2013 NASA Championships presented by Toyo Tires, this installment of “The Motorsports Tourist” will feature this world-class facility set just west of the beautiful Oquirrh Mountains outside Salt Lake City, Utah.
Miller Motorsports Park was the magnum opus of Salt Lake City business magnate Larry H. Miller. Larry got his start in the automotive world as a parts counterman and he worked hard to create a business empire that at his passing in 2009 included multiple car dealerships, a major network television station, the Utah Jazz pro basketball team, and many other business and real estate ventures.
Larry also was a car guy’s car guy. He had a passion for motorsports and fine automobiles that few could match. A parcel of land just outside the small town of Tooele, west of Salt Lake City was selected as the home for construction of Larry’s lifelong dream of having his own race course to enjoy. Although the track was initially planned to be a smaller hobby track, the scope was expanded to construct a true world-class facility after it received tremendous support from local businesses.
The track was designed by noted racetrack architect Alan Wilson, who also has penned the blueprints for other spectacular tracks like Barber Motorsports Park and Autobahn Country Club. No expense was spared and no compromises were made in the design and construction of the facility, which cost a rumored $85 million upon completion in 2006. Aside from a track surface suited for FIA and FIM competition, the facility also features a go-kart track, off-road course, supermoto track, rock crawler course, and an impressive in-house museum featuring such standouts as a Shelby Daytona Coupe, a Ford GT40 that raced at LeMans, and drag race specials like the Ford Thunderbolt.
Miller Motorsports Park is an easy 40-minute drive on Interstate 80 from the Salt Lake City International Airport. The Salt Lake City airport is a thoroughly modern facility with easy access to I-80 and downtown Salt Lake City. Delta has a hub there and all the major carriers have ample flights into and out of town. For driving to Miller, you come from the west and east on I-80 or from the southeast on I-70 to I-15 north. To reach the track, you simply drive I-80 until you reach Utah Highway 36. From there, you head south on 36 and then turn right on Highway 138 to reach Highway 112/Sheep Lane which is about 5 miles from the 36/138 split. You will turn left on to Sheep Lane and then the track will be ahead on your right 2 miles later. You turn into the main gate and then proceed down to the security gate, which is a short distance from Sheep Lane.
The town of Tooele features a number of chain hotels and some smaller mom-and-pop type operations that are also serviceable. My favorite has been the Holiday Inn Express just off Main Street in Tooele because it is close to many restaurants and also the local Wal-Mart, where I always find myself picking up whatever I managed to leave sitting on my nightstand or in my dresser at home.
Tooele has a number of national chain restaurants, but also some good local choices. Café Rio is a great Mexican restaurant just down Main Street from the Holiday Inn Express near the Wal-Mart parking lot and it has a wide selection of generously portioned authentic style entrees to choose from. Another good choice is the Bonneville Brewery bar and restaurant just across from the Holiday Inn, which has a varied selection of traditional pub food along with a full bar featuring some standout local beers on tap. Bonneville also has a pretty hopping bar scene with pool tables, dart boards and a DJ on some of the weekend evenings.
While it may look rather flat and spread out to the untrained eye, Miller is full of surprises. The full configuration of the track is more than 4 miles long and includes a dizzying 23 turns to enjoy if you are running the whole enchilada. Trust me when I tell you that it is very easy to get hopelessly lost and for your first few laps you might wish that you would have strapped a NASA RallySport co-driver in the right seat to call out pace notes for you.
There are also some fairly large elevation changes that make for interesting transitions in the Attitudes complex as you shoot toward the back half of the course. The track itself sits at over 4,000 feet above sea level so make sure to tune for power at those higher heights if you are coming up from the flatlands.
Another big part of the Miller experience is also the brilliant Day Garages and Grand Prix Garages that are fully equipped for your convenience and kept sparkling clean by the maintenance staff. The Grand Prix Garages include private bathrooms for each bay as well as fully climate-controlled interiors. During the NASA Championships, the play-by-play broadcast is pumped into the garages and there is also a live feed for timing and scoring displayed on the monitors. You also can take a spin on the go-kart track with your pals during your off hours because the track is usually available and running during NASA weekends.
As for car parts and fixes, there are a number of vendors in the in-house shops on the property that can help you out with serious repairs, and Tooele has a number of car dealers and chain full-line auto parts stores where you replace busted parts and leaked fluids. As previously mentioned, there is also a Wal-Mart in town along with a number of other major chains to get you whatever you forgot or need.
So, as September approaches, it’s high time to start thinking about high-altitude racing at Miller Motorsports Park. I hope to see you there enjoying Larry Miller’s pride and joy.
Here’s a lap of the outer loop at Miller Motorsports Park.
Miller Motorsports Park
2901 North Sheep Lane
Holiday Inn Express Tooele
1531 North Main St.
Best Western Inn Tooele
365 North Main St.
Tooele, UT 84074
1641 N Main St.
Tooele, UT 84074
1205 North Main St.
Tooele, UT 84074