Lost Horizon: The Sad Story Of Huset’s Speedway In South Dakota

The 1933 novel Lost Horizon details the journey of Hugh Conway, who finds inner peace and a sense of purpose in Shangri-La, only to leave on an important task. The readers are left to wonder if Conway ever found his way back to the lost paradise. The story of Huset’s Speedway parallels James Hilton’s novel, and we are left to wonder if Huset’s will become another lost paradise. As of this writing, there is still hope for Huset’s. Race fans and racers are attempting to raise money to purchase the speedway that is now known as Badlands Motor Speedway.

According to legendary racing historian and sportswriter Tom Savage, “This photo shows the original layout of the oval.” The fourth turn is far wider than today’s track. “When Til Huset bladed the top off of his bean field and ‘pushed it up to make banking,’ he did not use any surveyors or other professional help which resulted in the ‘lumpy or lopsided’ original Huset’s Speedway.” Photo origin is unknown. Photos from Huset’s Speedway Timeline.

The story begins with the opening of the track in 1954, when soybean farmer Til Huset turned his field into a 3/8-mile dirt oval in Brandon, South Dakota. Til put on a couple of race seasons in 1954 and 1955, but decided to close the doors in 1956. The track sat empty for two years before it was brought back to life for the 1958 season by the Sioux Falls Stock Car Association, a group that would own the track for the next 31 years. In 1988, Clarence Rubin, with sons Greg and Steve, purchased the track and continued the racing tradition for the next 28 years.

This photo, from the Tom Savage collection, shows Huset’s Speedway pit area. “Pit area and third turn in the background at Huset’s Speedway in the early 1960’s,” explained Savage.

Enter Chuck Brennan

Businessman Chuck Brennan bought the track in 2015, changed the name to Badlands Motor Speedway, and spent a considerable amount of money to upgrade the facility in order to host dirt track racing as well as a venue for concerts, monster truck shows, tractor pulls, EnduroCross events and some special dirt track events.

The track hosted a World of Outlaws sprint car race in 2015 and accommodated a $100,000-to-win 410 Sprint car race early in 2016, followed by a $250,000 Gold Cup sprint car race. The track was completely upgraded in 2016 with a $6 million renovation that included new suites, concession areas, restrooms, seating for fans, HD video boards, lighting, and sound system. Everything seemed to be heading in the right direction for setting the standard for a state-of-the-art dirt track venue.

Things were going so well that Brennan hired the owner and manager of the I-90 Speedway, a competing track in Hartford, South Dakota. The I-90 Speedway closed and Lyle Howey took over as assistant general manager and head of track prep for the facility.  Meanwhile, Brennan, CEO of Dollar Loan Center, continued to purchase radio stations and other community properties to enhance the track and surrounding businesses.

Video: The History Of Huset’s Speedway:

The State Gets Involved

Things started to get dicey when Brennan’s primary business, the Dollar Loan Center, had it’s lending license revoked. He filed a couple of complaints and took the state to court claiming it had notified the media before notifying the business itself and that the division of banking did not follow state and federal due-process laws before revoking the license. He lost the cases against the state and subsequently closed the track and radio station. The track ceased operations on May 18, 2017, and was put up for sale.

To add to the difficulties of trying to sell a track where $6 million had been invested in a recent renovation, the Minnehaha County Planning and Zoning informed Brennan in June of 2017, that the conditional-use permit for the track had expired. A claim in which Brennan said scared away any potential buyers.

Brennan has continued to look for buyers of the legendary track, and has kept staff in place to maintain the facility so that it is in operating shape should a new owner be found. But time is running out. At the beginning of the month, Brennan announced that the track and facility would be torn down if a new owner cannot be found by the end of December.

“If there isn’t a deal by the end of December, the facilities will be removed and the land restored for tax reasons,” Brennan said. “If anything, we’ve bent over backward to put this in the hands of the right people, we’ve really been trying to work with everybody on this.” Brennan is already securing quotes to remove and recycle the buildings, bleachers, lighting, and utilities.

A statement was posted on the Badlands Motor Speedway site that included the following details of any deal involving the speedway: www.badlandsmotorspeedway.com.

“We are going to extend a deeply discounted, temporary purchase price of $6,299,999,” the statement declared. “This deal would need to close by Friday, December 28th at noon Central time. This offer is truly for the first person, or group, to come up with the money. At this price, we are not in a position to hold it for someone only to have them not be able to fund the deal.”

“The entire facility will be completely maintained and race ready until that time. We have had, and will continue to have, our crews keep the place in tip-top shape until it finds a new owner. This deal is completely turnkey and includes everything. We want to help any new owner as much as possible to succeed beyond expectations.”

A more current view of the facility from June 22, 2018, taken following a storm that dropped five inches of rain on the track.

The Last Hail Mary

In a last ditch effort to save the speedway, a group of fans is attempting to purchase the facility. Led by Shannon Dyce and Leandra Ryan, the fan coalition has raised a reported $100,000 in the first week of fundraising. That is a far cry from the $6.3 million that Brennan is asking, but the group is hoping to get somewhere near the starting amount at an auction for the track that was held earlier this year. The auction’s starting bid was just over $3 million.

With time working against them, the fans are hoping they can convince Brennan to come to the negotiating table once he sees they are serious and have a reasonable offer. More information on the fundraising drive can be found here: Husets Speedway TimelineInterested buyers should contact Meierhenry Sargent LLP at 605-336-3075.

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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