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Mike Mikuly, former Illiana Motor Speedway owner, died Tuesday at 65
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Mike Mikuly, former Illiana Motor Speedway owner, died Tuesday at 65

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SCHERERVILLE — Former Illiana Motor Speedway owner Mike Mikuly passed away Tuesday at the age of 65.

A resident of Crown Point, Mikuly, who had been battling cancer, competed in both street stock and late model stock car divisions at the speedway before purchasing the Northwest Indiana raceway from owner/founder Harry Molenaar in 1999.

Mikuly began racing himself at the half-mile, paved oval in the street stock division in 1991 and went on to capture the division track championship in 1994, winning nine feature races. In 1995, he moved up into the late model ranks and finished 15th in the final points in his rookie late model season. Mikuly raced in the late model division at Illiana for four years with his best year-end points finish being a seventh in 1997.

Involved in several business enterprises over the years, Mikuly purchased the track from Molenaar in the spring of 1999. Acquiring the property on U.S. 30 in 1943, Molenaar had been in failing health and eventually passed away in October 1999 at the age of 87.

Schererville to buy Illiana Motor Speedway

Under Mikuly’s ownership, the speedway went through a major rebuilding phase during the winter of 1999 and 2000. The half-mile track was repaved with a smaller quarter-mile paved track laid out. New retaining walls and safety fencing were also added with a state-of-the-art lightning system also part of the renovation. New grandstands came about in 2008.

“He saved Illiana,” said Glenn Kosiara, who served as the head technical official for Mikuly during his ownership of the speedway. “He called me one morning and said he bought the track from Harry Molenaar and he needed a tech official. He said he wanted to get the season (in 1999) underway as soon as possible to make sure any 'grandfather' clauses were kept in place. I sold my stock car and became an official at the speedway. Mike kept the track going for all those additional years.”

A remodeled speedway seemed to enjoy a number of good years with a variety of racing events, both stock car and open-wheel racing, being held. As the years went on and for one reason or another, crowds and car counts began to dwindle.

“Mike basically rebuilt a new speedway, a first-class facility,” said Tom White, who handled the official starter duties for Mikuly over the years. “It was one of the finest facilities in the country.”

Speed and roar of engines are gone, but memories remain

In May of 2016, Mikuly announced that Illiana would not be opening for the year’s new racing season, citing poor weather, decreasing attendance and car counts, along with poor social media reviews as the culprits. By the end of June, the 50-plus acre parcel was sold to the Town of Schererville, ending the run of the historic speedway.

Mike Mikuly no doubt saved Illiana Motor Speedway from the wrecking ball as a new millennium approached and kept it going for another 17 years.

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