- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

BUNKER HILL, Ind. (AP) - Adam Confer grew up watching his dad burn rubber racing at the Bunker Hill Dragstrip in the 1970s.

Little did he know that 40 years later he’d end up owning the place and, at the same time, saving the state’s oldest continuously running dragstrip from closing forever.

That’s just what he did last month, when he and his wife, Stacey, moved back to the area and purchased the historic track to become only the third owners in the dragstrip’s 60-year history.

“I never really believed that this would happen,” Adam told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/1TZAHXe ). “Pretty soon you look around and you’re like, ‘We actually own a racetrack.’ I remember being here as a little kid, so it’s pretty surreal.”

It was in March 2015 when the dragstrip’s previous owners, Steve and Darlene Daniels, put the 23-acre property on the market for an asking price of $650,000.

At that time, the Confers lived in Michigan. Adam had moved there in 1999 from Peru, and it’s where he met Stacey.

In 2002, Adam decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps and started drag racing in Michigan. That led him back to the Bunker Hill Dragstrip for a race last year, when he learned the place was for sale.

Purchasing the place was an intriguing prospect, Stacey said, and it’s one they decided to act on in November.

“We were at a position in our lives where we were able to do it,” she said.

That included owning a successful finance and real-estate business in Michigan.

But the Confers said at that time, they couldn’t reach a deal with the Daniels. Even so, they decided to follow through with their plans and move back to Indiana to be closer to family.

Then in April, the former owners finally accepted an offer from the Confers. Adam said the Daniels gave them the keys to the place, and, just like that, they owned the dragstrip, along with a house and a full-service restaurant located on the property.

In a lot of ways, the Confers are the ideal owners for the track. They both have decades of business experience, and Adam has a life’s worth of racing experience, as well as an intimate knowledge of the area.

Now they plan to use that experience to turn the dragstrip and restaurant into top-notch facilities. But that’s going to take work, Adam said. A lot of work.

After taking over, the Confers quickly realized the track was in dire need of an upgrade. Adam said the dragstrip was repaved five years ago, but some of the paving in the pit area was substandard, leaving parts of it in shambles.

“It’s made it atrocious out here,” he said. “We’re celebrating our 60th year at the track, but that means your equipment is celebrating its 60th year, too. You can look around here and see that. This place needed some elbow grease to get going.”

The subpar track has led many racers who called the place home to leave and race at other dragstrips like the ones in South Bend, Muncie and Indianapolis.

Adam said he wants to get the eighth-of-a-mile track back up to a professional-grade level, and start building back up the list of racers who consider the dragstrip their turf.

Stacey said she also plans a big marketing push to get the track and restaurant back out into public view. That’s especially true for the restaurant called Outpost Bar and Grill, which the previous owners opened around five years ago to diversify the business.

She said her goal is to turn the full-service restaurant and bar into a place with great food and a great atmosphere that draws customers to the property throughout the week when there aren’t races going on.

“Our list is real long on what we want to work on and improve here,” Stacey said.

That’s led to some long days for the Confers, who are also still managing their real-estate and finance business. Adam said he’s been working from 6:30 a.m. to midnight since buying the track to make sure it succeeds.

And the Confers said they are confident the track will succeed.

“A lot of places come and go, but we’re sitting on 60 years of history,” Adam said. “We’ve got a goldmine here to work with. It’s just a matter of taking your washrag and cleaning it up. That’s all it needs.”

Of course, the Confers are in the business to make money. But, Adam said, it’s more than that. He said it’s about keeping alive a historic landmark in the area that was an important part of his life when he was a kid.

And if no one would have bought the place when it was still up and running, Adam said, there’s a very good chance the dragstrip would have closed and never opened again.

“So many people felt that this wouldn’t be here,” he said. “For me, this had a lot to do with preservation. If this isn’t here, where else are people going to race? This track going away would have been bad. I don’t think it ever would have come back.”

Adam said not only is the dragstrip back in business, but he also plans to make it better than it’s ever been.

He said that may take a year or two, but racers and spectators can expect to see some major upgrades in the future.

“In the next five years, we’re going to build this up to become a premier organization that knows what it’s capable of,” Adam said. “I want this track to be as big as it’s capable of being . I’m excited. Not so much about where we are today, but where we’re going. There’s so much opportunity here.”


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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