By Lindsay Eckert Kokomo Tribune
---- — Kokomo Speedway is revving up its social scene in time for its annual Smackdown event, a three-day show that starts tomorrow. The dirt track has a history that dates back 66 years and all that history is coming to life and merging with 2013 in Turn Five, a new bar on Kokomo Speedway’s campus.
The O’Connor family, who have owned Kokomo Speedway for 10 years, will be opening the beer-garden-meets-bar gathering place Thursday night, which features Kokomo Speedway’s favorite moments and racers in frames on Turn Five’s walls.
Although the family transformed the barn, next to the concessions stand, from a place to collect tools to a meeting place, Jill Demonbreun, one of the owners, said it all started with the idea of wanting to bring race fans together.
“We wanted to make improvements at the track so any extra money we get, we put it back in the facility to make it a better place,” Demonbreun said. “It’ll be there every week, but we wanted something for our bigger events so people could go and mingle at just a cool racing place.”
Demonbreun added Turn Five will sell Budweiser products, including wine and margaritas.
But, above what’s being poured is the history on the new dig’s walls, as family members and long-time photographers are supplying the images that frame history and are hung by Demonbreun and her family members.
“It’s so cool when you get pictures from [photographers] or family of racers who have been here for a long time and aren’t racing anymore,” Demonbreun said. “The history of Kokomo Speedway is huge and it’s cool to see that come through.”
That history is reflected through the photos hung to remember the moments and names – big names such as Tony Stewart and A.J. Foyt or local favorites – who have slid on Kokomo Speedway’s dirt oval. The family has also crafted an atmosphere of today, as flat screen TVs hang from the Turn Five’s walls to show the race as people take a break from Kokomo Speedway’s stands.
The family, which includes six family members working together to improve and maintain the race track, have come together to create a spot, Demonbreun said illustrates the spirit and excitement of Smackdown weekend at Kokomo Speedway.
“We started working on this last year [with Smackdown in mind] and we know people are going to be here all weekend camping and hanging out before races,” Demonbreun said. “We want a place for people to meet and get together and have fun.”
Demonbreun said she and her family have been making improvements to Kokomo Speedway during the last 10 years, but with new she said they want to stay true to the old as well.
“We’re happy to carry on the tradition of Kokomo Speedway, keep its history alive and include everything we possibly can from years ago to today,” Demonbreun said. “All the changes in the track have been very neat to see. “