PHOTOGRAPHS BY VAN ABERNETHY
Skylar Drews , runner-up in the $ 50K main event .
Tom Aretakis Jr ., winner of the $ 50K main event .
serious updates in every direction .
After buying the track , Jim and Mary arrived in their station wagon , along with their two young sons . For the first two weeks , this family of four lived on-site in their car , laboring long hours at the track . After working all summer , their goal of having their grand reopening on Labor Day weekend in 1975 became a reality , renaming the track Mid Michigan Motorplex .
A lot has changed since then , namely the untimely passing of Jim at age 55 in 1998 . It ’ s no surprise that Mary describes the 1999 season as a terrifying time in her life . “ I had to mentally program myself to get up each day and do this ,” she reflects .
To this day , Mary practically never misses an event , and her sons also play an important role in the track ’ s operation . She once laughingly commented , “ One day , I want to see what other people do on the weekends !” So far , at age 72 , she still wonders . “ Drag racing is all I know !” she laughs .
If it ended tomorrow , it ’ d be an amazing run , but she shows no signs of slowing down , and the 2022 season is among the busiest she ’ s experienced in years , mainly because the weather has cooperated nicely thus far . By midseason , she had had just one rainout . The often-dicey April
weather was unusually cooperative for the season kickoff , and the car counts have been spectacular for most of her big events .
Ledford began the new season with a test-andtune session on April 10 , followed by another on the 16th , and concluded the month with the first bracket points race in late April . The bracket series is sponsored by American Race Cars and Doorslammer ChassisFab , respectively , of which Mary usually schedules about 18 events per season .
Mid Michigan ’ s Memorial Day Weekend Marathon experienced a huge car count of
300 entries and ran all the way to Monday , featuring a bracket points race , along with Big Ben ’ s Tire Quick-8 .
Track owner Mary Ledford
The Michigan Snowmobile Asphalt Drag Racers Association made its first appearance of the season in early June . “ They ’ ve had as many as 80 sleds for some of their meets ! It ’ s a point-earning series , and we schedule them around seven times per season ,” says Mary .
The Great Lakes Stock / Super Stock Association also visited Mid Michigan in June , as the event was held in conjunction with the threeday Money Maker event featuring Box and No- Box . By early July , it was time to celebrate Independence Day with yet another event that had picture-perfect weather and drew 300 race cars . The Street Tire Shootout Reunion was also held in July with solid results .
If ever there ’ s an event that keeps Jim Ledford ’ s memory alive , it ’ s the August running of the Todd ’ s Extreme Paint World Super Pro Challenge . Affectionately referred to as the “ OG 50 grander ” by many , this is a race that Jim famously scribbled out on a piece of paper nearly three decades ago while Mary was inside a Kmart . “ When I returned to the car and he told me we were going to pay 50 grand to win for a bracket race , I thought he ’ d lost his mind !” laughs Mary .
He wasn ’ t joking , and the inaugural event drew 418 race cars , all while Mary was fielding calls from professional nitro racers , asking if they too could come and race for the big bucks . “ The pro ranks didn ’ t even pay this kind of money back then !”
The event is now in its 29th running , most recently held August 4-7 , and famously has only had one repeat winner in its near three-decade existence ! It wasn ’ t until Aaron McCualla won the event in 2021 that a repeat winner emerged from this storied race .
Most recently , Tom Aretakis Jr . became the latest winner of this historic event after getting past Skylar Drews in the thrilling final . Ironically , Aretakis first won Thursday ’ s $ 10K kickoff before his remarkable main event victory . The purse was even greater than advertised , as Sunday ’ s finale wasn ’ t looking favorable with unexpected rain moving in , so Sunday ’ s $ 5K was added to the main event , making the payout a whopping $ 55K to the winner . More history was made as Aretakis captured the win leaving off the bottom bulb , a first in this event ’ s history .
The following week , Mid Michigan hosted the second annual Rockin Super Shootout , featuring 4.70 , 8.90 , and 9.90 index racing . September is a big month , with the final points race contested on Labor Day weekend , where the bracket finals team is finalized , followed by non-points bracket racing on Labor Day Monday .
September is also widely known for the gathering of the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags . “ They ’ ve been coming here for 28 years ... Mid Michigan Motorplex is the only place they ’ ve ever held this race !” smiles Ledford . The participants show off their all-original cars from 1955 to 1979 , and the event brings in 3,000 spectators over the course of two days .
October closes the season with a pair of testand-tune events that will put a period on the 47th season since Jim and Mary reopened the track in 1975 . “ It takes a lot of dedication . I ’ m 72 years old and still doing this , but again , it ’ s all I know !” Mary smiles . DI
September / October 2022
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