Onaway Speedway to host inaugural Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge

For three years Mike Sturgill was immersed in the thrilling world of Quebec-style semi-truck racing.

Now he’s bringing that thrill to Onaway Speedway.

Onaway Speedway will host the inaugural Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge beginning on Friday and running through Sunday. This is the first time this style of racing will be held in the United States.

“Trucking is the backbone of America. Everything you touch comes from a truck,” Sturgill said. “If you like racing and you like trucks, this is an event to come see.”

While semi-truck racing has been popular in Quebec for 30 years, visitors to Onaway Speedway are in for a different kind of racing.

Drag racing is simple enough in execution, pitting two cars against one another, side by side usually on a measured, straight line course.

Quebec-style semi-truck racing ups the ante as two semis race side by side. Despite pulling trailers in excess of 100,000 pounds, the tracks can reach near 70 miles per hour.

Racing will begin at noon on Friday and will run to 7 p.m. Trucks will be racing in the same time slot on Saturday and racing will continue on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. with an awards presentation afterward.

A weekend pass is $40 for adults and $20 for children aged 12 to 18. Kids 11 and under are admitted for free.

The first-of-its-kind event has already garnered a lot of attention and will be filmed for an upcoming series on History Channel Canada. The Speedway draws about 4,000 people on a typical race night, but this weekend could bring thousands more to the area including visitors from Alaska, Norway and Puerto Rico.

Sturgill said racing in Quebec regularly draws 75,000 people and 1,000 local campsites have already been sold. Other places such as Onaway High School have offered the use of their parking lot to attendees.

Sturgill and co-owner Billie Morell bought the Speedway from the previous owners last fall and have been making improvements to make this weekend’s event possible. Sturgill said more than $500,000 has been spent making upgrades to the track.

Competing trucks in this weekend’s event will race on a quarter-mile asphalt track with a 10 percent uphill grade.

Trucks competing this weekend will be bobtail and loaded and three classes of semis will be competing. Loaded trucks will weigh in around 130,000 pounds with a trailer. The finals for each class will pull triple trains with the truck and trailer combining to weight 180,000 pounds.

Loaded trucks will pull a distance of 660 feet and bobtail trucks will race 550 feet.

All registered trucks will be competing for part of a $50,000 payout.

In addition to the racing, there will several other entertainment options. A carnival put on by Schmidt Amusements will from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on all three nights and an all-day bracelet is available for $15.

On Friday, Jedi Mind Trip will perform from 8 p.m. to midnight and on Saturday, Dirt Road Dixie will perform in the same time slot. The Onaway Chamber of Commerce will host a beer tent on Friday from 2 p.m. to midnight on Friday and from noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. Food and ice vendors will also be onsite.

Visit OnawaySpeedway.com or visit the Speedway on Facebook for more information on pricing and the weekend’s racing schedule.