The North Star Dragway, located on 49-acres in Denton, Texas and a one of the sports’ premiere 1/8-mile heads-up drag racing facilities, is for sale. And the asking price: a cool $5.9 million.
Track owner Gene Nicodemus, a hardcore drag racer in his own right, purchased the facility in 2012. Opened in 1997, Gene is its fifth owner, its longest-tenured, and its most successful. And, as he shares, it is profitable. So why the for sale sign?
“I bought the track as an investment, and I’m a drag racer myself. My company, Nicodemus Construction, remodeled the track in 2003,” Gene says. “I had the opportunity to buy it, and I wanted to keep it a racetrack, because a lot of people depend on that racetrack. When I got it it was a bracket racing track and it wasn’t producing the funds to keep it open. So I changed directions — I wanted to bring heads-up racing back to Texas, and I think we succeeded at it. There’s more heads-up stuff here than there has been in many years.
“What people don’t understand about running a racetrack is the love you have to have for it,” he continues. “Because it’s not just open the gates, come in, and leave. It’s a 40- to 50-hour week, during the week deal if you want your facility looking nice. And then you have your weekends…I’ve sacrificed my weekends now for seven years, ands that’s a pretty big deal. The people that really suffer from that are my wife and my kids.”
When I bought it, I knew I couldn’t feel good about myself having someone else run it. If I’m going to run it and bring back the kind of racing I’m used to, I need to focus 100-percent on this place.
“When you’re an owner-operator, it makes a big difference to the racers. I make it more of a family-oriented deal, and I’ve brought in shows that people want to see. What kills it are local tracks that have no desire to share the bookings — we have tracks that want to book on top of us and just don’t care. I’ve had an event at my track for 19 years on the fourth of July and another track has decided to book the same weekend. There’s not even enough common courtesy or loyalty. In order for tracks to survive, we have to have events, and we need the support of people,” he says.
“I’ve sacrificed my multi-million dollar property to keep it a racetrack for the racers, and when they make the choice to go elsewhere, they’re making the decision for you,” Gene says. “I have to ask myself if it’s really worth it — I could sell it and make millions of dollars and go on my way and do some fishing, but I’m trying to keep it a racetrack for the racers.”
North Star’s property features 4,000-feet of rail access and is adjacent to I-35, making it a prime piece of real estate for commercial use. Gene notes that prior to purchasing the facility, a business had expressed interest in it for commercial use, and indicates there have been such suitors inquire about the property in recent weeks.
“When I bought it, I knew I couldn’t feel good about myself having someone else run it. If I’m going to run it and bring back the kind of racing I’m used to, I need to focus 100-percent on this place, and my family was behind me. I gave my company to a guy that worked for me, because I had to be all-in. Racetracks that struggle, it’s not that they don’t want to succeed, but the effort and time that you have to put in it is huge. I could run eight companies and have less stress than running a racetrack,” he says.
Despite the hardships, Nicodemus doesn’t consider himself a motivated seller at this point in time, noting, “do I want to sell it? No. But will I sell it? Yes. Most likely someone that wants to buy the facility at that price is not interested in using it for a racetrack, and that’s a shame. But when car counts dwindle, it happens. It’s not a money thing, I just see the writing on the wall. I don’t want to continue working 80 to 90 hours a week, but I will if I have to. But I can put 70 to 80 hours of work into a company and make a lot more money.”
North Star hosts a number of Pro Modified and Fuel Altered events, and has been a prominent player in the drag radial racing arena, as well, serving as the site of world record runs by Kyle Huettel and Steve Jackson in 2015 and 2016.
“I was able to take this track and turn it into something that’s successful and makes money. I’m the longest-running owner, and that should say something,” he says.
Nicodemus says if a commercial buyer agreed to the selling price it’s “something I’d have to pray about. I bought it for an investment, and that investment has doubled in the last three years, so I could probably ask more for it.” He adds, “if I do sell this track, I’d go out and help other racetracks that are struggling to make it and show them how. Struggling tracks can make it if they want to, but it takes the racers, also. When there are a couple tracks you can go to, share the love. Because you’ll be upset when that track goes away.”
Nicodemus intends to operate business as usual going into the 2020 season, with a host of events already booked and a full schedule in the works.