Billy Knippenberg has taken over as promoter of Kankakee County Speedway in Illinois. He did so after coming to a startling conclusion.
“I was driving two hours away to Farmer City [Raceway] to race when I realized something,” Knippenberg, 49, of Joliet, Illinois, said. “If local racers have to drive two hours to race, their crew, family, and friends eventually won’t drive that far. Their sponsors will leave because they are not getting local exposure. Those drivers will leave the sport and may never race again.”
Knippenberg signed a three-year lease, with a two-year option, to promote of Kankakee County Speedway. He understood that the track needed some TLC. Knippenberg’s first project entailed removing dirt mounds used for motocross.
“We’re going to have a clean infield, with bright LED lighting,” said Knippenberg. “I bought a new transponder system with enough transponders for 130 cars.”
Billy Knippenberg comes with years of racing experience. His father, Bill Knippenberg, was a multi-time champion the now-defunct Santa Fe Speedway outside of Chicago. His 19-year-old son, Billy Knippenberg III, races pro late models. Billy Knippenberg has eight track championships, more than 80 feature wins, and plans to continue to race dirt late models.
“I’ll be a promoter on Friday night [at Kankakee County Speedway], and a racer on Saturday and Sunday,” Knippenberg said.
Knippenberg increased purses at Kankakee County Speedway for 2022.
“I’ve been getting sponsors in order to build our purses up,” said Knippenberg. “The modifieds will race for $1,000 to win, and we added $500 down the line to the purse. The pro late models will race for $800 to win and the stock cars will race for $450 to win and $75 to start.”
Billy Knippenberg believes that if you attract a good field of cars, you’ll attract a good crowd.
“If you build it — meaning the show — they will come — meaning the fans,” Knippenberg said. “When I was younger, my dad always said you couldn’t have a circus without clowns. Well, I say you can’t have a great racing entertainment without drivers.”
Kankakee County Speedway opens on Friday, May 20, with the MARS Racing Series coming into town, plus the weekly classes of pro late models, modified, stock cars, and factory stocks.
“The track would have no season if I didn’t step in,” said Knippenberg. “Don’t call me a savior. I did this to help other racers. It is a family passion, and I couldn’t do it without my wife, Brenda, and my son, Billy.”
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.