Canadian racing’s crown jewel, Jukasa Motor (nee Cayuga) Speedway is closed down

Written by Norris McDonald

One of Canada’s most storied race tracks, Jukasa Motor Speedway, formerly Cayuga Speedway, has been shut down forever.

Or so say the current owners.

The following statement was issued by the speedway on Tuesday morning: “Stakeholders of Jukasa Motor Speedway have made the difficult decision to close Jukasa Motor Speedway for business, effective immediately. There are no plans to re-open.

“We are extremely thankful for the fans, competitors, staff and partners for their support of Jukasa Motor Speedway since its reopening in 2017.”

Cayuga Speedway, near Hagersville, south of Hamilton, was opened in 1966 as a 5/8-mile dirt track but didn’t attain Crown Jewel glory till 1968 when lumberman/creditor Bob Slack seized it from the original owners and paved it. Slack was an entrepreneur who paid well-known NASCAR stars such as Dale Earnhardt, Bobby and Donnie Allison and Alan Kulwicki to make guest appearances and drive in CASCAR and other late-model stock car races. He packed the place in the process.

In the late 1990s, Slack sold the track to a couple of older racers, Brad Lichty of Cambridge and Garry Evans of London, who had visions of attracting NASCAR Xfinity Series races. This proved to be more difficult than they thought and a group of Toronto investors paid them to take it over. They, too, were unable to attract the Xfinity or Cup series and other than promoting races in the Canadian Pinty’s Series, shut down the facility in 2009.

In 2014, R. Kenneth (Ken) Hill of Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, purchased the property with a partner, Jerry Montour, determined to return it to its former glory when Bob and Leone Slack owned the place. Renovations took more than two years but the track was ready for racing in August, 2017 and, renamed Jukasa, they promoted a race in the APC United Late Model Series.

The Canadian Short Track Nationals was first held at Jukasa in 2088 and was run  twice before COVID put a damper on it. Both races were won by Georgia pilot Bubba Pollard and the word was that the race would eventually carry a $1-million purse.

But then disaster struck. Ken Hill died last winter at the age of 62 at his  winter home in Florida. The  owner of the largest Indigenous tobacco company in the world, Grand River Enterprises, he launched a number of other businesses providing employment for hundreds of people. An uncle of Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill, he also supported numerous charities.

Track manager Alex Nagy issued a statement following the publishing of a story about Hill’s passing in a local weekly, the Turtle Island News.

“It was Ken’s vision for the Speedway that led to the resurrection of the former Cayuga Speedway, which hosted many of the world’s best stock car and open-wheel participants, such as Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Darrel Waltrip and Junior Hanley.

“After acquiring the Speedway in 2014, Ken’s goal was for it to once again become Canada’s premier racing and entertainment facility.

“By all accounts, Ken fulfilled his vision to the delight of motor racing fans from across North America. Ken had a true passion for racing, attended most events since the Speedway’s re-opening and frequently took the time to speak with race participants and fans, often thanking them for coming to Jukasa Motor Speedway.

“Today and every day, Ken will be missed by his Jukasa Motor Speedway family, racing fans and participants. Ken was a true force of nature. His commitment to racing, kindness and generosity will never be forgotten.”

It was known that Hill was the racer in the partnership but while Montour enjoyed the sport, he wasn’t fanatical about it. There were some who though that if anything happened to Hill, Montour just might let the place go.

As is often the case in the racing world, rumours are flying as to what will happen to the 300-acre property. Some people are convinced it will be used to grow marijuana, others says it will be used to promote concerts. “They could have a Woodstock every summer,” one said.

I’m inclined to think it could be sold to someone who appreciates motor sport and reopen once again as a speedway. We’ll see.

Right now though, today, it’s padlocked. Whether it will ever reopen is questionable.