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Off-Road Rumble

Experience the “Nascar” of Off-Road Racing at the Off Road Rumble in the U.P.

By Kim Kisner, Contributing Writer

Bringing in close to 15,000 avid fans and 650 Pro and Sportsman racers, the Island Resort and Casino Off-Road Rumble in the U.P. is the “Nascar” of off-road racing.

The event will be held at Bark River International Raceway on August 10 and 11 this year, which is a favorite track for many. Part of the AMSOIL Off-Road Championship, it is one of seven events on the tour, and the only one in Michigan, making it even more desirable for U.P. race fans.

“Bark River is considered one of the two top racing venues in the country,” said race director, Scott Kwarciany. “Residents in this area love their off-road racing, and it’s many people’s favorite short course track.”

Bark River

This year marks the event’s 48th year of the event, and there have been a lot of changes over time. The race was originally called the U.P Off-Road 100 and the track consisted of a five-mile stretch that traversed from Bark River to where the track now sits. Racers did twenty laps to hit 100 miles.

“The track was not spectator friendly and it went through marshlands and such,” said Kwarciany. “It was primitive.”

The course was eventually shortened to a 1.5-mile track that can be seen from the elevated spectator area now.

“The facility is now top grade,” said Kwarciany. “There are concessions and a VIP building for media and sponsors. It has evolved a lot.”

This family-fun event pulls in many repeat visitors who have made this an annual pilgrimage. “People put this event on their calendar and ask for vacation a year in advance,” said Michelle Palmgren, Bark River International Raceway Secretary and Sponsorship Director. “Even those who don’t love off-road racing come back year after year because the event itself is just so much fun.”

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While back in the day, races were based on the number of laps, today they are timed.

With twenty different classes including amateur and professional classes, there truly is something for everyone.

“Class vehicles range from the old-style buggies to kids’ cart racing, to side-by-side racing to the big professional off-road trucks,” said Kwarciany. “There are back-to-back races consisting of all types of racers and vehicles for two days straight on that track.”

In terms of what makes the track so fun, Kwarciany explains its uniqueness

“Bark River is considered one of the most technical tracks,” he says. “A lot of tracks are wide open but this one is narrow in the turns so the positioning with other racers is extremely important, making it about who is the best driver, not who has the best vehicle.”

He points to this as the draw. “We have people from New York, Florida, California and Canada attend every year.”

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In fact, nearly all of the 1,000 on-site campsites associated with the event are sold out already. “The racing camping areas sell out sometimes within 24-hours,” said Palmgren.

Entertainment includes live music on Friday and Saturday nights as well.

Clearly, an event this big requires a hefty staff and support group. The track is owned by the Bark River Lions Club, and with 87 members, it still takes 350+ volunteers to ensure the weekend goes off without a hitch.

Proceeds from the event support the Bark River Lions in their effort to make both the Off-Road Rumble and the community better for years to come. It is their biggest fundraiser of the year by far.

Notable racing pros who have participated in years past include Multiple Pro-4 Champion CJ Greaves and his father Johnny Greaves, Arie Luyendyk, Evan Evans and even Jimmie Johnson.

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When asked what they are most looking forward to regarding the race, Palmgren and Kwarciany have much to say.

“The volunteers are amazing, the spectators always have a smile on their faces and the partners and racers live for this event,” said Palmgren. “It’s fun to see people coming back over and over and spending time with friends and family.”

Kwarciany says, “As an organizer, I look forward to showcasing what we do with the Lions Club and spending time with fellow Lions members.”

He also loves the environment. “I truly look forward to an event and atmosphere that defines what off-road racing is,” he said. “These are pure race fans who follow local drivers and providing a venue for them to come out and do that with their families is really magical.”

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