How Ozarks International Raceway made its way to Gravois Mills

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
One of the cars on the PF Racing team sits on the Ozarks International Raceway track before a test run.

JR Pesek wanted to keep his racetrack a secret. Having worked on the project for months, he says he originally didn’t want anyone to know what was being built in Gravois Mills until vehicles were at the starting line and fans could come and watch. Unfortunately for Pesek, word travels fast at the Lake of the Ozarks.  

After officially launching the track’s Facebook page just 4 and a half months ago, it’s already brought in 27,064 likes and counting. To say the lake is ready for its very own raceway would be an understatement.

The plan to open Ozarks International Raceway actually began in Iowa. Pesek says he was excited to get started, but the financial balance fell through. Alongside his racing company PF Racing, the search continued to find another spot to build a track. He says they noticed opportunities for racing on the east coast and on the west coast, but the Midwest was lacking. While there were certainly some options for racers, there was nothing like the track Pesek and his crew wanted to create. 

“We want to make a racing enthusiast feel safe to come and take a ride out in the country,” Pesek said. “We want to build a destination.” 

While spending time at his lake house, he took drives around the area, looking for the perfect place to develop. Driving down MO-135, he found the perfect spot. Soon after, the land was purchased and Pesek and his team got right to work.

He says the design of the track was carefully considered to work around the existing trees and landscape, while also giving them the flexibility to make a uniquely shaped and graded track. The track will have the ability to be divided into smaller race tracks to accompany multiple races at a time. Pesek says he worked with international race teams through a digital rendition of the race track to get opinions on the design. Overall, he says they came away from the demonstration very excited to race it themselves.

Pesek says they were thrilled to be able to bring a new destination not only to the lake but to the west side specifically. He says while scouting the lake for a location, they noticed that the west side was in need of event space to bring over the people who were primarily visiting the Osage Beach and Lake Ozark area during the tourist season. He hopes that this raceway will bring some balance to what makes the lake a destination for so many people.

As for what will be offered at Ozarks International Raceway, there will opportunities not only for professional racing events but also for locals who want to bring out their car, go-kart or motorcycle to run the track. The days of the week will be split up to accommodate members-only days, open track days and sponsored events for viewers to come to watch. 

“If you’re interested in learning more about racing, you can come and take a beginners course and learn with an instructor,” Pesek said. “Or we can go to the next level where you come and we provide a car for you to race. It’s all possible.” 

One of the exciting possibilities Pesek and his team have thought about is how they can pair professional races with other events in the area. He suggested the idea of sponsoring a motorcycle race during Bikefest, or sponsoring a race while a car show is in the area. Being able to compound the many events already established at the lake with a race happening in Gravois Mills could bring spectators to one event and get them to stay for the other. And to Pesek, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. 

A concern raised by some residents has been the buildup of traffic in the area when events are happening. Pesek says his team has already planned for this and is certain that it won’t be a major problem. In most cases, race teams will move into the track at night to park their vehicle and get a night’s rest before the next day’s race. Because of this, race viewers won’t be competing with large vehicle trailers on the same road the day of the race. Pesek sees MO-135, Hwy J and the many connecting roads between as well kept and maintained roads that should allow for a steady flow of traffic on any given day. 

An aerial view of the Ozarks International Raceway.

Overall, Pesek is thrilled about the outpouring of enthusiasm the lake area has shown and can’t wait to get the track open. He says they are going to keep the track affordable for residents to use, though those details are still being planned. The track is 3.87 miles and is on 650 acres of land. The team is hoping to be open in June 2021. 

“We just really want to give people something to be excited about,” Pesek said. 

Ozarks International Raceway is located at 29211 MO-135, Gravois Mills, MO. Their Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/OzarksInternationalRaceway