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Need for Speed: Autobahn Indoor Speedway Puts You Behind the Wheel


Tucked away in a buttoned-down Memphis office farm is a white-knuckle, pedal-to-the-metal race track that has become a hot spot for gear heads, thrill seekers, kids, corporate events, and the curious. 
 
Autobahn Indoor Speedway opened in April 2015 in a converted warehouse space the Shelby Oaks Corporate Park. Since then, thousands have strapped on a helmet and hopped behind the wheel of the track’s Formula 1-style race karts. Autobahn general manager Anthony Dillard said while the cars may look like toys, they are anything but.
 
“They are animals in a cage,” Dillard said. “You can pet them, play with them, or you can really let them go.”
 
Autobahn’s fleet of more than 30 cars were made in Italy and can reach speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. But not on Autobahn’s track. Packed into its 733 linear feet are a several heart-pounding turns of various grades. In turn, cars on the track top out at about 50 miles per hour, Dillard said. 
 
Florida-based Autobahn has tracks like the one in Memphis in Baltimore and Jacksonville. Other tracks are slated to open later this year in Birmingham, the Washington, D.C. area, and another around Baltimore. 
 
Dillard said the company chose Memphis largely based on the success of the Jacksonville track. Memphis and Jacksonville, he said — “believe it or not” — have many similarities in demographics and in industry.
 
So far, the Memphis track has attracted mostly new customers, Dillard said. On average, he said, about 78 percent of their customers for the last three months have been new. But the track does have a dedicated and growing number of regulars. Dillard said he hopes to bolster that group with the August return of the track’s 10-week racing leagues.
 
Newbie racers can’t just walk in, grab a helmet, and buckle up. They first have to buy a $6 yearly racing license, get a safety briefing from an Autobahn employee, and watch a safety and racing video. Since the karts are serious machines, Autobahn takes safety seriously. 
 
“This is not a game; that’s what I tell people,” Dillard said. “They have to understand that their safety is in our hands when they go outside those barriers. When they get inside that track, we take their safety very seriously.”
 
Autobahn’s customer tend to be adult males, Dillard said. But on a recent weekday visit, the place was crawling with teenagers. Autobahn has partnered with organizations like the non-profit LINOL Foundation and the city of Memphis’ MPLOY Youth program to help the city’s youth learn some life lessons, give them jobs, and make sure they have fun behind the wheel.
 
LINOL runs anti-bullying day camps for kids and its executive director, Darrell Carmichael, said Autobahn fills a void left by the closure of Adventure River Water Park and Libertyland.
 
“You have to engage these kids before you can get them down and talk to them,” Carmichael said, taking a break from a class he was running at Autobahn. “It’s a win-win for us. They’re having fun but let’s talk about the issues we have in Memphis with teen bullying.”
 
Connecting to the community was also the biggest reason Dillard said Autobahn joined the Greater Memphis Chamber. 
 
“If you’re in business, you’re a part of the (Greater Memphis Chamber),” Dillard said. “Every business I’ve ever been in has been a part of it and it’s always been a successful thing. It’s the one thing as a citizen you can do to support your community.”
 
Autobahn can also support the business community as a unique option for off-site meetings. Autobahn has two large conference rooms, both equipped with built-in audio video equipment. The rooms and the track make it “the perfect business lunch, the perfect corporate outing,” Dillard said, noting “nothing gets your heart pounding like this.”
 
Autobahn, too, diversifies offerings for those coming from out of town.
 
“Memphis and Shelby County provide a wide range of options for group visitors from the authentically Memphis attractions to active, competitive experiences at attractions like Autobahn Indoor Speedway," said Regena Bearden, vice president of marketing and public relations at the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. "These type of attractions definitely fulfill the needs of groups looking for a fun, team-building activity.”

Story by: Toby Sells
Photo by: Troy Glasgow

 

Posted: 3/15/2016 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: Autobahn, Crossroads, gocarts, Indoor, Inside, Memphis, New, racing, Speedway, the



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THE M BLOG
The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 (cmeek@memphischamber.com) or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (jfish@memphischamber.com).

 

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