Circuit Overview

Grattan Raceway is something of a hidden gem of a road racing course, nestling in the wooded hills north of Grand Rapids. Family-owned for its entire existence, the track has carved out a niche as a home for amateur racing without ever hitting a wider spotlight.

The rolling two-mile course is definitely a challenge for riders and drivers, using the contours of the land to direct its twists and turns, while also boasting a long main straight that was once a drag strip.

Today the course remains in the hands of the Faasen family, though following the death in 2017 of its founder, E.J. Faasen, the venue is up for sale as a going concern. To date, however, no offers have been accepted and it continues to host SCCA, WERA and AMA-sanctioned events.

Circuit History

On arriving at Grattan Raceway, you could be forgiven for thinking you had travelled back in time to the 1950s or 1960s, when a host of new road racing courses sprang up to cater for booming interest in sportscar racing. Two-lane country roads through small townships and rural farmland lead you a track which is little changed from its origins, albeit with modern facilities.

This should perhaps be no surprise; it was a group of local sportscar racers who first identified the former Christmas tree and flower farm in Grattan Township as an ideal location for a racing circuit. Among the group were Eugene Christenson, a used car salesman, and Edward Jack ‘E.J.’ Faasen, a U.S. Navy veteran, who owned and operated a successful general construction business. Christenson had introduced Faasen to motor racing, taking him to the sports car races at the Air National Guard airfield in Grayling, Michigan. This piqued Faasen’s interest and even lead to him competing in several short track races.

The farmland was owned by another mutual friend, Bill Tuttle, who was amenable to the racing circuit plans. However, as plans developed, it became apparent that only Faasen had the funds and experience to construct the course, so he entered into a partnership with Tuttle to make it a reality.

Construction begins in phases

In 1960, work began on creating the course - initially titled Grattan International Speedway. While the precise details are a little lost in the mists of time, it seems the layout for the course was determined by the topography, as much as any pre-determined design idea. Faasen claimed on several occasions that the final involved a Jeep, a few drinks and a desire to make maximum use of the property. Once the main straight was laid out, he got into his Jeep, turned right at the end and made a turn wherever there was a tree too big to drive over.

While the straight was soon paved, the rest of the course remained a gravel layout, with Faasen identifying that it would double as a drag strip, with proceeds from these events helping to bring the funds needed to pave the entire course.

The first road race event - using the part gravel course - took place on Memorial Day in 1962, while drag racing continued into the early 1970s. The page of development and rising speeds of the dragsters ultimately proved too much when one car failed to slow at the end of its run and ended up in a cornfield across the road… The NHRA subsequently deemed the run-off areas as inadequate and that was the end of drag racing at Grattan.

Faasen went all-in fairly early into the venture, selling his construction business and buying out Tuttles shares to take full ownership and control of the circuit. He and wife Mary mortgaged their house to raise funds and would move their family to the track, building a home above the main building where they would raise their nine children. Truly, EJ became the patriarch of the facility, as he dedicated himself entirely to making Grattan Raceway a success to preserve his personal and financial investments.

Road course is fully paved

By 1965 funds were sufficient for the road course to be paved in its entirety and the first SCCA regional races were held. Over the years, it built up a strong following, with car clubs for brands such as BMW, Porsche and Corvette catering for the sportscar crowd. On two wheels, the track is equally, if not more, popular. WERA races were later joined by events from the American Historic Motorcycle Association, as well as Sport Bike Track Time open bike days.

The challenging nature of the track made it popular for testing too. Oscar winning actor Paul Newman once tested sports cars at Grattan Raceway Park, as did football great Walter Payton. In the 1980s, the Porsche and Alfa Romeo Indycar teams were regulars here too, which must have made an incredible sight down the main straight, where speeds would have been impressively high.

Grattan Raceway truly became a family affair. Faasen’s wife Mary worked in the concession stand during the early years and in later years became the business's bookkeeper. All of their children have had parts to play; son Kurt used to announce the drag races when just 12 years old! After moving away for various careers, Kurt and Sam came home during the 1980s and ‘90s. Kurt lives on the grounds, upstairs from the registration building at the entrance to the property while son Sam lives just down Lessiter Road. Daughter Terri runs the food concession during events where breakfast and lunch is available for moderate prices. Sons Max and Donald have also worked at the track part time during events. Grand children help in the concessions when visiting during an event.

E.J. remained in charge well into his 80s, often seen on his mower keeping the grass manicured to standards which would not embarrass a golf course. Time would eventually catch up with him in 2017, when he passed away aged 89. A memorial event was held at the track in his honour.

Ownership passes through the generations

Sons Sam, Hugh and Kurt now run the facility, continuing the family tradition. However, the circuit hit the news in late 2023 with reports that is was for being marketed for sale. While the reports were correct, the family had been considering Grattan’s future for some time.

“It has been for sale for a few years,” Sam told “We’re all getting up there in age.

“Prior to the COVID outbreak we had a customer, and then the COVID thing hit and kind of turned the economy around a little bit. Then the inflation hit and that [affected] it a little more. But we’ve had a number of interested parties come in from outside the U.S.”

To date, no sale appears to have been agreed, so the track continues in family hands.

"This facility is a legacy for West Michigan, but so many people don't know anything about it," Sam adds. "That's mostly because road racing never really became any real consistent popular means of racing in the United States. In Europe, this place would be huge.”

Indeed it would, but perhaps the fact that it remains one of the best-kept secrets in West Michigan is part of its enduring appeal.

An aerial view of Grattan Raceway
An aerial view of Grattan Raceway, showing its picturesque setting surrounded by lakes and woodland.

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Circuit info

Grattan Raceway, 7201 Lessiter Road, Belding, Michigan 48809, USA
+1 616 6917221
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