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Drivers out hundreds of dollars after ‘Michigan Mile’ race stalls out

Posted: 12:26 AM, Jul 16, 2014
Updated: 2014-07-16 07:46:57-04

UPDATE:  BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU RESPONDS

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. - It was supposed to be a thrill seeker's dream, but this year, the 'Michigan Mile' race ran out of gas before the engines ever had a chance to warm up.

The race was supposed to run as a part of the Battle Creek Field of Flight but was cancelled abruptly.

The sudden end of the event left some people feeling they were cheated out of the money they paid. One driver, Sean Eurich, contacted FOX 17 Problem Solvers.

Eurich said he was looking forward to the second event this year.

"I've always been into drag racing, something my dad has always been into and got me into," said Eurich.  "This Michigan Mile thing was a new thing to me.  I've never done it before."

Last year was the first ever 'Michigan Mile."

"You are zero miles per hour, you go as fast as you can for a mile on an air strip and see how fast you can go versus how fast everyone else can go."

Since Eurich missed the first event, he paid $200 in March to ensure he would be included in the 2014 race, scheduled to be held over the Fourth of July weekend.

"It was in conjunction with the Battle Creek balloon festival," he said.

But on July 1, Eurich and dozens of other racers who had paid the entry fee got an email that said the event was over before it ever started.

Eurich explained, "Just a few days before the event they said, 'No.  We are not doing this.'"

Not only was he told the event was cancelled, but Eurich also learned there would be no refund.  The organizer's cancellation email reads in part,

"It is with great regret and disappointment that I must announce that The Michigan Mile is being postponed due to negotiation and contract difficulties with the representatives of Kellogg Airport and the Battle Creek Airshow.  The decision to cancel our event was not mutual and we fought the best we could to keep the track open for us."

- Alex Conley, The Michigan Mile

We reached out to Barb Haluszka, the executive director of Field of Flight, for answers, and we learned the drivers weren't the only ones looking to collect money.

"(Conley) kept promising me that he was going to send me money," Haluszka said. "Kept promising, never got the money."

Haluszka said that figure is $4,500 for last year's event.  Alex Conley, the man behind The Michigan Mile, said he only has an invoice for $3,500.  Conley was told to pay his debt and give the money in advance before putting on the 2014 race.

Five weeks before the event, Haluszka had not gotten a dime and pulled the plug. "I just said, 'Alex, this is not working. Now there is a trust barrier that has been broken.  You haven't paid us.'  He is trying to tell me that, 'I have sponsor money coming in.'  How do you have an event in five weeks and not have any money in your pocket?"

Conley said he never wanted to shut down The Michigan Mile.  He said it was cancelled before he even had a chance to pay the debt.

"We never got to that meeting," said Conley.  "She cancelled the event before we got a chance to meet here and give her any funds what-so-ever."

As for the drivers like Eurich, Conley showed us a contract that reads, "all fees and funds are final and non refundable." All drivers had to electronically sign the form before paying via PayPal.

Conley said the money collected was spent on promoting the race.  If anyone has a complaint about a refund, he said, their complaints should be filed with PayPal.

PayPal ruled in favor of the binding contract in six cases so far, he said.

"We are truly sorry that it came out this way," Conley said, "but it really is out of our hands."

As for the debt owed to the balloon festival, Conley admits that he should be held responsible for the $3,500, but he also said his first priority is to make sure the drivers who paid money have a chance to file a complaint with PayPal.

He also said he has no plans of holding another Michigan Mile in the future.