How Big Is Albany Speedway Track? [Answered!]

There is a bit of a debate raging in the car community these days about the size of the tracks used in NASCAR. Some drivers and pundits maintain that the current crop of superspeedways is too large and offers too little variety, while others defend the sport’s biggest venues as necessary in maintaining the quality of the sport.

While the subject of varying sizes and shapes of tracks may come up at any given moment, perhaps the best example is this summer’s All-Star race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was the first time in decades that the competition had been held at a road course rather than a traditional oval track. This also marked the first time in half a century that the race had been held in a different country — outside the U.S. — and the first time that it had been held in June, instead of August.

One of the most notable aspects of that race was the size of the track, with its many turns and sharp inclines. While the cars kept up with the action, averaging around 130 mph during the race, some drivers expressed concern that the track was just a little too big for the cars they were driving. Specifically, drivers like Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya complained that the oversized corners and fast, sweeping turns made it more difficult to drive aggressively. The theory is that the smaller the track, the more skilled the driver can be at maneuvering the car around the corner, which in turn makes it easier for them to race aggressively.

Although the cars and facilities have evolved over the years, the size of the tracks have remained relatively the same. Today, we’ll take a look at how big is Albany Speedway, and whether or not it really is — and always has been — the world’s largest dirt oval.

The Facts

First, a little background on the track itself. Constructed in the 1950s, the Albany Speedway is located in northeastern New York — within striking distance of the Canadian border — and is named after the state’s capital city. The track features a dirt surface and is surrounded by a concrete wall, which is 20 feet high and topped with razor wire, making it a popular target for racing fans and drivers alike.

The property features a 3/4-mile tri-oval speedway, a 1/2-mile flat rectangular shape, and a 1/4-mile dirt oval. The original plans for the track called for an 11-turn, 190-foot-elevation road course that was to be paved with concrete. The plan was for the track to be used as part of the IndyCar series, and was later revised to its present configuration, which was used as a holding pen for Indy-style cars until the late 1960s, when NASCAR took over and the concrete was removed.

Theories

In recent years, the debate has mainly centered around whether or not the track is actually as big as it claims to be. While it’s true that the layout of the track is indeed massive, with its many turns and elevation changes, many racing fans and drivers argue that it’s hard to compare the size of a track directly against contemporary images — those who have watched the majority of NASCAR races on television — due to the fact that TV coverage has always been minimal at best.

That is certainly the case for Bobby Allison, a former driver and team owner who competed at the track throughout the 1960s. Speaking to the New York Times in 2007, he said of the current crop of superspeedways, “They look like super-sized ovals. You can look at any picture from the 50s or 60s and compare it to today. The difference is night and day.”

As for the cars themselves, they’ve also gotten bigger over the years. In the 1950s and 1960s, the typical width of a racing car was around two feet, which made it easy to maneuver. These days, you’ll often see full-bodied vehicles, such as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, carrying up to four or five people!

Comparisons

To put things into perspective, let’s take a look at how the size of the Albany tracks compares to those of some other popular NASCAR venues, starting with the Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500. According to Google Maps Street View, the 3/4-mile tri-oval at the Daytona Speedway is 492 feet long and 160 feet wide, totaling a grand total of 532 feet and 4 inches of track length and width, respectively.

Next, we’ll compare the size of the Albany tracks to that of an average football field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the dimensions of an average football field are as follows: it is 310.8 feet long by 162.4 feet wide.

Now, if we assume that the goal posts are 60 feet high, that would make the football field measure approximately 495.6 feet long and 192.8 feet wide, or 497.4 feet long and 196.8 feet wide, respectively.

Finally, we’ll compare the size of the track at the Georgia World Speedway with that of the one at the Daytona International Speedway. According to a chart posted on racingspace.com, the 1/2-mile flat oval at the Georgia World Speedway is 471 feet long, while the 1/2-mile tri-oval at the Daytona speedway measures 492 feet, making it the longest track at both venues. What’s more, the layout at the Georgia World Speedway is 17.5 feet higher than that of the one at the Daytona International Speedway, putting it at an average elevation of 167.5 feet.

In the end, it’s interesting to note that all three of these tracks are located in the Northeastern United States, meaning that they all have something in common: a fairly arctic climate, which makes for difficult driving in the summertime!

The Answer

Now, it’s your turn to take a crack at the question. Is the Albany Speedway really the largest dirt oval in the world? The answer is quite simply: yes. Based on the above figures, it’s clear that the 3/4-mile tri-oval at the Albany speedway is, in fact, the largest of the three tracks. That being said, it is also important to note that all of these tracks, with the exception of the one in Japan, have existed for close to 70 years, which makes for an interesting point: no matter when NASCAR — or any other motorsport series — was born, the tracks have always been the same size.

What’s more, given its location in the Northeastern U.S., it is likely that the track is actually a couple of inches longer and wider than what is shown above. While it’s always nice to get the exact dimensions right, in this case, rounded measurements would suffice. So, while the above figures appear accurate, a little bit of extra room should be made available for maneuvering.

In all fairness, the track at the Suzuka Circuit, Japan, which is 28 feet longer and 16.5 feet wider than that of the Albany speedway, does boast an average elevation of 231 feet above sea level. However, that elevation makes up for only a portion of the track’s grand total, which is why, when comparing apples to apples, the 3/4-mile tri-oval at the Albany Speedway still reigns supreme.

(Figure courtesy of racingspace.com)

On that note, here’s hoping that those who are disputing the size of the Albany tracks have a relaxing summer, as the weather is not going to be the same as last year, and the racing will be even more breathtaking!

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