How Big Is Brownstown Speedway? [Fact Checked!]

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the great race that is the Indy 500, it is an appropriate time to take a look back at the history of the famous oval track in the City of Cleveland.

Brownstown Speedway opened on May 26, 1923 as a dirt track, with one mile of banking and a surface that was made of grass and dirt, giving the track its original name of “Grass Roots.” At the time of the facility’s opening, it had a seating capacity of 4,500. The following year, the track was paved, expanded to a mile and a half, and its name changed to “Veloway” in honor of its primary investor, William Velichkovsky, who was also a prominent race car driver from Russia.

The track changed ownership many times over the years, with local businessmen and politicians acquiring a piece of the action. In the 1940s and 1950s, the track was the scene of some of the biggest races in the history of American motorsport, with the Indianapolis 500 being run every year from 1947 to 1958 and the track hosting the All-American Road Race in 1957. In 1958, the track was resurfaced and a grandstand was constructed, expanding the seating capacity to 10,000. The following year, the track was completely renovated and modernized, receiving a concrete surface and additional banking, which increased the track’s length to nearly a mile and a half.

By the 1960s, Brownsfield was at the forefront of innovation, with the introduction of the first electronic scoring system in the country and the use of carbon paper for race programs and point allocation. Additionally, the track was the birthplace of NHRA drag racing and was one of the first tracks to offer nighttime racing, which transitioned to daylight hours in the 1970s. In 1968, the first annual All-Japan Sports Car Grand Prix was held at Brownsfield, with the event being the predecessor to the much larger and more prestigious Grand Prix of Japan. In the same year, the track’s name was changed to “Mazda Raceway” in honor of the automaker’s continued support of motorsport.

Mazda still supports motorsport in the Cleveland area, with the automaker’s headquarters being located just across the lake in nearby Akron. Through its partnership with the Cleveland Browns, the NFL team that owns the track, Mazda Raceway has always been associated with football, and for good reason. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that motorsport and the Cleveland Browns go together like peas and carrots. Since the very first game of the 1923 NFL season, the Browns have always been involved in some way with motorsport, with the team owning the track since it opened in 1923.

The Future

With the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 approaching, it is an appropriate time to take a peek back at the history of the Indianapolis 500. For decades, the premier event of the Indy 500 weekend was the Indy 500 parade, a festive event that took place on Saturday afternoon before the start of the race on Sunday. The tradition continued until 2017, when the day before the race, the drivers and their teams would line up for the ceremonial start of the race. The drivers would then take to the track for the actual race, with the parade being held on the pre-race lap. While it is sad that the parade was the last bit of spectacle that the fans would get to see, it was a beautiful event with bands playing, horses and ponies, floats, banners, and plenty of Americana. The traditional start of the race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the scene of some of the most exciting races in the history of the Indy 500. However, with changing times, the start of the event has evolved as well. The cars that lined up for the start of the race in 1923 were indeed cars of their time, with the likes of Louis Meyer, Barney Oldfield, and Eddie Rickenbacker driving early 20th-century cars. Today, with the exception of a few vintage cars, the start of the race is more likely to be a mix of motorsport industry personnel, corporate sponsors, and drivers, with the field typically being set by computerized scoring. While the Indianapolis 500 has evolved with the times, nothing can take away from the fact that it is still one of the biggest races in the world. With a capacity crowd of over 200,000 in attendance and an additional 300 Million viewers worldwide, the Indy 500 is still a grand spectacle that draws people from all over the world.

The Past

For those seeking a trip down memory lane, the Cleveland Museum of Art has an amazing collection of vintage racing cars that you can enjoy, with items dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. The finest collection of race vehicles is undoubtedly the Don Garlick Collection, named after its founder. The collection includes many historic race cars from Cleveland and the surrounding areas, including a 1903 New York Motor Company race car that is one of the finest motor cars ever made, as well as a 1915 Oldsmobile that was used to set the absolute lap record at the time, becoming the first car to go over 100 MPH. You can also find a 1925 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, which was the first example of this innovative new car, as well as a 1925 Bentley, which is considered to be among the finest luxury cars ever made. The museum also houses some amazing artwork, including Norman Rockwell’s painting, “The Gas House Gang,” which was inspired by a story that Rockwell heard about a neighborhood gas station that served as a meeting place for local teenagers. This exciting piece of art is on permanent display at the museum, along with the rest of the collection.

While the Don Garlick Collection is a wonderful sight for anyone seeking a trip down memory lane, it is only a small part of the overall history of racing in Cleveland. A great place to start if you are looking to learn more is the Richard Petty Driving Experience. The Richard Petty Driving Experience takes you back in time to the golden era of stock car racing, when a driver’s talent and determination were all that mattered. The attraction allows you to sit in the driver’s seat of some of the greatest race cars of all time, or at least the greats of the 1970s and 1980s. You will learn how to drive these vehicles, as well as hear the inside stories of how they handled on the track. It is located at the corner of Carnegie and Superior in Carnegie, just off I-76. You can’t make this mistake. Visit the Richard Petty Driving Experience before it closes on October 31, 2019.

A Brief History of Brownsfield

To continue the story, after establishing itself as a premier venue for motorsport, it was the next logical step for the track to expand its horizons and become a part of the great Cleveland community. In 1997, the city of Cleveland purchased the land for a reported price of $25,000, with the objective of creating an outdoor museum. The following year, the Browns unveiled the first of what would be a series of “mini-museums” in the form of a life-sized bronze statue of Jim Haskins, who is credited with turning the tide of the Great War by setting the first ever artificial ski race on an icy slope near his home in South Brooklyn, back in 1914. The Browns also unveiled a 9.8-meter bronze statue of Lou Gehrig, which became an instant hit with the locals and those who just happened to be visiting from afar. The statue was a gift from the Cleveland Indians to the city of Cleveland, with the club holding a number of ceremonial first pitches at the statue since then.

The Browns quickly found that being a part of a larger community is far more beneficial than being a part of a smaller one. In order to continue its legacy as the city’s “other” sports team, the Browns continued to expand the statue collection, with a 10.8-meter bronze statue of Lawrence “Dummy” Taylor (who was both a player and a manager) being the first addition to the collection. In addition to these outdoor statues, the Browns also constructed a 3,600 square foot Indoor Museum, which was the first of its kind in the country. The Indoor Museum features a walk-in exhibit where you can literally get up close and personal with the greats of the Browns franchise, from early 20th century footballs to shoulder pads and cleats, as well as some of the league’s finest coaches. One of the highlights of the Indoor Museum is “Dressing Up’,” where you can put on the same outfit as some of the Browns’ greatest players from the early 1900s, with over 30 different pairs of pants, shirts, sweater, and neckties on display. You don’t want to miss out on this fun attraction.

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