How Big Is Cleveland Speedway? [Ultimate Guide!]

On April 30th, 2009, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon crossed the starting line at the historic Cleveland Speedway and into the back of the pack of cars ready to race. After nearly 30 years away from the sport, the giant Red Brick was excited to host the NASCAR Great American Race (GAR) for the first time in 45 years.

The race would go on to become one of the most memorable and historic races in Cleveland history, as Gordon’s #24 Hendrick Motorsports car defeated the teams of Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jim Kruise (in what was later dubbed the Green Duck Race) for the win. It was a remarkable comeback for Gordon, who had nearly quit racing after a horrific crash in 1978 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He eventually overcame that incident and went on to become one of the best and most popular drivers ever, winning over 85 races, becoming the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, and earning over $21 million during his time at Hendrick Motorsports. But on that hot afternoon in Cleveland, he struggled initially, eventually finishing 36th out of the 57 cars that started the race. It was a roller coaster ride for spectators, as well as drivers like Jeff Gordon, who called it “one of the most exciting days of my life.”

The Birth Of Cleveland Speedway

The nearsighted owner of the Red Brick, Jay Pritzker, had been dreaming of hosting a NASCAR race for decades (even before he bought the stadium). Hoping to capitalize on the renewed interest in NASCAR following the great success of the 2006 season, which saw the return of the Chase to Cleveland, Pritzker decided to build a new speedway on the outskirts of Cleveland so he could stage a race like the one he had dreamed about for so long.

The new speedway was inferior to past races held at the Red Brick in terms of turning radius and runway, but was built to the same design guidelines as past models. With room for up to 125,000 spectators, and a dressing room that could fit all of the drivers and teams, Pritzker was certain that the new speedway would become an attraction worthy of a modern-day Grand Am.

Unfortunately, Pritzker did not fully realize the effort and dedication that would be required to bring the new speedway to completion. After just three races (and one of those was a dust junket due to an unforeseen delay in the schedule and another was postponed to a later date due to unforeseen circumstances), Jay Pritzker would file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and the Red Brick would be left dilapidated. Today, five years later, the Red Brick still borders a runway that is too shallow for any sort of flight activity, and the structure that was built to be a classy stadium is just that: a stadium.

The Return Of Cleveland Speedway

Despite the red tape that shrouded the new speedway for over a year, Pritzker was unwilling to let go of his dream and did the only thing he could to get his speedway back: he rebuilt it. What Pritzker did not account for was that the return of the Chase to Cleveland was due to an overabundance of rainfall, which made the dust in Texas less appetizing. The new speedway was ready for race day on June 12th, 2010, and despite a few hiccups (the most significant being the death of a race driver during testing), Cleveland Speedway was back for business as usual.

NASCAR, The Mecca Of Racing

Before the return of Cleveland Speedway, NASCAR had only two events remaining on its sprint schedule: the Nashville Sprint Tradition, which would take place in November of that year, and the Great American Racer, which had been delayed a year and was scheduled for June, 2011.

Facing an overabundance of tradition, the Nashville Sprint Tradition, which is now a five-week event, was redesigned with more of a traditional feel to it. But for those who love their racing more than anything else, the NASCAR All-Star Game, which would honor the top sprint and midget racers from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, was the ultimate race to see.

However, the inauguration of the NASCAR All-Star Game would be marred by an unfortunate accident. During the preparations for the race, former and future driver Dale Earnhardt, who at the time was racing for Michael Jordan Enterprises in the JEF Group Sprint Cup, was seriously injured in a car crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The inauguration of the All-Star Game was postponed for a year, and despite an effort by Dale and other drivers to stage the event as soon as possible, it would not be till June 21st, 2012, that the All-Star Game would be played for the loss of Dale Earnhardt.

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