How Big Is Elko Speedway? [Ultimate Guide!]

The small town of Elko, Nevada was named after a railroad engineer who constructed a railroad that passed through the town back in the 1800s. Nowadays, Elko is better known for being the starting point of the Elko Marches automotive endurance race which takes place each year in September.

While the town may not seem like much, it’s claim to fame is actually quite large. The speedway located in the center of the town is said to be the 3rd largest in the country. The track itself is a super short oval that is just over a mile and a half long. On any given Saturday night you will find a variety of racing taking place there, ranging from truck and Indy car races all the way down to the Karts (think of them as the junior version of the Indy cars).

The track is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Speedway Corporation, who also own and operate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Grand Prix of Las Vegas. The Elko Speedway is open to the public and has amateur race days throughout the year that you are free to join in on if you wish (on a side note, if you do join the race, make sure to get your hands on an official pit pass).

The History of Elko Speedway

The history of the Elko Speedway is as interesting as the track itself. The 3rd largest oval in the country was actually built in 1939 during the height of the Great Depression as a way to provide jobs for American soldiers returning from the war. The project was spearheaded by Charles and Maurice Goldman, who were inspired by the success of the Indianapolis Speedway and wanted to bring something similar to their home town of Elko, Nevada.

The couple went on to raise money for the project by holding raffles and other various fundraising events. One of the more famous was the Elko Million Dollar Derby, which was won in 1937 by a horse named Native Dancer, providing the couple with enough money to finish construction on their track. The couple later went on to establish the Elko Stock Car Club, which still exists today and holds meetings and events throughout the year at the track (the group also sponsors a race at the Lake Tahoe Speedway that takes place each June).

The track itself opened in 1939 and initially underwent a remodel in 1958, with the final touches being put on it just a few years ago.

The Track Layout

The layout of the track is unusual in that it doesn’t follow the traditional quarter-mile format that is common to most other ovals in the country. Instead, it is a radical 4/10th of a mile short-oval, meaning that for every four laps, the car’s speed will only be equivalent to how fast a tenth of a mile can be traveled. This gives the track its unique character.

If you stop and think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense when you consider the size of the track and how much traffic there is flowing on it on any given day. It’s truly breathtaking how much engineering went into making this particular track, and even those who aren’t familiar with racing would have a hard time not being impressed by its size and uniqueness. You’ll also notice that the track isn’t banked, which makes it very slippery and, in some cases, dangerous (drivers will tell you that it is literally a hands-on-the-wheel kind of track, where even the little bumps can feel like a sudden jolt).

How Is It Driven?

The car that will take you around the track will be decided by the type of event that is taking place at the time. For example, if the Indy cars are happening, chances are you’ll be driving an Indy car (assuming your hands are steady enough to actually work the clutch and gearbox!).

However, the vast majority of the cars will be regular, everyday vehicles that will have their engines modified to make them go faster. Typically the engines are swapped out for larger ones, such as those from a V8 to a six-cylinder (think of them as the small engines for NASCAR fans), with the goal being to go as fast as possible without breaking the bank (hence the reason why there aren’t any banked turns on the track).

Cool Points To Note

The first major event that you’ll want to look out for is the Elko Invitational, an annual car show and fishing tournament that takes place in the middle of September. It is one of the biggest events on the calendar, drawing in tourists and locals alike, so if you’re in the area at the time, you should definitely check it out. Another interesting fact about the track is that it is the longest-running weekly motorsport event in history, having been continuously played on it since its opening in September of 1939.

The Crowds

The track itself doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic, with an estimated average of around 40,000 cars passing through it each week. However, a lot of the tracks that it does get traffic on are actually much bigger than the Elko Speedway. For example, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum gets around 70,000 cars a week, while the Chicago Stadium gets around 60,000 cars (it should be noted that these are just averages and don’t necessarily mean that 40,000 cars will be at the Coliseum, while 60,000 will be at the Chicago Stadium – the number varies from game to game and from event to event, so you never know).

The Weather

The weather in Elko is typically very hot and dry, which makes it perfect for automobile racing (and walking!). However, one of the biggest events that the track gets interrupted by bad weather is the Los Angeles Grand Prix, which is a Formula One event that takes place each year in late July. The month between late June and September is one of the hottest in the country, which makes those parts of the year a bit less ideal for outdoor activities, including, but not limited to, racing.

Summary

As you can see, the history of Elko Speedway is as interesting as the track itself. It was designed to be a one-of-a-kind motorsport stadium and has remained that way, serving as a bit of a playground for those who live in the area and a place for people to have fun on a Saturday afternoon.

Many local businesses and residents rely on the race annually, with the Las Vegas Speedway Corporation even going so far as to create an annual revenue report regarding its significance as a driver of the local economy.

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