How Big Is Hagerstown Speedway? [Ultimate Guide!]

On July 4th, 1932, a group of local investors purchased the Shady Elm Race Track in Hagerstown, Maryland for $40,000. That would be approximately $500,000 in 2020 dollars. Today, Shady Elm is one of the smallest racing tracks in the country, ranking at a size of 440 feet by 250 feet. While some might consider that small, the capacity stands at 23,000, making it one of the largest tracks in the country.

In 1940, a group of entrepreneurs took over the management of the track and changed its name to Hagerstown Speedway. At the time, the speedway measured 1.25 miles in length and was the 10th largest in the country. In the ensuing years, the track has grown in size as it absorbed other nearby courses. Today, the speedway covers 2.5 miles and has 24 paved lanes, as well as an infield and a 50-foot jump.

In 1947, the track underwent another expansion scheme that quadrupled its size. The following year, the board of directors decided to affiliate the speedway with the International Speedway Association. The governing body regulates and licenses motorsport facilities around the world, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is the largest track in the country.

As the years went by, new investors bought into the project and helped keep it afloat. Finally, in 2003, Hagerstown Speedway was bought by Bruton Smith and family for a price of $16.3 million. The new owners set about rebranding the facility and changing the direction of the track. In 2009, Forbes ranked Hagerstown Speedway as the 55th most popular tourist attraction in the United States. That same year, the track was purchased by Bruton Smith and opened to the public as it is today.

The Evolution Of Hagerstown Speedway

The track has changed quite a bit over the years. When it first opened, Shady Elm was an all-weather oval designed primarily for automobile racing. The track was equipped with banks of lights, making it visible for miles around. In fact, some drivers used to compete by racing at night and during inclement weather conditions during the day.

In 1947, Hagerstown Speedway underwent a transformation. One of the first projects the new owners undertook was to expand the track into a tri-oval shape. The main grandstand was also rebuilt, increasing its length by 75 feet. That same year, the track became affiliated with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

In 1951, the track was again upgraded with the addition of a concrete runoff channel for the benefit of drivers who experience car trouble. The following year, the track expanded to a size of 2.75 miles and saw the addition of more banking and a layout change that made the entire oval a downhill course. That same year, the name of the track was changed to Hagerstown Raceway.

In 1957, Hagerstown Raceway was purchased by a group of local entrepreneurs who sought to capitalize on the growing interest in stock car racing. The following year, the track was renamed Hagerstown Speedway. At the time, the speedway was the fifth largest in the country, with 24 racing lanes and an admission price of $4. On October 15th of that same year, the track achieved another memorable milestone, as it became host to the Budweiser Classic, one of the country’s premier harness races. The track continued to grow in size over the next few years, absorbing nearby courses to eventually span 2.5 miles with 36 paved lanes and an admission price of $5.8 million.

The growth of Hagerstown Speedway continued in the 1960s, spurred on by the growing popularity of stock car racing. The track absorbed yet another nearby course and increased its size to 3.25 miles, with a capacity of over 43,000 people and an admission price of $6 million. In the same year, the track scored another historic first, as it hosted the first ever All Japan Relay Championship. In January of that same year, the speedway also became a 24-hour facility, a first for any motorsport venue.

In 1967, Hagerstown Speedway underwent a renovation project that completely rebuilt the frontstretch, adding a new entrance and exit, as well as a few concession stands. The track continued to expand in the ensuing years, absorbing other nearby courses and growing in size to 4 miles, with 46 racing lanes and an admission price of $7.25 million.

In 1974, Hagerstown Speedway saw its largest growth spurt yet, when it absorbed its oldest competitor, the 3.25-mile Dundalk Speedway. The track grew to 4.9 miles, with an admission price of $8.75 million and over 58,000 seating capacity.

In 1978, the track acquired a neighboring course to the north, the 3.85-mile Marshals Grove Speedway. The following year, the track added another one to its collection, this time to the south, when it absorbed the 4.85-mile Hilltop Speedway.

In October of that same year, the track achieved its highest weekly average attendance, with over 8,600 people showing up each week to watch the races.

The 1980s started off on a high note for the track, as it attracted over 9,600 people to the stands each week in January, averaging a weekly total of over 12,000 throughout the year. The track continued to grow in the decade, absorbing yet another nearby course to reach a size of 5.4 miles, with 62 racing lanes and an admission price of $10.25 million.

In May 1991, the track saw its largest crowd yet, as it attracted an estimated 55,600 fans for the Memorial Day Classic, the first-ever NASCAR-sanctioned stock car race in Washington, D.C. The next month, the track saw a repeat performance, hosting the Washington Renaissance Fair, an annual folkloric arts and crafts festival that draws thousands of visitors to the area.

In 1999, the track completed a $16 million renovation project that revamped the entire infield, as well as the trackside hospitality area called the Pagoda, increasing its size to 6.25 miles and its capacity to over 70,000 spectators. At the time, the track was the sixth largest in the country.

In March 2003, the track was acquired by Bruton Smith and family for a price of $16.3 million. Since that time, the track has undergone a massive transformation, rebranding itself as it is today, with the exception of its name, which was changed from Hagerstown Speedway to Hagerstown Raceway.

The Attractiveness Of Hagerstown Raceway

In addition to changing its name, the track has also changed a lot in the way it is marketed. When it first opened, the track featured a drive-through purchasing window and a few small, portable toilets situated around the track. Now, the venue features luxurious skyboxes, individual concession stands, and a restaurant, the Pagoda Café, serving upscale food. In fact, the track is so big and popular that it now attracts visitors from all over the world, as there are several themed restaurants located around the facility, serving everything from lobster to Mexican food. The track also features a luxury hotel, the R.W. Griggs Mansion, which is located directly across from the track’s parking lot.

The hotel, which boasts an impressive stable of race-bred horses, was also once the home of the famous painter Richard Griggs, a founding member of the Indianapolis 500 and the creator of the iconic Hagerstown Radium Glow paint job. Richard Griggs died in 1919 at the age of 70, and the mansion was purchased by the state for $85,000 in 1922. Five years later, in 1927, the mansion was opened as a boys’ school. In 1949, the school was changed to a girls’ institution and was renamed Hagerstown Marianapolis High School. In the 1960s, the school underwent another renovation project that doubled its size, increasing the number of classrooms from 11 to 22. The school celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2002 with a reunion of former students. Over the years, the R.W. Griggs Mansion has been the setting for countless weddings, graduations, and family gatherings.

Where Do The Attendance Figures Come From?

The attendance figures for the track are certainly impressive, especially considering its size. In 2019, the average attendance per week was 7,100, slightly down from its 10-year high of 7,600 in 2016. The decline is likely the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited some people’s ability to travel and restricted the venue’s income, as well as the difficulty of competing during an NFL season.

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