If you’ve ever been traveling on the New York State Thruway, you may have seen the giant speedway off to the right. That’s Erie Speedway, and it’s the home of the International Speedway Corporation, better known as ISC. At 1.25 million square feet, the complex is larger than a football field. It features a half-mile oval and a three-quarter mile tri-oval, as well as an adjacent dragstrip. The entire facility sits on nearly 80 acres.
Most people have no idea how massive an ISC facility this is. You’d probably have to be a sports fan to be aware of the place, and even then, it’s probably not going to stick out as a whole. Driving over there is not something you’re going to remember, but you may find yourself wondering about it later. That’s because Lake Erie Speedway is an important historical place. It was the birthplace of stock car racing in America, and it was also the location of the first NASCAR race in 1939. Before the construction of Erie Speedway, this area of Upstate New York was just a cow pasture.
Importance Of Lake Erie Speedway
It’s not easy being the birthplace of a sport. Especially when that sport you’ve created becomes so popular that people are traveling from all over the world to see it. At first, the idea of hosting motor sports was just for fun. It was something to do on a Saturday night, and it fit within the family entertainment center, which also featured a skating rink and a go-cart track. But when stock car racing became an Olympic sport in the 1960s, the need for a proper facility became apparent. It was then that entrepreneur Rex M. Buckius stepped in and funded the construction of what was then called Eastern New York Raceway. It was, in fact, the first true NASCAR track in America.
Buckius was a man of many talents. Not only did he found ISC, but he also owned a motorsport shop in New York City, a farm in New Jersey, and even a bar in Delaware. It was said that he could build anything, and he certainly did, beginning with the New York City track in 1969 and finishing with the ISC campus in 1972.
First NASCAR Race At Lake Erie Speedway
The history of Lake Erie Speedway is rich and filled with amazing stories. One of the most iconic images of the track is the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, which featured an incredible image of Richard Petty driving around a massive collection of car toys in his living room. It was there that the NASCAR legend grew up, and it was also the place he brought his family for many years. While the Petty family no longer lives in the area, the track is still named after him.
The first official NASCAR race at Lake Erie Speedway was on April 17, 1939. But it was actually a touring car race organized by the ACO, the French Automobile Club, which featured several well-known racing cars, including the famous Bugatti 57CS. One of the drivers was a young Texan named Richard Pettis. He would later go on to become legendary “the King” Richard Petty. It was the first of several significant international events that Lake Erie Speedway would host. Between 1939 and 1950, the track hosted the European Grand Prix, and in the 1970s and 1980s, it was home to the famous Coyne Summer Grand Prix. These days, the only major race that Lake Erie Speedway hosts is the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. That’s because it’s a difficult task keeping the place relevant in today’s world. It wasn’t easy getting the track built in the first place, and even now, it seems like someone is always working on upgrading and enhancing the experience for the fans. But with all of its challenges, Lake Erie Speedway remains a crucial element in the NASCAR ecosystem. Without it, there would be no Sprint Cup Championship.