How Big Is Ona Speedway? [Updated!]

Ona Speedway is one of the biggest motorsport venues in the world. For those who have never been there, imagine a mixture between an IKEA store and a Wal-Mart, with all the goods brought to life in brightly colored paint, neon lighting, and massive open spaces filled with cars, trucks, and bikes. If you have a love for vehicles and motorsport, then this Texas-sized shopping complex is a destination you should check out.

It’s been built in the shape of a backwards ‘T’ – a reference to the iconic Texas flag – and it can comfortably seat up to 200,000 spectators across its four mammoth exhibition halls. It is home to monumental auto racing events, such as the Monster Energy Stadium Race, and the NHRA Dallas Open. If you are a motorsport enthusiast, then Ona Speedway is a place you shouldn’t miss out on.

Why Is It Named After Jackie Robinson?

Jackie Robinson is best known for breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, and for serving as the first black president of the MLB Players’ Association. He was also a track and field athlete who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he won a bronze medal.

It is fitting, therefore, that the third largest motor racing venue in the world is named after him. The organizers of the original Grand Slam Circuit, which includes the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the National Championship, knew exactly what they were doing when they named the track after him. Jackie Robinson’s athletic career, his Olympic medal, and his groundbreaking accomplishment in breaking the color barrier make this a fitting tribute to one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game.

How Was It Built?

The impressive thing about Ona Speedway is that it was built almost entirely by volunteers, with no professional construction crew involved. The organizers of the Grand Slam Circuit secured the services of retired NFL player and professional boxer Gene Keady to coordinate and supervise the construction of the track. A group of 500 volunteers dedicated more than 2,500 hours to the construction process, which involved a lot of heavy lifting, some dangerous driving, and a lot of sweat.

They broke ground in the summer of 2014, and the venue officially opened its doors in October of that year. The organizers of the Grand Slam Circuit were motivated to construct a track in a professional yet fan-friendly atmosphere – a place where families can come together, and adults can enjoy a unique blend of competition and leisure.

Other motor racing venues, such as Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are also owned by individual entities, and are therefore restricted as to who they can and cannot accommodate in their seats. Ona Speedway is the only other motor racing venue that is not owned by a hotel or casino, and it prides itself on being able to offer a more intimate, community-oriented experience for its fans.

Why Is It Spaced Out From The Mainland?

The organizers of the Grand Slam Circuit chose to build Ona Speedway in the middle of nowhere, in order to create a unique experience for their fans. The track is located in Ona, Texas, which is an unincorporated community of about 1,600 residents located in far West Texas, approximately 75 miles from the nearest big city, Amarillo. It is about 90 minutes from both Denver and Dallas, the other two cities on the original Grand Slam Circuit.

This isolation allowed the organizers of the track to put into place some unique rules and regulations regarding the kind of vehicles that are permitted to race there, as well as the type of people – or “stock” – that can go into the grandstands and watch the action.

The closest airports are Midland–Odessa and Amarillo, but daily flights are available only to and from the closest one, Midland–Odessa. The organizers of the track prefer to project an image of a small, intimate town rather than a hub for commercial aviation, so as not to upset the community that they have built around the venue.

The Rules, Regulations, And History Of The Track

The track has established some interesting rules and regulations, all of which are designed to make the unique experience that the venue is known for memorable and accessible for all involved. These include:

  • No loud music
  • No cameras
  • No alcohol
  • No tobacco
  • No pets
  • No commercial branding
  • Car windows must be up
  • No blocking the view of the track
  • Trash cans must be marked ‘non-transferrable’
  • No professional hairdressing salons
  • No offensive language
  • No shoes inside the grandstands
  • No golf carts, roller skates, or scooters inside the grandstands
  • No selfies
  • The American and Canadian national anthems must be played before each race
  • The national anthem of Japan must be played before the Korean race
  • A standing ovation must be given for all race winners, with the exception of pole position winners
  • At least one beer must be served for every race, with the exception of the pole position race (if it’s raining)
  • One bathroom must be available for every 4,000 spectators
  • Adults need not wear seat belts
  • Faceprints are acceptable as identification
  • Food and drink must be available in all price ranges
  • Transportation to and from the track must be provided
  • No phone calls during the race
  • Marshals must escort race cars to and from the pits
  • Lap leaders must wave off other competitors
  • The race must end at least three times the distance of the winner’s margin of victory
  • Each race must end at least 15 minutes early
  • Fans must remain in their seats until the end of the final lap
  • The track must be cleaned and watered between races
  • The track must be cleaned and prepared for the following day’s race, no matter the final outcome of the previous day’s race
  • The winners of all four events must wait in line to shake the hand of the four-time winners, Gordon ‘Doc’ Jensen, John Bohn, and Butch Miller
  • The track must be renamed ‘Jackie Robinson Memorial’ before the end of September 2024

As you can imagine, these rules and regulations can get pretty complicated when you have to make a to-do list for every single race that takes place at the track. Luckily for the fans who follow auto racing (and track & field), the track keeps a fairly detailed record of all the cars and drivers who have raced there, as well as the winners of each race. This record is available online, as is a map pinpointing the location of every mile marker, detail plaque, and flagpole on the track’s grounds. The information is also available in a mobile app, which is great for those who might be traveling to the track and don’t have a regular access to a computer. In addition to this online record, another great resource is the museum that the track has built, which is free and open to the public. It houses hundreds of historic automobiles, including some amazing vintage racers. Kids can even get to sit in the driver’s seat of these magnificent machines, and it is truly a sight to behold.

Some other motorsport venues, including Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are also museums, and they display the history of the sport with great pride. Ona Speedway is the only other motorsport venue in the world that is actually a live, competitive track. The organizers of the venue want to keep their uniqueness, and they don’t want to lose that experience by turning their track into a museum. As the saying goes: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

In terms of heritage, one of the most interesting things about Ona Speedway is that it was built in the shape of a backwards ‘T’, with the three verticals representing the legs of the letter ‘T’ and the bottom horizontal being the head. The letter T is a symbol for the organization that built the track, known as the Texas Mile Drivers Association, and it was first held in 1950. The track has stuck with this shape ever since, and it is a timeless symbol of speed and strength.

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