Eldora Speedway is arguably the greatest short track race in the world. A dirt oval in north-central Illinois, the track regularly draws huge crowds: almost 75,000 people in 2017. With all the festivities including camping, concerts, and fireworks, the year-end holiday in August is like a mini-Woodstock, but on wheels.
Though the distance to Eldora is only 12 miles, there’s a lot more to see along the way. Here’s how far you can travel on average by foot, car, or motorcycle if you follow the route described below. Bring a map and compass and have fun exploring!
If you want to see the highlights of Eldora Speedway and don’t have time to camp out, you can get there via car. The quickest route connects Route 45 and Route 26 in Jacksonville. Take the merge onto Route 26 and follow it until you reach the east end of the road. From there it’s a quarter mile down a gravel road to the track. You can get there in under 20 minutes.
There’s a small parking lot before the turn one, and you may have to pay to park there. Street parking is free in front of the grandstand. If you plan to watch the race at night, bring a flashlight – the few streetlights that exist near the track don’t reach very far into the forest. You won’t be able to see very well without them.
The only downside to getting to the track by bus is that there are no convenient stops along the way. You have to get off the bus at the end of the line in Jacksonville and walk to the track, or take a taxi or call someone to give you a ride. You’ll have the rest of the day to kill, so you’ll either have to choose between missing the race or wasting time. No thanks.
If you want to save time and avoid missing the race, you can get there by foot from the nearest town of Jacksonville. The route is clearly marked and is easily followable. After leaving the lot on Route 45, walk south on Route 26. At the end of the road, turn right (east) onto County Road 24, and continue walking until you reach the dirt track. Park on the side of the road and start walking. You’ll see a small parking lot before the first corner. After that, there’s only a narrow paved road that runs along the outside of the track. Give it plenty of space to avoid being stuck in the middle. There are no sidewalks near the track, so if it’s chilly, you may want to bring shoes that block the wind – at least until the sun starts to set. After the race, it’s a 10-minute walk back to the parking lot.
Though a slower option, biking is still an option if you want to get to the track as quickly as possible. Bikes are allowed on the track behind the paddock, in front of the grandstands, and along the road. There are several bike paths that you can use to reach the track, so you don’t have to worry about finding a road that suits you. You’ll have the entire forested area to yourself, save for the odd car or truck that passes by.
The Difference In All Three Methods
If you decide to drive to the track, there’s no question that you’ll arrive a little late. The race starts at 2:00 p.m., but the parking lot will be full by 1:45 p.m., at the latest. You’ll be able to see the cars coming down the main straight, turn one, and the backstretch. From there, you’ll only have a glimpse of the track. You won’t be able to see changes in elevation well, so if it’s a steep hill or a heavy rain that’s causing the current conditions, you may find yourself in for some discomfort. On the other hand, if it’s a sunny day and the track is dried out, it may be an excellent opportunity to get some decent photos.
A walk to the track is the most direct and easiest way to get there. You won’t need to worry about finding a space in the parking lot, and you can arrive early and watch the cars driving and taking laps around the track. Though there’s no set time for the race to start, most of the time, it’ll be near the end of the day, so you won’t get a long exposure to the blazing sun. If you’d like, you can bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful weather. After the race, it’s only a 10-minute walk back to the parking lot.
Biking to the track is also a possibility. You can start from the same place as a walker and follow the same path. The only difference is that you’ll be riding a bike. Though you won’t be carrying as much weight as you would on foot, biking is still an active form of transportation and it’s great for exploring. At the end of the day, you’ll have reached your destination quicker than you would have by car. You can also save money on gas – unless you plan to rent a car at the track, of course.
Though there is no set time for the race to start, it’ll usually be in the afternoon. The track will be closed in the morning, so if you’d like to see it during the day, you’ll have to get there by nightfall. There will usually be food and drink tents outside the grandstands at the end of the first heat, so you can fuel up before the start of the race. If you have camping gear, you can pitch a tent nearby and get an early night’s sleep. That way, you’ll be able to see the sunrise, the fireworks, and the closing ceremonies, which are at night. It’ll be a long day, and you might want to get some sleep before the end. Have fun!