For decades, the Texas Motor Speedway located in Fort Worth was the most recognized track in the country. The 2.5-mile speedway opened its gates to the public in 1960 and was attended by celebrities and royalty. The track was home to the unforgettable “Duchess of Hazard,” the famous NASCAR blue oval, and in the ‘70s, it was considered the Mecca of stock car racing – the place where all the great drivers and their cars battled for supremacy.
Although the Texas Motor Speedway no longer has the same allure it once had, it has continued to fascinate and inspire fans and motorsport enthusiasts alike. In recent years, the track has held several car shows and events to celebrate its storied past. Today, the speedway is owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth and has been undergoing a complete renovation. As part of its rebranding, it was decided to replace the standard concrete grandstands with those made of wood. The track’s iconic spiking pole also got a 21st century makeover and was recently painted red, white, and blue – the colors of the American flag. These days, anyone who shows up at the track on a Sunday morning to watch cars go around in circles doesn’t have to worry about finding a place to sit; all the wooden grandstands have been removed and replaced with shiny metal ones.
The History Of The Texas Motor Speedway
The Texas Motor Speedway was actually the brainchild of a man named Bill Densmore. He conceived the idea of an all-American motor racing event that would be staged at the defunct Will Rogers Speedway in Los Angeles. After the success of that inaugural event in 1939, Speedway officials decided to bring the race to Texas. The original plan called for the track to be built near the small town of Hillsboro in East Texas. However, World War II intervened and put a hold on the project.
During the war, the Army Corps of Engineers took over the management of the Will Rogers Speedway and converted it into a landfill. The city council of Hillsboro voted to move the race track to the nearby city of Carrollton. Local residents soon discovered that their city was host to one of the major sporting events in the country, the Kentucky Derby, which was being held the same weekend. People began to complain about the immense traffic congestion caused by the racing. Not only were there frequent delays due to police escorting cars through the city, but fans were also stuck in gridlock for hours on end. The event’s organizers decided to move the race to Dallas, where it would be held at the Cotton Bowl.
Stock Car Racing In The ‘70s
The ‘70s were a remarkable time for the sport of stock car racing. The decade saw numerous historic moments that continue to be talked about today. The energy crisis of the time made fuel very expensive, which in turn, made it more affordable for individuals to own their own private racetracks. The fuel shortage also gave rise to illegal drag racing, which was considered to be a form of street racing. In fact, the federal government regulated fuel prices and production during that time.
One of the most memorable moments of the ‘70s came in the form of multiple winners at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January 1973. The race was stopped twice due to rain, which was unusual for that time of year. When the car count was finally done, some 40 cars had circled the track, setting a new NASCAR record. The era of big engines and high speeds continued, with the introduction of the “Big Three” (Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler) and the coming of age of such legendary drivers as Jack Roush, Richard Petty, and Cale Yarborough. However, after years of constantly rising gas prices, the public began to tire of paying such high prices for fuel and the government eventually relaxed regulations on fuel, allowing stations to open up across the country. This effectively ended the era of the fuel crisis, and the ‘70s became known as the Decade of the Car.
The Rise Of The Indy Cars
Indy car racing started in America in the 1940s and was originally considered a sport for the wealthy. The cars were built with some of the most luxurious materials and were mostly driven at fast speeds around oval tracks of various sizes. Through the ‘70s and into the ‘80s, stock car racing was still a popular pastime for fans, but the sport was moving away from its traditional roots. The shift began in the ‘70s, when tracks started getting a little bigger. In fact, the now-defunct Indianapolis Raceway Park, which was built in 1916, was the first purpose-built track in the country. The park’s main grandstand was expanded to accommodate up to 150,000 spectators, making it one of the largest structures in its time.
The popularity of the Indy cars grew during this period, and they soon became a regular part of stock car racing’s schedule. The cars were also featured at the annual Indianapolis 500, which drew massive crowds and was an important part of Indy car racing’s history. Unfortunately, in the ‘80s, the economy shifted again and it became hard for manufacturers to produce these exotic cars. This led to a major decline in interest for the sport as a whole and it wasn’t until the turn of the 21st century that it started seeing a resurgence in popularity.
The Re-Establishment Of The Texas Motor Speedway
The Texas Motor Speedway experienced its share of ups and downs over the years. At one point, the track was shut down for a few years because of financial troubles. After it was reestablished in the ‘90s, attendance and enthusiasm returned and the track continues to enjoy a large and loyal following. One of the reasons behind the speedway’s continued popularity is that it has managed to stay relevant throughout the years. The truth is that it never really went away – it was simply dormant for a little while before reemerging.
The city of Fort Worth decided to purchase the track in the ‘70s for a whopping $4 million. The deal included funding for improvements that would make the track more competitive and accessible. These days, the speedway is a hub for motorsport enthusiasts, with multiple racing series taking place there annually. Not only does it host the largest annual stock car race in the country, the NACTOA World Championship, but it also features the Verizon IndyCar Series, which has become one of the most popular and significant sporting events in North America. Each year, fans travel from all over the world to see some of the greatest drivers in the business battle it out on the track. With its mix of historical significance and cutting edge technology, the Texas Motor Speedway continues to inspire fans and provide an important stage for top drivers.
The Final Days Of The Will Rogers Speedway
The Will Rogers Speedway was one of the first full-fledged oval tracks in America. The track was named after the colorful pioneer of American sports and comedy, who often refereed sporting events and raced cars at the track. This was his final home stadium, with the final race taking place on October 20, 1974. The exact time and location of the race were kept secret in order to deter fans from traveling there – presumably to see the legendary “Fastest Man On Twelfth Street,” Jimmy Spencer. Local residents and other racing fans had to camp out in order to get a ticket for the final leg of the Grand National Championship. The day of the race, authorities had to shut down a portion of 12th Street in order to ease the massive traffic congestion that was expected to ensue.
After the final race, the track was cleared of all its cars and spectators. The track sat idle for a while until the offices of the Grand National Championship decided to hold one last race in 1975. They had to rush through a licensing process with the state in order to reestablish the track, and it wasn’t until November of that year that a NASCAR stock car race was staged there again. The last official races took place in 1980 and 1981 before the track was closed for good. Since then, the field has been left to grow as weeds take over the racetrack. The only thing that remains of the once-proud Will Rogers Speedway is a large dirt patch where cars used to run and the ghost that keeps popping up in the shadows to tell anyone who’s listening that the greatest race in history was held there.