When you go to a motorsport event, the first thing that probably comes to mind is, “How long until the next race?” And at a NASCAR race, that’s all you’ll ever think about. Or at least, all you’ll think about once the race has started and you’re trying to figure out what’s going on.
But at other types of motorsport events – like the IndyCar races at the Indy 500 – you might wonder how long the show actually lasts. Or, if you’re a hockey fan, you might ask yourself, “How long does the game last?”
Nowadays, it’s more common to see entire days of motorsport events, where you might not know what happened in the first place until you watch the whole thing unfold. But back in the day, it was much more common to see individual race events end after two or three hours, sometimes even shorter if there were no caution flags. So this is what we’re going to do today: we’re going to answer the questions you’ve always wanted to ask about skagit speedway, a NASCAR short track that is still open today and has been continuously operating since it was first built nearly 70 years ago.
How Many Straights Does It Have?
The first thing you’ll probably notice when you arrive at the track is how many straights it has. There’s just one long straight (the main straight) and then a few more straights that are more of a circle than anything else. (You can also spot them from space! See video below).
There is no intermediate stop, which means that the majority of the time, your car is moving at full speed. During practice sessions, teams will take this opportunity to work on their lap times and see how much they can improve.
Each lap around the track is also worth another point in your score. So in the above clip, the car is going around twice. That’s two points.
Is It A Cool And Scenic Place To Watch A Race?
The short answer is yes, it is. Whether you like NASCAR or not, you have to admit that there’s something unique about driving on a closed country road and seeing massive machines hurtling by at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.
And even if you’re not a fan of NASCAR, it’s worth driving to Skagit Speedway just to experience this unique atmosphere (and maybe catch a race or two).
What Kind Of Racing Takes Place There?
The short answer is stock car racing. But that doesn’t mean your typical NASCAR race. (Believe it or not, there are a few differences.)
First of all, there are no gimmicks. All the cars are the same, aside from paint jobs and sponsor logos. (Although you can find other stock cars for sale if you want to change up the look of your vehicle.)
Second, it takes a lot more preparation and strategy to get ready for a stock car race than it does for a sprint car race (those are the ones that are similar to midget car races).
Finally, the cars are much heavier, which makes them harder to handle and more prone to breaking down. (The above clip is from a dirt track race. While these might not seem like major differences, it’s all about knowing what to look out for.)
If you want to learn more about stock car racing, check out the links below. From the above clips, it’s clear that you’ll have to be prepared to sit through a lot of timeouts and caution flags. But in the end, it’s all worth it.
Does It Have A Memorable Track History?
Once again, the short answer is yes, it does. But it might not be the kind of history you’d want to tell your grandma over coffee.
When it comes to track history at Skagit Speedway, you have to go way back before the 1960s to find something memorable. That was when the speedway reached its highest point of popularity, with over 200,000 people attending some point over the last six years. (The above photo shows some of those crowds.)
In the 1950s and 1960s, the track was host to several famous races, including the AAA Championship, the Sportsman Division, and even the Indy 500. In fact, it was the last pit stop on the last lap of the 1967 Indianapolis 500 that caused the race to be stopped for one hour. (That’s when the cars swerved off the track and into the pits to take on fuel.)
In those days, the track was closed to traffic during the race, which allowed the drivers to really put their cars through their paces. (Today, the track opens 90 minutes before the race and closes 30 minutes after it ends, in order to give the drivers some rest from the heat of battle.)
During those years, the track saw some amazing moments. Mario Andretti won the first IndyCar race there in 1964, and there were a number of other famous names (like Johnny Rutherford and A.J. Foyt) that also won races there. (The famous oval track is now closed to traffic and is preserved for racing purposes.)
But the most amazing part of the track’s history came in the form of a driver who never actually raced there: Donald Campbell. (There’s a reason why the track is often referred to as the Donald Campbell Speedway.)
In the 1940s, Campbell was one of the greatest dirt track drivers of all time. (In fact, he’s still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “all time leading qualifier” for flat tracks, with 473 career wins – more than any other driver.)
In the winter of 1946, Campbell broke his leg in a horrific ski accident. (He was skiing with his family when he fell and broke his leg, resulting in considerable damage to the nerves and soft tissue in his extremities. Doctors told his family that it would never fully heal.)
While he was in the hospital, he heard about a dirt track race called the “Northern 1000” that was going to be held in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. (Campbell had reportedly raced up in the territory before, and wanted to see if he could qualify for the event.) His family put his health first and said no, sorry, you can’t go. But Donald insisted and finally, they gave in. (The above clip is from an old documentary that tells the story of Donald Campbell’s accident and recovery. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check it out on YouTube.)
So Donald went to Yukon and drove in the Northern 1000. And he placed well – 12th out of 17 drivers – which qualified him for the 1947 Indianapolis 500. (Which, by the way, he also won.)
From that point on, he went on to win several more IndyCars and became one of the most popular drivers in history. (As if his name wasn’t enough.)
In later years, Campbell had to have his legs amputated due to complications from the accident. But even then, he wasn’t finished driving – he started a racing school for amputees and began driving again, using prosthetics. (Sadly, the school closed down due to lack of interest, but Campbell continued to drive.)
In the 1970s, the track was renamed after him and today, it’s one of the most popular NASCAR venues, drawing over 150,000 spectators per year.
Does It Have An Interesting Social History?
One of the best things about Skagit Speedway is its unique social history. It was originally established as a temporary wartime measure, to provide some relief for the growing numbers of people who worked in the lumber industry in the area. (The above photo shows workers from the local mill giving an impromptu ride to some girls, which led to the creation of the speedway.)
Most of the workers lived nearby and commuted to work, along with others who worked in the area’s many mines. So it wasn’t uncommon for them to meet up at the track on a Saturday or Sunday to socialize and have some fun. (These days, the infield is filled with bars and restaurants that serve everything from pizza to Chinese food. There’s also a club house with a pool table and other games for kids and adults to enjoy together.)