How Long Is Auto Club Speedway? [Expert Review!]

Every year, the world over, people flock to the motorsport Mecca of North America – the great state of Texas – for the big three-day event: the Texas Motor Speedway Invitational. Not only is it one of the greatest sporting events of the year, but it’s also one of the biggest events of the summer solstice season. But, how long is it actually going to last? What’s the history of this amazing event and its iconic track? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and find out.

The Early Years

Like many great motorsports venues, the story of Auto Club Speedway begins with the advent of the automobile. Back in 1909, the very first race was held at the Lake Whitmore Country Club in Pasadena, Texas. It was a two-mile road race followed by a one-mile handicap race. Those early racers would go on to become racing legends like Stanley Mercer and Dave Marr.

The following year, the race track was moved to its current location in Fort Worth and renamed the Texas Speedway. The track would grow in size and popularity throughout the next several decades, with the biggest year being 1931, which featured the infamous Grand Prix of Fort Worth, won by none other than the triple-ringed king of motorsport, Louis Meyer.

In those early years of the Fort Worth track, a significant portion of the event was run on grass rather than asphalt. Many drivers, including Grand Prix competitors, didn’t feel that asphalt was a natural extension of a motorsport event and preferred the feel of the green field. Even today, the smell of freshly mowed lawns fills the air at TMS, evoking glorious memories for former competitors and fans alike.

World War II & Post-War America

The Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 to 1945, had a significant impact on motorsport. With many people, especially affluent people, staying at home rather than going to the track, racing events were poorly attended and poorly supported financially. This would later inspire one of the most famous songs in automotive history, “Rainbow Round the Rosa Parks,” by Texan songwriter Hank Williams.

The war also greatly delayed the return of motorsport to the forefront of American culture. Between 1939 and 1945, the automotive industry manufactured thousands of trucks, jeeps, and other vehicles for the U.S. military, which used them in combat in Europe and Asia. After the war, many of those vehicles – and their drivers – returned home, putting the American public back onto the roadways, which in turn, led to a resurgence in car culture.

The Post-War Era

In the immediate post-war era, the Fort Worth track hosted several important events, including the Grand Prize Pops Concert in 1948, which was a precursor to the All-Star Concert Series, and two U.S. Opens, in 1950 and 1951, won by three-time defending champion Eddie Sachs and future NASCAR champion Richard Petty.

Although the post-war years were significant for the growth of the sport in America, the majority of the tracks that now host major motorsports events were built in the 1950s and 1960s. The introduction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and the construction of the Grand Prix course, which is still used today, is widely credited with helping to establish the track as we know it. Teams could now drive from coast to coast, meaning drivers had more opportunities to make appearances and gain sponsorship, leading to a surge in popularity that continues to this day.

Continued Growth

In the years following World War II, the sport continued to grow, both in popularity and in size. Many tracks adopted the unique layout of the now-legendary Texas track, featuring a long main straightaway and several turns, allowing for safe overtaking and allowing spectators to get a good view of the action.

In 1950, the total number of seats at the track permanently reached 2,500, with 500 more temporary bleacher-style seats being added for the Grand Prix. In other years, that figure would reach 3,500, 4,000, and – during the 1971 season – a peak of 5,500 spectators would watch motorsport at the track, with an average attendance of 4,400.

The Texas track would also become famous for its huge festival and parade lap, where over 150,000 fans gathered each September to celebrate the end of the racing season. The festival, which is held in celebration of the Lone Star state’s independence from Mexico, has played host to some of the greatest names in motorsport, including Elvis Presley, Bill Cosby, and Kurt Busch. Some of those who have attended over the years include Charlie Brown, Carl Lewis, and, most infamously, Richard Petty, who was so obsessed with the festival that he once commented, “If you don’t go to the parade, you miss out on a lot of fun.”

Present-Day & The Future

These days, the track is more relevant than ever, as it’s played host to some of the biggest and most important events in automotive history, including the 1993 inaugural World Champion Speedway Cars exhibition and the 24 Hours of Daytona, which is the opening round of the championship. A peak of 20,000 fans turned out for the 24-hour race in 2007 and early 2009, with thousands more watching on television. The track also hosted the fourth annual International Tesla Seminar in 2014 and is set to play a crucial role in the future of sustainable transport, as it will be one of the venues for the upcoming Formula E street racing championship.

What will the next chapter in the history of Auto Club Speedway be? We can only speculate, but one thing will be for sure: the track will continue to play an integral role in the growth of the sport in North America and around the world.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!