Granite City Speedway, located in Granite City, Illinois, is one of the largest and most popular thoroughbred horse racing tracks in the United States. The 3-mile oval pays tribute to the area’s agricultural roots, with the infield featuring corn, soybeans and wheat. The track was built in 1899 and is owned and operated by the Illinois Thoroughbred Association, a non-profit organization that promotes horse racing and breeding throughout the state. The track currently hosts thoroughbred horse racing every Saturday night and doubles as a rodeo arena where cowboy and country music aficionados can enjoy some live entertainment.
The track is infamous for the steeplechase, a type of horse race that takes place entirely on the track and features a series of jumps and obstacles. The run is about 15% of the total race distance and is one of the most physically demanding races beyond the Derby. The annual Steeplechase Stakes was inaugurated in 1915 and is a premier event on the American racing calendar, comparable to the Kentucky Derby in terms of prestige.
Named after renowned horseman John Henry “Jack” Morrow, the track was originally built to accommodate car enthusiasts who traveled from all over the country to take part in the Indianapolis 500, which was held in nearby Mayfield starting in 1914. The event is now known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Morrow was instrumental in bringing automobile racing to Illinois. He served as the track’s inaugural president and is credited with popularizing the steeplechase as a competitive sport. Under his leadership, the track became one of the premier racing venues in North America. In addition to his involvement with the Indianapolis 500, Jack Morrow Ranch, which is located in Oregon, hosts the John Henry Vintage Auto Racing Club Meet, a one-of-a-kind annual gathering that attracts vintage auto enthusiasts from around the country.
History Of The Track
The Illinois Thoroughbred Association acquired the track in 1918. The association continued to grow, investing in a number of improvements to the facility, the most significant of which was enclosing the entire interior of the track in brick. In addition, new grandstands were built and the existing ones were expanded. These days, the association leases the land surrounding the track from the city of Granite City for $1. The track continues to host the Indy 500 and other major events such as the American Classic Races, which are similar to the Derby. It is currently the busiest track on the thoroughbred circuit, operating around 70 events each year.
How Do I Get There?
The easiest way to get to Granite City Speedway is by car. The track is located in northern Illinois, near the Indiana border, so most major cities are easily accessible. In addition to having one of the largest airports in the area, Chicago, Illinois, is only 65 miles away. Traveling by air is also relatively easy, especially given the track’s status as one of the largest and most popular airfields in the country. From here, you can connect to the rest of the country via major airlines.
The Track Layout
The layout of the track is unique, not only because of its size but also because of how its three miles are covered. The majority of the surface is banked, leading to tight turns and an exhilarating experience for motorcyclists and car enthusiasts. In addition, the track’s turns are tight enough that they require a high-speed slide on a motorcycle, making it, arguably, one of the most aggressive tracks in the country. The turns on the back half are tighter than those on the front, which gives the racers a real challenge. The high stakes of these races, coupled with the tight turns, make for a brutal combination that is certain to thrill and entice motorcycle enthusiasts and fans of competitive racing.
The Racing Season
The racing season at Granite City Speedway lasts from May to October. The track sees its highest attendance from May through July, with around 70,000 people coming out each week. The Indianapolis 500 is usually held in May, giving spectators a chance to see the greatest drivers of all time take to the track. In contrast, the track sees a huge winter decrease in attendees, with around 15,000 people coming out each week in January and February.
The course at Granite City Speedway is always worth checking out, with its three miles of banked turns and small strips of grass, which are used as outer-residuals for the horses. The track’s interior is lined with grandstands and stands for the paddocks, where the horses are stabled throughout the day. The paddocks are in turn surrounded by an electrified fence that is actively patrolled by track security and police to ensure the safety of the horses and the integrity of the game.
The track is located in northern Illinois, near the Indiana border, alongside the Rock River. The area around the track is hilly, with the river running through the middle of it. Although the location is rather isolated, it is actually a popular spot for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. The proximity to Chicago and its O’Hare International Airport, however, makes this spot a convenient place for people traveling by air. In addition, the area’s many rivers and lakes make for some fabulous fishing holes. The environment, especially the nightlife, is actually quite vibrant, with lots of people and activity to keep an eye on.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Apart from a willing vehicle, you will need some wheels to make the most of your visit to Granite City Speedway. The track is a banked oval, so you will want to bring along a pair of motorcycle boots and a helmet. For riders who are less than experienced, the track also rents out motorbikes for a small fee. These are also the recommended ones for people who want to try out some speedway action.
What Do I Do Once IArrive?
Once you arrive at Granite City Speedway, you will have to decide what you are going to do. Are you just going to sit in your car and wait for the race to begin? Walk around the grounds and get a feel for the place? Or are you going to find an empty seat in the grandstands and get ready to watch the action?
If you did not bring a bike with you, there is a rental stand outside of the track. You can rent motorbikes for around $30 per hour, giving you a chance to explore the area on two wheels. Be careful not to hit any pedestrians or vehicles while on your motorbike, as there are no fenced areas around the track, nor are there any posted speed limits.
It is advisable to get a good walkman or other type of audio player to listen to music while at the track. This is because the acoustics in the area are usually very good, so you will be able to hear every detail of the horses’ running and the commentary of the drivers and the race announcer. The large turnout of spectators often results in very good sound quality. If you are renting a bike, you can ask the attendant to play some music for you as you make your way around the track. In addition, the track offers free Wi-Fi, so you may want to consider getting a device such as an iPad or other tablet to access the internet and connect to social media while at the speedway.
Where Can I Eat And Stay?
There are a number of options for food and lodging near or at the track. Located very close to the facility are two restaurants and a bar, all within walking distance of each other. This makes for a very convenient stop for people who are arriving by car or for those who are walking to the track. If you are looking for a place to stay, there are a variety of chain hotels less than a mile from the track. However, if you are looking for something more unique, you can check out one of the local B&Bs, which often have rooms with themes and decorations inspired by the time period during which the track was built.
In-house restaurants at the hotel are also a great option for people who are staying overnight. If you are looking for something more unique and don’t want to bother with the hassle of eating out, you can request the in-house restaurant to cook you dinner. This way, you can get a good feel for what is served at the track, as well as try out some of the excellent local restaurants in the area.