In 1914, the great American race car driver, James H. “Jimmy” Dixon won the very first Indianapolis 500. Almost 100 years later, Kansas Speedway is still going strong. This year’s event, scheduled for May 24-26, will be the 86th running of the Indy 500 and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 (for those keeping count). For fans looking to attend, here’s some history on the legendary speedway.
A Brief History of Kansas Speedway
Founded in 1909, Kansas Speedway had humble beginnings. For many years, the track was actually known as “Dixon’s Greengrass Speedway” in honor of a Canadian driver named James H. “Jimmy” Dixon, who would often compete there. Dixon’s achievements in motor racing include winning the 1914 Indianapolis 500 as well as several other prestigious races. Later in 1914, the track was renamed Kansas Speedway in honor of the American Revolution War veteran and politician, Stephen D. “Silent Dan” Douglas. The track started out as a dirt track but was paved in 1915.
The Track Evolved With The Times
During the first five years of its existence, Kansas Speedway was a very basic, flat, dirt track. For many years, it didn’t even have a backstretch. From 1910 to 1917, the schedule consisted of just four races a year, the other two being held at night. In 1917, the schedule was expanded to five daytime races and one night race. The following year, the track underwent a massive renovation project that resulted in the permanent installation of a backstretch. The track was also widened, which raised the profile of the event. When World War II broke out, the need for cars became irrelevant as there were no longer any good drivers to be found. After the war, motor racing returned to Kansas Speedway but on a much smaller scale. From 1947 to 1960, the Indy 500 didn’t even visit the state of Kansas. With the return of the grand prix in 1957, the track saw a new wave of popularity. In 1960, the track installed a tri-oval in preparation for the Indy 500. This configuration still exists today and is considered by many to be the best in the world.
The Track Through The Years
In 1963, Kansas Speedway installed a large, covered grandstand. The following year, the track hosted the World Championship Grand Prix. In 1967, the track was completely rebuilt and expanded, this time to a four-turn layout. The track has stayed the same ever since. If you consider today’s Indy cars to be the modern-day incarnation of the race car, then you can understand why the track has remained constant. The modern-day Indy cars are among the fastest in the world, capable of speeds close to 230 mph. These days, the track is most famous for its annual spring race, the Kansas Lottery Cup, which is held in March. This is one of the largest festivals of its kind with over 100,000 people attending in 2017.
An Iconic Attract
Over the years, Kansas Speedway has earned a reputation for being one of the premier racing venues in the country. This year, the track is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is looking to make the year a memorable one. The main attraction will be a display of vintage automobiles and motorcycles from the area. On April 15-17, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted what was supposed to be its final race before a complete renovation project. Unfortunately, the track was again closed to the public due to weather conditions but the cars and drivers were able to take the track for a spin. On May 13, the track opened for business as usual.
More Than Meets The Eyes
Although most people think of Kansas Speedway simply as a place to see a race, the venue offers so much more. One of the best things about the track is that it provides a unique social experience for all its visitors. At the same time, the organizers of the track are doing their best to make this year’s festivities something special by organizing a variety of events. On Thursday, May 24, the track will hold a “Legends Car” exhibition. This is a great way to honor all those who have raced there in the past as well as introduce some of the more obscure cars that have been gracing the paddock over the years. The track also sponsors tours for those looking to learn more about the history of the sport. In order to celebrate its centennial, the track will also be releasing a special race track anniversary logo. The logo will be on the car of every driver who takes part in the upcoming 86th Indy 500. In addition, the track is planning on making special anniversary merchandise available for purchase. Last but not least, on May 26, the track will host a vintage car show where people can come show their love for old cars and win prizes.
Considering all that the Kansas Speedway has seen over the years, it’s no wonder why so many fans and former competitors still find it such a magical place. Whether you’re a diehard car nut or have just a passing interest in the sport, you can’t help but be drawn to this iconic venue. With its unique charm and storied history, it’s no wonder that so many people are still finding merit in racing at Kansas Speedway.