What Ever Happened To National Speedway? [Answered!]

The golden era of stock car racing in the United States drew to a close in early 2016. As the economy shifted, so did the way we watched sports. Concurrent with the rise of eSports, the nation’s most popular motorsport saw its following decline by nearly 40% in a little over a year.

The reasons for the massive audience exodus are many. For one, traditional race fans had little to no interest in racing games. More importantly, the drivers and teams of the era became too expensive for the average American sports fan to follow.

The decline of stock car racing in the United States is notable. Even more so, considering the sport had such a profound effect on American culture. Names like Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, and the Walt Disneys of the world became synonymous with speed, excitement, and tradition.

This is less of a sports fansite and more of a love letter to one of the greatest sports we’ll never get to see again.

A Sport That Rocked The Nation

National Speedway in New York City was founded in 1911 and was regarded as one of the greatest motorsports venues of all time. With a maximum capacity of 100,000, the track was the setting for some of the most memorable races in American history. It was also the host of the World’s Fair in 1939, an event that helped cement its place in the annals of sport.

Many consider it the first true “mega-sports arena.” With several distinct layouts and configurations, the one-of-a-kind track featured banks of seats on which you could catch all the action. Spectators could also follow the race through giant picture windows on three sides of the track. This provided a unique and unforgettable experience for anyone who was there.

The track also had an effect on American culture. Musicians like Bill Haley and the Comets frequently performed there, and the American Songbook was even named after the famous venue. One of the most popular and enduring tracks was named after the venue itself: the New York Yankees won the inaugural race there, and the track has been a regular stop on their calendar ever since. The Grand National Football League’s Brooklyn Dodgers also used to converge there each fall.

Other teams, like the Indianapolis 500-winning Brickyard 400s, were started at the track. In fact, the only National Football League venue still standing is the one and only New York Football Stadium. Even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the home of the Indianapolis 500, was built utilizing some of the design concepts that made up the original National Speedway.

While the stadium and surrounding area have been host to many other events since then, none of them come close to matching the excitement of a stock car race. In 1960 alone, over 100,000 people attended a race there, and it regularly drew crowds of up to 250,000. It’s fair to say that without much of a lead-in or a platform to build on, a lot of the legacy of National Speedway will be lost. While it still hosts events and some teams and drivers make it a point to visit the sacred grounds, there’s just not the same electricity that drew people there to begin with.

A Race That Inspired A Generation

It wasn’t just the setting of some of the greatest sporting events that made National Speedway so special. The races themselves were a thrill to watch, thanks in part to the innovative design of the track’s oval. This is something else that has been replicated, but never again with the same impact. Some racers called it the Death Star because of its shape. Even those who weren’t fans of the sport were still drawn to the excitement of racing at National Speedway. This is because of how the oval shaped track forced drivers to line up and draft, enabling them to really put their car’s twin engines to the test.

For generations, the oval track served as a canvas for young boys to dream big dreams, set goals, and work hard to achieve them. Many considered it the epitome of a self-made man, the sort of person who went from being a small-time race car driver to owning a garage filled with expensive cars. This is why Richard Petty once said, “If you want to be a champion, you’ve got to learn to accept responsibility for what happens on the track.”

While the cars and technology that NASCAR has become famous for are largely a thing of the past, the ideals and work ethic instilled in youth by the sport are still alive and well. Richard Petty himself went on to become one of the best-known and respected team owners in history.

The Death Of A Legend

We’re not just talking about the legacy of one race track here. We’re talking about an entire era. After the 2016 racing season, it’s fair to say that the golden era of stock car racing in the United States came to a close. As attendance and revenue dwindled, so too did the number of teams, drivers, and sponsors. Even those in the sport acknowledge that the days of unlimited budgeting are long gone. The future of the sport is uncertain, especially since its biggest stars are getting older and older, with many retirement projects in sight. While it still has a small base of loyal fans, NASCAR in general is trending downward as an overall sport, with revenue, prize money, and overall interest all on the decline.

What ever happened to the golden era of stock car racing in the United States? While there are certainly a number of contributing factors, the main one has to be the changing economic climate. As the economy shifted from manufacturing to services and leisure pursuits, so too did the way we watched sports. Concurrent with the rise of eSports, the nation’s most popular motorsport saw its following decline by nearly 40% in less than a year. The legacy of National Speedway will live on, but it will never be the same.

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