New Smyrna Speedway, also known as the State Fairgrounds Speedway, is located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and was built in 1927. For more than 70 years, it hosted NASCAR races, the Daytona 500, and the World 600, before closing in 1997. It reopened in 2010, and now hosts local sporting events and concerts. In this article, we will tell you more about the history of New Smyrna Speedway.
The Birth Of NASCAR
The early years of NASCAR were not easy ones. In fact, it wasn’t even called NASCAR until 1952. The first sanctioned stock car race was held in Darlington, South Carolina, in February of that year, and was called the Grand Invitational. Twelve drivers from six states took part, and according to the official review, only one car was on the track at a time. The track was banked at 10 degrees, and after each two-lap race, a white flag would be thrown to signal the end of the day’s racing.
The following month, NASCAR was established as a sanctioning body for stock car racing, and the first-ever national championship was held at Kansas City Speedway. Twelve drivers from five states contested the championship, and the average race temperature that weekend was 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Only one driver broke the 100-mph barrier in an individual race, and average speeds for the entire season were between 19.9 and 24.5 mph.
The Grand National Dixie Classic
The very first Daytona 500 was held in the spring of 1953 and was won by Fireball Roberts in grand fashion. His average speed of 89.66 mph was nearly 12 mph faster than the second-place finisher, and it took him a mere 73 minutes to pull away from the field. The average race temperature that year was 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and the track had a length of just over one mile.
The following year, NASCAR expanded its racing territory to include Michigan and Wisconsin, and the average speed for the entire season was significantly raised to 24.3 mph.
Wondermill Farm And The Grand Champion
In the summer of 1955, NASCAR held the first World 600 at the new Dallas Road Course in Irving, Texas. The race was a great success, attracting 25,000 spectators and generating over $125,000 in revenue. The track was a mix of dirt and rock surfaces, and was banked at 9.9 degrees. The winner that day was Marvin Pierce, who led 84 of the 110 laps contested. His average speed was 95.3 mph, and it took him just under three hours to cover the one-mile trip around the course. The track still hosts the World 600 competition today.
The following year, NASCAR returned to the South with the Dixie 500. The race was designed as a replacement for the Grand National Dixie Classic, which was canceled due to a lack of interest from the track’s sponsor. While the track was dirt-based, the turns were banked at such a steep angle that the cars literally flew off the track. The race was a huge success, drawing 45,000 spectators, and the total purse was $125,000. The total revenue for the track that year was $325,000.
The Last NASCAR Race At The State Fairgrounds
In the spring of 1957, the last NASCAR race was held at the State Fairgrounds Speedway. The track was a temporary layout built in the infield of the Florida State Fair in Miami. It was unique in that it had no formal name and was simply known as the “State Fairgrounds”. The circuit included the pole position, which was won by Tommy Tucker, and the average speed for the five-mile race was 29.2 mph. The race was also the final one that longtime NASCAR chief Bill France Sr. attended before he passed away in April of that year. He was posthumously named the organization’s first honorary member.
The following year, the last Daytona 500 was held at the new Surfers Paradise Speedway, and was won by Richard Petty. The track was built on an acre of land in Queensland, Australia, with the main grandstands and paddocks constructed with seating above and behind the racing surface. The stands were terraced, and the entire construction was laid out on such a sloping surface that it was deemed to be a “banked turn” track. The seating area held over 70,000 spectators, and the total attendance for the three-day event was over 200,000. The total revenue for the track that year was just over $2 million.
After the success of the Australian Grand Prix, the country’s sporting administrators decided that a similar race could be held at the Speedway each year. This idea was originally proposed for 1966, but was postponed until January 1968 because of the inability to secure airline tickets for the following August. The first-ever Formula One Grand Prix was held at the track on January 14, 1968, and was won by Scotsman Jim Clark. Clark’s average speed was 156 mph, nearly 30 mph faster than the next-fastest car. It took him just two and a half hours to cover the one-mile trip around the circuit. The total attendance for the three-day event was 160,000, and the total revenue was over $6 million. Since then, the event has become an annual highlight of the Formula One calendar.
The New Smyrna Speedway
The following year, the State Fairgrounds Speedway was renamed the “New Smyrna Speedway” in honor of the founder of NASCAR, William Henry (Bill) France. The year was also significant as it marked the beginning of the end for stock car racing at the State Fairgrounds. The final race there was held in 1971 and was won by Bill Elliott. Despite the lack of interest from NASCAR chiefs and track promoters, speedway racing continued independently in Florida until the 1970s. In 1974, the last track championship was held at the historic Daytona Beach Speedway before an on-and-off struggle for survival followed. The 1980s were grim as it was not uncommon for a driver to lose a leg or an arm during a racing accident. In the 1990s, however, the popularity of auto racing increased, and new tracks were built throughout the country. Today, stock car racing is as popular as it has ever been, and new tracks are opened annually.
Since its opening, New Smyrna Speedway has been the home of local sporting events and concerts. The speedway was also the location of the Florida Grand Prix in the 1980s and early 1990s before moving to Homestead in 1994. In the 2010s, it became the home of the Daytona Open Mic Night, and continues to host various local events as well as concerts.
New Smyrna Speedway is a unique track in that it was the last major stock car track to close, and it did so before the end of the twentieth century. Through the years, it has seen its share of celebrity drivers and racing legends alike, and continues to hold a special place in the hearts of those who have seen it live. Hopefully, one day, it will see the return of NASCAR and the fans who have waited so long for the sport to come back.