What Happened At Williams Grove Speedway? [Fact Checked!]

For years, Bill Williams managed a barbeque restaurant in South Florida, where he lived with his family. After he sold the restaurant, the former racing enthusiast turned into a race track enthusiast, and bought the now-famous “Grove” racetrack, located in West Palm Beach.

What started as a hobby quickly turned into a passion, and today, Williams owns and operates two tracks, one in Florida and one in New York. The latter, the Monticello Motor Club Raceway, is the site of this year’s Fotboll Sundsvall Open, which is one of the biggest events on the European racing calendar.

The History Behind The Grove

Founded in 1966, Williams Grove Speedway is named after billionaire William A. Williams, who co-owns the track with his sister Elsie Williams. The first race held at the track was in 1967, and it wasn’t until the following year that it officially opened its gates to the public. It initially consisted of a 0.75-mile paved oval, but today, the track is 1.25 miles in length and is widely known for its treacherous turns and bumpy surface.

Though the track opened its doors for business in time for the NASCAR Grand National race in 1968, it was actually a year before it began hosting the prestigious series. After missing the cut for the Daytona 500 in 1967, a win at Williams Grove was far from certain for the following year’s NASCAR competitors. It wasn’t until the final race of the season that David Pearson, the eventual champion, was able to rebound from a disappointing season and take home the hardware. He would go on to become a three-time champion at the track.

The Rise Of The Late Models

Though the early years of Williams Grove saw the track host various racing series, it was the rise of the late models in the 1970s that really put the track on the map. The popularity of the humble late model among grassroots motorsport enthusiasts cannot be denied, and it was widely accepted that NASCAR was trying to move away from its roots and broaden its appeal. This didn’t exactly go down well with the purists.

For years, the track had only supported lower-tier series, like the Hooters Pro Touring Championship and the International Touring Car Championship, but in the 1970s, the track began hosting races for the famed NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It was at that point that the track became a regular stop for the touring cars during their spring break, and it wasn’t uncommon for fans to camp out for a chance at a good viewing location. This was also around the time that the first Busch Gardens autograph session was organized, where the drivers would spend an hour or more signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. The early 2000s also mark the start of the track’s Open Wheel Era, when it began hosting open racing events, something which it still continues to do today.


While the early 2000s saw the rise of open wheel racing at Williams Grove, it was in the 2010s that NASCAR really began to embrace the opportunity. In 2013, the track began a five-year partnership with Sprint, and that year also marked the start of a concerted effort on the part of NASCAR to return to its roots, while also seeking ways to engage with potential new fans. The 2014 season also saw the track undergo a major renovation, which included an entirely new layout, as a result of which many of the old favorites, including Pearson’s Garage, disappeared, to be replaced by seating and facilities which provided a more intimate experience for fans.

This year, with many tracks closed due to the pandemic, NASCAR is more focused than ever on its grassroots, and a number of drivers have taken to Twitter to express their excitement at being able to race on a track again. Though the circuits may be closed, the passion for racing remains, and it will be fascinating to see how the pandemic plays out, and whether or not NASCAR can continue to hold traditional events, given the safety concerns surrounding the pandemic.

Other Professional Racing Venues

In addition to NASCAR, Williams Grove also hosts the popular Vans Vintage Motorsports Festival, which pits vintage cars against each other in races that are open to the public. The track also hosts the annual Spring Training Rookie Shootout, where drivers from various NASCAR series, along with some open-wheel stars, get together to race. This year’s field features 22 drivers, representing five different series. The races are usually held in the early spring, and they mark the unofficial start of the season. In the fall, another start to the season is made at the Monticello Motor Club Raceway, located in New York. There are also a number of other short-track races held throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. At the local level, all of this happened right here in South Florida, in places like Key West, Coral Gables, and Downtown Miami. Though the venues may vary, what they all had in common was an enthusiasm for motorsport, and the willingness to take a shot, even if it was an exhibition race, and the odds were often against them.

So, what is the attraction to motorsport, and why are people so passionate about it? In a word, adrenaline. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the anticipation of the race, the thrill of the victory, and the sheer exuberance of being at a sporting event are experiences which many people find addictive. It’s basically a matter of supply and demand. There are simply more people looking for thrills and adventures, and motorsport seems to satisfy that need, at least in part. The venues may change, but the thrill of competition and the passion for racing remain the same, and that is as it should be. Let’s hope the days of racing on outdoor tracks are not gone forever, and that motorsport continues to be a part of our lives for many years to come.

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