On April 30, 2017, the last day of the legendary Chicagoland Speedway, an emotional goodbye was said by many. The racetrack closed its doors for the final time. Almost overnight, a part of American racing history was gone.
A Brief History Of Chicagoland Speedway
Chicagoland Speedway was a place that many consider to be a Mecca for motorsport fans. The track had it all; the tradition, the history, the great drivers, and most of all, the magic that is felt whenever a car is driven on the track. It is no wonder that fans would travel from all over the country to be there for the last race. In total, the attendance for the last race was over 175,000 people.
The track began as a quarter-mile oval in 1911. RACER magazine reports that over the years, the track was lengthened to a mile and a half oval. It hosted its first IndyCar race in 1945, and it was at this time that the 1.5 mile track was renamed Chicagoland Speedway.
The track was originally owned by former Chicago mayor Harold Washington. After Washington’s death in 1992, the track was sold to International Speedway Corporation (ISC) who then leased it to Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR). The track was then sold to Triple Crown Sports LLC, who then leased it to CGR. In 2016, it was reported that Chip Ganassi would be buying it back from Triple Crown Sports for a reported price of $25 million.
The Last Race
Ralph Lauren, owner of the brand named after the track, was the master of ceremonies for the final race. He began by thanking the volunteers and workers who had helped make the day special. He went on to say that the day was bittersweet because the track was closing its doors for the last time. He said that he and his wife, Gail, were honored to be the last ones to say goodbye to the track that their families had loved for so long.
Many greats drivers took the track to the limit, making this day perhaps the greatest day in the history of the track. There were so many emotional goodbyes that day that it was hard to keep track of them all. In total, there were 27 driver tributes that were either spoken or sung by the drivers themselves. After the driver’s race on the day before, fans lined up for hours to get a final glimpse at their favorite drivers. Some lucky fans got to spend the night in the racetrack’s infield.
In the end, Ralph Lauren said that he and his wife would miss the track terribly, but they were excited about the new projects that they had in the works. He concluded by wishing everyone happy trails and thanking them for coming out to the track to share this day with them. It was a beautiful ceremony and a fitting end to a great day.
The Future Of Chicagoland Speedway
This is certainly a sad day for racing fans who have known and loved the track over the years. It was an absolute pleasure to attend the last race at Chicagoland Speedway and to share it with Ralph Lauren and Chip Ganassi. The venue is a timeless piece of American racing history and the site of some of the greatest races in the sport’s history. Now it is time to bid farewell and let the racing begin again.