What Happened To Freeport Speedway? [Fact Checked!]

On May 23rd, 2017, the lights went out on what was possibly the most influential race track of all time. The New York Times described the decline of Freeport Speedway as, “the great American racing tradition dies.” The paper was referring to the closing of the Long Island track after 74 years, and the fact that it was the last hurrah for a generation of racers. It was a sad day for motor sport, but it was also a significant moment. Freeport was immortalized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the host of the World’s Fastest Boat Race. The event was discontinued after the 2015 edition. The closure also signaled the end of an era; the heyday of the American backyard mechanic who could become an instant race team. Gone were the days of assembling a Grand Prix or Le Mans-style team in your garage. Now, you could simply buy what you need in a box. It was more convenient and, in some ways, more affordable to buy a team rather than to build one from scratch.

A Brief History Of Freeport

The history of Freeport begins in the post-World War II years, when people in the area started taking an interest in racing. The New York Times described it as, “an interest that took root, blossomed and bore fruit.” The area was once home to the likes of Grand Prix driver Jim Rathmann, who tested cars there as well as legendary owner and driver Fredric Palmer. In 1973, Rathmann established Freeport as one of the premier racing venues on the East Coast, winning 10 times at the 1.25-mile oval. At the height of his career, Rathmann won 16 out of 22 races that he entered. The following year, he established the World Land Speed Record at Bonneville, Utah. Today, Freeport is best known for its spectacular nightlife, drawing people from far away places like London and Monaco. It’s also a popular place for celebrities and royalty to be caught on camera, either driving or hanging out at the track. In 2017, the iconic speedway was purchased by New York State for $7.85 million.

The Biggest Changes Since The Last Race There

Since the last race there, the biggest change at Freeport is the increase in minimum wage. Back when the track first opened in 1947, the minimum wage was $1 an hour. In 2017, it’s $15 an hour. According to the New York State Department of Labor, employees at all levels of the track now make over $20,000 a year – more than enough to afford a home in the area. Another significant change is the transition to all-electric vehicles. While GMC trucks have been powering the track’s famed turns for nearly six decades, drivers are now racing cars that are either all-electric or hybrid. The last few years have also seen a decrease in the number of midget car races at the track, as they’ve become less relevant in a world where engines are smaller and lighter. In 2017, the last of the midget car races was held there, signaling the end of an era. There’s also been an increase in safety measures at the track, with more emphasis on the safety of the drivers instead of the fans. Finally, the grandstands are now equipped with the most modern technology, making the experience that much more exciting for the fans.

Thoughts And Highlights

The future of Freeport Speedway is uncertain. The track is up for sale, and the New York State Department of Labor has stated that they intend to “keep the [racing] tradition alive as much as we can.” At the same time, the department is exploring other options, such as exploring the possibility of holding races in other parts of New York. The short answer is that it all depends on whether or not the new owners intend to continue hosting races at the 1.25-mile oval. If they do, then the legacy of Freeport will live on for years to come. If they decide to end the racing tradition, then it’s goodbye to one of the greatest American racing venues of all time.

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