The Lebanon Valley Speedway Dragway in Lemont, Pa., is one of the most historic motorsport venues in the country. For decades, the 1/2 mile dirt track has been a destination for auto racing enthusiasts from across the region. This year is the track’s 70th anniversary and organizers have put together an outstanding program of racing events to celebrate the accomplishment of being one of the first concrete drag strips in the world.
The Track And Its History
Lemont’s drag strip opened in June 1948 and was the brainchild of two residents from the nearby township of Lemont, George W. Painter and Louis A. Ricci. Their goal was to bring the excitement of auto racing to the residents of the area and to establish a tradition in sports entertainment that would endure for decades to come.
The track grew quickly in popularity and by the early 1960s had hosted a variety of racing events, including Late Model Championships, Midget Races and Big Band Nights, where famous musicians like Glenn Miller and the Drifters would perform. The track’s first helicopter landing was done in August 1960 by test pilot Johnny Campbell and the track’s first jet engine was started in May 1964 by future astronaut John Glenn. The track’s name was officially changed to the “International Road Race” in 1964 and was recognized as one of the first road courses in the world. In addition to serving as a venue for some of the most historic races in the country, the Lebanon Valley Speedway Dragway has also played host to major motor sports gatherings, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Grand National Roadster Show. The track has also been the site of many historic firsts, including the first live radio broadcast of a drag race, first electronic scoring system and first female winner. It was also one of the first tracks to embrace the idea of online ticketing and is now one of the only tracks in the country to do so.
The Anniversary Events
To mark the 70th anniversary of the track, the organizers have created an amazing schedule of events that will be held throughout the year, starting in April and continuing through to October. On April 17, the track will play host to the annual Rolling Thunder Revue, where the top drifters from across the country will converge on one of the most historic venues in the country for a chance to win big money.
Other exciting events include the Big Roadster Rally in June, the NHRA U.S. Nationals in July and the World Finals in October.
Whether you’re an auto racing aficionado or just a big fan of the sport, there will be plenty to do this year in Lemont to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the track.