If you have a passion for motorsport then Kansas City is the place to be. Not only is the city rich in racing history, but it also has the 2018 NASCAR Rushing Heros Cup on home soil. The Kansas City area also plays host to the Monster Energy Brewery Incorporated’s Monster Jam World Finals every year. If you love cars and you love racing then this is the place to be.
But what if your interest in motorsport doesn’t stretch that far? Wherever you might be in the world an NASCAR race on TV is something to look forward to. That is because, even if you don’t get to see all the action due to time differences, the network will often show the closing laps of the race, which is followed by an extensive program of post-race interviews. Those interviewed might just be the names you recognize, as well as some you don’t know but will learn about after the race.
As with most US motorsports venues, the Kansas Speedway is located in a small town called Webb City, which is situated in the heart of Kansas. As with many venues, the layout of the track itself is largely based on the former layout of the original track before it was upgraded to its present standard. The first track was built in 1951 and was initially a half-mile clay oval. But those were tame days when compared to what we have today. The track now stretches to 2.459 miles and is an oval shape, which allows for greater passing opportunities. There are also street racing and drag racing events adjacent to the main track, which means there is always something active when the main event is on. It is, however, worth noting that the street courses aren’t completely accurate representations of a NASCAR race, as they don’t adhere to the corner working policy that is applied across the board for regular seasons.
The History Of The Speedway
The history of the Speedway goes back to the early 1950s, when local entrepreneur Dick Vetters constructed an airplane hangar behind his hardware store and used it to hold his first car race. This was, as you might imagine, a one-off event, but it caught on and was so well received that Vetters decided to make it an annual event. The first NASCAR race at the Vetters’ was held in 1955 and was won by Buddy Holly, who would go on to become a household name in the United States.)
Vetters began to rent out the speedway for other events, too, including concrete driver traffic kills and music fests. When the Music Festival of Kansas City was held at the track, it was renamed the Arrowhead Racing Plaza. Later still, the venue went through another phase of redevelopment when it was purchased by Herschel Arkitzmann, who had built an empire in the area based on the primal urge fuelling the multi-billion-dollar fortune of the Arkitzmann family. Arkitzmann renamed the venue the Arkitzmann Racing Plaza and changed it to a couple of mile longer oval shape. The new design allowed for 24-car main events, which became the norm at the track, and also increased the banking angle for the turns, which made it more exciting to drive there (provided you were a driver actually considered to be good at the game).
The renovations didn’t just change the layout of the track, either. They also brought with them a brand-new design for the grandstands, which are currently the home of the Webb City High School Track Team. The hockey rink was also converted into a soccer stadium and, for a time, the place was home to the Jackson State Hoosiers, a college soccer team. But it was another major renovation that brought with it a whole new environment for the race attendees. During a period of time spanning from 1988 to 1992, the stadiums were completely redone and given a brand-new look. The seating was removed and replaced with paddles on the bleachers, which were set up along the perimeter of the grandstands. This set up did not just give the viewers a different perspective of the racing experience, but it also allowed for the creation of a no-brakes-allowed drag racing strip, which is still in existence. (The name of this strip is the “Sprint Pad”, and it is located just off of the main track in the outer portion of the stadium grounds.)
The speedway remains the home of the Kansas City Kaufmans, despite the fact that it has been owned and operated by a different family group for the last 25 years. Still, the venue is known to be the mecca of Kansas sports enthusiasts and attendees and, for that reason, it is always one of the first stops for anyone interested in learning more about the state.
The Present Day Of The Speedway
The last few years have seen a gradual decline in the number of motorsport fans in the United States, which in turn has led to a decline in the number of major venues. The only race that took place last year was the season closer, as no stock car races were held in regular season due to a lack of interest. (The same went for the couple of local drag racing venues that used to pop up all over the place. They still exist, but they don’t hold races anymore. The reason is obvious: nobody cares about cars anymore and it’s not like you can take your mobile phone and watch racing online from the standpoint of a seat in front of a screen.)
All this has made the Kansas Speedway an eccentric venue. While the stock car races that used to take place there have become a part of the local culture and are still observed by fans and local media types, the place is now more famous for its Monster Jam than for its racing. (The Monster Jam is an entertainment spectacle that involves a variety of bikes, cars and musicians from the 80s coming together for one grand finale. It is one of the most popular events at the Speedway during the summer months and it even paved the way for the establishment of a biker culture in Kansas.)