It’s an exciting time in New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s (NHMS) history. Since opening its gates in August of 2018, the track has welcomed close to 100 million fans (according to the track) and has attracted the attention of big-name drivers and teams. But who owns the iconic track? And how did they become so wealthy? Here’s a quick history lesson you might not know.
The Early Years
In the early 1900s, wealthy New Yorkers built grand country estates in the White Mountains, featuring large swimming pools, tennis courts, and plenty of land for their beloved horses. Equestrian sports were all the rage, and thousands of people came from all over the world to partake in the sport. Thanks to a series of natural disasters that befell the area in the late 1910s and early 1920s, all of those estates were reduced to ashes.
In an effort to save what they could from the tragedies, the land’s owners created a race track. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) purchased the former estates for a sum of $25,000 in 1923 and spent another $35,000 on track improvements. The first official car race took place on October 12, 1924, with Eddie Rickenbacker winning the first-ever World Series of motorsport. The following year, the track was renamed after him: Eddie Rickenbacker International Speedway.
The Great Depression
Despite the fact that the United States as a whole was in a pretty good place during the Great Depression, the economy of New Hampshire was devastated. The federal government, worried about the impact that motor racing was having on the country, limited car registrations and started charging higher vehicle taxes. As a result, attendance dropped by nearly 90% in the early 1930s. The track was closed on May 31, 1933, and remained closed for five years.
It wasn’t until the end of World War II that NHMS reopened. Due to the large number of GIs stationed in the area after the war, it became popular for soldiers to come back and visit the area. When they did, they usually brought their families with them, which helped drive tourism. During this time, NHMS was often referred to as the most dangerous track in America because of the high number of visitors, which made for some exciting races.
Pocono And Beyond
After World War II, things started to pick up for the track. Attendance increased by more than 50% in the first year following the war, and it continued to climb. By 1957, it was drawing over 200,000 fans per year. The year before it opened its renovated gates, it hosted the Eastern Championship, which was won by Al Unser, Sr. It has also hosted the Food City 500, the Southern 500, and the Snowfall Enfield Talladega 300, which is one of the biggest events on the calendar.
In 1975, the track underwent another renovation, adding more seats, modernizing the restrooms, and upgrading the food and beverage (F&B) facilities. That same year, it also added another wing, which housed the NHMS Museum. Since then, it has continued to add features, including a roof deck, more bathrooms, a patio, and a children’s activity center.
This Year At NHMS
If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you may have heard that NHMS is in the midst of a renovation. The track closed its gates in August of 2018 for several months, so construction workers could tear down most of the grandstands and replace them with brand-new facilities. The work is scheduled for completion by the end of February 2019.
The new speedway will have a capacity of about 125,000 and feature a full array of luxury boxes and corporate seating, along with a flat-screen TV screens and high-definition sound systems. It will also have a museum store and eateries, as well as an area for fans to gather before and after the races. And let’s not forget about the massive video board, which will be the largest of its kind in the world.
So, who owns NHMS?
As mentioned earlier, the track was built in the early 1920s as a gift to the New York racing community. The last publicly known owner of the track was John Ganzer, who purchased it in 1968. The following year, the track was leased to NASCAR founder Bill France, Jr. for a dollar a year – and his descendants still own it today.
This year is a big one for NHMS, as it celebrates its 90th anniversary. The track has attracted some pretty famous drivers and teams over the years, including many international figures. It’s even hosted a President’s Re-election Campaign! A lot has changed since 1924, but one thing remains the same: passion for automobiles and all things motor-related.