As the world knows, this year is the 100th anniversary of Texas Motor Speedway, and the date is June 9th. The speedway has been owned by the same family for over 80 years – the Graham family. The question is, who exactly is the ultimate owner of the iconic Texas location? Let’s take a quick look at the history of TMS.
While we don’t have exact figures, it’s known that 160,000 people visited the speedway in its early years. That figure includes about 45,000 who attended the inaugural race in January 1919 and over 110,000 who came to watch the prestigious World War I (WWI) war heroes race on June 21st, 1919.
This was the result of a partnership between New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the National Football League. The owners of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants (the two teams that would become the NFL’s greatest rivals), decided to host the first World Series of Sports (WSS) at the Speedway. More than 250,000 people attended the first WSS in either city, and it was an instant hit. After the first WSS, the National Football League (NFL) decided to hold more events at the speedway, including the annual NFL Championship Games.
The Great Depression
During the great depression, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the few professional sports teams to still be able to draw large crowds. As a result, many fans were forced to find other ways to spend their leisure time, such as going to the movies or to the ballpark. This is probably why attendance at the speedway dropped by about 15% in the 1930s.
After WWII ended, the National Football League grew rapidly, and so did its popularity. This is mainly because NFL players were among the first to return from the war, and they wanted to prove to the world that they were still the best. The speedway saw a significant boost in attendances in the post-WWII era. In fact, the average attendance rose from 23,600 in the 1940s to 42,900 in the 1950s and 52,400 in the 1960s.
It’s also worth noting that in those early years, races were only about a half-hour long. This meant that a fan could easily attend multiple races during the day. Today, however, races are around 90 minutes, so it’s not easy for fans to attend multiple events.
Incorporation Into NASCAR
The history of NASCAR is intertwined with that of the speedway. After competing in his first two sports car races at TMS in the 1950s, NASCAR officials decided that the track was ideal for stock car racing. So in 1959, they commissioned a plan to make the speedway a part of the NASCAR circuit. That idea was initially met with some resistance from the track’s initial owners, but the National Football League was eventually won over.
In order to meet NASCAR standards, the track had to be resurfaced and a few new features had to be added. The frontstretch was extended about a half-mile, and the height of the grandstands was increased from six to eight feet. These measures, coupled with new landscaping and lighting, gave the track a totally new look. In 1970, stock car racing returned to the track after an 11-year absence, and it instantly drew huge crowds. The reason: the combination of the fresh paint job and the extended frontstretch caused by increased safety measures made the track look like a brand-new vehicle. Today, just like in its early years, the speedway still hosts races that are very well attended and that draw from around the world, proving that even after 100 years, this North Dallas location still has the ability to draw a large and diverse audience.
Some people might question why the history of Texas Motor Speedway is so significant. After all, the year is 2019, and the last century has gone by without significant events there. The answer is in the details. First, the original plans to make the track a part of the NFL were not approved, resulting in the formation of the short-lived United Soccer League. As a result, the NFL was not able to claim the track as one of its own, and it eventually lost ownership of the entire Dallas Green area, including Texas Motor Speedway.
In addition, the great depression was one of the worst eras in American history. During that time, many people either lost their jobs or had them significantly reduced. It was an incredibly challenging and trying time for everyone, and it probably helped that sports were one of the few areas of entertainment that people could look forward to. It was also during the great depression that the Dallas Cowboys were born. As a result, the team became known as the “greatest franchise in the history of sports” and it continues to this day to draw large and loyal followings. The year 2019 marks the centennial of the Cowboys, and it is widely anticipated that they will play host to many events and activities to celebrate that milestone.
The Past, Present, And Future
It’s important to look at the past, present, and future of any historic property to get a good sense of where it’s going. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the past, present, and future of Texas Motor Speedway.
It’s been 100 years since the first race was held at the speedway, and the track continues to amaze and impress spectators and fans with its impressive architectural design and large, vibrant crowd. While the track itself hasn’t changed much, it is always in the process of changing and evolving to fit modern times. In the coming years, the track will continue to add features and modernize its operations as technology advances.
Having been through a couple of major renovations already in the last century, the speedway is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and to the power of sports to bring people together. The track still operates as it was originally intended, with people regularly traveling from near and far to attend a classic race weekend. In addition, the combination of music, beer, and sports cars is still as unique and intoxicating as ever.
While the past and present of Texas Motor Speedway is something to marvel at, it’s the future of the track that truly excites. Over the last several years, the owners have laid the groundwork for significant expansion. About a decade ago, they began the process of replacing the interior of the grandstands with plush, comfortable seating and concession areas. As a result, today’s races are something to behold. The future of the speedway looks exciting, as new additions and improvements continue to be made. In addition to expanding the seating area, the owners have plans to renovate the entire track itself. In 2021, the track will be repainted, the infield and turnpikes will be re-surfaced, and new lighting will be installed. These renovations will make the track look as good as new and will have much to offer even the most avid fan.
As exciting as the future of Texas Motor Speedway looks, it’s important to remember its legacy. On one hand, the track is still owned by the same family that originally bought it for a dollar and built it into the sports and entertainment mecca that it is today. On the other hand, it was one of the first sports facilities to integrate and be a part of NASCAR, drawing huge crowds and helping establish that sport in North America. While the year is almost over, it’s important to look back and be proud of what the speedway has achieved during its first century.