HomeRace Tracks in the United States

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Race Tracks

Racing Venues in the United States

Table of Contents

Introduction

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People have been racing since the beginning of the automobile. In fact, even the first American car, the Duryea Motor Wagon, was raced.

The first time a car crossed the United States? Yup, it was a race. It didn't start that way, but that's how it ended. It was won by Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, Sewall K. Crocker, and Bud the Bulldog in a 1903 Winton Touring Car.

Automobile racing is permanently ingrained in the fabric of American history and society.

However, automobile racing wasn't invented in America. The first recognized automobile race was the Paris to Rouen in France circa 1894.

Shortly after that, the Chicago Times Herald Race was held in 1895, where the Duryea Motor Wagon took the proverbial checkered flag. In case you were wondering, Karl Benz, the German inventor of the automobile brought four cars and lost.

Racing, nor the automobile, started here, but as soon as America entered, it dominated.

Case in point, in 1896 the Duryea went to Europe shortly after the Chicago race and entered the very first London to Brighton Run (now the longest running motoring contest in the world — it's no longer a race but an exhibition) and beat the closest competitor by 75 minutes.

The oldest automobile race track was originally a horse racing track, Knoxville Raceway, and the first car race held there was in 1901. Yes, the first automobile race track in the world is in America — although originally a horse track; it continued with horse racing after the one race in 1901 and didn't convert to automobiles until 1914. You won't find it anywhere in the list below because it's a dirt track and this list is limited to paved tracks. The oldest track operated as an automobile race track also started with horse racing before converting to automobiles in 1903. That is the fabled Milwaukee Mile — also in America. It was paved in 1954 and you'll find it below under Wisconsin.

The first purpose-built, paved automobile race track, however, was Brooklands in Surrey, England — which was built in 1907 and permanently shut down after incuring significant damage during the Nazi bombing runs of WWII. As far as I can tell, the oldest paved race track in the U.S. is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was originally built in 1909 and covered in crushed rock, but soon after serious safety problems cropped up due to the track surface's durability, it was paved entirely with brick, which is how it got the nickname, "the Brickyard" — three original feet of which still remain at the start/finish line to this day.

The first asphalt-paved track, though, is Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut. It was built in 1940 — during WWII, prior to the U.S. involvement in 1941 — and is still in operation today. It features a combined 5/8-mile oval and 1.7-mile road course.

While much of today's popular racing coverage places the spotlight on the big professional contests put on by organizations like Indy Car, Formula 1, NASCAR, and the NHRA, racing's popularity came to the fore in the United States during the 1940's, '50s, and '60s through the enthusiasm and involvement of the average automotive enthusiast and is continued by their grassroots involvement in circle track racing, road racing, drag racing, and more.

Although racing hit the zenith of its popularity from the 40's through the '60s, with hundreds of paved circle, road, and drag race tracks still in operation across the country, today — not to mention numerous dirt tracks — automobile racing continues to remain an important part of American life over 100 years after it began.

In order to continue the success and popularity of my favorite activity — automobile racing — into and beyond the 21st century, I've spent some considerable time researching and maintaining this list of race tracks in the United States so visitors to Classics and Performance have a convenient way to find a track near them to go support through spectating and participating. After all, Classics and Performance is all about American Muscle Cars and Muscle Cars were built to run hard, not waste away in a rusted pile, sit idly in a garage, or putter around town like a commuter car.

When I originally compiled this list it was with the intent of finding all the paved road tracks and dragstrips throughout the United States for my own personal use because I'm only interested in racing street cars — not to be confused with street racing, keep your racing on the track — but I quickly discovered that those tracks are often part of larger complexes that include paved ovals, so this list includes every paved track I've found — some of the circle tracks even allow street cars if that interests you.

You'll find the list below, under the section "Race Tracks by State," which breaks the tracks down by state and type.

Tips

Racing is a ton of fun, but it's also serious and poses very real dangers. If you've never been to a track as either a spectator or a participant, it can be a little daunting, so I've put together a short list to make it more accessible. This list is by no means complete, nor will following anything here guarantee your safety — you attend and participate solely at your own risk and there is risk at a race track. These tips are not meant to replace the instructions, rules, and disclaimers set by each individual track — so be sure to check with the track you intend to visit and follow their instructions with care.

  • Many tracks are family-owned affairs with low profit margins that barely keep the doors open. They use many avenues to bring in revenue such as tickets, racer fees, concessions, and advertising. If you love racing and want to get to continue to watch and participate, they depend on fans, racers, and advertisers to support them.
  • Some tracks may not accept credit/debit cards. So check with the track you're attending or your outing may be over before it begins.
  • Many tracks don't allow any outside food and those that do generally put restrictions on what is and isn't acceptable to bring in. As I mentioned earlier, tracks use concession sales to help keep the doors open, so keep that in mind when attending.
  • Check with your local track to see what you can and can't bring with you into the venue.
  • Racing is a fair-weather activity, so rain, hail, wind, ice/snow, sun, and even hot weather can delay or cancel an event. Especially in drag racing.
  • Some tracks offer rainchecks for cancelled events, some offer refunds, others don't, so check with the track your attending for their rules.
  • Stay alert. Just like in baseball where a ball can be hit into the stands and cause serious injury, debris — and in rare instances cars — can fly off the track. There should be safety barriers and other precautions in place, but that doesn't guarantee anything. So, I'll say it again: Stay alert and be safe.
  • Follow directions and stay out of restricted areas. The pits, staging areas, return lanes, the track surface itself, and any number of other areas are dangerous. You or someone you love could be run over by a car or hit by a flying object if you find yourself in the wrong place. There's a lot going on for drivers at a race track — even when not actively racing such as passing through the staging areas, coming back on return lanes, and returning to pit spaces — and all it takes is a moment of distraction or for their attention to be called to some other high priority event/threat for them to miss you.
  • This is an outdoor activity, so bring appropriate clothing to keep yourself warm or cool depending on the weather. I've been out for both fall and winter races and it can get pretty darned cold. I've also been on the track in blazing sun at the height of summer and it can get dangerously hot — the track surface can become scorching in the summer heat with all the hot cars — so make sure you're aware of it and take the necessary steps to keep yourself safe.
  • Some tracks sell alcohol, others don't. I don't know of any that allow outside alcohol — and probably no smoking and certainly no drugs. FYI, gasoline is flammable and it's everywhere because these events are about race cars — so think before you decide to light up a cigarette, cigar, lighter, or match, even if they are allowed.
  • Many tracks have rules of conduct, which often include no unruly behavior, no fighting, and no use of profanity. Be aware of all of the track's rules and follow them or your event can end early for you and you may be banned permanently. It happens. Don't be that person.
  • Most, if not all, tracks have a governing sanctioning body that has a list of rules to follow when racing. Be certain to familiarize yourself with them. They are there to help keep you and the other participants safe. They also govern what is and isn't allowed and even provide precise specifications in some instances and you'll need to meet the requirements of all those rules or you won't be allowed to participate.
  • Although tracks follow the guidelines set forth by governing bodies, they often have their own rules as well, and you'll need to know and follow them or you won't be allowed to race.
  • Many classes require special safety gear such as helmets and fire suits. I don't know of any rules that allow shorts and flip-flops, so follow the rules and dress appropriately.
  • You and your car will have to pass a technical inspection. If either you or your car don't, you don't get to race.
  • Loose stuff isn't allowed in a race car, so don't pull up in your ride with tools, parts, garbage, or even a jacket in your backseat, and expect to be allowed to race.
  • Windows are either required or not allowed depending on the rules. If allowed, convertibles and roadsters often have special rules and require special safety equipment.
  • Don't drink or get high and race. Don't race if otherwise impaired. That's probably a part of every track and sanctioning body's rules, but I've seen it happen. Don't be that person. Just don't. Not only do you endanger yourself and your car, you threaten every person's safety at the track — fans included — as well as the other cars.
  • When you go, make sure you stay alert. Know all the rules before you go. Improve and keep your driving skills sharp. Be certain all your gear is in proper condition. Always keep your car in tip-top race-ready shape. Most of all, stay safe.
  • I've said it above and I'll say it again, check with the track for tips, rules, and disclaimers. They're for your safety — and everyone else's.

That's all I've got. I certainly haven't come close to everything you need to know or be aware of, but that should get you started. It's a whole lot of fun and excitement, but there are dangers involved. Again, for good measure, whether you are a fan or a racer, stay alert, follow the rules, and be safe.

State List

Race Tracks by State

  • American Samoa Race Tracks

    • Circle Track Racing
        • N/A
    • Drag Racing
        • N/A
    • Road Racing
        • N/A
  • Return to State List
  • Massachusetts Race Tracks

    • Circle Track Racing
      • Superspeedway (Over 1 Mile)
        • N/A
      • Speedway (Over .5 Mile to 1 Mile)
        • N/A
      • Short Track (.25 Mile to .5 Mile)
    • Drag Racing
        • N/A
    • Road Racing
        • N/A
  • Return to State List
  • Rhode Island Race Tracks

    • Circle Track Racing
        • N/A
    • Drag Racing
        • N/A
    • Road Racing
        • N/A
  • Return to State List
  • Utah Race Tracks

    • Circle Track Racing
      • Superspeedway (Over 1 Mile)
        • N/A
      • Speedway (Over .5 Mile to 1 Mile)
        • N/A
      • Short Track (.25 Mile to .5 Mile)
        • N/A
    • Drag Racing
      • 1/4-Mile
        • N/A
      • 1/8-Mile
        • N/A
  • Return to State List
  • Wyoming Race Tracks

    • Circle Track Racing
      • Superspeedway (Over 1 Mile)
        • N/A
      • Speedway (Over .5 Mile to 1 Mile)
        • N/A
      • Short Track (.25 Mile to .5 Mile)
    • Drag Racing
        • N/A
    • Road Racing
        • N/A
  • Return to State List
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