Throughout my racing career there have been tracks that are my favorite ones to race. Tracks like Pipestone County Speedway in Pipestone, Minnesota, or Monett Speedway in Monett, Missouri. But one question arises whenever I start to reminisce: What are the best tracks in the country?
Let's look at a few of them. I've put together a list of 10 tracks that you must race on in your lifetime. A couple of notes first, though. Understand that I chose to leave out all but one current NASCAR Cup track. Because let's face it, any one of us, given the opportunity, would race at any Cup track on the schedule. So with all due respect, the choice to leave out tracks such as Daytona and Talladega was intentional. Rather, I wanted to focus on short tracks. I also decided to separate the dirt tracks from asphalt, so I chose five of each with the largest track being only a mile long. While the list is numbered, they are in no particular order of preference.
Winchester Speedway is an extremely fast half-mile oval that has over 30 degrees of bankin
Winchester Speedway, Winchester, Indiana Winchester Speedway is rich in tradition, with its first race stretching back to 1920. Winchester has now morphed into an extremely fast half-mile oval with 33-degree banking. If you speak to anyone who has ever raced there, they will tell you that Winchester is a track that demands your attention.
There is no easy way to explain how fast Winchester actually is, but I'll try: Last year at Bristol Motor Speedway, another half-mile speedway, Jeff Gordon qualified on the pole in his Cup car with a lap at 15.259 seconds. Last year at the Winchester 400, the premier event at Winchester, Ryan Lawler qualified his Super Late Model at 15.189. Now, I understand we are comparing apples to oranges, but that is still extremely fast for a half-mile oval.
Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, is my favorite track of the ones I have raced on to date. I
The adrenaline rush that Winchester provides for its racers has drawn the likes of Kyle Busch and David Stremme to compete in the Winchester 400. Last season at the King of Wings event, where winged Sprint Cars take the oval, 57-year-old Jeff Bloom set a track record of 13.615 seconds with an average speed of over 132 mph, which is insane! That's covering a quarter mile in less than 7 seconds, and then you have to turn left. Well done, Jeff!
Eldora Speedway, Rossburg, OhioNot a whole lot of explanation needed here, but I will go ahead and indulge myself on the off chance that there might actually be a race fan who has never heard of Eldora Speedway. Eldora, owned by Cup driver Tony Stewart, might be the premier dirt track in the country. The track provides some of the best dirt racing action to be found, no matter what type of cars are competing. It not only hosts six World of Outlaw Sprint Car races, but also one of the biggest Late Model races of the year-the Dream, which pays an impressive $100,000 to win.
The track is a half-mile clay oval with 24-degree corners and enough racing room to see four wide action. You might remember seeing it on Speed Channel where they re-broadcast the "Prelude to the Dream" from time to time, an event where Cup drivers and other racing stars race for charity.
Belleville High Banks is a 5/8-mile high-banked dirt oval that has one of the largest Midg
Lowa Speedway, Newton, IowaThis is my favorite track out of all the ones I have raced on to date. The only way to explain how great Iowa Speedway is, is to tell how much it spoils you rotten just by racing there. The track is a 7/8-mile asphalt oval that is over 60 feet wide. The turns are made up of compound banking where the bottom has 12 degrees of banking and the topside has 14 degrees. Rusty Wallace designed this track and he did so with the driver in mind.
The track is smooth as glass and I can tell you from experience, it's quite fast. In our Hooters Pro Cup car we were reaching speeds at the end of the frontstretch of 160 mph. One of the most impressive things about Iowa Speedway is the overall facilities. The covered garage area will hold 50 cars and the grandstands will hold 25,000 fans. This track is one of the premier tracks in the country.
Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, might just be the premier dirt track in the country. It
Belleville High Banks, Belleville, KansasLocated in northern Kansas, this track is simply awesome. The Belleville High Banks is a 5/8-mile high-banked dirt oval. The track does not hold a weekly show, but rather five or six big events each year. The biggest of these by far is the Belleville Midget Nationals. With past winners including Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Billy Boat, the track has seen its fair share of great talent.
The town of Belleville has only 2,500 residents. But during the Midget Nationals the town grows to over 20,000 people. Last season was the first year for the World of Outlaw Late Models to visit the track. It was a great event, with both drivers and fans being entertained. The Late Models will be back this year on July 20.
Concord Motorsport Park, Concord, North Carolina With all due respect to Bruton Smith's 1.5-mile track in Concord, the place you want to race at is Concord Motorsport Park. Concord is a half-mile tri-oval with three distinct corners, and is extremely fast. Late Models qualify in the 15-second bracket on a regular basis.
The track's unique design creates extremely competitive races and the layout allows for viewing the entire track in any seat. It also has seen the sport's greats come through its gates. There is also an adjacent quarter-mile oval built for entry level divisions.
New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, New YorkSome might argue that this track does not deserve to be on the list. But how can this one-mile dirt oval not make it? There is an old adage that says, "If you can win at Syracuse, you can win anywhere." It doesn't have much banking, but when the 900 horsepower Dirt Modifieds take to the track they can reach speeds upwards of 150 mph. There is no bigger race in New York than the Rite-Aid 200 held at the track. The Rite-Aid 200 is a Dirt Modified race sanctioned by the DirtCar Series. It is a week long event that occurs every October.
A year ago Rockingham wouldn't have even made the list, but thanks to Andy Hillenburg the
This track isn't for the faint of heart. The World of Outlaw Sprint Cars used to go to this track, but such extreme speeds, and even worse crashes, forced the series to other venues, and the track was dubbed "the only track to be outlawed by the Outlaws."
Rockingham Raceway Park, Rockingham, North CarolinaA year ago, this track wouldn't have even made this list. The track sat desolate for the past few years after the owner moved the Cup dates to a different location. But thanks to Andy Hillenburg's recent purchase of the track, it's back from the grave. I personally have tested at the track (before Andy's purchase) and let me tell you, there is no track that gives you more sense of speed than Rockingham. It is scary fast! It is just over a one-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking in turns one and two, and 25 degrees of banking in turns three and four.
The track is now active and will host an ARCA race on May 5, when 50 cars will start, and a Hooters Pro Cup race in November. The track is planning on future events that will open up more opportunities.
Knoxville Raceway, Knoxville, IowaKnoxville Raceway is the third largest outdoor stadium in Iowa. The facility is famous with race fans around the planet for being the "Sprint Car Capital of the World." The track has hosted races nearly every Saturday night from April through September since 1954 on what is the Marion County Fairgrounds.
The raceway is either a half-mile or 5/8-mile oval depending on where you're running. Yes, that's right, it is that wide! The turns are 70 feet wide and the frontstretch is an impressive 80 feet wide. The track holds 24,000 fans in the grandstands. And believe me, they pack it out for the Knoxville Nationals, one of the biggest Sprint Car events of the year.
Concord Motorsport Park is a triangle-shaped half-mile oval with high banking. The track i
The New York State Fairgrounds is an amazing one-mile dirt oval that has extreme speeds an
Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee I won't go into much explanation on why Bristol is on the list. It is simply King of the Short Tracks. The venue is just incredible. However, I chose to put it on the list not only because of how amazing and daunting the track can be, but because of the amount of races held there. Outside of the NASCAR series that run there, the track also hosts UARA, Hooters Pro Cup, Street Stock, and Pro Challenge Series races. In years past they have even put dirt down over the pavement and raced Sprint Cars and Dirt Late Models at the half-mile oval.
Devil's Bowl Speedway, Mesquite, Texas The Devil's Bowl Speedway opened in 1949 in Dallas at the back of Buckner Boulevard's Drive-In Theater. The Bowl was moved to its current location in Mesquite in 1968. The track is a half-mile banked oval and is known around Texas for producing some of the best dirt track racing in the state. Several professional Indy car and NASCAR drivers raced at the Devil's Bowl before they became pros. Some examples are Indy car drivers Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser Jr., Jim McCreath, and NASCAR's Kenny Schrader.
The track holds weekly races throughout the year. And track management holds special events to allow free admission for selected surrounding cities. All you have to do is show your driver's license and prove you currently live in that particular city.
ConclusionSo there you have it, the 10 tracks that you have to race at during your career. Or if you're a race enthusiast, you've got to watch a race at each one at some point during your life.
It's noteworthy that Iowa has two out of the 10. Now that I have singled out these 10 tracks, let the debating begin on the tracks you think should have made the list, and let me know-I'm always looking for great tracks.
Honorable MentionsSalem Speedway, Salem, IN
Knoxville Raceway, in Knoxville, Iowa, is home of the largest Sprint Car race of the year,
Chili Bowl, Tulsa, OK
Manzanita Speedway, Phoenix, AZ
West Virginia Motor Speedway, Mineral Wells, VA
Hickory Motor Speedway, Hickory, NC
USA International Speedway, Lakeland, FLOxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, ME.
Bristol Motor Speedway is going to make most any list of top tracks.Sam Sharpe