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10 Abandoned Racetracks

Even More Abandoned Racetracks

The grandstands and racetrack at North Wilkesboro Speedway have sat abandoned since the venue closed in 1996.
The grandstands and racetrack at North Wilkesboro Speedway have sat abandoned since the venue closed in 1996.
© 2013 Ken Fager/“North Wilkesboro Speedway”/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

3: The I-70 Speedway

Most of us will admit to exceeding the speed limit on the interstate, especially on an interstate as flat and straight as I-70. Still, the I-70 Speedway didn't refer to the interstate but a racetrack that was alongside it.

The remains of the I-70 Speedway lie outside of Odessa, Missouri. The I-70 Speedway was a short track, and when it was built in 1969, it was a posh place to go see a race. Instead of benches, the stands had individual seats. There were VIP suites, plenty of concession stands and modern (for 1969) bathrooms.

The track itself was a paved oval that banked at 28 degrees in the turns and ran for five-eighths of a mile (1,006 meters). In the 1980s, the track was covered in dirt and used for Sprint cars and modified race cars, until the track went back to asphalt in 1988 [source: Hover]. The track was a regular stop on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and hosted many American Speed Association races. After getting a new owner, the I-70 Speedway closed in 2008.

2: Vineland Speedway

There's a pretty strong stereotype that car racing is a Southern sport. Blame the "Dukes of Hazzard" and the sport's roots in moonshine running for that. Like most stereotypes, however, this one is wrong. The Vineland Speedway in Cumberland County, New Jersey, is proof that car racing thrived in the northern part of the U.S. as well. With weekend events that included stock car racing, drag racing, sports car racing and motorcycle racing, the Vineland Speedway had something for every race fan.

The Vineland Speedway opened in 1955 and was paved in 1958. In addition to an oval, Vineland also had a paved road course for sports cars. Despite being such a well-rounded racing venue, money was the downfall of Vineland Speedway. The track owner had to lease the land the track was on from several different landowners. That got expensive quickly. In 1965, part of the land the track was on was sold to make way for a community college, and the Vineland Speedway closed [source: Fuhrmann].

1: North Wilkesboro Speedway

North Wilkesboro Speedway is perhaps the best-known abandoned racetrack in the United States. The racetrack is in North Carolina, a state with a rich NASCAR history and legions of car racing fans. Until its closure in 1996, North Wilkesboro Speedway spent nearly 50 years as a stop on NASCAR's Winston Cup series [source: Green]. In fact, the track actually predates the founding of NASCAR by almost a year, and NASCAR's first champion, Robert "Red" Byron, was named there.

So if North Wilkesboro Speedway is such a storied track in the heart of racing country, why did it close? The same age that gave North Wilkesboro its amazing history also spelled its downfall. As old as it was, North Wilkesboro Speedway lacked many of the amenities that racing teams and fans demanded. The track had uneven banking and was short, making races more challenging. North Wilkesboro Speedway closed in 1996 and has been abandoned ever since.

Photos of the abandoned speedway by photographer Seph Lawless went viral in early 2015, bringing attention to the plight of North Wilkesboro and other abandoned racetracks around the country. The pictures also touched a nerve with racing fans who remembered the glory days at North Wilkesboro Speedway.