The Ghosts Of Our Race Tracks

The Ghosts Of Our Race Tracks

This past week Illiana Speedway in Schererville Indiana was sold to the city of Schererville and over the weekend there was an auction for the rest of the equipment from the speedway.

It’s just the latest in local speedways that have closed due to dwindling competitors, fans and the expense of racing.

I grew up at the old Raceway Park in Calumet Park, IL (pictured), my childhood home in West Pullman on 123rd Street which was close enough to hear the racing at the park in the summer.

Back in the 1980’s all of the local auto shops ran cars (especially in the destruction derby), and back then at the Calumet Park Fourth of July parade, some of the race cars and drivers would be in the parade and handing out pictures.

I had a picture on my wall for years of a local “late model” stock car and local driver.

NASCAR has recently started a campaign for people to visit their “home tracks” but to us from West Pullman, Calumet Park, Blue Island & Posen, this was our NASCAR.

We sat out there in that mosquito ravaged bleachers and cheered those cars on as much or even more than Richard Petty & Cale Yarborough.

We’d drive by on race night down Ashland or on I-57 and see the lights and hear the roar and wonder who was running that night.

Or even be at home and hear the cars running and it didn’t even bother you, this was our track.

Well our track closed 16 years ago and its now a strip mall. The neighborhood changed, people moved out (including me), it wasn’t the same anymore.

I hear it was the same with Illiana, people stopped coming, the facilities weren’t kept up, it’s happening a lot at small tracks all over.

I sometimes go to the Grundy County Speedway in Morris at the County fairgrounds, the price has gone up and with a young family it’s not the affordable night out it used to be.

But I’m a car guy and my brother manages an auto parts store, I know how expensive cars, parts and racing can be.

My late dad used to drag race at the long gone US 30 drag strip in Hobart, Indiana (though there is talk of getting it running again), back in the 1960’s & 70’s. He had fond memories (and a few trophies), from his time there.
My father at one point, ordered a new Ford Falcon drag car (from the old Ford dealer in Roseland), and race it for a few years.

I just looked up what a base new Chevrolet Camaro costs and its $ 30,000, that’s cost prohibitive for a lot of people for a daily driver much less to race.

People still drag race though, there is “test & tune” night at Route 66 Drag Strip in Joliet on Fridays and I’ve made a run there in a ride along car via Doug Foley Drag Racing School. It’s a thrill like no other but again it’s not cheap.

And even when I attend NASCAR events at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, the crowds are not a big as they were a few years ago but the prices there are just insane.

I don’t think it’s all about Millennials not into cars, I see plenty of young people at the local car shows, I think this is more about finances.

But it’s sad that we are losing our local tracks, that where you learn the sport, hone your craft and build memories.

Racing is still a great sport and I hope Grundy & Kankakee County still have speedways when my son is older, because there is nothing like Friday night dirt track racing.
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Filed under: Nascar, Sports

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