Walt Disney World Speedway

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Walt Disney World Speedway
The Mickyard
Wdwspeedway.jpg
Location Floridian Way
Walt Disney World Resort
Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.
Time zone GMT-5
Capacity 51,000 - temporary bleachers (1996)
43,000 - temporary bleachers (1999)
30,000 - temporary bleachers (2000)
Owner The Walt Disney Company
Operator IMS Events, Inc. (former)
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (current)
Broke ground June 6, 1995
Opened November 28, 1995
Construction cost $6 million
Architect Kevin Forbes
Major events

Indy Racing League
Indy 200 (1996-2000)

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Chevy Trucks Challenge (1997-1998)
Tri-oval
Surface Asphalt
Length 1.6 km (1 mi)
Turns 3
Banking Turn 1: 10 degrees
Turn 2: 8.5 degrees
Turn 3: 7 degrees
Lap record 0:19.847 (Buddy Lazier, Hemelgarn Racing, 1996, IRL IndyCar Series)
Map of Walt Disney World Speedway

Walt Disney World Speedway is a racing facility located on the grounds of the Walt Disney World resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, Florida.

It was built in 1995 by IMS Events, Inc., a subsidiary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, and was designed primarily as a venue for the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World, an Indy Racing League event.

Currently, the circuit's primary use is as a venue for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, and the Indy Racing Experience, programs that allows fans to drive or ride in real race cars. It no longer hosts any professional competition.

AutoWeek magazine and the Orlando Sentinel dubbed the track "The Mickyard" (a portmanteau of the Disney icon Mickey Mouse and Indianapolis Motor Speedway's nickname, the "Brickyard").

History[edit]

The track is a three-turn tri-oval, designed by Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief engineer Kevin Forbes and the location was chosen in September 1994 by Greg Ruse of Buena Vista Construction. The track is situated on a triangular plot of land adjacent to the Magic Kingdom's parking lot near Disney's Polynesian Resort. Plans for the track were first announced on January 23, 1995. The track was designed to fit within the boundaries of the existing infrastructure, requiring minimal rerouting of existing roads.

On June 27, 1995, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George took part in a groundbreaking ceremony. She presented the track with one of the original paving bricks from the famous "Brickyard." In a rather compact schedule, the one-mile (1.6 km) track was completed with ten miles (16 km) of safety restraint cabling, 2 acres (8,100 m2) of fencing, 1,800 yards (1,600 m) of concrete for outside walls, 2,300 feet (700 m) of concrete for pit walls and 5,200 tons of asphalt for the track surface. Despite 1995 having the wettest June–July in Orlando on record (75 inches of rain), including Hurricane Erin, the construction was completed on-time, with final paving completed October 18, 1995.

The track was dedicated on November 28, 1995. Indy Racing League drivers Arie Luyendyk, Eddie Cheever, Eliseo Salazar, Lyn St. James and Davey Hamilton drove a five-car "Flying V" formation amongst fireworks. Initial testing at the facility for the Indy Racing League took place November 27-December 9, 1995.

The track officially opened in January 1996 as the first-ever event of the Indy Racing League, the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World. The date for the 1996 Indy 200 had been announced during a press conference on April 13, 1995. The date was chosen as a Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl. In 1999 only, the race was held on a Sunday, during the bye week between the AFC/NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl. It was effectively, the first major auto race of the year in the United States. In 1997-1998, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series held races at the track the weekend before the IRL event. Support races for the two events included Formula Ford 2000 and USAC Silver Crown.

Design[edit]

Walt Disney World Speedway was constructed on a very limited budget. By design, permanent features of the facility were built at a minimum. The track plans called for only the track surface, retaining wall, and catch fence to be constructed. The remainder of the facility, such as seating areas, restrooms, and race support areas, would be built on a temporary, as-needed basis. This strategy had never been used on an oval race track, but had been widely successful for years in temporary street circuits (such as Long Beach). No permanent garages were built on the premises, however, this was not entirely unusual. Race teams would simply work out of their transporters, a practice used frequently at street circuits and other tracks without garages.

The initial savings in construction costs was significant. Temporary bleachers and restrooms would be erected each year beginning in November, in preparations for the January races. The lack of permanent grandstands also allowed track officials to adjust the configuration and capacity of seating annually, reflecting ticket demand. This practice, however, would prove to be inconvenient, and increasingly expensive in the long run, since the grandstand area encompassed portion of the Magic Kingdom parking lot. That area would be unusable for nearly three months, including during the busy Christmas and New Year's holiday season at the theme park.

Three linked ponds in the track’s infield are formed in the shape of Mickey Mouse. The pond, dubbed "Lake Mickey", was built a year after the track opened due to drainage concerns.

Parking problems[edit]

Initially, the track location, adjacent to the Magic Kingdom parking lot, was seen to be convenient. However, after a couple of years, traffic control was overwhelming. Since the race spectators would be arriving at the same time and place as regular theme park visitors, overflow parking was required. In 1996–1997, Disney officials reacted by parking all race spectators in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, and sending all visitors to the Magic Kingdom to the Epcot parking lot. Race spectators would walk to the nearby Speedway, while all guests to the Magic Kingdom were required to take the Disney Monorail or a Disney bus from Epcot, a trip of several minutes. Several complaints surfaced. In 1997, the IRL race was shortened by a sudden rainstorm, and fans scurried to their cars. The resulting rush created a severe gridlock of World Drive and surrounding roads which lasted several hours.

Starting in 1998, spectators to the race events were diverted to park at Epcot, and were taken by shuttle bus to the Speedway. Visitors to the Magic Kingdom were directed to park as usual, in the Magic Kingdom parking lot. While this eased many guest complaints, it also was now inconvenient for race patrons, and resulted in a significant cost increase for operations. The Disney Transport infrastructure did not own enough buses to smoothly run the operation, and outside bus companies had to be hired to run the shuttle service. In addition, it necessitated race spectators to arrive earlier to account for the additional transportation time.

End of professional racing[edit]

In its first few years of operation, the track was used frequently as a year-round test facility, due to the warm winter weather in Orlando. However, the track suffered three major accidents. During a week of preseason testing, on January 11, 1997, IRL driver Eliseo Salazar crashed in turn one. He suffered a fracture of his lower back, and missed two races.[1] Two weeks later, on January 23, 1997, IRL driver Davy Jones broke his neck after a practice crash in turn three.[2] On January 6, 2000, IRL driver Sam Schmidt was paralyzed after a crash in preseason testing. The track was built before the SAFER barrier was introduced, which many feel may have lessened the injuries in all three cases.

After the 2000 IRL season, series officials and Walt Disney World were not able to come to an agreement for a race date for 2001. IRL officials were unsatisfied with the January date, as it was seen to be too early for most teams to be prepared for the season. There was typically a six week gap until the second race of the season. Disney officials also were concerned with the impending conflict with Super Bowl XXXV, to be held in Tampa presumably the same weekend. Initial talks planned to move the race date to Labor Day weekend, and ultimately to a new facility to be built near U.S. 192. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series had already declined to renew their contract with the Speedway for similar reasons after 1998. The talks quietly ceased between the IRL and Disney, and the race was not scheduled for 2001. It was ultimately removed from the IRL schedule permanently.

Richard Petty Driving Experience / Indy Racing Experience / Exotic Driving Experience[edit]

During the off-season in 1997, the track began hosting the Richard Petty Driving Experience, a stock car-based racing organization that allows the general public to drive real NASCAR machines, or ride along with a professional driver. That now serves as the track's primary function, year-round. It is the only track used by the RPDE that, weather permitting, operates roughly 365 days a year. To assist in the increased ingress and egress, a one-lane automobile tunnel was built for the 1997 season. In the summer of 1999, a new visitor's center and gift shop was built to permanently house operations for RPDE. A new modest garage facility was built for them also. The operation had previously worked out of trailers and tents, without significant utilities.

On November 13, 2008, it was announced that track would be shared with the Indy Racing Experience, a similar program to RPDE. The IndyCar two-seater machine would be used for fan ride-alongs, and Indy cars would also be available to be driven by fans. After appearing at various tracks on a largely irregular schedule, the Indy Racing Experience will make the track its permanent year-round home.

On January 16, 2012, a new driving experience started business at Walt Disney World Speedway geared towards high end "supercars" called the Exotic Driving Experience. Modifications were made to the speedway's infield to create an "Exotics Course" which is a one-mile layout that runs clockwise and combines part of the oval with a street-style course.

Other uses[edit]

Track records[edit]

Indy Racing League[edit]

Type Distance Date Driver Time Average Speed
(mph)
Qualifying 1 lap (1.0 miles) January 25, 1996 Buddy Lazier 19.847 seconds 181.388
Race 200 miles (320 km) January 27, 1996 Buzz Calkins 1:33:30.748 128.748
  • Unofficial all-time track record: Buddy Lazier, 19.450 seconds; 185.089 mph (January 13, 1996)[3]

Past race results[edit]

Indy Racing League[edit]

The Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Indy 200 was the first event held at the track. The 1996 running marked the first race conducted by the IRL, and the original intent for the facility.

Season Date Race Name Driver Team Chassis Engine Race Distance Race Time Average Speed
(mph)
Laps Miles (km)
1996 January 27 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World by Aurora Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports Reynard Ford 200 200 (321.868) 1:33:31 128.325
1997 January 25 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World by Aurora Eddie Cheever, Jr. Team Cheever G-Force Aurora 149* 149 (239.792)
1998 January 24 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World by Aurora Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Aurora 200 200 (321.868) 2:06:07 95.127
1999 January 24* TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 Eddie Cheever, Jr. Team Cheever Dallara Aurora 200 200 (321.868) 1:41:15 118.538
2000 January 29 Delphi Indy 200 Robbie Buhl Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara Aurora 200 200 (321.868) 1:57:19 102.292
  • 1997: Race shortened due to rain.
  • 1999: Race scheduled for and held on a Sunday.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series[edit]

The Chevy Trucks Challenge was a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event held at the track from 1997-1998. It served as the season opening event of both years. The race was discontinued after 1998 due to the wide gap (10 weeks) it created until the second event of the season.

Year Date Driver Teams Manufacturer Race Distance Race Time Average Speed
(mph)
Laps Miles (km)
1997 January 19 Joe Ruttman Roush Racing Ford 200 200 (321.868) 2:16:08 88.159
1998 January 18 Ron Hornaday, Jr. Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolet 204* 204 (328.306) 2:10:10 94.033

USAC Formula Ford 2000[edit]

The Formula Ford Walt Disney World Challenge was a 50-lap, 50-mile (80 km) race for the USAC Formula Ford 2000 series. It was held as a support race to the Indy Racing League event for the first three years of operation.

USAC Silver Crown Series[edit]

The Silver Bullet 50 was a 50-lap, 50-mile (80 km) race for the USAC Silver Crown Series. During its first running, it was held in support to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. For 1999-2000, it was held as a support race to the Indy Racing League event.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.motorsport.com/news/article.asp?ID=7412&FS=IRL
  2. ^ http://www.motorsport.com/news/article.asp?ID=7487&FS=IRL
  3. ^ LAZIER CRACKS UNOFFICIAL DISNEY WORLD MARK AGAIN

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 28°23′48.02″N 81°34′39.61″W / 28.3966722°N 81.5776694°W / 28.3966722; -81.5776694