Nazareth Speedway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Nazareth Speedway
Nazareth Speedway in 2004
Location Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton County, near Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Time zone GMT-5
Owner International Speedway Corporation
Opened 1910
Closed 2004
Former names Nazareth National Speedway (1910-1984)
Pennsylvania International Raceway (1987-1993)
Nazareth Speedway (1993 - 2004 upon close)
Major events Firestone Indy 225 (1987-2004)
Goulds Pumps/ITT Industries 200 (1988-2004)
Chevy Silverado 200 (1996-2001)
Surface Asphalt
Length 0.946 mi (1.522 km)
Turns 5
Banking Turn 1 and Straightaways: 2.7°
Turns 2 & 3: 3°
Turns 4 & 5 4°
Lap record 0:18.419 (Patrick Carpentier, Forsythe, 1998, Champ Car)
Map of the track in 2004.

Nazareth Speedway was an auto racing facility near Nazareth in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania which operated from 1910 to 2004 in two distinct course configurations. In its early years, it was a dirt twin oval layout. In 1987 it was reopened as a paved tri-oval that measured just slightly under 1 mile.

The facility is often linked to local drivers Kenny Brightbill, Mario and Michael Andretti.[1] The course was associated with Frankie Schneider in its earlier dirt track history.

Track history[edit]

The site began hosting motor racing events in the 1910s. Two separate racetracks that existed and operated on the site: an original 12 mile dirt track, and later a 118 mile dirt track was added. In 1987, the Penske owned paved speedway replaced the big track and the small track was demolished and the site was replaced by the expanding of a nearby grocery store in 1988.

Dirt track (large)[edit]

The big track was opened in April 1966, as a five-turn 1.125-mile (1.811 km) dirt track named Nazareth National Speedway. The track featured modified races. Frankie Schneider had a clean sweep at the event - he had the fastest qualifying time, won his heat race, and won the feature event. That turned out to be the only event at the track in the season.

The track held nine events in 1967, which turned out to be the most the track hosted. Schneider won five of the events.

The track hosted five modified events in 1968, and Schneider won three of them. Al Tasnady started near last in the August 24, 1968 modified event, and won the race by lapping all drivers except Schneider. The USAC Dirt Champ cars raced at the track on July 13, 1968. The race was won by Al Unser, who beat local driver Mario Andretti.

Mario Andretti won the USAC dirt champ car race in 1969, and Rags Carter won four consecutive races.[2] Frankie Schneider won eleven races total at the track, which was by far the most. The facility was taken over by Lindy Vicari in 1982. Vicari knocked down eleven years of growth, and shortened the bigger track to a one-mile (1.6 km) dirt oval.

When Vicari took over the old 1-1/8-mile Nazareth National Motor Speedway in 1981 it had been shuttered for 10 years and he refurbished it and shortened the layout to one mile. His idea was to host a series of high-paying special events for USAC’s Championship Dirt Cars and the Modifieds and the races that he staged there drew big crowds, big fields and much acclaim.

But running NNMS was a tough nut to crack and Brightbill’s $50,000 victory in a 125-mile Modified contest on October 9, 1983, was the last race that was run there under Vicari’s direction.[3]

Paved track[edit]

The facility and a large amount of property behind it was purchased by Roger Penske in 1986. Penske built a new track on the footprint of the old 118 mile dirt oval. At the same time, he sold the section of the property that held the old 12 mile track to the owners of Laneco, a former grocery store chain. Laneco built a new store on the site of the original track, which is now home to a Giant grocery store. Some have disputed the location of the first track, but historical aerials make the location clear. See the original location here (the zip code is 18064).

Penske's new track opened as Pennsylvania International Raceway in the fall of 1987. It was paved in asphalt, and had very modest banking. The elevation change during the lap was significant, as the backstretch ran steeply downhill for a drop of approximately 30 feet. The remainder of the track trekked mostly uphill. It was the first racing oval to feature a warm-up lane to enter and exit the pits, designed in part by driver Rick Mears. In 1993, the track was renamed Nazareth Speedway. In 1997, the facility underwent improvements, including a new retaining wall, catch fence, and new grandstands.

Although the Nazareth Speedway hosted rather successful Busch Series and CART events, new owner ISC closed the facility in late 2004. The races were replaced with events at Watkins Glen, another ISC-owned track. The track is now up for sale, and may be resurrected if a strong buyer is found. Currently there is an offer to convert it into a multipurpose indoor arena. Access to the speedway is severely limited, and reopening as a professional motorsports facility is highly unlikely.

Although the track closed in 2004, it is still featured in the EA Sports video games NASCAR SimRacing, NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup, NASCAR 06: Total Team Control, NASCAR 07, NASCAR 08 (PS2), and NASCAR 09 (PS2) which are based on the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 NASCAR seasons respectively.

As of May 2007, the grandstands, signage and all visible structures at the racetrack have been removed. The disassembled grandstands were transported and erected at Watkins Glen and Michigan International Speedway. The track remains fenced off and access to any part of the track or land surrounding it is restricted. The site of the former speedway is located on Route 248, which lies in eastern Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley area. Rumors circulating around the speedway's replacement have included topics as housing complexes, or an also rumored sports arena.

Historical Google Earth imagery shows that by May 2008, large piles of earth were erected at various points around the track to prevent use of the racing surface. Images as of August 2010 shows those piles remain in place, though show signs of weathering.

Track length of paved oval[edit]

The paved track opened in 1987 and closely resembled the 1.125-mile dirt track layout. However, the length was shortened, and the turns were reconfigured to widen the radii. Though advertised as a 1-mile tri-oval, it actually measured less than one mile in length. The banking varied between 2.7° and 6.0°. The back straight was 1200 feet and main straight was 800 feet. Participants were known to exploit the inaccurate measurement for fuel strategy, knowing that they were running a shorter distance than officially advertised. In 1997, for fairness and accuracy, the track was remeasured by the CART sanctioning body, and was advertised as 0.946 miles (1.52 km) in length. The race, which had been 200 laps, was increased to 225 laps for time value purposes. This length was used between 1997 and the last CART-race in 2001.[4] The IRL used in 2002, 2003 and 2004 a length of 0.935 miles (1.504 km) for timing and scoring.[5] However, NASCAR stayed to a length of exactly 1 mile till closing in 2004.[6]

Race winners[edit]

USAC/CART/IRL history[edit]

NASCAR Busch Series[edit]

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series[edit]

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour[edit]

  • 1991 Jan Leaty
  • 1992 Jeff Fuller
  • 1993 Tim Connolly
  • 1994 Jeff Fuller
  • 1995 Tony Hischman
  • 1996 Jan Leaty
  • 1997 Mike Stefanik
  • 1998 Mike Stefanik
  • 1999 Eddie Flemke, Jr.
  • 2000 Mike Stefanik
  • 2001 Mike Ewanitsko
  • 2002 Nevin George
  • 2003 Ted Christopher
  • 2004 Todd Szegedy


In popular culture[edit]

Mark Knopfler wrote a song about a season of racing concluding at Nazareth Speedway titled "Speedway At Nazareth". The song appears on Knopfler's second solo album, Sailing to Philadelphia.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′N 75°19′W / 40.73°N 75.32°W / 40.73; -75.32