Motorsport in Illinois

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There has been auto racing in Illinois for almost as long as there have been automobiles. Almost every type of motorsport found in the United States can be found in Illinois. Both modern and historic tracks exist in Illinois, including NASCAR's Chicagoland Speedway and Gateway International Speedway. Notable drivers from Illinois include Danica Patrick, Tony Bettenhausen, and Fred Lorenzen.

Types of auto racing[edit]

Stock car racing[edit]

National stock car racing touring series (such as NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, ARCA, NASCAR Nationwide Series, and Craftsman Truck Series) race mainly on 4 tracks in Illinois: Chicagoland Speedway, near Chicago, Gateway International Speedway, Near St. Louis, and the mile dirt tracks at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, and the Southern Illinois State Fairgrounds near DuQuoin, Illinois.

Asphalt stock car racing is more prevalent in the northern part of Illinois with such tracks as Rockford Speedway or Grundy County Speedway. These tracks hold weekly racing programs, with Rockford's racing sanctioned by NASCAR's Weekly Racing Series. Regional to nationally-known touring series, such as ARTGO and Mid American Stock Car Series have held special events these at both of these tracks.

Drag racing[edit]

Drag racing is fairly popular throughout Illinois, with both 1/4 and 1/8 mile tracks being found in the state. There are several National points events held in Illinois, as well as local weekly drag racing.

Off-road racing[edit]

Off-road racing can be found at temporary tracks at Route 66 Raceway to the permanent facilities at Lincoln Trail Motorsports Park.

Motorcycle racing[edit]

Motorcycle racing is held on permanent road-courses in northern Illinois, as well as motocross and hill climbs throughout the state. One of the most well-known motorcycle races in the U.S. can be found at the Illinois State Fairgrounds 1-mile (1.6 km) oval track.

Sports car racing[edit]

Several tracks host sports car racing in Illinois, although it is not prevalent with few road courses such as Blackhawk Farms Raceway.

Dirt oval racing[edit]

An Illinois Racing Series (IRS) midget car getting a push start

Dirt track racing on oval circuits is probably one of the most prevalent forms of motorsports in Illinois. Track sizes vary from the short and tight 1/5 mile Macon Speedway to the 1-mile (1.6 km) ovals at Springfield and DuQuoin. The Illini Racing Series (IRS) races midget and dwarf cars at various tracks in northern Illinois plus Angell Park Speedway in Wisconsin.

Karting[edit]

Kart racing can be found throughout Illinois on both dirt and asphalt.

Notable tracks[edit]

Springfield Mile, Springfield, Illinois[edit]

The one mile (1.6 km) dirt Illinois State Fairgrounds Racetrack in Springfield has had a long and varied past. Since before the inception of USAC, there have been Midgets, Sprints, and Silver Crown races at the "Monster Mile." The first incarnation of the track ran East-West. It now is raced North-South orientation. The Allen Crowe Memorial 100, named in honor of the Springfield resident, is held there every year during the Illinois State Fair. The race originated following the popular driver's death in 1963. USAC's Stock Car division sanctioned the race from 1963, until they ceased operations in 1984. The 1983 and 1984 races were co-sanctioned between ARCA and USAC. ARCA now sanctions this popular race. Until recently, the mile has hosted the United Midwestern Promoters UMP Fall Nationals for UMP Late Models. In the past, the mile has also hosted races sanctioned by the World of Outlaws. Many. many notable names have raced and won here, including Mario Andretti, A. J. Foyt, Davey Allison, and Benny Parsons. The "Monster Mile" also hosts some of the most well-known flat track motorcycle races in the U.S. The AMA sanctioned races are held every May and September, and draw motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the country.

Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Illinois[edit]

Chicagoland Speedway is Illinois' only Superspeedway. It hosts races for NASCAR, ARCA, and the IRL on its 1½ mile tri-oval. Chicagoland Speedway is the sister track to Route 66 Raceway, which boasts a 1/4-mile NHRA sanctioned dragstrip as well as a 1/2-mile dirt oval that has hosted World of Outlaws Late Models, Team Demolition Derbies, and off road races sanctioned by CORR (at the time SODA).

Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Illinois[edit]

Gateway International Raceway, located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, is another of Illinois' largest tracks. It host races sanctioned by NASCAR, ARCA, USAC, and NHRA. Gateway's configuration is unique in the turns 3 & 4 have a larger radius than turns 1 & 2. It has been likened to NASCAR's Darlington Raceway. At 1¼ miles, it is just shorter than Darlington. The facility has a 1/4-mile NHRA sanctioned dragstrip.

Macon Speedway, Macon, Illinois[edit]

One of the shortest tracks in Illinois, the 1/5-mile Macon Speedway has played host to some of most famous names in motorsports. Created in 1946, it is also one of the oldest continuous operating speedways in Illinois. Built on an old brick factory, it was known for years as "The Other Brickyard," in reference to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being known as "The Brickyard." Macon Speedway was owned and operated by the Webb family for many years, but has changed hands many times in the last 20 years. The Current owners are NASCAR stars Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace, Tony Stewart, and local promoter Bob Sargent.

Notable defunct tracks[edit]

Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois[edit]

Soldier Field was the site of numerous races. A 1/4 mile board track was built, and the first two midget car races at the track in 1939 were won by Sam Hanks. The track was also used for motorcycle races. The board track was removed and it was changed to a half-mile dirt oval track. In 1956, NASCAR swung through for its only race at Soldier Field. Twenty-five cars started the 200-lapper, with Fireball Roberts averaging 61.037 mph (98.230 km/h) to win $850. The racetrack was torn out in 1970.

O'Hare Stadium, Schiller Park, Illinois[edit]

O’Hare Stadium, part of the Chicagoland racing scene for 13 years, was located just southwest of the corner of Mannheim and Irving Park Road in Schiller Park. The speedway, which operated between 1956 through 1968, was initially surrounded by farm fields and was situated just south of Chicago’s famed O’Hare International Airport. NASCAR sanctioned the late model racing at O’Hare in 1960 and 1961. With property values rising, the track, which also featured cadet (sportsman), figure eight, Volkswagen and midget racing over the years, was demolished weeks after the final race program on September 7, 1968.

Joe Shaheen's Springfield Speedway, Springfield, Illinois[edit]

Not to be confused with the mile track in Springfield, this now-defunct track was famous in the racing world as "the place to go race after the fair." Many famous and notable race drivers would run the USAC races at the fairgrounds, then trek across town to Shaheen's track to do more battle. Its configuration changed a few times over the years, with its final configuration being a 3/8 mile clay oval.

Santa Fe Speedway, Willow Springs, Illinois[edit]

This track, southwest of Chicago, was home to many of Chicagoland's drivers. Originally built for horses, cars took over as the main attraction in the 1920s. Later that same decade, a tornado took out the original grandstands, and the track was closed. After World War II, two new tracks were built on the site. One was a 7/16-mile oval, the other a 1/4 mile oval. This configuration was operational from 1953, until the site was sold for development in 1995. On July 10, 1954, NASCAR's Grand National Division (now known as Sprint Cup) made a stop at Santa Fe Speedway for a 200 lap race. The race was won by #3, Dick Rathman, in a 1954 Hudson Hornet. Over the years many famous names have raced there, including Benny Parsons, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Kyle Petty, Kenny Roberts, Ramo Stott and Tony Stewart.

Today, the site of this former track is home to a relatively upscale multi-family housing complex just south of 91st street in Burr Ridge, IL.

Meadowdale International Raceway[edit]

Meadowdale International Raceway was a road course located near Carpentersville, Illinois. It was used for motor racing from 1958 to 1968. Sanctioning bodies complained about its safety. It closed in 1968 in part from competition from other road courses in the regional (Road America and Blackhawk Farms Raceway).

List of notable Illinois race car drivers[edit]

This is a list of race car drivers from Illinois that have raced in a major touring series, and have held a full-time position there. These series include NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, NCTS, and Nationwide series, USAC Indy Cars, the IRL or Champ Car Series, ARCA, or one of the major off road racing sanctioning bodies.

Other drivers include "Chicago Gang" midget car racing drivers Emil Andres and Jimmy Snyder (who won the pole position for the 1939 Indianapolis 500). Chicago-born Billy Arnold won the 1930 Indy 500. Another driver from Illinois was Shorty Cantlon, who was killed during the 1947 Indianapolis 500 in his 11th appearance in that race. Chicago-born Louis Disbrow competed in four Indy 500s.

Name Hometown Racing Series
Justin Allgaier Riverton, Illinois ARCA, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Chuck Baird Assumption, Illinois IHRA
Gary Bettenhausen Tinley Park, Illinois USAC Championship Car, NASCAR
Merle Bettenhausen Tinley Park, Illinois USAC Championship Car
Tony Bettenhausen Tinley Park, Illinois AAA, USAC Championship Car
Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. Tinley Park, Illinois Champ Car
Joe Cooksey Centralia, Illinois ARCA
Allen Crowe Springfield, Illinois USAC Championship Car
Bay Darnell Lake Bluff, Illinois USAC Stock Car, NASCAR Grand National, Indy Car
Erik Darnell Beach Park, Illinois NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Bob Dotter Chicago, Illinois NASCAR Nationwide Series, ARCA
Bobby Dotter Chicago, Illinois ASA, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ARCA
Randy Eller Taylorville, Illinois CORR, WSORR
Steve Federico Willmette, Illinois CORR, WSORR
Lou Fegers Glenview, Illinois USAC, IMCA
Aaron Fike Galesburg, Illinois NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ARCA
A. J. Fike Galesburg, Illinois NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Steve Fossett Chicago, Illinois 24 hours of Le Mans, Paris to Dakar Rally
Irv Hoerr Peoria, Illinois IMSA, NASCAR
Fred Lorenzen Elmhurst, Illinois NASCAR, USAC Stock Car
Phillip McGilton Marion, Illinois ARCA, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Danica Patrick Roscoe, Illinois Indy Racing League NASCAR Nationwide Series ARCA
Tony Schumacher Long Grove, Illinois NHRA
Eric Smith Bloomington, Illinois ARCA, UMP
Bob Strait Mokena, Illinois ARCA, ASA, NCTS, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Scott Taylor Belvidere, Illinois SODA, CORR, WSORR, Traxxas TORC Series
Bill Venturini (Retired) Chicago, Illinois ARCA
Billy Venturini Chicago, Illinois ARCA
Rich Vogler Chicago, Illinois USAC Sprint Cars, USAC Midgets
Mark Voigt Marine, Illinois NASCAR, ARCA, UMP
Bobby Wawak Villa Park, Illinois NASCAR, USAC Stock Car
Tim Wilkerson Springfield, Illinois NHRA
Steve Cannon Danville, Illinois USAC
Larry Cannon Danville, Illinois USAC

Other notable racing figures[edit]

Name Hometown Series/Team/Notoriety
Drew Blickensderfer Mt. Zion, Illinois Crew Chief for Roush-Fenway Racing #17
John Darby Rockford, Illinois NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Competition Director
Mike Joy (b)Chicago, Illinois On-Air announcer for SPEED-TV, Fox Sports, and both the Motor Racing Network and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Networks. Formerly with CBS Sports.
Chad Knaus Rockford, Illinois Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports #48. Father was driver at Rockford, was his crew chief.
Rick Ren Danville, Illinois Kyle Busch Motorsports Director of Racing Operations
Wendy Venturini (b)Chicago, Illinois On-air personality for Speed-TV NASCAR Pre-race show. Daughter of Bill and sister of Billy.
Hal Pilger Springfield, Illinois Motorsports writer for The State Journal-Register newspaper.

Tracks in Illinois[edit]

Asphalt Oval[edit]

Track Name Location Length Sanction Program
Chicagoland Speedway Joliet, Illinois 1.5 Miles NASCAR, ARCA, IRL, USAC Major League auto racing. NASCAR Sprint Cup, ARCA Re/Max series, and the IRL all hold points races here.
Gateway International Raceway Madison, Illinois 1.25 Miles No NASCAR Events in 2011
Grundy County Speedway Morris, Illinois 1/3 mile Unaffillated Late Models, Mid-Am (unsanctioned), Street & Pure Stocks, STARS Midgets, Classic Modifieds, INEX Legends, CSR Super Cups, and Legacy Midwest Series
I-70 QMA Greenville, Illinois 1/10 Mile QMA QMA Quarter Midgets
Rockford Speedway Loves Park, Illinois (Rockford) 1/4 Mile NASCAR NASCAR Late Models, NASCAR Grand Nationals, NASCAR Short Trackers, NASCAR Road Runners, Winged Women on Wheels, National Figure 8 League, Hornets, Super Cups

Dirt Oval[edit]

Track Name Location Length Sanction Program
Belle-Claire Speedway Belleville, Illinois 1/4 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman, and Pure Stock
Bureau County Speedway Princeton, Illinois 3/8 mile United Midwestern Promoters UMPLate Models, Modifieds, B-Modifieds, Street Stocks, Hornets
Charleston Speedway Charleston, Illinois 3/8 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Modifieds, Super Streets, Hornets
Clay County Speedway Flora, Illinois 1/3 mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Modifieds
Faribury American Legion Speedway Fairbury, Illinois 1/4 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Modifieds and Sportsman
Fayette County Speedway Brownstown, Illinois 3/8 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Modifieds, Sportsman
Farmer City Speedway Farmer City, Illinois 1/4 mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman
Freeport Raceway Park Freeport, Illinois 1/2 Mile Closed after the 2011 season[1] Late Models, Modifieds, B-Modifieds, Sportsman, Hobby Stock, Pure Stock, and Hornets
Highland Speedway Highland, Illinois 1/4 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman
LaSalle Speedway LaSalle, Illinois 1/4 mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Modifieds, Street Stocks, & 4 Cyl. Hornets
Macon Speedway Macon, Illinois 1/5 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Sportsman, Hornets, Street Stocks, and CARS Late Models
Lincoln Speedway Lincoln, Illinois 1/4 mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late Models, Modifieds, Sportsman
Peoria Speedway Peoria, Illinois 1/4 Mile United Midwestern Promoters Late Models, Sportsman, Modifieds, Street Stocks, Hornets
Quad City Speedway East Moline, Illinois 1/4 mile International Motor Contest Association Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, A Modifieds, Street Stock, 4 Cylinders
Quincy Raceway Quincy, Illinois 1/4 mile Late models, Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Hornets
Shepp's Speedway Alexander (New Berlin), Illinois 1/4 Mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Late models, UMP Sportsman, UMP Modifieds, UMP Street Stocks,
Spoon River Speedway Banner (Southeast of Canton) 3/8 mile United Midwestern Promoters UMP Modified, UMP Pro Late Model, UMP Pro Modified, UMP 4-cyl
Southern Illinois State Fairgrounds DuQuoin, Illinois 1 Mile ARCA, USAC, AMA ARCA Re/Max Series, USAC Midgets, Sprints, and Silver Crown, UMP Sportsman, AMA Grand National Flat Track.
Springfield Mile Springfield, Illinois 1 Mile ARCA, USAC, AMA ARCA Re/Max Series, USAC Midgets, Sprints, and Silver Crown, UMP Sportsman, AMA Grand National Flat Track.

Drag Strips[edit]

Track Name Location Length Sanction Program
Gateway International Raceway Madison, Illinois 1/4 (.25) Mile NHRA NHRA National Series
Motion Raceway Assumption, Illinois 1,000 feet (300 m) Unaffilliated None. 2008 season never materialized, track remains closed.
Byron Dragway Byron, Illinois 1/4 Mile IHRA Super Pro, Pro, Street, Cycle, Jr. Dragster
Coles County Dragway Charleston, Illinois 1/8 Mile NHRA Super Pro, Pro, Street, Cycle, Jr Dragster
Cordova Dragway Park Cordova, Illinois 1/4 Mile NHRA Top Eliminator, Modified, True Street, Super ET, Pro Bikes, Jr. Dragster
I-57 Dragstrip Benton, Illinois 1/8 Mile NHRA Super Pro, Pro, Footbrake, Trophy Street, King of the Street, Dixie Doorslammers, Outlaw Streetcars, Jr. Dragsters, and street bikes
MidState Dragway Havana, Illinois 1/8 Mile NHRA Super Pro, Pro, Street, Cycle, Jr Dragster
Route 66 Raceway Joliet, Illinois 1/4 Mile NHRA NHRA National Series

Road Courses[edit]

Track Name Location Length Sanction Program
Autobahn Country Club Joliet, Illinois 1.5, 2.06, 3.56, and .8 miles (1.3 km) SCCA, NASA Various racing programs
Blackhawk Farms Raceway South Beloit, Illinois 1.95 miles (3.14 km) SCCA, Midwestern Council, VSCDA, and SVRA Various racing programs
Concept Haulers Motor Speedway Norway, Illinois Multiple tracks WKA Multiple classes
Gateway International Raceway Madison, Illinois 1.77 Mile Unaffilliated None at present time
Meadowdale International Raceway Carpentersville, Illinois 3.27 miles (5.26 km) SCCA, USAC, AMA, karting Various racing programs between 1958 and 1968, now a park

Motocross Tracks[edit]

Track Name Location Length Sanction Program
Belleville Enduro Team Belleville, Illinois Multiple tracks AMA Various programs throughout the year
Motosports Park Byron, Illinois Multiple Tracks AMA Various programs throughout the year
Lincoln Trail Motosports Casey, Illinois Multiple tracks AMA Various programs throughout the year
South Fork Dirt Riders Taylorville, Illinois Multiple Tracks AMA Various programs throughout the year
Triple R Motocross Nashville, Illinois Multiple tracks AMA Various programs throughout the year

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nesbitt, Mark (May 11, 2012). "Car counts take speedy climb". The Monroe Times. Retrieved January 11, 2016.