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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports motor sports

Bloomington Speedway celebrates 100 years of racing


Indiana University students and the Bloomington community annually come together to celebrate "The World's Greatest College Weekend” each spring when Bill Armstrong Stadium hosts the Little 500 on its cinder track. Since the inaugural Little 500 in 1951, cycling students partake in year-long training for the largest collegiate bicycle race in the United States.  

Although the third weekend in April is synonymous with the Little 500 and racing for IU students, five miles south of campus lies an unlikely-known historic dirt track celebrating its 100th year in 2023.   

Bloomington Speedway, a quarter-mile high banked red clay oval dirt track, is nestled at the corner of Fairfax Road and South Old State Rd 37. Nat Hill Jr. was among those in the Bloomington community who helped open the then-five-eighths mile speedway in 1923.  

Several racers competed in sprint car races at the speedway and other tracks around the state in hopes of making it to the Indianapolis 500, the pinnacle of motorsports, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. 

Winchester Speedway, which opened in 1916, was one of the first short tracks in the state. Although the speedway operated as a dirt track with 45 degrees of banking from its opening until 1952, the track was paved with asphalt and reduced its banking to 37 degrees.  

While Winchester Speedway was the most well-known short track in Indiana in the 1920s, several other well-known short tracks around the state were getting their start in the years following.  

In the years following Bloomington Speedway's opening, a notoriously dangerous speedway called Jungle Park Speedway opened in 1926 near Turkey Run State Park in Parke County, Indiana. The track lacked protection for fans in attendance without walls or barriers. Jungle Park eventually ceased operations in 1960 when a fan was struck by a race car and killed.   

Following the end of World War II, Bloomington Speedway had been revamped into a quarter-mile track thanks to Wayne Padgett and Ennis Wilson.  

It wasn't until 1978 that the premier sprint car racing series in the World of Outlaws, founded in 1978 and the United States' first true sprint car national touring series, made its inaugural trip to the speedway. Bloomington native Steve Kinser was victorious at his hometown track in that trip.  

While the Little 500 is a bicycle race with riders going upwards of 20 miles per hour, sprint cars can reach speeds of nearly eight times those of riders at Bill Armstrong Stadium.  

A sprint car is comprised of a 410 cubic inch engine that produces over 900 horsepower. The World of Outlaws mandates that cars must weigh at least 1,425 pounds with the driver in the car.  

The World of Outlaws sprint cars have a large top-mounted wing to produce downforce and stabilize the car, though non-winged sprint cars are what can be seen much of the time in Bloomington.  

Kinser, a legend in sprint car racing, went on to win at the speedway another seven times in the World of Outlaws competition. Several other legendary racers like Jeff Gordon, Sammy Swindell, and Doug Wolfgang raced at the speedway many times throughout the years.  

Although the World of Outlaws and the Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions haven’t visited the south side of Bloomington in years past, the United States Auto Club has continued to visit the speedway for premier events like the Indiana Sprint Week, which stops in Bloomington July 28. 

Natives of Bloomington and surrounding areas partake in events at the track on Friday nights throughout the summer. Besides the USAC going to the speedway each year for races, fans also go to the track to watch locals race on Friday nights.  

With classes beginning on August 21st, students have two Friday evenings to catch a race and celebrate the 100th year of the legendary Bloomington Speedway. The track's last two Friday evenings of racing this season are set for August 25th and September 1st.   

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