By Bobby Markos
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. created a TV docu-series about forgotten raceways, his mission was to explore old tracks and find relics important to their stories. Never did he anticipate that his biggest discovery would be about himself.
On the heels of a successful debut season, Earnhardt and co-host Matthew Dillner return with a very personal second season of Lost Speedways, which features all new tracks, storylines and emotions.
The series is now streaming on Peacock.
Season Two features raceways ranging from NASCAR Grand National staples, dirt late model strongholds, big superspeedways and even a beach course. From November to March the crew traveled around the country capturing the tracks in their current states. Earnhardt, Dillner and a team of racing enthusiasts also interviewed important people who contributed to the fabric of the American racing scene. Below is an episode guide for Lost Speedways Season Two:
Daytona Beach & Road Course
When Bill France set out to put stock car racing on the map, he knew he needed a location to build the sport upon that was equivalent to Championship Car racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He found that stronghold in the legendary Daytona Beach & Road Course, which had been synonymous with speed since the dawn of the automobile. The unique race course attracted throttle jockeys from across the country, and its success grew stock car racing’s place in the American racing scene.
By 1980, Pennsboro Speedway, which was nestled in the mountains of Ritchie County West Virginia, had made a name for itself as a mainstay of the Eastern dirt late model racing scene. The track was rustic, known for its party atmosphere and egg-shaped racing surface. Not to mention, it had the distinct feature of having three bridges built within the racing layout, crossing over a creek that flowed through the track’s property. But in 1981, the track would go from local favorite to national treasure, all thanks to a humble school teacher and a $30,000 check. Not only did Pennsboro produce wild stories of racing bravery, but it also produced the greatest Cinderella story the sport has ever known.
San Antonio Speedway
The Alamo city is known for its great battle stories, and the tale of how its greatest speedway came to be is no different. Born out of a cross-town battle between promoters, San Antonio Speedway was designed with late model racing and high speeds in mind. But as the cost of short track racing increased, car counts decreased. Soon the ½ mile, high-banked speed palace struggled to make ends meet.
Imagine attending a race to see the stars of NASCAR, only to find out a protest would sideline some of the sport’s biggest names. This was the scene at Columbia Speedway in April of 1966, when a manufacturing engine war caused major waves in the Grand National racing circuit and caught competitors, promoters and race fans completely off guard. Columbia Speedway was one of NASCAR’s earliest hotbeds and one of the most popular dirt tracks in the country, but the rapid progression of stock car racing left the great ½ mile oval in the rear-view mirror of the sport.
Texas World Speedway
In College Station, Texas, a giant oval looms in the distance of a blossoming housing development. The high-banked, 2-mile raceway once played host to some of racing’s greatest stars, from Petty, Pearson and Earnhardt to Foyt, Andretti and Rutherford, but today it lays cracking in the hot Texas sun. Part of the “superspeedway boom” of the late 1960s, Texas World Speedway had all of the ingredients to be a smashing success: speed, state-of-the-art facilities and big names. But with big names, comes big crowds, and the underdeveloped infrastructure surrounding the track would ultimately lead to its demise. Today, Texas World Speedway remains America’s only “lost superspeedway”.
In the 1960s, super modified racing had quickly become the most popular division in the short track ranks. But as the decade unfolded, the increasing speeds the rocket-like cars were producing soon became a liability for racing promoters, and the class began disappearing from speedways left and right. However, at a small, unassuming oval in Arundel, Maine, events would transpire that led to the organization of the cars under the New England Super Modified Racing Association banner, a move that would cement the “supers” in the New England racing scene, where they still thrive today. Arundel Speedway was only open for a decade, but it played a role in the longevity of the class of cars it showcased, as well as helped launch one of its biggest stars, Bentley Warren.
Cleveland County Fairgrounds
The year is 1956 and Herb Thomas is on course to win his 3rd championship in six years, firmly establishing him as the first superstar of a young NASCAR. As seen in other professional sports, organizations grow with the success of its biggest stars, and Thomas’ dynasty was just what Bill France needed to pull even with USAC and its headline grabbing Championship Car racing. But, a jealous car owner influenced a last minute addition to the NASCAR schedule and a tragic accident on a Tuesday night at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds would end Herb Thomas’ career, as well as change the trajectory of NASCAR for years to come.
Myrtle Beach Speedway
Myrtle Beach Speedway held its last race in August of 2020, and while this show usually covers old, abandoned speedways, this time an exception was made. The rough sand-paper like surface of Myrtle Beach Speedway was a stage for some of the country’s greatest late model racing. For decades, the track was a crucial stepping stone for some of the sport’s biggest names. Last December, Dale Earnhardt Jr returned to his roots, the site of his first late model victory, to say goodbye to an old friend.
Viewers should buckle up for an emotional roller coaster of a season, chock-full of unbelievable stories and never before seen photos and video footage from a number of historical archives. Lost Speedways brings these tracks from the past back to life one last time, and immortalizes them for generations to come. All eight episodes are now available on Peacock TV.
— Dirty Mo —