What Qualifies Auto Race Tracks as “the Best?”
America has a need for speed. But what, exactly, makes a great race track? If you ask fifty people about the best tracks in the US, they will likely disagree. Some will say that special events or high-performance cars make a great track. Others will insist on high-speed tracks. For some, it’s technical corners or elevation changes that seal the deal. Audience seating might be a factor, or the general atmosphere and fan base. After all, some auto race tracks serve as the best music venues, as well, even hosting a few of the top rising country artists.
Whatever the case, these 8 speedway tracks have a little of everything and have been voted the best race tracks in America.
1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Home of the famed Indianapolis 500, NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, and Lilly Diabetes 250, this sports venue is probably one America’s most famed. Located in Speedway, a suburb of Indianapolis, it sits on 560-acres. Since its opening in 1901, Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts up to 250,000 fans.
- Known affectionately as “the Brickyard”, the Indianapolis Speedway got its name from its 1909 surfacing project.
- Over three million bricks were laid and there’s a slight elevation change of 153-feet.
- Even though it’s now an asphalt track, one yard of the original brick is featured at the start/finish line.
- The Indy’s 253-acre oval is so big it could hold Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, Vatican Coty, and the Rose Bowl!
- The first Indy 500 took place in 1911. Ray Harroun was the winner with an average speed of over seventy-four miles an hour.
2. Circuit of the Americas
Circuit of the Americas was constructed in 2011 and is the only FIA-certified speedway in America. This premier motorsport racing facility is located in Travis County, fifteen miles outside Austin, TX and is over 3-miles long. More specifically, the track includes twenty counterclockwise turns — eleven to the right and nine to the left. A notable signature of this course is a steep 133-foot hill and a sharp blind curve.
The surface of the new track is three layers and includes 640,000 cubic meters of material. Construction was commissioned by private investors totaling $400M. Further, sixteen Texas-based companies contracted the work.
- The track is 3.426 miles and is America’s only FIA-certified.
- Seats 120,000 fans and hosts concerts, too.
- It has twenty clockwise turns, eleven to the right and nine to the left.
3. Road Atlanta
Opened in 1970, the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is located just outside Braselton, Georgia. The famous turns on this course are the “esses” between turns three and five, plus a downhill turn at the end of the course.
Road Atlanta hosts the Atlanta International Raceway, the Petit Le Mans Formula D, and AMA motorcycle races.
Michelin brand bought name rights in 2011. The speed record is currently set at 224 miles per hour. In order to make it a faster track for NASCAR, the front stretch and backstretch of the track were switched and the shape was changed from an oval to quad-oval. The current length is now 1.54-mile, making it one of the fastest NASCAR facilities.
- The 2.54-mile road course hosts several events including auto racing, motorcycle races, driving schools, and testing for motorsports teams.
- This track has twelve turns.
- Michelin brand bought name rights to the track in 2011.
- 71,000 fans can fit inside this stadium.
4. Hickory Motor Speedway
Located in Hickory, near Newton, NC this short half-mile auto racing track has been called the “World’s Most Famous Short Track.” It opened in 1951 and the track’s claim to fame is the birthplace of NASCAR. It hosts 13,200 fans in total. Additionally, the track holds events like the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and the Pra Tours Super Late Model Race and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
During the 1950’s famous drivers like Ralph Earnhardt and Junior Johnson raced on its dirt track. Earnhardt was a five-time champion here.
5. Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen International is the state’s only NASCAR event, located in Watkins Glen, NY. A crowd favorite for audiences of up to 38,900, “The Glen,” since 1948, sits in the state’s beautiful Finger Lakes wine country. Interestingly, The Glen hosted the first road race in America after WWII.
In 1956, the 2.3-mile permanent track was finished. In 1957, it hosted its first professional NASCAR Grand National Stock Car Event.
Since 1961, the track has hosted Formula 1 races. It’s also home to the GoPro Geodesic Championship races and The Go Bowling race.
The asphalt track is 3.4 miles long. A typical race is ninety laps. The average speed on this eleven-turn road course is 220.5 miles per hour.
- Seats up to 38,900 fans.
- The asphalt track is 3.4 miles long.
- A typical race is ninety laps.
6. Michigan International Speedway
Opened in 1968, NASCAR’s fastest track, “MIS” is Located in Lenawee County, near the village of Brooklyn, Michigan. This 1,400-acre NASCAR facility can occupy upwards of 56,000 people.
Secondly, the track itself is D-shaped and two-miles long, plus moderately elevated. Moreover, drivers wind their way through picturesque Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan. The main events on this skewed oval track are NASCAR races including the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Lastly, part of the complex includes Michigan’s largest campground, a huge 8,000-lot facility. Olympic trams, used during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games, now bring fans from the free parking lots to the seating stadium.
The 2014 track record of 206.558 miles per hour is still held by Jeff Gordon. The 1,300 laps record goes to Cale Yarborough.
- Hosts 56,000 fans on 1,400 acres.
- The track is shaped like the letter ‘D’
- Jeff Gordon holds the fastest speed record at 207 miles per hour.
7. Lucas Oil Raceway
Located in Hendricks County, near Brownsburg, Indiana, this International drag racing Speedway is near downtown Indianapolis. The short 0.686-mile track is an oval laid out on a two-and-a-half-mile road course. The size of the course is 400-feet wide and 4,000-feet long. It hosts world-famous drag racing events.
- This speedway is a short track of .686-miles.
- It’s well known for its drag racing events.
8. Brainerd International Raceway
This course was born forty years ago and is located in Minnesota’s heartland in Crow Wing County, just northwest of Brainerd.
Brainerd International Raceway’s 3.1-mile road course has hosted both auto and motorcycle racing events including the famed Can-Am and NHRA Nationals and the National Hot Rod Association’s Lucas Oil Nationals. Like Hickory, it has a quarter-mile drag strip that overlaps the raceway.
This is the USA’s longest straight road course. Additionally, it’s sometimes referred to as the Donnybrooke Road Course.
- 3.1-mile road course for auto and motorcycles.
- Quarter-mile drag strip that overlaps the raceway.
- It has 10 wide turns.