Winchester Speedway, Winchester 400 Both Go Back to the Ages
Oldest Half-Mile Oval in Country Started Hosting ASA in 1970
PENDLETON, Ind. (August 30, 2001) -- It has a legendary feel, and rightfully so. It was the world's first half-mile oval race track and, to this day, remains one of the steepest and fastest half-mile tracks in the country. Its every nook and cranny has seen many of the legends of short track stock car racing, and all of racing in general, pass over it at one point or another. It has seen some of the best racing moments in stock car racing, some of the worst accidents and plenty of heart-warming and heart-breaking moments.
Winchester Speedway history starts in 1916 with Frank Funk. The track was the first half-mile oval in the United States, which was made out of a clay surface. It is the oldest running short track in operation, and falls second to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the oldest speedways still under operation. The first season began with three scheduled events. The first show was much less than a success, which carried over into the track's second race, where only a few fans returned.
Pete Wales owned the track for a brief 10 years, from 1960 to 1970. Wales was instrumental in getting the track paved for a first time, covering up the old clay surface. In the 1970s, another new owner, Roger Holdeman, took over responsibilities of the speedway. It was during Holdeman's tenure that the speedway underwent numerous surface changes, as well as pushing the track into its prime. It was 1970 when Holdeman was involved in getting the first 400-lap late model stock car race running, the one that would eventually turn into one of the most decorated races in all of the country, the Winchester 400. Upon his death in February of 1996, his widow, Linda, took over the track responsibilities and held them until November of 1997.
The track was sold to three gentleman, Jim LaBar, Jeff Jeffers and Charlie Shaw in November of 1997. As a result, immediate changes started taking place and additional work was being done to improve the track. The immediate goal of the group was to bring the family environment back to the racetrack and to make Winchester Speedway one of the premier half-mile ovals. In late 1999, Shaw purchased a majority of the vested interest in the track, and, along with partner and open-wheel legend Tom Bigelow, began an even more extensive plan to help modernize the facility.
The track has always been and remains a staple for both stock car and open wheel racing. Some of the best drivers in the country regularly flock with some of the best sanctioning bodies in the country to the "super-speedway short track" to help hone their skills. Some of the top drivers in stock car racing now; Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Mike Eddy, Bob Senneker, Jeff Gordon, Mike Cope and Scott Hansen, have all made Winchester Speedway their home at some time.
Activities at the track for the 2001 version of the Winchester 400 begin on September 14 with the first of three practice sessions and spectator gates opening at 11 a.m. (local). ASA two-lap qualifying goes off at 4. On September 15, spectator gates openand the first practice session begins at 11 a.m. The first of the Twin 125-lap qualifying races goes green at 2:30 p.m. Race day begins with spectator gates opening at 9 a.m. followed by the on-track autograph session scheduled for 11 a.m. Pre-race ceremonies are set for 12:15 p.m. and the start of the 32nd Annual Winchester 400 is scheduled to go green at 1 p.m. The event will be telecast live on TNN Sports.