CHAMPCAR/CART: Nazareth Speedway Improvements, History

Construction crews are completing several projects on Nazareth Speedway's 103-acre facility, including the expansion of the media center and the addition of a restroom in the paddock. Several construction projects which began in the fall of...

Construction crews are completing several projects on Nazareth Speedway's 103-acre facility, including the expansion of the media center and the addition of a restroom in the paddock. Several construction projects which began in the fall of 1998 are nearing completion at Nazareth Speedway. The most ambitious project is the doubling in size of the media center, which will hold a new drivers' conference room and seat 104 media members in the deadline room. The infield care center is also doubling in size and new restroom facilities are being added in the paddock and under the main grandstands.

Track History: Nazareth Speedway is known as the world's fastest one-mile oval.

For a small town, Nazareth boasts a long and unique motorsports history which rivals all the big-city names in racing. Since the second decade of this century, Nazareth has been home to two different dirt tracks. It has witnessed the remarkable success of the Andretti family and watched Roger Penske turn a bankrupt, dormant track into a world-class facility. From the midget cars of the 1920's to today's CART Champ cars that lap the track at close to 200 mph, Nazareth has an unparalleled racing history.

The modern-day Nazareth Speedway is unique. It is difficult to drive, has been called "the world's fastest mile", and has a ¾ mile-long warm up lane. The track's D-shaped layout even causes debate about how many turns it has. Competitors in every series featured at Nazareth Speedway would probably agree that the track is challenging. Although it does not bank more than six degrees, it has an elevation change of 34 feet, a downhill backstretch, an uphill frontstretch and officially, four turns. To paraphrase 1997 First Union 200 Champion Elliot Sadler, a race car wants to do many different things at Nazareth Speedway, leaving the driver and his crew with a formidable task.

Today, Nazareth Speedway is a one-mile oval that was formally a 1-1/8 mile, D-shaped, semi-banked, dirt track known as Nazareth National Speedway. One of its predecessors was a half-mile dirt track built around 1920 on property adjacent to the modern Nazareth Speedway. That track staged various forms of racing off and on until the late 1980's.

While races continued at the half-mile track, Nazareth National Speedway was built in 1966 by the late Jerry Fried. For five years, it featured weekly shows, night races and championship events for dirt, midget, sprint and stock cars. Mario Andretti, who grew up near the speedway and began his driving career at the track, won the last championship race held on the old track in 1969.

After a 10-year racing hiatus, Lindy Vicari operated the track from 1981 to 1985 to run special events only, namely the USAC championship dirt cars. Carl Collis of nearby Northampton won the last race under Vicari's ownership, a 40-lap modified stock car event on April 29, 1984. One year later, the track went bankrupt.

Under the direction of Roger Penske, Penske Motorsports Inc., purchased the 90-acre facility in 1986 and immediately paved and renovated the track. The first race at "Pennsylvania International Raceway" was won by Michael Andretti, son of Mario, on September 20, 1987.

In 1993, the name was changed to Nazareth Speedway, and in 1997 the track underwent more major changes. The grandstands on the frontstretch were replaced by state-of-the-art, high-rise grandstands, creating 10,000 additional prime seats and a new "skyline" for Nazareth. The bleachers were removed, the retaining wall of the frontstretch was replaced, and in 1998 the remaining wall along the backstretch was replaced.

Race fans will enjoy eight different racing divisions on three weekends in 1999. The season will begin April 30-May 2 with The Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix Presented by Toyota, featuring the CART FedEx Championship Series. Other exciting action will include the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship Series and the Kool/Toyota Atlantic Championship Series.

The First Union 200 will highlight the drivers of NASCAR's Busch Series Grand National Division May 22-23. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour, the organization's oldest division and only open wheeled-series, will also add excitement to the weekend.

Three different types of racing are on tap July 16-18, including The NAPA AutoCare 200, featuring the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and The Burnham Boilers 100, showcasing the up-and-coming drivers of the Busch North Series.

Fittingly, a part of Nazareth's racing history will help cap the season schedule, as the Coors Light Silver Bullet Series (formerly known as the USAC Silver Crown Championship Series) returns to Nazareth after a 16-year absence.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , NASCAR Cup , USAC
Drivers Mario Andretti , Roger Penske