Spirit Tracks: America's Abandoned Raceways
There’s something irresistible about walking ground where hundreds or thousands of fans once cheered for their favorite driver, decades ago. Though the crowds are gone, the tracks themselves remain. Even so, many of them have all but disappeared over the years, having succumbed to mother nature’s relentless advance. Here’s a look at just a few of these eerie places. You can visit them yourself, if you have the time – and the courage. Marlboro Motor Raceway
This was once a thriving motorsports park located just outside Upper Marlboro, MD. It opened in 1952 and shut its doors right after the 1969 season, due to safety concerns. Take a trip along Route 301 and you can see its remains from the highway. The buildings remain intact, but most of the track has either been buried under flood waters or simply fallen apart in the 40-plus years since it was used. You can watch vintage footage shot during the track’s glory days above.
The Metrolina Speedway
Built in the mid-1960s, this clay track was briefly paved in the 1970s, when it hosted NASCAR-sponsored races. But for most of it history, it drew small crowds, who came to cheer on local favorites. The Metrolina is most famous for its no-holds-barred “run whatcha brung” races, during which literally anything on wheels was legal. The track closed in the 1990s, but this video records the events that occurred when a group of brave souls dared to walk its grounds a few years ago.
The Robinwood Speedway
This track was built just after WWII as a midget track. It was 1200 feet long and had hard-packed clay banks and hosted some of the most competitive dirt racing ever seen. 2500 fans packed in every Saturday night from nearby Gastonia, NC and the surrounding areas. The big draw was the so-called “Junior Grand Nationals,” in which cars from 1949-53 competed for first place. The track was a victim of its own success. So many people came that the races were moved to the Carolina Speedway, which remains open to this day.
Twin City Raceway
One thing you didn’t have to worry about if you attended a race at this Loris, SC track was getting too cold. The owners wrapped roof tin around the stands and put wood stoves under the seats to keep the fans warm on cold nights. It was a bid to keep the track running 12 months out of the year. But, even with the added inducement of its smoke-filled stands, the Twin City Raceway couldn’t draw enough visitors to stay open. It ran from ’64 to ’68, but a recent visit to the grounds showed that much of the track is still in place.
There are a couple of books that tell the stories of many of these abandoned tracks, both in the US and around the world. One is titled Speedway: Auto Racing's Ghost Tracks. Another is Ghost Tracks: a Historic Look At American's Lost Road Racing Tracks (ed. note: we are promoting these books only as a personal preference. Seriously, they're good). After you read them you might venture out to a few of these spooky places yourself. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.