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The fastest half-mile plus 210 feet

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Dayton Speedway

The fastest half-mile plus 210 feet

Jeremy T. Sellers
Jerm's Joint
August 15, 2010

Anyone who lives in Ohio knows that other than Tony Stewart's famous Eldora Speedway and a few hometown NASCAR sanctioned tracks, we haven't had much to brag about regarding the sport's top division. Howvever, I have been picking apart a book covering NASCAR's history from the years before its inception, to the current state of the sport. It was during the early part of this journey that I saw pictures of Grand National races at Dayton Speedway.

No folks, I didn't for get the "a" on the end of Dayton. I am, in fact, referring to Dayton, Ohio, a mere 25 minute drive from yours truly. Opening in 1934 as a D-shaped oval as a 5/8 mile dirt track, it went through two conversions before becoming a very high-banked oval by 1939. It is even rumored that the owner of that time, Frank Funk, may have buried old trolley cars to help fill the space needed to build the banking. Instead of asphalt, Funk initially covered the track in an oil substance that made the track as hard as pavement. However, on hot days, the material would become soapy and rain over the cars and their drivers during an event. The track was eventually paved.

The NASCAR Grand National Series (what we now know as Sprint Cup) staged events here in 1950-52 with two races each year. In 1950, Dayton hosted races seven and eleven on the schedule with Jimmy Florian and Dick Linder winning respectfully. During the 1951 campaign, races twelve and twenty-nine ran here with Curtis Turner and Fonty Flock taking the checkered flag! In NASCAR's final year at Dayton Speedway in 1952, races eleven and twenty-eight were held with Dick Rathmann taking both trophies home that year.

Originally, Dayton Speedway opened to host AAA Sprint Car events as its first form of organized racing in 1946. NASCAR threw in a brief mix, and ARCA began stopping here in May of 1953. AAA defunct after August of 1955 and ARCA then began sharing the space with USAC until the track closed in May of 1981. ASA ran a single event at Dayton on June 27, 1976.

During the time Dayton Speedway was open, it only saw one closure and that was to focus on the war effort during WWII in which the gates were locked from 1941-1945. The track also took on several different owners during its life span including Harlan Fengler Era, who was chief steward of the Indy 500 in 1960. He cut the banking by six feet, which may have been the beginning of the end. Many tried to revive the track until its official extinction in 1986. Walls were added in place of guard rails, grandstand improvements were made, and facility ajustments took place, but to know avail. It is also worth noting that several IRL drivers cut their teeth here including the legendary Parnelli Jones!

No one likes to see what was once great, become a memory. After 1986, the site already had a landfill encroaching on its back straight-away, and when the track closed, the dump consumed the speedway. The pictures are a sad sight and I'd rather not show them to our readers. However, I thought it was worth taking race fans, and fellow buckeyes on a trip down NASCAR memory lane and to let them know the premier series use to stop in our back yard. For an even further look back at Dayton Speedway, type in "Dayton Speedway Lives" into your search engine.

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