A Look Back at the Glory Days of NASCAR's Texas World Speedway

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A Look Back at the Glory Days of NASCAR's Texas World Speedway
Associated Press
Bobby Isaac (No. 71) was the inaugural Texas World Speedway winner in 1969 while Richard Petty (No. 43) would win three times at the two-mile speedway.

Although it isn't in a state of disrepair like North Wilkesboro, Texas World Speedway in College Station, Texas, doesn't look to have a return to its glory days any time soon.

The design of the speedway is reminiscent to the two-mile Michigan track near Detroit, with the College Station track also measuring out to two miles with 22-degree banking in the corners and eight-degree banking on the straightaways. 

Despite the intention of the speedway becoming one of the premier venues in all of motorsports, the speedway was doomed from the start as speedway founder Larry LoPatin and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. found themselves at odds following their opposite stances with the Talladega boycott of 1969. France, claiming the winner's purse was too small, dropped the event from the schedule, leaving LoPatin scrambling for more funding.

LoPatin was able to find proper funding, yet come race day, a mere 24,000 fans showed up for that inaugural event. At the speedway's second event in 1971, 18,000 fans showed up. The speedway continued to suffer, and following their 1973 season, they were unable to host another NASCAR event until 1979. Even then, that event told the same story—only 11,000 fans were on hand to watch Darrell Waltrip get the win. 

JOE HOLLOWAY, JR./Associated Press
Benny Parsons (left) won the final Winston Cup event at Texas World Speedway in 1981 while A.J. Foyt (right), a native Texan, won at the superspeedway nine times in various USAC competitions.

A brief fixture on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit, Texas World Speedway first brought fast superspeedway racing to the Lone Star State in 1969, with Bobby Isaac winning his first long-distance superspeedway race. Isaac earned the victory by two laps over Donnie Allison. After the 1969 Texas 500, NASCAR wouldn't race again in College Station until 1971.

Eight races were run at the Texas World Speedway, with Richard Petty winning the most races with three (1971-'73), while Isaac, Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough and Benny Parsons each won one race apiece. Parson's win in the 1981 Budweiser 400 was the last time NASCAR visited the speedway for a race.

The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) briefly hosted races there from 1991 to 1993 after Ishin Speed Sport bought and renovated the speedway, but after the 1993 season, the speedway fell to sports car races, amateur racers and stock car tests.

Since then, the speedway's massive 15-turn road course has been the primary feature still used at the speedway, with bodies such as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Central Motorcycle Racing Association (CMRA) and several driving schools coursing their way through the 2.9 miles of lefts and rights.

However, in 2009, Greg Biffle's No. 16 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford recording an astounding testing speed of 218 mph during a January test on the two-mile oval, proving that the speedway is still one of the fastest in the land. With all things considered, if the speedway were to be repaved and SAFER barriers installed, then Texas World Speedway would be an excellent venue for an event. However, it has already been deemed that the speedway has a much more exciting cousin in Fort Worth.

Still, if California and Florida have two speedways, then it should stand that the resurrection of Texas World Speedway would be a great and exciting addition. The speedway seemed to have the misfortune of being in the wrong era of NASCAR. In an era of cookie-cutter tracks, Texas World Speedway would be much needed.

Perhaps it wouldn't have as much trouble gaining spectators this time around.

Follow Joseph on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy

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