2011 Indy 500: The Top 15 Tracks in Motorsports

Paula ThompsonCorrespondent IMay 26, 2011

2011 Indy 500: The Top 15 Tracks in Motorsports

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    The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered by some race fans as the crème de la crème of race tracks.

    Its long history of monumental races steeped with tradition definitely makes it one of the top race tracks for fan viewing and driver competition.

    Here’s a look at 15 tracks in alphabetical order–including IMS–that rank among the best in different forms of auto racing.

Auto Club Raceway at Pomona

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    The heart of the National Drag Racing Association (NHRA) is in Pomona.

    The dragstrip hosts the season-opening NHRA Winternationals as well as the season-closing NHRA Finals.

    Opened in 1951, the track hosted the first NHRA-sanctioned event in 1953.

Bristol Motor Speedway

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    The short track with the big reputation, Bristol Motor Speedway has been the site of some of the most horrific accidents in NASCAR (like Michael Waltrip’s Nationwide Series crash in 1990).

    It has also been the site of some of the series’ most exciting race finishes.

    Featuring steep banking and stadium seating, the track seats upwards of 150,000 people.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

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    The home of NASCAR, Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, as well as the Sprint All-Star Race.

    Drivers show off some awesome paint schemes at their “home track,” and fans get some awesome racing.

Circuit De La Sarthe

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    The home of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, this semi-permanent track in France is an incredible 8.469 miles long–one of the longest courses in the world.

    The world’s oldest sports car race in endurance racing circuits, it began in 1923 and remains one of the most highly-regarded races in the world.

Circuit De Monaco

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    Laid out in the streets of Monte Carlo, the 2.075-mile circuit hosts Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix, one of the “Triple Crown” races in motorsports (with the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans).

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

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    North America’s current F1 track (one is being built in Texas), it also hosts NASCAR’s Canadian Tire and Nationwide Series plus the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

    Opened in 1978 as the Ile Notre-Dame Circuit, the 2.71-mile track was renamed in 1982 in honor of Canadian F1 driver Villeneuve, who died that year at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Darlington Raceway

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    Call it the “Lady in Black,” the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” or just Darlington–the track has been a NASCAR tradition since 1950 with the first running of the Southern 500.

    The track has been turned around (the frontstretch was the backstretch), seating has been increased (currently around 65,000) and lights have been added–racers, however, still get the “Darlington Stripe” when they get a little too close to the wall.

Daytona International Speedway

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    Opened in 1959, the track was built by NASCAR founding father Bill France Sr. to host the race formerly set on the beaches of Daytona.

    The track hosts the Daytona 500 and Coke 400 for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, as well as races for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, plus the Grand-Am Rolex Series’ 24 Hours of Daytona, the ARCA Racing Series and AMA Supercross.

Eldora Speedway

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    The dirt track racer’s “field of dreams,” this half-mile clay oval in Ohio has a seating capacity of almost 20,000.

    Purchased by NASCAR and IRL champ Tony Stewart in 2004, the track hosts the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series’ King’s Royal, the Dirt Late Model Dream, the World 100 and the charity race “Prelude to the Dream,” hosted by Stewart with a number of his NASCAR buddies.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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    Opened in 1909, the speedway is finishing its centennial era celebration with the 2011 running of the Indianapolis 500.

    The track hosted F1 racing from 2000 to 2007 on the facility’s road course, and currently also hosts NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 and MotoGP’s Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

Knoxville Raceway

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    Another half-mile dirt oval, this one located in Iowa, this track is known as the “Sprint Car Capital of the World.”

    Hosting the annual Knoxville Nationals Sprint Car Race, the track is also the home of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Milwaukee Mile

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    The oldest operating motor speedway in the world, the Milwaukee Mile opened in 1903 and has hosted at least one race every year since then.

    Once a dirt track, the Mile was paved in 1954 and can hold around 40,000 spectators. The track currently hosts the IZOD IndyCar Series and the American Speed Association (ASA).

Road America

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    A permanent road course in Wisconsin, the track opened in 1955 and hosts more than 400 events a year.

    The 14-turn, 4.048–mile track hosts the American Le Mans Series, the Grand-Am Rolex Series, NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, AMA Superbikes and the Sports Car Club of America, among other organizations.

Talladega Superspeedway

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    Located on the former Anniston Air Force Base in Alabama, the 2.66-mile superspeedway opened in 1969 and is known as the fastest track in NASCAR—Bill Elliott ran the NASCAR record 212.809 mph lap in 1987.

    Now run with restrictor plates, the track is still quick, and is prone to the “Big One.” It’s not unusual to see a dozen or more cars involved in wrecks at the track–in one accident.

ZMAX Dragway

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    The “Bellagio of dragstrips,” the four-lane track is located across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

    The state-of-the-art dragstrip hosts two NHRA events, the Four-Wide Nationals utilizing all four lanes, and the O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals, part of the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.