The Frontstretch: Welcome to Brooklyn (No, the OTHER Brooklyn) by Amy Henderson -- Monday June 12, 2006

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Welcome to Brooklyn (No, the OTHER Brooklyn)

That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time · Amy Henderson · Monday June 12, 2006

 

I admit, when I think of NASCAR’s historic tracks, I think of Martinsville, Darlington, and Daytona. I admit that I always thought of Michigan International Speedway as just another of the newer, trendy, and boring cookie-cutter racetracks in NASCAR; sometimes the racing is less than exciting, so it was easy to lump MIS into that category. In that, I also admit, I was wrong.

From a historical perspective, MIS is a lot more interesting than I thought. Carved out of the Irish Hills in Brooklyn in the late 1960’s, MIS has changed ownerships and philosophies over the years, but the racing has stayed the same. Sure, you know that MIS hosts two Nextel Cup races each summer, but did you know:

  • That all told, the speedway covers just over 1400 acres of those Michigan hills?
  • That MIS was designed in the 1960’s by Charles Moneypenny, who also designed Daytona International Speedway? Moneypenny had a little help with this track, though. The track’s two road courses (one interior, one exterior, which were designed to be raced separately or combined as a longer course) were designed by Formula 1 legend Stirling Moss. The road courses have fallen by the wayside, however. The interior course has not been used in 22 years, and the last time the exterior course saw racing was 1973.
  • That the track cost Detroit land developer Lawrence LoPatin between four and six million dollars to build? It now holds 125,000 fans. You do the math on ticket revenues.
  • That the first race at MIS was an Indy Car race held in 1968?
  • That the first NASCAR race at Michigan was won by Cale Yarborough? It was a real barnburner, though; Yarborough was door-to-door with LeeRoy Yarbrough entering the last lap. LeeRoy crashed just 300 yards shy of the finish line, while Yarborough took the checkers.
  • That Roger Penske bought the track in 1973? Penske later sold the speedway to International Speedway Corporation, who tool over in 1999, changing the name from Michigan Speedway to Michigan international Speedway, the moniker the track carries today.
  • That the track’s two races are the largest single-day sporting events each year in the state of Michigan?
  • That Brooklyn’s other attractions include the Stagecoach Stop (where the brave can ride an authentic stagecoach complete with holdup by bandits) and Mystery Hill, where water purportedly runs uphill? A generation also enjoyed the now-defunct Prehistoric Park, home of dinosaurs and waterslides.
  • That MIS has increased seating capacity by 500% since 1985?

While many race fans may never put Michigan on the same pedestal as Darlington or Charlotte, it’s certainly an interesting place. The history books will admit another winner this weekend. Whether it’s a new name or a repeat glory, a new chapter will be written to compliment the old. Now that’s history!

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Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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