With the invention of the automobile in the late Nineteenth century, so did the desire to turn it into a recreational sport. Thus, race tracks were created across the world to satisfy those who would pay good money to see cars of various shapes and sizes duking it out in a heated competition to see whose car is the fastest much like the chariot races of old. It is not only thrilling for people to see cars racing around the track at top speeds till they are only blurs of vibrant color, but even the dangers associated with the sport tend to make things more interesting.
From the occasional wayward driver who crashed their car in a spectacular manner to the rare car pile-ups, we have a strange fascination with violence in sports that we’re both repelled by and yet drawn to when it happens. Although as safety procedures with cars have improved, so have their capabilities in terms of speed so the danger of the sport persists even into the modern age. Yet as cars improved over time, so did the tracks. This in turn led many race tracks of historical importance to be abandoned while improved ones opened elsewhere which are still available today.
25 Texas World Speedway
Located near the city of College Station, Texas, it once held the record for being “One of the USA’s longest racing tracks” according to Urban Ghosts. Though the above picture only shows a small section of it, it’s not hard to imagine given that the state of Texas has a particular love for big things (being one of the biggest states in America). While it was particularly popular during the 70s, the track lost its popularity during the following decade due to the track’s poor condition which was so bad that, “NASCAR refused to hold races there” Urban Ghosts states.
24 Windy Hollow Drag Strip
Like Shuffletown, this was another rural track that was used for drag racing only it’s located in Kentucky as opposed to North Carolina. Though it appears to be occupied by two cars in the above picture, this is actually two main roads located near the actual race track which has been abandoned for some time. It is described by Urban Ghosts as reeking of “Silence and neglect” due to being fenced off from the main roads and left to decay. Despite shutting down two years ago, it reopened last year as the shutdown was only temporary according to Global Film Locations.
23 Monaco GP Circuit
Named after the small independent city on coast of France of the same name which faces the Mediterranean Sea, this particular track is known for being extremely curvy as the above picture shows. Yet this is where “The Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix” is held Road & Track states. Held since the 1920s, it has been a major attraction for many of the rich folks that typically stay in Monaco either overnight or during the summer months. Thus, the track has become not only an important location for Formula One car races in general but also more prestigious compared to others.
22 Reims-Gueux Circuit
Though it’s not as old as Brooklands, this circuit is a close second as it was built in the 1920s. Additionally, “It came to define French racing in the mid-20th century” Urban Ghosts states. Yet in the 50s and 60s, the track wasn’t doing well financially following a remodeling. But evidence of this is hard to tell, since most of the buildings around the roads near the track have fallen into decay as evidenced by the one in the above picture. Since the track was abandoned in the 70s, “A partial demolition” occurred in 2002 according to Urban Ghosts.
21 Thunderhill Raceway
As packed as California can get, being one of the most popular states to live at in the US, there’s plenty of room for race tracks. One such example is Thunderhill, which is located “Outside of Sacramento” according to Road & Track. While Sacramento isn't nearly as populated as Los Angeles, it is the capital of California so it’s impressive that something as big as this lies outside of it. Described by Road & Track as having “A few blind crests, and plenty of high-speed bends,” the hilly terrain that fits its namesake would make for some interesting driving like Mount Panorama.
20 I-70 Speedway
For fans of car racing in Missouri, I-70 Speedway was the place to go. Apart from its 40-year history, the other reason this track is famous is because it was “One of the homes of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series in the 1990s” as stated by Urban Ghosts. This was when NASCAR created race cars designed like trucks for racing purposes, and they became a big hit with races continuing into the present. Yet the I-70 Speedway itself has unfortunately been abandoned despite hints that it might be reopening sometime this year as evidenced by construction work.
19 North Wilkesboro Speedway
Compared to the other abandoned race tracks covered in this article so far, this one is not particularly famous except that there was a considerable amount of effort done to save it. Originally opened after World War II, it was “A NASCAR mecca” (or popular place where NASCAR races were held) according to Urban Ghosts before closing in the 90s. Then over time, a campaign got started to make the track suitable for racing once more. This in turn led to “A brief renaissance” in 2010 following the track’s successful reopening, Urban Ghosts states, before it closed down again not long after.
Despite the number of abandoned race tracks that are out there in the world, there are just as many functioning ones which people can still visit. Of course, the convenience of the track’s locations largely depends on where one lives and what kind of car racing they offer. For instance, the race track in the above picture is located in Brazil and primarily specializes in Formula One car racing. In fact, it is “The home of the Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix” according to Road & Track magazine. With a history that dates back to the 1940s, this track is quite famous worldwide.
17 Phoenix Trotting Park
As a result of the growing popularity of car racing when it first became a sport, other similar races which involved horses and cycles (aka the predecessors to modern bicycles with the enormous wheels) went out of style. One example of this shifting interest can arguably be seen in the abandoned horse race track known as Phoenix Trotting Park. Located in Arizona, it was originally opened in the mid-60s but only for “Two-and-a-half seasons” Urban Ghosts magazine states because it was in an unfavorable location that was “Prone to flooding and buffeted by harsh desert winds”.
16 Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Apart from its long history, the Interlagos track (also known as Autódromo José Carlos Pace) became famous due to being a challenging course with elevation changes and decreasing radius corners as stated by Road & Track. Though the previous image demonstrates these points quite well, it isn’t nearly as old as the Autodromo Nazionale Monza track in Italy. Considered to be “The third-oldest motor racing circuit on Earth” according to Road & Track, this is another place where Formula One race cars can be seen. While it’s not quite as difficult as Interlagos terrain-wise, it still has its challenging moments.
15 Tsukuba Circuit
While street car racing in America dates back quite a ways, it is relatively more recent in Japan history-wise. Rising to popularity in the 80s and 90s, Japanese street car racing became big enough for car tuning companies to take notice. Thus, Time Attack competitions got started where street cars that have been tuned up by major companies race against one another on a set track for the sake of proving which upgrades are better. One of the more prominent tracks that holds these competitions is the Tsukuba Circuit, which is located north of Tokyo according to Road & Track.
14 Brooklands Circuit
Now compared to Keimola, this race track in England is pretty famous in the history of car racing in general. While previous race tracks were merely refitted versions of horse and/or cycling ones, Brooklands was “The world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit” as stated by Urban Ghosts. Thus, it is quite old having opened in the early 1900s. Yet the place was also used for manufacturing aircraft and as an airfield (which isn’t shown in the above picture). So in wake of the two World Wars, the aircraft side of things took over leading to the race track's eventual abandonment.
13 Mount Panorama Circuit
Despite the name implying this track is located on a mountain, it’s actually on a hill outside the city of Bathurst, Australia, which is a little ways north of Sydney. While the above picture doesn’t seem to indicate much, Mount Panorama is “Well-known for its long straights and tight downhill section” according to Road & Track. So while parts of it are linear, it's far from an easy track to drive down. Plus, “Most of the track has absolutely no runoff” Road & Track adds meaning if a car happens to skid there’s no area for them to safely drive into.
12 Watkins Glen International Raceway
Though Formula One races tend to be associated with Europe South America and Britain, since these regions have their own racing championships with this particular car model, they have been held in the United States as well. However, they’ve never been held at the same place since they began in the early 1900s. For instance, the Watkins Glen International Speedway was one such location for almost twenty years before the Formula One races moved somewhere else. Yet this place is noteworthy because it apparently has “A rhythm that a lot of today's new tracks can't even match” Road & Track claims.
11 Virginia International Raceway
While various racing championships have been held on this track, none of them have been nearly as famous as the ones covered in this article thus far. Nevertheless, the track itself is considered to be fun according to Road & Track with “Challenging switchback turns and blind uphill sections”. Given that this track is located on the border of North Carolina and Virginia, it makes sense that there would be sections that require the driver to make sharp turns and go uphill. After all, both states are known for having lots of green hills further inland from their respective eastern coastlines.
10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Originally known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, this track was built in the late 50s supposedly to “Tap into widespread public love of the Pebble Beach Road Races” according to Road & Track. For those unfamiliar with the Pebble Beach Road Races, they were held in the town of the same name in California and often took place on a series of narrow and twisty roads. By comparison, the WeatherTech Raceway is also located in California and “Marked by 11 turns” on the route Road & Track says. So it’s a pretty twisty track, but on a larger scale than Pebble Beach.
9 Sonoma Raceway
Another California-based race track, it has gone by other names in the past. Examples include Sears Point and Infineon, as stated by Road & Track, which relate to where the track was located originally as well as a former corporate sponsor respectively. But no matter what anyone calls it, it’s still a pretty famous race track in California. Like WeatherTech, though, it’s more twisty than straight in terms of direction with “Lots of flat-out turns and massive elevation changes” as described by Road & Track. Though judging by the hint of desert seen in the above picture, it looks similar to Thunderhill.
8 Imola Circuit
Like the Autodromo Nazionale Monza track, this one is also located in Italy. Thus, it’s known natively as the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari because it’s considered as “The home circuit for Ferrari fans” according to Road & Track. The reason for this is because Ferrari is one of the various car manufacturers who have a division that specifically designs cars to compete in the Formula One races which are held in Italy and many other places that have been highlighted in this article. As a result, this track is “One of Italy's top racing destinations” as stated by Road & Track.
7 Daytona International Speedway
For any car enthusiast, they know this track like the back of their hand. Considered to be “One of America's most iconic tracks,” Road & Track says, it’s easy to see why as the image above looks like the kind of thing most people envision when they think of a typical car race. From the dynamic curve of the track to the clustered formation of the cars themselves, it’s easy to see how this would inspire so many car-related movies such as Days of Thunder. Apart from hosting the titular Daytona 500, this track is also open to the public.
6 Sebring International Raceway
Considered to be “One of the oldest race tracks in America,” as stated by Road & Track, it’s certainly showing its age judging by the swerve lines in the above picture. There’s so many of them that they practically turn the track a deeper shade of grey. Yet given the number of racing cars present, and the partially visible crowds, it’s clearly still being used. But for those who actually have to drive on it, the track can be challenging because of its rough surface which “Requires drivers to have a ton of commitment going into every turn” Road & Track says.
5 Silverstone Circuit
As stated before, Britain is one of the regions that hosts its own Formula One car racing championships along with South America and Europe as a whole. The Silverstone Circuit is one such track in Britain that hosts the Formula One races, and it has quite a history. At the time of its opening in 1948, “Britain didn't have a major race track” according to Road & Track even though there was the Brooklands Circuit which had been created several decades earlier. But because Brooklands had fallen into disuse because of the nearby airfield taking precedence, Silverstone probably got more attention.
4 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
While the Daytona 500 may be popular among car racers, it is arguably nowhere near as famous as the Indy 500. For over a century, this track has hosted the titular race as far back as the 1900s making it “The second-oldest motor racing circuit on the planet” as stated by Road & Track. Now compared to some of the older race tracks featured in this article such as the Brooklands Circuit, it’s amazing this track in particular is still being used to this day. Though given the popularity of the Indy 500, one would assume this track has gotten upgrades.
3 Beach Haven Speedway
Though it doesn’t look like much now, this race track used to be popular in the 1960s according to Urban Ghosts. Located in Pennsylvania, it was built near a lake which also happened to be next to an amusement park. So this place was appealing to both kids and adults who could find at least one thing here that they would like. But as people’s tastes changed, which is always inevitable with progress of any kind, Beach Haven was abandoned. As a result, it became “One of the most-overgrown abandoned speedways in the entire world” as stated by Urban Ghosts.
2 Shuffletown Dragway
Much like Beach Haven, this place has also become overgrown with plants. However, it opened a decade before Beach Haven when the nearby town of Charlotte, North Carolina, was relatively small. This in turn benefited Shuffletown as it was located in “The middle of an isolated, rural area” according to Urban Ghosts. But with the introduction of suburbs, more people moved closer to the race track which was primarily used by drag racers. Yet this new development led to local residents complaining about “The noise of a raceway in their backyard” Urban Ghosts says forcing Shuffletown to permanently close down.
1 Keimola Motor Stadium
As stated previously, there were many race tracks built around the entire world and not just in America. For instance, the abandoned race track in the above picture is located in Finland despite no clear indication of that in terms of visuals. In its heyday, though, this place was “One of Finland’s premier race tracks” for Formula Two cars as stated by Urban Ghosts. Yet this claim to fame didn’t last very long as the race track was open for about fifteen years between the early 60s and the late 70s. Nowadays, it’s “Being transformed it into a residential area” Urban Ghosts says.
Resources: urbanghostsmedia.com, raceandtrack.com, globalfilmlocations.net