Long Island Race Car & Race Track History
Did you know that Long Island, in it's hey day, had over 40 car race tracks? As of 2023, all but one were developed; Riverhead Raceway is the only track currently operating on Long Island.
In 2018 a documentary, 'The Last Race', of Riverhead Raceway was released outlining Long Island's track history, drivers, the owners and the struggles of keeping the racetrack operating and the pressures of the local community and its development. Review of the documentary.
2023 Car Shows
5/7 - Centerport- Eagle Truck Company Custom Car & Cycle Show
5/13 - Peconic - Vintage Charity Concours
6/4 - Old Westbury - Antique Car Show
6/10 - West Sayville- Keels & Wheels at the Maritime Museum
Jericho- Milleridge Inn - Cruisin' Thursdays
Oyster Bay- Oyster Bay Cruise Night
Wading River- East Wind- Cruise Night Car Show at the Shoppes
Decades of Racing On Long Island
William "Willie" K. Vanderbilt II began construction of the Motor Parkway in 1908. Those familiar with the Huntington Township know of the Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium, a Spanish- Revival mansion located in Centerport. This estate was his summer home. He was the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt the railroad developer. Willie wanted to bring the cross-country races popular in Europe to Long Island hence the development of the Motor Parkway. He first started racing on roadways in Nassau County but realized a more dedicated race road would be preferable. It was a private landscaped parkway with tolls including one toll station that is now the Chamber of Commerce for Garden City. This roadway hosted the popular Vanderbilt Cup Races and continued for 2 years. In 1912 it was opened to the public as a private toll road running for 45 miles and used primarily for those going to their Long Island Estates. During prohibition it became known as "Rumrunner's Road" because bootleggers used it to avoid police. Much of Motor Parkway is green space and bikeways. More History Here and More Here
Construction of a two thousand seat stadium in Freeport began with fifth-mile cinder short-track began in 1930. The race track would live under many names including Freeport Speedway. The construction of the stadium and facilities was built as WPA project and the track was dirt to start. Racing really kicked up after the war. During the 1950's the track hosted stock car and modifieds. Foreclosure led to the demise of this popular race track. More History Here and More Here
1947 - 1984
The Islip Speedway, built in 1947, was a huge attraction during its time. It was owned and operated by Larry Mendelsohn was is credited with the invention of the demolition derby which started in 1958. It was even aired on ABC during the 60's. The speedway would add a figure-8 track. The Figure-8 World Championship started in 1964. The Championship was likewise aired on ABC and ran for 20 years. Nascar races were held at the speedway from 1964-1971 and Richard Petty even raced and won at Islip in 1971. Islip Speedway was the smallest track to ever host the NASCAR Grand National Series. More History Here and More Here
1953 - 1997
Construction of the Bridgehampton Raceway, "The Bridge" began in Sag Harbor in 1953. This was an arduous process of attaining the funds and land but ultimately it was designed by 2 engineers from Grumman and a racer from Italy. Sports Car races began in September of 1957. Nascar added a Bridgehampton race in 1958. Long Island became an elite destination for racing with top names coming including Mario Andretti who made his sports car racing debut here. The race names and cars are notable but the topography was the star at Bridgehampton offering panoramic scenic views, hairpin turns and hills. The 1970 June race was the last major professional race held at Bridgehampton. Hurricanes, lack of funding, rezoning, popularity of the Hamptons and complaints about noise all contributed to the loss of this historic race site. The Bridge is now a golf course. More History Here and More Here
Riverhead Raceway is the only track left on Long Island. It is also one of the oldest existing stock car race tracks in the United States. The raceway started as a dirt track when it was built in 1949. It was paved with asphalt in 1955 and has remained that way since. The Raceway is a quarter mile, high banked oval which also includes a Figure 8 Court. More History Here
There is a push to add drag strips back on to Long Island to not only benefit the car enthusiast but to also combat the numerous accounts of speeding on regular roadways. Past drag strips were located in Westhampton and New York National Speedway. The current drag strip sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association is located in Calverton. More Info Here and More Here. See a 30 minute Newsday documentary "Speed Racer: The culture of speed On Long Island"
Did you know?
The Himes Museum of Motor Racing Nostalgia, in Bay Shore, is run by Marty Himes a former truck driver and Long Island racer. He has collected memorabilia from the track history on Long Island. He took it as his mission to retrieve items from the tracks before their demolition. Without his foresight the history of these tracks would be left to pictures and some videos. He has actual tangible items including signs, race suits, cars and more. The museum is far from fancy but it is full of history and passion from a true race fan.
He recently donated some of his race memorabilia to the Freeport Historical Society & Museum.