Local motorsport fans exchange victory lane for memory lane

It’s no secret that the Midwest has rich racing history. Indianapolis 500 winners, IndyCar Champions, NASCAR Champions, DIRTcar Late Model Champions, history-makers, path-pavers, and life-long motorsport fans hail from the heartland.

Names like Tony Stewart, Bobby Pierce, Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter, Fred Gibb, Chase Briscoe, Justin Allgaier, Chad Knaus, and more, all call the Midwest home.

With Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Racing Capital of the World, next door to his home state of Illinois, Darin Miller can’t help but love the rich history of the Brickyard.

In 1909, 3.2 million bricks were laid down to pave the 2.5-mile track, each at 9.5 pounds. By 1938, the entire track, with the exception of a portion on the front straightaway, was paved with asphalt.

Since the 1996 Brickyard 400, the winners at the track have kissed the remaining bricks to pay homage to the track’s history.

Miller’s favorite memory at the race track was when his daughter chased down Dale Earnhardt Jr. for an autograph during the 2018 Brickyard 400 weekend.

During the Indianapolis 500 in May, crowd numbers reach around 400,000 at the world’s largest sporting venue.

The infield is 253 acres, and the entire facility, which includes the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, the Indiana University Health Emergency Medical Center, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame, a dirt track, and camping grounds, brings the venue’s total to 560 acres.

“I’ve been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway three times, Chicagoland Speedway once, NHRA Drag Racing in St. Louis, and numerous tractor pulls,” Miller said.

St. Louis, Missouri, is another hotbed for rich Midwest motorsports activity. The Gateway Dirt Nationals is the only indoor stock car race, and it features Super Late Models and Open Wheel Modifieds.

Gage Moller, whose favorite driver is Dirt Late Model racer Bobby Pierce, spoke highly of the indoor event.

“I have been three of the four years, and it is crazy to experience nearly 250 late models and modifieds racing inside a dome,” Moller said. “It’s a blast.”

As for local racing, Quincy Raceways normally opens in early April. However, the track is currently up for sale and did not host any events in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“My favorite memory at the track was the night my step-dad won a race,” Moller said. “He was a late model racer and won at Quincy Raceways. It was cool to experience being in victory lane.”

In a statement to the Quincy Herald-Whig, Paul Holtschlag, the current track owner of Quincy Raceways, spoke on the latest state of the track.

“I am optimistic a deal (with a new owner) can be reached,” Holtschlag said. “I want to see racing continue in Quincy.”

Quincy Raceways was built in the 1970s, and Quincy native Mark Burgtorf, holds the most track championships. 

Miller, who attended his first race at Quincy Raceways, discussed his hopes for the local track.

“Hopefully someone can purchase it, keep it going, and have the upkeep on it just so we can have local racing again,” Miller said.

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