Long Island, New York has one race track remaining. Riverhead Raceway is a NASCAR sanctioned Ã‚Â¼ mile asphalt banked oval. Racing takes place from early May through September. I am honored to be one of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“voicesÃ¢â‚¬Â of Riverhead. I will be starting my 7th season as a track announcer this spring. We still pack them in on a good summer night and feature six divisions of racing.
Long Island has a rich racing heritage. It was home to The Vanderbilt Cup, the famed Bridgehampton Race Circuit, Freeport Speedway and the Islip Speedway. Islip had an interesting history. It was the home of the first ever Demolition Derby and also had the distinction of hosting 6 NASCAR Grand National races. The Grand National eventually became the Busch Series.
What makes this interesting is twofold. First Ã¢â‚¬Å“YankeeÃ¢â‚¬Â excitement in NASCAR racing was not exactly at a fevered pitch back in the 60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s or 70Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. Secondly Islip was a mere 1/5 of a mile. As a matter of fact Islip was the shortest track ever to host a Grand National or Busch race.
The last Grand National race to be held at Islip was on July 15, 1971. 250 laps, with a standing room only crowd of 6,200 fans in attendance. The average speed of the race was 49.925 mph, and the winner led every lap, taking the checker 2 laps ahead of his nearest rival. The winner of the race? Ã¢â‚¬Å“The KingÃ¢â‚¬Â, Richard Petty driving a ’71 Plymouth and taking down $1,500 for the victory.
Some other names of interest in that final race: Bobby Allison, James Hylton who is going to try to qualify for the ARCA race at Daytona at 73 years of age and Richard Childress, yes even back then driving a Chevy.
Tom Pistone #59 and Bobby Allison #2 fight it out during the 300 lap main event in a 1966 Grand National Islip race.