Lakewood Speedway - History


In 1916, Atlanta officials chose the Lakewood Fairgrounds as the site for agricultural fairs. They built a one-mile (1.6 km) horse racing track around a lake at the fairgrounds. The first events were held at the track on July 4, 1917. The feature events were a horse race and motorcycle race, before 23,000 spectators. A first automobile race was held at the track later that year; it featured Barney Oldfield in a match race against Ralph DePalma which attracted 15,000 spectators. In the 1920s and 1930s, the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) held car racing events during fairs and the American Automobile Association (AAA)/USAC held an annual event on July 4. By 1938, the track was hosting races with champ cars, horses, midgets, modifieds, motorcycles, and boats (in the infield lake). The Atlantic States Racing Association, Central States Auto Racing Association, Gulf States Automobile Association, International Stock Car Racing Association, and Motor Internationale Association all sanctioned events at the track. The track closed in 1941, like all United States racetracks, because the U.S. government banned all automobile racing to conserve materials during World War II. Racing resumed after the war; Lakewood became the premier track on the National Stock Car Racing Association circuit. Following the NSCRA's folding, NASCAR held its first race at the track in 1951. It held eleven Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) and two Convertible division races in the 1950s.

Atlanta Motor Speedway opened 20 miles south of Atlanta in 1960. The new 1.5-mile (2.4 km) which took away the NASCAR dates and began draining on the track's appeal. Lakewood was resurfaced in 1967.

Evel Knievel made an appearance at Lakewood Speedway in 1974. He was scheduled to make a jump, but had injured his back the week before. After another stuntman performed the motorcycle jump, Evel Knievel was brought to the track in an ambulance, where he was lifted onto a motorcycle by four assistants. He then drove up and down the track, popping wheelies for the crowd.

The track fell into disuse in the late 1970s. After it officially closed on September 3, 1979, it was allowed to be overgrown with grass and bushes. Monthly flea markets and a few concerts were held at the exhibition halls on the fairgrounds. As of 2008, the grandstand is still standing, but the third and fourth turns of the racetrack are covered by the back parking lot for Lakewood Amphitheatre. A road crosses the turn two, and the frontstretch was paved to become an access road to Lakewood Avenue. Most of the lake has been filled.

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