|Walt Disney World Speedway|
|Location|| Floridian Way|
Walt Disney World Resort
Bay Lake, Florida
|Broke ground||June 6, 1995|
|Opened||November 28, 1995|
|Owner||Walt Disney World|
|Operator|| IMS Events, Inc. (former)|
Walt Disney World (current)
|Construction cost||$6 million|
| Indy Racing League|
Indy 200 (1996-2000)
| 51,000 - temporary bleachers (1996)|
43,000 - temporary bleachers (1999)
30,000 - temporary bleachers (2000)
|Track length||1.0 miles|
|Track banking|| Turn 1 - 10 degrees|
Turn 2 - 8.5 degrees
Turn 3 - 7 degrees
Walt Disney World Speedway is a racing facility located in Orlando, Florida on the grounds of the Walt Disney World resort. It was built in 1995 by IMS Events, Inc. a subsidiary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, primarily as a venue for the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World, an Indy Racing League event. The plans for the track were announced on January 23, 1995.
It is a three-turn tri-oval, designed by Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief engineer Kevin Forbes and the location was chosen in September 1994 by Greg Ruse of Buena Vista Construction. The track is situated on a triangular plot of land adjacent to the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom park. The track was designed to fit within the boundaries of the existing infrastructure, requiring minimal rerouting of existing roads.
The track officially opened in January 1996 as the first-ever event of the Indy Racing League, the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World. The event was placed on the last Saturday in January, the day before the Super Bowl. It was effectively, the first major auto race of the year in the United States. In 1997-1998, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series held races at the track the weekend before the IRL event. Support races for the two events included Formula Ford 2000 and USAC Silver Crown.
Design Simplicity Edit
Walt Disney World Speedway was constructed on a very limited budget. By design, permanent features of the facility were built at a minimum. The track plans called for only the track surface, retaining wall, and catch fence to be constructed. The remainder of the facility, such as seating areas, restrooms, and race support areas, would be built on a temporary, as-needed basis. This strategy had never been used on an oval race track, but had been widely successful for years in temporary street circuits (such as Long Beach). No permanent garages were built on the premises, however, this was not entirely unusual. Race teams would simply work out of their transporters, a practice used frequently at street circuits and other tracks without garages.
The initial savings in construction costs was significant. Temporary bleachers and restrooms would be erected each year beginning in November, in preparations for the January races. The lack of permanent grandstands also allowed track officials to adjust the configuration and capacity of seating annually, reflecting ticket demand. This practice, however, would prove to be inconvenient, and increasingly expensive in the long run, since the grandstand area encompassed portion of the Magic Kingdom parking lot. That area would be unusable for nearly three months, including during the busy Christmas and New Year's holiday season at the theme park.
Parking problems Edit
Intially, the track location, adjacent to the Magic Kingdom parking lot, was seen to be convienient. However, after a couple years, traffic control was overwheleming. Since the race spectators would be arriving at the same time and place as regular theme park visitors, overflow parking was required. In 1996-1997, Disney officials reacted by parking all race spectators in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, and sending all visitors to the Magic Kingdom to the Epcot parking lot. Race spectators would walk to the nearby Speedway, while all guests to the Magic Kingdom were required to take the Disney Monorail or a Disney bus from Epcot, a trip of several minutes. Several complaints surfaced. In 1997, the IRL race was shortened by a sudden rainstorm, and fans scurried to their cars. The resulting rush created a severe gridlock of World Drive and surrounding roads which lasted several hours.
Starting in 1998, spectators to the race events were diverted to park at Epcot, and were taken by shuttle bus to the Speedway. Visitors to the Magic Kingdom were directed to park as usual, in the Magic Kingdom parking lot. While this eased many guest complaints, it also was now inconvenient for race patrons, and resulted in a significant cost increase for operations. The Walt Disney World transportation infrastructure did not own enough buses to smoothly run the operation, and outside bus companies had to be hired to run the shuttle service.
End of professional racing Edit
In its first few years of operation, the track was used frequently as a year-round test facility, due to the warm winter weather in Orlando. However, the track suffered two major accidents. In January 1997, IRL driver Davy Jones broke his neck after a practice crash. On January 6, 2000, IRL driver Sam Schmidt was paralyzed after a crash in preseason testing. The track was built before the SAFER barrier was introduced, which many feel would may lessened the injuries.
After the 2000 IRL season, series officials and Walt Disney World were not able to come to an agreement for a race date for 2001. IRL officials were unsatisfied with the January date, as it was seen to be too early for most teams to be prepared for the season. There was typically a six week gap until the second race of the season. Disney officials also were concerned with the impending conflict with Super Bowl XXXV, to be held in Tampa presumably the same weekend. Initial talks planned to move the race date to Labor Day weekend, and ultimately to a new facility to be built near U.S. 192. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series had already declined to renew their contract with the Speedway for similar reasons after 1998. The talks quietly ceased between the IRL and Disney, and the race was not scheduled for 2001. It was ultimately removed from the IRL schedule permanently.
- The date for the 1996 Indy 200 was announced during a press conference on April 13, 1995. The date was chosen as a Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl. In 1999, the race was held on a Sunday, during the bye week between the AFC/NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl.
- On June 27, 1995, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairman of the Board Mari Hulman George took part in a groundbreaking ceremony. She presented the track with one of the original paving bricks from the famous "Brickyard."
- Final paving was completed October 18, 1995.
- The track was dedicated on November 28, 1995. Indy Racing League drivers Arie Luyendyk, Eddie Cheever, Eliseo Salazar, Lyn St. James and Davey Hamilton drove a five-car "Flying V" formation amongst fireworks.
- Initial testing at the facility for the Indy Racing League took place November 27-December 9, 1995.
- The one-mile track features ten miles of safety restraint cabling, two acres of fencing, 1,800 yards of concrete for outside walls, 2,300 feet of concrete for pit walls and 5,200 tons of asphalt for the track surface.
- Despite 1995 having the wettest June-July in Orlando on record (75 inches of rain), including Hurricane Erin, the construction was completed on-time.
- A one-lane automobile tunnel was built for the 1997 racing season. Tunnels are rare in the state of Florida.
- The track began hosting the Richard Petty Driving Experience in 1997. That is now the track's primary function, year-round.
- In the summer of 1999, a new visitor's center and gift shop was built to permanently house operations for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. A new modest garage facilty was built for them also. The operation had previously worked out of trailers and tents, without significant utilities.
- Three linked ponds in the track’s center field form a Hidden Mickey. The pond, dubbed "Lake Mickey," was built a year after the track opened due to drainage concerns.
- The nickname of the track, most notably mentioned in AutoWeek Magazine and the Orlando Sentinel, is The "Mickyard" (much like the nickname of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is the "Brickyard.")
- On February 19-20, 1999, the track hosted the 7th Annual SunDay Challenge Alternative Energy Vehicle Rally. The highlight of the meet featured the Formula Lightning teams of Ohio State, Kettering, and FAMU/FSU.
- On April 9, 2002 the first test of the new Infiniti Pro Series was conducted at the track, with Robby McGehee driving over 100 miles. The series debuted later that season.
Past race results Edit
NASCAR Camping World Truck SeriesEdit
|1997||Joe Ruttman||16||80||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford|
|1998||Ron Hornaday, Jr.||2||16||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet|