I was shuffling through TV channels recently and landed upon an episode of “Lost Speedways. The docuseries on Peacock was created and hosted by Earnhardt and co-host Matthew Dillner. Together they explore historically significant and visually stunning racetracks that are now abandoned, dormant, or in decay.
Dale Jr. and his team explore deserted tracks, search for artifacts and solve unanswered questions at venues all across the country.
I immediately connected with the show because of my interest in history and cars. And the show’s focus on automotive history and motorsports made the discovery even better. I had tuned into “Danger Zone,” which was episode seven from the first season. It told the history of the Jungle Park Speedway, an hour west of Indianapolis.
The half-mile dirt track opened in 1926 and closed in 1960. It closed after one more in a long line of horrific accidents, according to a 2016 report by Will Higgins of the Indianapolis Star.
Reclaimed by nature
Nature has been reclaiming the grounds ever since it closed. But remnants remain, such as the grandstand.
“Sycamore trees stand 40 feet tall in the middle of the first turn. Honeysuckle grows thick in what once was the pits.
“The grandstand is the most obvious remnant. It was built in 1947.
“Jungle Park Speedway, a half-mile oval with a quarter-mile oval in its infield, was one of the premier speedways in the Midwest in the early 20th century,” Higgins wrote. “It was a proving ground for some of the top American race drivers. Eight Jungle Park veterans went on to win the Indianapolis 500, including one of Indy’s all-time greats, Wilbur Shaw, who won the 500 in 1937, 1939, and 1940.”
Jungle Park on Facebook
“It’s been over fifty years since the big cars roared around the Parke County racing bowl, wrote author Tom W. Williams in the intro to the Jungle Park Speedway Facebook page.
“It was a track where a driver could hardly tell how many curves there were or where the next one started. It was a place where engine noises echoed off the trees and hills like voices in a cave. If you go there, you may experience the presence of ghosts as well. Perhaps you will encounter a spier darting off the track into the trees or flitting from seat to seat in the old grandstand, empty for so many years. The ghosts are most certainly there.”
Williams is the author of “The Ghosts of Jungle Park, History, Myth, and Legend, the Story of a Place Like No Other.”
Stream for free
Eight episodes of “Lost Speedways” were produced for the first season that debuted on July 15, 2020. The eight-episode second season debuted on July 1, 2021.
Season 2 of “Lost Speedways” is available to stream for free on Peacock now.
Speedways featured in Season 2 include Arundel Speedway (Arundel, ME), Pennsboro Speedway (Pennsboro, WV), and Columbia Speedway (Cayse, SC).
Racing legends, such as seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty, join as guests throughout the series.Read more