One of our favorite YouTubers here at the Daily Downforce is none other than S1ap Sh0es. Being a long-time supporter of the local short track scene, in 2023 S1ap embarked on his Short Tracks of America Tour on which he attends local short tracks in danger of closing down its doors due to the booming real estate market. This week, the man, the myth, and the legend returns with a tale of the last event ever to be hosted by the legendary Rockford Speedway. Let’s watch!
Opening Act at Sycamore Speedway
When it was announced in early 2023 that this year would be the last year in operation for the Rockford Speedway, S1ap made a point to add the stop on his Short Tracks of America Tour. He got in contact with our buddy, The Iceberg, and the two made plans to meet up for some short track action in the fall of this year. Arriving on the Friday morning before the main event on Saturday night, S1ap elected to make a stop at the equally famous Sycamore Speedway which currently sits in between Chicago and Rockford.
The speedway was founded in the year 1960 under the title Bob-Jo Speedway as a go-cart track and wasn’t repurposed for hosting full-bodied stocks until three years later in 1963, following the booming short track stock car industry in the Midwest which was second only to the southeastern United States.
When the track was upgraded to host stocks, it was the very definition of bare bones. Restrooms were merely outhouses, lights were installed only 5 minutes before sunset, and the only item the concession stand sold was hot dogs due to the owner of the facility running out of money for their opening night. It was a hit from that very first night and has been a popular Friday night hangout for midwestern race fans ever since.
The race S1ap went and saw that Friday night was a street stock event with common cars driven by common spectators with dazzling paint schemes. The night wrapped up with an infield demolition derby which would prove to serve as the perfect appetizer for what was in store for S1ap and the Iceberg the following Saturday night at Rockford.
Rockford Speedway’s Last Hurrah
Rockford Speedway was built as a purposeful short quarter-mile paved oval in 1947, making the facility older than NASCAR itself. Its short length and odd construction meant that it was used primarily by midget cars in its founding days but modifieds also thrived there early on. In 1966, the family that owned and operated the track until it closed its doors in 2023 bought the track outright.
The awkward design of the track means that the preferred racing groove is right in the middle of the corners and the driver slides up onto the straight away, hoping that the outside retaining wall will catch them if something goes array. Despite the track never hosting a NASCAR Cup Series event (though the NASCAR Advance Auto Late Model Series did run there), many legends of the sport cut their teeth at the short oval. These drivers include NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin and Dick Trickle who both won the 200-lap Short Track National Championship hosted by Rockford at the end of every season.
S1ap also points out that the amenities of the Rockford Speedway are even better than some better-known and larger tracks complete with sit-down restaurants, concession stands, two bars, and a full-walk in souvenir shop. And racing wasn’t the only thing this little midwestern short track had going for it. In his video, S1ap shows a concert poster for a Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult concert the track hosted ages ago.
In terms of the crowds, Iceberg suggested that S1ap buy his tickets in advance as sellouts are not at all unheard of. Often on weekends, the track is so packed that it’s standing room only up in the stands. This might sound like bizarre circumstances for a track getting ready to close its doors permanently at season’s end. So, what gives?
The death of this racetrack is just like the death of any other local short track: it has been sold to real estate developers with rumors of a Walmart being built over the track’s corpse. The racetrack is right off a major highway across from a Menards. Simply put, as S1ap puts in his video, despite the fact that the track still turns a profit with consistent sellouts and merchandise sells, even in the year 2023, the land it sits on is worth far more than the profits the track is bringing in. This enticed the ownership family to sell the track but not after having one final hurrah. Track officials announced to their fans that they would be closing their doors permanently but not before having an absolutely stacked swan song season.
The event Iceberg and S1ap attended in early June had, in addition to its typical weekly late model races, the infamous Trailer Race of Destruction! This is described by S1ap as the most toxic form of short track racing. Essentially this race is a demolition derby with trucks hauling trailers from old U-Hauls to campers, to pretty much whatever they attach onto the hitch of their truck. There is no set distance, the “racing” only stops due to fire or someone has flipped over their vehicle. Otherwise, he rolls on continuously until there is only 1 vehicle left. Within minutes, bent sheet metal and debris are littered across the racing surface, meaning that drivers have to take to the infield to continue on. Staying up on the racing surface is merely a suggestion and, before long, it’s hard to even tell where the asphalt stops and the infield dirt begins.
While seemingly no art to the race, the same guys always win so there must be some sort of talent required, right? S1ap describes that as the greatest demolition derby one could ever witness.
Visit Your Local Short Track
S1ap caps off this video by saying nothing lasts forever and that includes the Rockford Speedway which has gone the way of so many great local short tracks. He urges us to visit our local short track as often as we can as it could be sold out right from under our noses and we won’t even see it coming. I intend to go to my local short track, Kingsport Speedway, (I technically live closer to Bristol but Kingsport isn’t that much farther) for the 2024 season and I hope all the Daily Downforce readers will do the same and support grassroots racing at its finest.
What do you think, NASCAR fans? What’s your local short track? Let us know and keep it right here for all the latest news and discussion topics in the world of NASCAR!