The Texas Motor Speedway is another relatively young NASCAR track, born out of the 1990’s boom in the sport’s popularity. Because of that, this week’s throwback Thursday is more of a look at the history of the track rather than a specific event.
Texas Motor Speedway held its first cup race in 1997. While it was a celebration of the expansion of the sport and the all new 120 million dollar track, it required the death of North Wilkesboro, a lovable short track which is missed.
The track was a sign of the future of NASCAR, by gaining two events in its first season, what was originally referred to as a super speedway, and the fastest non restrictor plate track on the circuit, Texas started the trend towards more 1.5 mile D shaped ovals dominating the schedule.
The inaugural race began with a lap 1, turn 1 crash, as drivers attempted to use the one and only racing groove on the new surface. From there it became obvious that turn 1 would be dangerous, contributing to multiple wrecks throughout the race. Multiple race leaders were involved in wrecks and taken out, one who wasn’t was Jeff Burton. It was his first career win, he would find more success at similar tracks such as Charlotte in the years following.
As Texas has grown most fans have accepted it for what it is, another 1.5 mile. While usually not providing anything out of the ordinary, the track has been known to have good racing and put on a show. It’s as much as an entertainment event as a race, with the winners even shooting of guns in victory lane. However, it doesn’t have the greatness it once promised. The lure of pure speed that the track offered in the early 2000’s, setting qualifying speeds faster than any other non super speedway, up to 196 mph, no longer exists, as the older surface has given speed up and returned that title to Atlanta. He would return to victory lane at Texas in 2007.
To spice things up again, one of the races has been moved to Saturday night, and is what you’ll see this weekend.
If you watch the video at the end, please take a moment to appreciate how far TV presentation and announcing has come for the sport.
196.235 – Qualifying Record, Brian Vickers 2006
11 – Wins by Ford
13 – Wins by Chevy, Toyota and Dodge Combined
12 – Starts Dale Earnhardt Jr. had made before his 2000 Texas win, it was the first of his career and record at the time
17 – Texas starts before Jeff Gordon won his first race at the track, longer than any other track
.028 – Smallest margin of Victory, 2004 Elliott Sadler
25.686 – Largest margin of Victory, 2009 Kurt Busch
3 – Most Wins, Carl Edwards
1 – Number of wins by Texas natives, Terry Labonte 1999