Jun 092013

Islip Speedway

When warmer weather arrived each year, so began the roar of engines emanating from the town of Islip. Built in 1947, Islip Speedway served as a haven for racing enthusiasts throughout the 70s decade and even hosted six NASCAR races during its successful run. Today, it is but a memory, a remnant of what was once a thriving form of entertainment on the island.

Islip Speedway was owned and operated by Larry Mendelsohn, who also holds the distinction of being the inventor of the demolition derby, the first of which was held at Islip Speedway in 1958. These derbies were a regular feature on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 60s, live from Islip.

In the 60s, a figure-8 track was added and not long after, Mendelsohn convinced ABC to cover the very first Figure-8 World Championship in 1964. The championship would be televised on Wide World of Sports for the next 20 years, until the raceway closed. NASCAR races were also held at the Speedway from 1964-1971, with Richard Petty winning the last one held there by two laps.

Like most of the race tracks on Long Island, Islip eventually closed its doors in 1984, much to the disappointment of local racing fans. Today, the raceway at Riverhead is the only one left from a group of race tracks that once included Freeport, Westhampton, Bridgehampton, National, and, of course, Islip.

Back in the day though, it was was the place to go for stock car, drag, figure 8 and Nascar racing, with more than a few demolition derbies thrown in for good measure. It is one of those places on Long Island gone, but never forgotten.

If you have fond memories of watching racing at Islip Speedway in the 70s, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections in our comments section below.

  60 Responses to “Islip Speedway”

  1. Islip speedway was a special place in my heart, had lots of great times and people there. No place in the world like it, every week the stands were packed. Sure miss that place. I even got to run a few laps there.

  2. I too have many fond memories of all the tracks- We used to go to Freeport Riverhead Islip and Westhampton. Where ever the midgets raced my dad took me. Many famous drivers visited all the Long Island tracks and many stars started their careers here. It is real sad that today we have only Riverhead. I go as often as i can to support them, and hope that the Cromarties do not give way to the over developing of the area.Its only a matter of time before we have nothing but memories. Islip however, has always been the place for me. Every Saturday night we there routing on the Jimmy, Charlie,Bobby Holberg, Billy Spade, Al Hansen Charlie Puleo, Carl Volcker, Andy Rhode and on and on. Those were the days when car counts were high, fans showed up and the races were great. Sorely Misssed

  3. I remember going to Islip Speedway back in the 70’s. We lived so close me and all my friends would get free passes from the Speedway because of the noise at night , back then they ran witout any mufflers and you could hear them a mile away.I remember the Jimmy Hendrickson Fan Club with everybody in those blue satin baseball jackets with white pants and white shoes. My guy was Charlie J. What a racer and a hell of a nice guy. Have a picture he let me take somewhere of me in his offset coup. A car ahead of it’s time.I remember GAry Winters ( 380 ) And Jimmy ( X-3 ) Freddie Harbauch ( 89 ) The Park brothers ( and son Steven ) And All the Figure 8 Drivers. And I was lucky enough with my brother to enter and race in ANYTHING ON WHEELS the nite they had it. One lap around,what a zoo . People in push carts, homemade go karts, Wheelchairs , and ever roller skates. What a Place. Long Live Islip Speedway

    • Thank you, Joe, for sharing all those great memories of Islip Speedway!

    • Wow,I’d have never thought anyone would remember Gary Winters #380,how about Mousey’s Candy Apple Red,chrome everything,gold leaf #3,Jim Malone’s #34,Long John,and Spider.How about Charlie’s brothers clone “street car”coupe
      I still have a 1963 Picture of me at 13,sitting in Frank Balvins #54,the lettering was still sticky,that was when I needed a milk crate to get in the damn thing.
      Hiding in the rimless spare tires to sneak in the pits at Riverhead.
      I remember Luigi winning the Islip 4th of July figure 8 race,because he had a hand operated windsheild wiper!!He won the feature because a heavy fog rolled in,and he was the only ,driver that could see straight ahead,I still remember how funny it looked with all the drivers trying to look out the side of their cars to stay on the track.Artie Tappens drive on hauler!
      Wow,the good old days growing up on L.I.Street racing on the not yet completed LIE,by the Este Lauder factory.Anyone have a time machine ??
      I just remembered a photograph of Charlie J taped on the dash of Jim Brunhozels Car,Charlie wrote on it ,”your biggest fan,get f&@(;:”

  4. bin there done that it was the best time of my life

  5. My dad raced there in the 50’s and 60’s He was the first Figure 8 winner the year ABC Wide world Sports televised the race. Does anyone have pictures, Video of this race 1964, #952, Driver Richie Gomes? He then went on to race X27 Modified with Jimmy Hendrix, Charlie J and Gary winters. Thanks for posting this site and any other info!

    • yes we do lots of photos from islip speedway look on facebook groups nascar’s islip speedway’s fans

    • Kathy,

      Your Dad is Richie Gomes, right? If so, my Dad (Abe Lerman) and your Dad worked together (Ramp Ford), raced together and clowned around together in the 60’s out on the Island! If my memory is correct, wasn’t his car # 29?

      • I used to work at Ramp Ford,back then!!Been in Iowa since 1973,just retired from Cryogenic work,we have some pretty good IMCA Mod races around here,but,still nothing like the golden years of Modified Evolution.

    • according to wickipedia your dad won the 1967 race. my dad was Larry Wood . he was the first winner of the Figure 8 World Championship in 1963. i have a photo of his trophies that he won at the Islip Speedway. 4 in all… i loved going there with him after he stopped racing some years later. i was at the very last race there too. so sad to see it gone.

  6. Islip Speedway best short track racing period.

  7. check out islip speedways fans page on facebook tons of photos drivers and more are all members

  8. My Dad brought me there when I was very young to watch “Midgets”.1960’s Johnny Lawence push started them.

    • Wow, this is the first time I have found anyone mention John Lawrence, I’ve been searching for years. John Lawrence is my dad.

  9. I remember islip speedway very well my dad drove figure 8 car there for many years # 27 loves those days

  10. Islip Speedway in the summers between 1976 and approx 1982 for me..I would have been between 9 and 15 years old. It meant SUMMER !
    What I didnt realize was somewhere in those crowds was my future wife, there with her family right about that time, she only 6 months older than me (but one school grade ahead !.) My parents religiously attended saturday nights when they were dating, I remember seeing alot of driver photos and other memorabilia in our photo albums back then. My mom had several autographed photos of a driver named Rene Charland…they appeared to be from sometime in the early or mid 1960’s…

  11. bobby jackson drove my # 2 in 70 &71 almost won it 20 feet short hit in the x alot of fun . a long way from colorado thanks to abc for the tape.

  12. Does anyone remember a stock car #29? My husbands family is from Freeport. A psychic told my brother inlaw about a spirit around him who drove a stock car. The last name is Smith and the race driver was in his 60s.

  13. I loved going to the track in the 1970’s. I liked Jimmy (X-3) and Freddie Harbauch (89). Dutch Miller kept those cars in line. There was a driver named Luigi who had the Italian flags on his car. I don’t remember if he won many races but he sure had alot of fans at the races. Those were the good old days.

  14. Hi, there,

    Does anybody have any info on the Islip Speedway promoter Larry Mendelsohn? My husband is from the area and has the same last name and thinks they may be cousins. We are trying to find members from that side of the family, so any information is greatly appreciated!!!

  15. What I remember most was trying to get to the track early for center seating.
    Seating on corners resulted in alot of “Rubber in the Face”

  16. I grew up in Islip and moved to North Carolina in 1978 when I was 10. I can still remember those nights sleeping with the windows open and hearing the the cars at the speedway…….

  17. im a little surprised by all the comments here..with all that has been said it would seem little is know about the real history of islip. being built in the late forties you should be aware it was built for midgets.stock cars didnt even appear till a few years later.knowing every modified driver that was mentioned personally i am a little shocked that one of the greatest of all times hasnt had one mention he won at islip in modifieds and midgets.might possibly have more wins at islip then anyone. how quickley we forget.yes im talking about my dad Johnny Coy Sr..im not quite sure how you can talk about islip speedway and leave him out.

    • What years johnny coy jr? I was going late 70’s early 80’s and remember mostly Richie Evans and barely anyone else because i was just a kid, all eyes and no ears..But if you have pics of the track and the cars,etc, you should post them, Im sure we’d ALL love to see your dads cars and stuff.

    • To Johnny Coy jr, I remember your dad, you & your brother Joey, One of my best friends as a kid was your cousin, Mark Leonardi of Uniondale. He used to ask if i wanted to go to his cousins house in Merrick, & I loved just hanging out there, you guys were like super heros to me. YES I remember the good old days of midgets & stock cars on Long Island, Thanks

    • Johnny Coy Jr
      My father owned a 3/4. Your Dad drove it a few times. Years later we would always go to see you and Joey. All great racers.

      • My uncle sonny use to race with Johnny coy an in 1983 I ran modifieds for Jimmy reed in the 17x pinto the the cavalear I had a blast

    • I remembered your Dad he was one of the best midget drivers I knew! I worked there in the early 70’s

    • Yes, I remember Johnny Coy. There was one year, Frankie Ariano was running 2 modifieds. The old 8X was driven by George Peters, and was an alcohol fuel injected small block chevy, 32 coup body. The newer car Frankie put out there was driven by Johnnie Coy, and was I believe a Plymouth Arrow body, and a big block 427. I used to LOVE going out there to watch racing. My dad would help Frankie working on the car during the week, and let me tag along at the station (4 aces was the name of the Shell station Frankie owned, on Maurice Ave. in Maspeth Queens), and at the track on race night.

    • Yup saw your dad kick many butts in midgets I did not follow midgets cause they only raced a few times a season at Islip in the 60s I was more into the modified s but yes I remember your dad well

    • Yes sir sure remember the name one of the greatest midget drivers ever I was very young only 3 when I started going to the races back in 1962 my older brother took me and I fell in love with auto racing saw Johnny win many races back then

  18. My father owned Village Shell on the island and he took a 1958 plymouth 4 door to a demo. His car was #86. I was about 5 years old at the time. I remember he gave me a checkered flag with the number 86 on all the white squares to cheer him on. I’ll never forget that day! My fathers nickname was Jimmy the wrench.

  19. Does anyone remember the demo derby in the later part of 64 where JACK???? JUMPED OUT OF A FLAMING CAR


  21. I am looking for photos of Nascar Modified cars and drivers from 1975, 76 and 77
    In particular Jerry Cook and Bob Park

  22. My uncle, Bill Marino ( #42 ) pinto modified used to race at Islip. We would go on Saturday nights and it belt as though the blood in your veins was boiling with the modifieds going around the track!!

  23. In 1975 Does Anybody Remember The Motocycle Jumping Over Cars
    What Was His Name

  24. grew up in ci me an my bros would ride bikes to the track as soon as we heard the motors there was big shed on the east side of the track we would go on the roof an see the race

  25. Does anyone remember my grandfather John Scheffler? He raced at Islip Speedway when it was open.

  26. My Brother Tom and I raced figure 8s back in 1978 – 1980, car # 121 and #26 – we ran with Richard Cutie, Ernie Maynard and Chris Young and many others – was the best times.

  27. What was the address of the Islip Speedway?

  28. I have some great memories of Islip Speedway also. My Dad (Abe Lerman) and many of his friends ran at their 1/8 mile many times. Dad and I went to work at the competitor in 1966, NY National and can remember a lot of guys racing the circuit, Islip, National and Westhampton by the Nike missile base all in the same weekend. I still have some of his old trophies from all 3 tracks.

    Back in 1969, I remember announcing a Friday night show with TV Tommy Ivo who ran a 3.86 that night and that Larry Mendelsohn offered me a job at his track that night after Ivo’s run. I can say now, like an idiot I turned down his offer to announce both the dragstrip and stock car races because I felt loyal to NYNS then. Those were great times and memories of all the race tracks (even Freeport and Riverhead for the stockers).

  29. LOVED Islip Speedway. Roman one. Loved the modifieds with AMC Gremlin bodies. We used to go to Peter Pan Diner after the races and see many of the racers hanging out there as well. I miss it a lot. Long Island was a lot more fun then than it is now.

  30. Anyone have any photos of John Lawrence or the clean up crews? My dad (john lawrence) drove the tow trucks back in the day. It was called Lawrence wrecking or Lawrence scrap. Something like that.

  31. I was a kid of the 60’s. My father worked for Raymond Buick at the time who sponsored the pace car. We went every Saturday. Mr Mendelson was a family friend. The best was July 4th, the fireworks. Great memories

  32. […] Islip Speedway from LongIsland70sKid.com […]

  33. Getting older has advantages, I remember very well, being a teenager and having learned to weld at an early age helping Fred Harbach customize a 1940 Ford coupe in his garage and followed shortly thereafter with building his first stock car. Shortly afterward we became brothers in laws. We raced at Islip first, then Freeport and Wall Stadium. After that, I was enamored with Midgets and helped Pete Petreitus from Huntington on his #2 which was a twin fire Ford V8. Clearly remember Johnny Coy, Al DeAngelo, Johnny Zeke, and many others. In 1965, I moved to upstate New York and my house became the layover for Fred’s racing in upstate Malta New York.

  34. my dad , Larry Wood drove 2 different cars… the 444 (white) and the 00 ‘Joker’ (black). he participated in the Figure 8 (1963 World Championship winner) and also the Demo. he also drove Stock Car. he had 4 trophies in all. its a part of history that i will never forget and will forever be looking to see if somebody has a picture or remembers my dad. I really miss that track.

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