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.

  29 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

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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. https://www.facebook.com/groups/islipspeedwayfanspage/ <<<<<—-SORRY TRY THIS LINK OTHER IS NOT WORKING

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