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.