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, I hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections in our comments section below.

Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
RSS
YouTube
INSTAGRAM

You may also like...

92 Responses

  1. Charles putzer says:

    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. james says:

    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. Joe Nielsen says:

    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

    • 70sKid says:

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

    • Dan Powers says:

      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. chuck hlatky says:

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

  5. Kathy Gomes Schlatmann says:

    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!

    • charles putzer says:

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

    • Steve Lerman says:

      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?

      • Dan Powers says:

        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.

      • Kathy says:

        Yes dad and Abe worked together at Ramp Ford. Dad drove the x27. He won the 1967 world championship with the 952

    • Doreen Wood Hodson says:

      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. BK says:

    Islip Speedway best short track racing period.

  7. charlie says:

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

  8. Doug says:

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

  9. Mark Carenza says:

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

  10. Doug R. says:

    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. darrell smith says:

    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. Sandy smith says:

    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. Jill says:

    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. Lulu says:

    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. Mike Carolla says:

    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. Eric says:

    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. johnny coy jr says:

    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.

    • Doug R says:

      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.

    • Mike Richards says:

      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

    • Anonymous says:

      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.

      • Joseph Madonia says:

        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

    • Bruce Rafferty says:

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

    • Kevin says:

      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.

    • Charlie says:

      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

    • Charles putzer says:

      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

    • Frank says:

      I loved going to Islip Speedway as a kid. My favorite memories were watching Johnny Coy race midgets and Don MacTavish race modifieds on one of his visits to the track. Two great drivers.

    • Joe Nielsen says:

      You know Johnny your right. Your dad was one of the best drivers I ever saw. He was a master in the Midgets, I think the problem is the Midgets raced only a few times a year and I’m sure people don’t know how many times he raced and won in the Modifieds. Plus how many times did he fill in for a driver, Not every driver would let someone drive his car but when they needed a driver they always called your dad. I’m sorry I missed him he was one of the best.

  18. Jamie says:

    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. JERRY FLYN says:

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

  20. JERRY FLYN says:

    BETTER YET A BLUE 51 FORD FROM PATS SHELL ON SUNRISE HWY ,NICKNAMED LIL AUDRY NUMBER WAS 101,JERRY FLYNN AND ANDY NOIA RAN IT

  21. Donald Brown says:

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

  22. John McCauley says:

    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. victor nigro says:

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

  24. Burnsie says:

    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. Rich Scheffler Jr says:

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

  26. Dave Vasquez says:

    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. Keith says:

    What was the address of the Islip Speedway?

  28. Steve Lerman says:

    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. Anthony Parisi says:

    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. Traci says:

    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. Patty Fierro says:

    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. Tom Higgins says:

    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.

  33. Doreen Wood Hodson says:

    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.

  34. The Rebel says:

    Don Berry & the “Joey Chitwood” show, riding around the track on two wheels are a some good memories.

  35. Anonymous says:

    My dad use to race at islip and riverhead
    Does anyone remember Robert Packard!
    HE was good friends with Jimmy Reed who
    Also raced at the tracks.

  36. Andrea Costello says:

    I will always tell the newcomers to the Island here that the best thing on the planet as a kid in the 70’s from W.I. was every Sat. Night going with my Grandad his Miller high life beer the seat cushion and my BFF to Islip Speedway to watch figure 8 racing. Cherry italian ices from the food strip, covered in mud dust nd rubber bits and a dream to be in the powder puff races one day. That place gave this gal a lifelong love of loud fast modifieds and a love …well of driving scary fast when no ones around. Hands down best memory ever of kidhood in the early to mid seventies!! Thanks

  37. Wayne says:

    Looking for info on the World Figure 8 races, especially 1969 and 1975. Thanks,
    Wayne

  38. tom tangredi says:

    it was some of the years of my life I ran from 1968 to about1984 in figer 8 and domos champion ship day agent my dad and a lot of friends and ran riverhead fromabout 1980 toabout1990 I miss the figer 8 lots of great night of racing and drinken I ran 008 sometimes 007 when I wreck my car

  39. Tom says:

    Just found this link. Too may memories and comments.

    Luigi question? not sure of spelling – Luigi Terrapichio

    Best modified races: Hendrickson and Harbach racing Richie Evans and Jerry Cook during the Permatex 300 races.

    Best Figure 8 driver – Bobby Taylor

    Worst Driver name – Billy Coward – actually drove a green stock car when green was still a no no.

    Best races – midgets; but took too long in that cars had no starters and all had to be pushed.

  40. Linda Kohler says:

    I grew up with family that was there many weekends. My Aunt worked in the timers booth and one of my cousins raced there, Johnny Elder. My cousins and I used to be there every Saturday and our parents didn’t worry where we were. Was there in the. Mid 60’s until it closed. Used to go to the West Hampton Drag strip too. They were the good old days. Now I live out in California.

  41. John j Vullo says:

    I’m in the hunt for some pictures of my grandfather that raced figure eight Joseph steiger or also my grandmother raced in some powder puff shows Suzanne steiger

  42. jerry flynn says:

    Does anyone remember 101 from Pats Silver dollar shell on Sunrise,Driven by Jerry Flynn and sometimes Andy Noia

  43. jerry flynn says:

    Does anyone remember 101 in figure 8 driven by Jerry Flynn and sometimes Andy Noia,trying to get a foto if available,sponsored by Pats Shell on sunrise next to Silver dollar Bar

  44. Peggy says:

    My girlfriend and I were asked to help out a friend who was selling t shirts during a race. We got special passes to get in (so we didn’t have to pay the admission fee). The guy at the gate looked at our passes and dead seriously said “You must be the English Leather girls”. We howled with laughter for months!!!

  45. Jack says:

    Great Stuff!! Spent many happy times (early 60s through 78) at Islip, Riverhead, and Rome … NY was the best of short track back then! Loved standing in 3-4 turn and getting pelted with rubber peas from the tires … and seeing the brake drums glow red coming into turn 4 … awesome! Loved walking the pits afterwards … still remember that hot engine, coolant and baked brakes and tire smells. Anyone recall a Figure-8 driver by name of “Irish Mike” (Costello??) … white sedan with shamrocks … think he was #22. Looking for a picture of him/car if anyone has a source. Best to all and thanks for the memories!

    • Jack says:

      Irish Mike Sheehan … that was his name … definitely #22 with Shamrock … my older brother says it was a blue Ford. Not sure about Ford, but it had to be white … what kind of Irishman would put a shamrock on a blue car?

  46. James King says:

    My grandfather and I attended a 150-lap Modified feature at Islip Speedway (probably 1972). Charlie Jarzombek was leading in the #1 Vega when he tangled with a lapped car, giving him a flat tire. After a quick pit stop under yellow, he had to restart at the back of the pack. He drove around the outside of the field up in the 2nd groove of that tight, tiny track in a tremendous display of skill, speed, determination and GUTS. He won going away, and when the race ended the crowd went nuts, giving him a standing ovation. It was the greatest performance I have seen in a race car.

  47. andrew says:

    i understand nascar was there many years ago and was the smallest track.

  48. Kenny Danheiser says:

    Late 60’s early 70’s Demolition Derby ? Won twice $100 in those days with beers at .15-.25 ? Still on top of the world on Sunday and felt beat up Monday. My home away from home was the Uneeda Rest in Deer Park. A couple of years later I tended bar there. Tended bar until 2009, the place I owned for & years. Until last year did food and Alcohol demos and sales. Right now, ready for an old car, to smash others up. And a cold beer.

  49. Jim says:

    Mr. Seventies kid just was roaming around and found you.
    I think I may have the only 1984 last night and race at Islip Speedway tape.. 561-685-2091

  50. Don says:

    Drove a ’67 or ’68 Ford wagon in a demo there around 1975. Car was a tank but we didn’t think to strap down the batter … three or four hits and I was just another spectator.

  51. Paul says:

    It was hard to believe the midgets raced with no roll bars or seat belts and Freeport had railroad ties on the 1 st& 2 and turns 1958 to 1960’s

  52. Douglas Johnson says:

    Parents took us every saturday for about 6 yrs i saw richard petty there i even remember some of the drivers names jimi h. Charlie z. mousy k. Stock car figure 8 louigi couldnt wait for spring

  53. Kathy says:

    So many great family memories from Islip. My cousin Teddy Wesnofski raced there.

  1. July 30, 2016

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

  2. December 5, 2017

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.