The 300-acre Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) is located west of Clermont at 10267 East U.S. Highway 136. A joint venture led by four local businessmen (Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Roger Ward, and Howard Fieger), IRP was conceived in 1959 as a recreational complex focused on automobile racing.

Indianapolis Raceway Park, 1983
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

The owners built two tracks in 1960: a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course and a 4,400-foot drag strip incorporated into the main straightaway of the road course. A 0.686-mile paved oval was completed in 1961 and renovated in 1988 to yield greater speed for the cars. The oval has seen the most use by midget, sprint, and stock cars, the road course by sports cars, go-carts, and motorcycles, and the drag strip by cars and motorcycles in amateur and professional competition.

The first IRP road race was held in 1961, and by the early 1960s, there were both IndyCar and USAC stock car races on the road course. The drag strip was used to buffer IRP finances when the other tracks did not make a profit. Since its inaugural race in the fall of 1960, the track has generated interest and income beyond initial expectations.

Racer Pierre Burley at the 1981 U.S. Nationals at Raceway Park.
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society

The quarter-mile drag strip has hosted the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) U.S. Nationals drag race since 1961. The largest professional drag racing event in the world, the “National Drags” draws over 150,000 spectators and 1,000 racing teams sharing over $3 million in prize money. A yearly schedule of sportsman and amateur racing culminates over Labor Day weekend in the world’s largest amateur drag racing event, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

The NHRA purchased Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1979 and over the next three decades invested heavily in renovations to improve track surfaces and spectator convenience. This included the construction of Parks Tower in 1983 as well as new grandstands, suites, and a tower complex on the front straightaway of the oval track in 1998. In 2001, the old drag strip was replaced with a new racing surface made from a 660-foot concrete pad and new asphalt. Two years later, eight new luxury suites were added along the top of the west-side grandstands of the drag strip. In 2005, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval.

Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals, 2021
Credit: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In 2006, Indianapolis Raceway Park was renamed O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis after its new entitlement sponsor. The track announced a new entitlement sponsorship in 2011 and was renamed Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

In addition to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, which celebrated its 60th anniversary at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2014, the raceway has been home to many other events over its lifetime. The Indy Grand Prix drew club racers from distant parts of the United States to compete on a fast and favored track. Two annual motorcycle road races were sanctioned by Western Eastern Racing Association (WERA), go-carts competed in an “enduro” (endurance) event, and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) hosted the 3-hour Firestone Firehawk Endurance race.

NHRA pro stock motorcycle rider Chip Ellis during qualifying for the US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, 2011
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Raceway Park continues to hold a number of different events including the NMCA Muscle Car Nationals, ARCA Menards Series, and the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience.

Revised February 2021
 

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