Flashback Friday: Sin City’s Drag Racing Past

Roland Leong's Hawaiin AA/FD (far lane) in 1968 at Stardust. Image: Ernie Ohlson

Long before there was Bruton Smith’s jewel in the Nevada desert that we know as the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway circle track, there was a facility known as the Las Vegas Speedrome, which rested on the exact site of today’s impressive multi-purpose racing palace.

Las Vegas’ first drag race actually occurred 58 years ago, as Southern Nevada hot rodders, like their nearby Southern California counterparts, first took part in organized drag races on Vegas Valley Drive. The local group of gearheads had been working with local police to find a location where races could be held, and with their assistance and the use of borrowing timing equipment from the Las Vegas Sports Car Club, the races went on. This went on for a handful of years at other makeshift and semi-permanent facilities, including the Stardust Raceway at Tropicana and Rainbow, which was featured on Flashback Friday earlier this year. But it wasn’t until 1979 that the Las Vegas Speedrome was constructed.

The Speedrome, which included facilities for drag racing and stock car racing, operated for 21 years – until 2000, when The Strip came to be. According to some unconfirmed documents, a road course was added to the Speedrome in 1983, using part of the original dragstrip. In 1995, the current 1.5 mile paved oval was constructed, which is said to have necessitated moving of the drag strip to a temporary location before the current quarter mile was built in 2000.

Various names have been used for the tracks that make up the original Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the years, including the Las Vegas International Speedway, Las Vegas Speedway Park, the Speedrome, and the Bob Van Memorial Speedway.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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