The Walt Disney World Speedway is one of the few non-parks or resort locations that just about every guest passes on their way to the Magic Kingdom. It takes a lot of space. It took a decent amount of parking though that parking area is used on only the busiest of days.
Why was the Walt Disney World Speedway built? Did any series any race at “The Mickyard?” Why is still standing when other speedways have been torn down in the recent past? Let’s take a look at the Walt Disney World Speedway.
The Walt Disney World Speedway was built, in 1995, as a joint venture between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation and Walt Disney World. The track was designed by IMS Corporation as a site for a race in the new Indy Racing League – an open wheel racing series that formed in the mid 90’s and was looking for venues for their series. The idea was to use the Walt Disney World Speedway as the season opener and take advantage of Florida’s warmer winter weather.
The one-mile track’s construction was announced in September 1994. IMS Corporation broke down in June 1995. The track was completed in October 1995 with the dedication taking place in November 1995. This was a really quick turn around time from announcement to completion for a race track. This was accomplished in two ways: 1) there are no permanent grandstands at the speedway and 2) there is no permanent garage area in the infield. No permanent grandstands meant that portable grandstands could be brought in to meet ticket demand.
The man-made Lake Mickey was built in 1997 after drainage issued were discovered in the infield.
The first Indy Racing League series race showed some of the track’s design flaws….no permanent grandstands and race-day parking. The first race took place in January 1996 and the grandstands started to go up in November 1995. Looking at the picture above, the grandstands and construction vehicles took up valuable parking spaces during the peak Christmas and New Year’s season.
On race day, race spectators got the prime parking spaces close to the speedway while Magic Kingdom park guests had to park at EPCOT and then take buses over to the Magic Kingdom. This upset many Disney park guests. This outrage continued in 1997 when a storm came over the speedway and the race spectators left and clogged the roads for hours around the Magic Kingdom.
In 1998, Disney flipped it’s parking situation with race spectators parking at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom park guests getting the prime parking space closer to the Magic Kingdom. This caused attendance to dwindle in 1999 and 2000. After the 2000 race, the five-year contract between IMS Corp. expired and was not renewed. Just two years prior, the last NASCAR truck race was held at the speedway.
Now, the track is used as a testing site for IndyCar teams in the winter. It’s primary use is as a location for the Richard Petty Driving Experience where guests can go out in a NASCAR-style car or exotic car for a driving experience.
Thanks for reading!