CIRCUITS: NAZARETH RACEWAY

Name: Nazareth Raceway

In the foothills of the Blue Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, close to the steel towns of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton in the Lehigh Valley, the town of Nazareth has a long history of motor racing. The first half-mile dirt oval - called Nazareth Speedway - was built around 1920 and was used right through until the 1980s. It was here in the 1950s that Nazareth resident Mario Andretti watched races when he was a boy.

In 1966 Jerry Fried decided to build a new slightly more than one-mile dirt oval close to the old one. This featured weekly races for dirt cars, midgets, sprint cars and even the USAC National Championship. The first National Championship race was in 1968 and was won by Al Unser Sr. The following year victory went to hometown boy Mario Andretti. The track stopped operating in 1971. It was nearly 10 years before it was successfully revived by Lindy Vicari and between 1981 and 1985 the oval was once again busy with dirt car events. The last dirt race was in April 1984. The following year the track went bankrupt and in the Spring of 1986 it was bought by Roger Penske. The track was paved and became a one-mile oval. It was not steeply banked but featured a curious D-shaped layout which dropped 34 foot from one end to the other. The facility was immediately renamed Pennsylvania International Raceway and the first race at the new facility was the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix CART race in September 1987. It was won by Mario Andretti's son Michael. Since then the track has been a regular part of the CART series and this has meant that the facility has been constantly upgraded with new grandstands built and more racing added. In addition to CART, Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantic, the track also hosts a variety of NASCAR-sanctioned events, notably a round of the Busch Grand National Series. In July 1999 the track was sold to the International Speedway Corporation.

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