Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

February 12, 2015

R.I.P. Walt Disney World Speedway. We Hardly Knew Ya.

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 4:02 pm

WDW SpeedwayIt is tough to understand feelings of great sadness that crept into my psyche since the announcement that Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando would close in June for ‘transportation improvements,’ a Disney euphemism for ‘we need to expand the parking lot.’ The venue only held a handful of early IRL events and a couple of truck races in the late 90s so why the sadness?

It probably involves the outright frustration of unrealized potential. That was a really nice small oval. It had three unique turns, was mostly flat and provided great racing. It was built by the brightest minds of Indy. The only real physical problem with the track today is that it does not contain the SAFR system. It is also a track that holds not so good memories; e.g., the Sam Schmidt accident.

BuzzUltimately the problem with it was Disney did not want a race there in any month except January, which is their ‘slow’ time. When the IRL had a notion of ending their season with the Indy 500 that date worked well but was short lived. Given a dearth of sports immediately before and after the Super Bowl a logical thought is presenting an IndyCar race at that oval the week preceding the Super Bowl (that would have ideally been the culmination of extended off-season testing) might make perfect sense. So would another race at a warm-weather track the week after. Starting a season that early and ending by Labor Day begins to make a little more sense. No one has ever accused open wheel racing leadership of ever having sense, however.

IRL at WDWStill the nostalgia aspect of WDW Speedway is strong. On that late January day in 1996 I was busy doing something else and did not even watch the first IRL race live. When my brother relayed the results my first thought was ‘who the hell is Buzz Calkins?’ Then I rewound the ‘ol VHS and watched it a few days later. Then fell in love with the sport all over again. I watch it fairly regularly to this day. Tony Stewart really looked young. cart at the time was what everyone watched, but they had scheduled and priced many out of most events and just about everyone I knew had become Indy only. The notion of accessible, affordable oval races with lots of Americans was intriguing.

The biggest problem, however, was the fragile and dainty collective ego of cart, which almost immediately chose the path of least sense. They reconfigured their own schedule to create scheduling conflicts then screeched like four year olds Crazy womanthrowing floor fits in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart when the completely misunderstood 25/8 rule (an action they themselves forced) was added for the 500. The blithering cart idiots actually felt threatened by the nascent IRL. I have not seen that much unwarranted insecurity (or crazy) since my unstable second wife convinced herself I was bumping uglies with a different voluptuous woman every single time I left her side and tried to convince me to have her full name tattooed onto my weenie to discourage such illicit activities. Then came the most idiotic, counterproductive, destructive, selfish, unnecessary act of all: The ill-fated US500 that resulted in two primary things: 1) The pre-green flag pileup that took out most of the so-called ‘cars n’ stars’ and 2) A lactose-intolerant answer to a now obscure racing trivia question. cart insecurity that led directly to the acrimony associated with ‘the split’ is actually what hampered popularity and growth, something its mostly deranged virulent supporters and increasingly elderly writers, most of whom were employed in some way by cart back in the day, continue to conveniently forget even today. The most amazing about that particular cancer is that it STILL persists today, as evidenced by the mostly illiterate nonsense and profanity-laden postings all over the Internet by a cult incapable of evolution.

I am happy Walt Disney World will realize their dream of additional parking but remain dismayed the custodians of IndyCar racing; i.e., just about everyone since Carl Fisher, have never taken the sport to its highest potential. Ever. The impending demise of WDW Speedway (and the rich branding opportunities that were allowed to just slip through cracks) is merely another case study in the complete lack of coherent execution of and marketing for big dreams.

As we bid adieu to yet another potentially great oval the road racer mantra/prophecy about ovals ‘no longer being popular’ becomes a little more self-fulfilling, and attempting to maintain an adequate level of fandom has reverted to early 90’s levels.



  1. Dear Defender:

    I attended that inaugural event in January 1996 to launch the fledgling Indy Racing League and I experienced second hand CART chassis running high HP turbos with the likes of eventual winner Buzz Caulkins and a bunch of has been and never were cast off drivers who could not cut it in CART….the race was filled with less than spectacular racing at a venue that then, and now, made little sense….the Disney World parking lot was designed for the constant flow of visitors coming and going throughout the day as some patrons come early and leave early and others arrive later in the day and stay through the evening….at the conclusion of the 1996 event, everybody jumped into their cars to leave the track grounds and the traffic jam was terrible…took two hours just to get back to the highway….I scratched my head as to why the Disney people would want to have auto racing on its property with the inherent danger of high speeds and crashes…just imagine if one of the drivers met an untimely demise a-la the late Great Dan Wheldon….I passed on attending future IRL events at this facility but did attend the first IRL event at Phoenix International in April of 1996….same washed up drivers using second hand equipment….also attended the CART season opener at the brand new Homestead-Miami facility, then called the Metro-Dade Motorsports Complex….CART had Mercedes, Ford, Toyota and Honda running strong turbos powering Reynards and Lolas to a packed house of fans from all over the country and the world…boy, do I missed those days and remain disappointed that the current management thinks that having a five month season with Brian Barnhart at the head of officiating makes sense….
    Editor’s Note: Yeah….too bad those cart guys were so smart they killed themselves off. Twice.

    Comment by Neil Rubin — February 12, 2015 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

    • looking over the inaugural wdw event I see these names. tony stewart, Michele alboreto, Roberto guerrero, johnny O’Connell, john paul jr., eddie cheever, scott brayton, scott sharp, arie luyendyk, buddy lazier, Richie hearn, and Robbie buhl. these drivers have been race winners, pole winners, owners, and indy 500 winners. there are mostly drivers with accomplished records in their careers at the time. yes there are a few unknowns. but looking at the cart side of things a quick check shows the following star power: jeff krosnoff, gary bettenhausen (has been?), parker johnstone, marco Greco, carlos guerrero, eddie Lawson, king hiro, dennis vitolo, and Fredrik ekblom. this list is even worse when you look before and after 1996. makes me wonder why you attended the event if you knew what to expect. lol

      Comment by j. rock — February 13, 2015 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  2. Previous year’s chassis were hardly considered “second hand” then; many teams either ran them as primary or backup cars. Funny how when a year old chassis runs in Cart it’s not considered “second hand.” Had Cart shown up for those races this wouldn’t be a topic 20 years later.

    Comment by RM — February 12, 2015 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

    • I’ll respectfully disagree with both you and Defender on one or two items:

      In 1996 the specs for the chassis that CART used had changed somewhat; in spite of what some people have contended that the changes were made solely for the purpose of making the CART chassis incompatible with the 95 spec tubs the actual reasons were mainly related to safety and structural improvements. The irony is that it was speculated after Scott Brayton was killed in a practice crash at the 1996 500 that he might have survived had he been in a 1996 spec chassis. Water under the bridge as they say. We will probably never know for sure.
      Editor’s Note: With regard to Brayton, the only hope he had that day based on what went wrong was SAFR. A car alone could not have saved him. With regard to the chassis, unless the cart teams of the day sold off their old chassis (and I do not believe any actually did except perhaps to fledgling IRL teams) there is no reason they could not have used obsolete (for them) equipment and compete. It was their choice not to, and for no other apparent reason than ego gratification.

      Second: given that Tony George/IRL/IMS spent a significant amount just to launch the IRL, and support it financially since then, it doesn’t make logical sense to contend that all the CART teams had to do to kill off the IRL was to show up at one or two events, then that years 500. With the resources that Tony George had and did spend on the IRL it’s not realistic to think that he’d have given up so quickly.
      Editor’s Note: Something else we will never know, because cart chose not to compete and instead to take the most counterproductive route possible.

      Third, and this is more towards Defender- you keep harping on people to grow up or move on etc when it comes to the CART-IRL “war”. Yet you always seem to somehow shoehorn asides and brickbats at CART and CART fans. When do you take your own advice? CART is loooong gone. The failure or venues such as Disney, and the myriad of ovals since then isn’t CARTS fault, no matter how much you or anyone else wants it to be. The IRL won the war, and has provided little marketing expertise or leadership for pretty much it’s entire existance. You can’t blame that on CART
      Editor’s Note: I moved on a very long time ago. Perhaps if you actually read what I write you might comprehend that twice dead cart has nothing to do with current marketing deficiencies or lack of leadership. As a I noted leadership has failed to grow the sport to its potential for the most part since Carl Fisher was breathing. But with regard to split history I always rely on facts often sprinkled with my colorful commentary. cart does not matter a whit to me, but poking holes in the brusquely hysterical defensiveness that characterizes many lurking cart enthusiasts who don’t often comprehend the written word but shriek bloody murder at the slightest whiff of offense remains mildly amusing.

      Comment by Skeptical1 — February 12, 2015 @ 8:20 pm | Reply

      • CART teams racing in the IRL would have validated the concept and only pushed Tony George to go even harder with it knowing that he could force them to race his races and not their own. The obvious thing for CART if they wanted to preserve their business model was to try and let the IRL flop on its own then let Tony come back begging. An 8 year old could figure that out. WDW Speedway is just another terrible Tony George idea coming to its inevitable conclusion.
        Editor’s Note: A) cart is not really the topic here. B) Hindsight should always be your own guide to the unbelievably high degree of abject stupidity employed by cart from 1995 through their second expiration. After all, Tony’s little series started small and was designed not to compete with cart, then raced at WDW five times. Meanwhile, cart kept tripping over its own collective ego and expired. Twice. Tony’s series, on the other hand, eventually picked up the pieces at an asset fire sale. So the remnants of cart actually have Tony George to thank for their continuing existence. When will the cart enthusiasts lurking here develop an intellect and maturity that exceeds 8 years old and contribute something….anything worthwhile?

        Comment by Some Other Fake Name II — February 14, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

  3. As soon as the Walt Disney Company and the racing fans who attended the races at WDW figured out that the stars of open wheel racing weren’t participating, interest quickly dwindled and the race was discontinued used. That trend has continued at a number of tracks as the sporting, racing and sponsorship public have soundly rejected the IRL. Like much, Disney was a trend setter in rejecting the series.
    Editor’s Note: How quaint. One of the six brusquely defensive cart enthusiasts only with yet another new handle repeating the mantra. Riddle me this Einstein: How do you explain all the non-IRL failure, including Atlanta, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cleveland, Denver I, Denver II, Detroit City, Gateway, Germany, Hawaii, Houston, Las Vegas I, Laguna Seca, Las Vegas II, Meadowlands, Mexico I, Mexico II, Miami I, Miami 2, Miami 3, Miami 4, Michigan, Monterrey, Nazareth, Netherlands, Ontario, Pocono, Portland, Quebec I, Quebec II, Riverside, Road America, Sanair, San Jose, Spain, Texas, Trenton, UK I, UK II, Vancouver and Watkins Glen, presented by FedEx, Havoline, K-Mart, Bridgestone, Ford, Cosworth, Lola, Swift, Reynard, Jimmy and various primary colors. Twice? LOL. Those capable of reading understand that the primary reason the venue failed was because IndyCar no longer wanted to schedule a race in January, which is the only month in which WDW would allow an event. Nice try kid. C for effort.

    Comment by Crunch Hardtack — February 13, 2015 @ 2:09 am | Reply

    • Actually, WDW really didn’t want to schedule a race at any time, as the crowds the race attracted were quite modest and added little revenue to the WDW bottom line. In fact, it was quickly determined that the race was actually a detriment to the WDW Resort, given the logistical issues it created. WDW quickly realized that the Marathon weekend generated much more interest, revenue and positive publicity in January, confirming their decision to discontinue not only the race but also their association with IMS.
      Editor’s Note: Persistent li’l buggers, huh? LOL. Page two of their cutesy little playbook is when confronted with facts just make shit up to try and change history. And as usual there is no attribution, link, etc., that supports their supposition. Now again from a factual standpoint after five years it was becoming increasingly clear that cart on their own was not going to be a sustainable entity and that IMS would have to step in to rescue the sport. That meant a more ‘traditional’ season. When it became ‘January or nothing’ nothing was about the only option (which I always believed was foolish). The Disney family o’ companies has always touted its relationship with IndyCar but the editorial folks on the media side did not possess the mental agility to think beyond NASCAR, and IMS/IndyCar management has never had the marketing talent to push such folks into the correct direction. D+ this time, kid.

      Comment by Crunch Hardtack — February 13, 2015 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

      • Everything I provided is completely factual, though you’re welcome to disprove it if you’re able. WDW hosted the race and then wanted it gone. That’s simply a fact.
        Editor’s Note: This should be a quick run for your latest identity. Look. Should you ever want to be taken the least bit seriously give us a link or attribution when you make a claim. The facts about WDW Speedway differ from your fantasy, but that is nothing new for your latest fake name or other ones like Sonny Steele or Bob Chinn or any of the others. If you would like to avoid future relegation to the Repository start posting like you have a brain.

        Comment by Crunch Hardtack — February 13, 2015 @ 8:08 pm

      • I know plenty of people related to TWDC,
        Editor’s Note: Names/attribution, please. At least if credibility is the aim.

        and even if I didn’t, I can find my way over to historical posts from the likes of Jim Hill or threads at DisBoards discussing the topic.
        Editor’s Note: Link(s), please. At least if credibility is the aim.

        Yes, for a time WDW was interested in a race with the “January or Nothing” provision….and then they didn’t want it at all. 2 decades have elapsed since construction began (not a coincidental number, I’m sure) and there are no longer traditional slow seasons at Disney now that the park has a stronger international audience. The infield was changed pretty drastically for a sports car experience program and the oval track was never updated to meet current standards or even repaved. And why would it be? Disney didn’t spend much, if any of their own money building it in the first place. IMS did as part of a sponsorship deal that ended after 15 years….in 2008. Disney got to keep the facility and had ultimately lost interest in having any races because it was, as Crunch said, a logistical nightmare to close the parking lot for the highest attended park on property.
        Editor’s Note: It appears a couple of you may, surprisingly, have missed the entire point of the blog post. The theme was twofold: 1) Nostalgia over a unique 1-mile oval that provided five great years of early-IRL entertainment, and 2) Lament over the long term and chronic penchant for underachievement by the ‘leadership’ of the sport of IndyCar racing. I am unsure why the typical Internet genital waving type of pointless argument originated but I suspect elusive points (for some) had a lot to do with it.

        The only race Disney has seriously gotten into talks to host in the last decade is a Formula 1 race in Marne La Vallee. That’s it. Any other claims are a lie.
        Editor’s Note: You tell ’em, little Mr. Internet Anonymity.

        Comment by Some Other Fake Name — February 14, 2015 @ 1:04 am

      • (Four instances of repetitive, pointless, defensive commentary under various aliases relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

        Comment by Bob Chinn/Sonny Steele/Crunch Hardtack/et al — February 14, 2015 @ 2:48 pm

      • (Argumentative, meritless, pointless commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

        Comment by Some Other Fake Name — February 15, 2015 @ 11:31 pm

  4. it looks like those so called “stars” let their fans down by choosing not to participate then. no wonder the fans are pissed. especially after the “stars” ran themselves out of business twice. talk about screwing your fan base. i’d be kind of po’d too.

    Comment by jim lahey — February 13, 2015 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

  5. Shame on Indycar management. Again. They only had 15+ years to make it happen here. Disney couldn’t leave an idle track sitting there forever.

    Once they realize what worthless advice their business advisory group provided them, I’m willing to provide the same service at half the price.

    Comment by Bob F. — February 13, 2015 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  6. (Off topic commentary relocated to comment section of 12/19/13 blog)

    Comment by Ronnie Mund — February 14, 2015 @ 5:35 pm | Reply

  7. World Disney World Speedway’s demise.

    Reason No. 3,284 that IndyCar’s powers that be don’t know their nads from lugnuts.

    Comment by spreadoption — February 17, 2015 @ 12:39 am | Reply

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