Many racers and fans have heard of Thompson Speedway, but they might not be aware of how much is offered at this modern, yet historic motorsports complex in northeastern Connecticut.
Now known as Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, it’s the only race track in the state with both an oval and a road course. The facility is located in the small town of Thompson, which is near the Massachusetts border. It’s about 80 miles from Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., and roughly 140 miles from New York City.
Traffic wasn’t a problem on Sept. 21, 1938, when the land that is now Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park was John Hoenig’s farm. What was a problem was that afternoon his farm and just about everything else in the area was destroyed by a hurricane called the “Long Island Express” or “The Great New England Hurricane.”
Hoenig had the courage and determination to see the disaster as an opportunity to make one of his dreams a reality. He cleared his land of the debris that was once his farm, and in its place he built what officials claim is America’s first all-asphalt race track.
Most of the other tracks of the day had dirt, board or brick surfaces.
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Hoenig’s asphalt track was a five-eighths-mile, high-banked oval, which was also bigger than most tracks of the era. The place was packed on opening day on May 26, 1940, and Thompson Speedway eventually became known as the “Indianapolis of the East.”
A quarter-mile oval was then added inside the original track, since the five-eighths-mile oval proved to be a little too fast for the day’s stock cars and jalopies.
Sports car racers noticed what was going on at Thompson’s ovals too, and during the 1940s the new Sports Car Club of America held time trials and gymkhanas on parts of the oval and the infield quarter-mile track. From 1952 through 1967, the oval track and an adjacent section of the speedway property were leased to owners of a neighboring sports car track, the Thompson Raceway.[caption id="attachment_261533" align="alignleft" width="300"] Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park has a long racing history.[/caption]
In 1947, the Hoenig family developed the Raceway Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course, and opened the Raceway Restaurant.
It also has a bar and lounge that became popular with both golfers and racers, and lots of people rave about its ice cream to this day.
Meanwhile, Thompson Speedway’s five-eighths-mile oval became a leading stock car track, and even hosted a NASCAR Grand National race on Oct. 12, 1951. Thirty-eight of NASCAR’s biggest names took the green flag for the 200-lap event with Neil Cole, driving a 1950 Oldsmobile, claiming the $1,000 top prize.