Archive for February 26, 2020

By: Stan Kalwasinski

“Back in the Day”

Santa Fe Speedway, located off the southwest corner of 91st Street and Wolf Road in Willow Springs, Ill., was probably the Chicago area’s most well-known motorsports venue.

The dirt raceway, featuring both quarter-mile and “short” half-mile ovals, operated from 1953 through 1995 and featured weekly stock car racing and motorcycle competition in addition to midget and sprint car racing and the track’s popular demolition derbies.

Over the years, pretty much every type of motorsports action took place there.

Santa Fe Park Speedway held its first stock car racing program on Sunday afternoon, May 31, 1953 on the property once known as Santa Fe Park, a picnic grove/horse race track complex founded by Frederick Tiedt in the late 1800s.

A number of automobile races were held there in the early days. Tiedt’s son, Howard, was the driving force of the new Santa Fe Speedway with his family operating the track until it closed after the 1995 season.

An unexpected letter to competitors in January of 1996 announced the raceway’s closure. The speedway sat idle until March of 1999 when the wrecking ball came a coming, making way for a $70 million upscale housing development.

How did that radio jingle go? “There’s only one speedway, it’s the track of clay. You ain’t seen nothing till who’ve been to Santa Fe. Racing on a track of clay.”

Today, on the corner of 91st Street and Wolf Road, a rock monument keeps the memory of Santa Fe Speedway alive.