Searching Google Earth For Old Race Tracks Is Our New Favorite Rabbit Hole
Once upon a time, the only way to explore the world was to actually explore it. Sadly, we can’t spend our entire lives road-tripping for cool things to see, and even if we could, some places aren’t easily spotted at ground level. For example, who knew there were remains of a quarter-mile drag strip hidden by trees in the suburbs of Chicago? We know, thanks to Google Earth. And now, you know too.
Before we go any further, consider yourself warned. What follows could lead to one of the biggest rabbit holes of your life, especially if you hold even a slight interest in cars and racing. Some folks in the Google Earth, Structure, and Anomalies Facebook Group tipped us off to this motorsport-themed virtual adventure of finding old race tracks, and you know what? Searching for these places is as addicting as deep-fried cocaine.
Oval horse tracks are pretty common and they’re sometimes mistaken for old car haunts. But there are some locations that, without question, once enjoyed the sounds of engines and the smell of race fuel. We could spend years searching for them all, but since that’s not practical, join us for a short Google Earth tour. And once you’re addicted (and you will be), jump into the comments with photos and coordinates of old tracks you find.
For now, here are a few to whet your appetite.
Location: Weybridge, England
Coordinates: 51°19’16″N 0°25’47″W
Arguably the most famous ghost track in the world, the last race at Brooklands took place in 1939 (excluding James May’s Scalextric slot car tomfoolery in 2009) but portions of the steeply banked oval still exist today. For that matter, much of the original layout shows through from the air despite considerable development at the site since its glory days.
Track: Mid-America Raceway
Location: Wentzville, Missouri USA
Coordinates: 38°50’48″N 90°54’57″W
This is the track that piqued our interest, recently shared by David Williams in the Google Earth, Structures, and Anomalies Facebook group. Once a 2.8-mile road course with a drag strip, the track closed in 2004 and is now a sprawling subdivision. The southern end of the track is gone, but at the top of the photo, you can see portions of the original pavement still snaking through the landscape.
Track: EG&G Proving Grounds
Location: D’Hanis, Texas USA
Coordinates: 29°24’42″N 99°21’48″W
The remains of this massive oval track are baking in the sun approximately seven clicks northwest of D’Hanis, Texas. This was also shared in the Google Earth Facebook group, but it’s not a race track. After some digging, we found a YouTube video describing the location as a five-mile test facility once used by the now-defunct company Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc. The nature of the testing, as well as the current status of the facility, is unknown.
Track: Surfers Paradise International Raceway
Location: Carrara, Queensland Australia,
Coordinates: 28°00’46″S 153°22’25″E
The ring road of this seaside community serves as an outline for the old 2.0-mile road course. The small straight stretch of broken pavement slightly up and right of center (next to the Master Mindset text) is all that remains of the original track, which saw numerous endurance races and was a regular stop for the Australian Touring Car Championship until its closure in 1987.
Paramount Ranch Raceway
Location: Agoura Hills, California USA
Coordinates: 34°07’05″N 118°45’10″W
This one might be difficult to suss out, so we’ve expertly outlined the original 2.0-mile course in red with a bit of help from David Williams, who tipped us off to the track. Several portions still exist, such as the big curve on the lower right and the straightaway. Other stretches are still visible as dirt paths, but the track’s official life only lasted from 1956 through 1957 as it was deemed too dangerous. It lived a second life as a location used for filming through the ’50s and ’60s. Today it’s part of the National Park Service as a historic site.
Dakota Intermountain Dragway
Location: Belle Fourche, South Dakota USA
Coordinates: 44°42’33″N 103°53’41″W
Nestled near the Wyoming border, this quarter-mile drag strip and small oval track used to be called Black Hills Dragway. Dragstriplist.com tells us it opened in 1972 and once had seating for 500 people. The seats and buildings are long gone, but the broken strip still remains … albeit with trees growing through the cracks.
Track: Century 21 Raceways
Location: Aurora, Colorado USA
Coordinates: 39°44’55″N 104°43’46″W
Here’s another oval/drag strip combo, this time found in the shadow of Denver. Aurora is a northern suburb, and according to na-motorsports.com, this small facility had an equally small lifespan from 1971 through 1973. It consisted of a 3/8-mile oval with a figure-eight feature and a quarter-mile drag strip that connected to it, seen here at the bottom of the image. Both clearly show up in the satellite view, but switching to street view shows recent developments in the area that have likely wiped out the broken remains.
Track: Oswego Drag Raceway
Location: Oswego, Illinois
Coordinates: 41°41’10″N 88°23’15″W
Roughly 40 miles west of downtown Chicago is a dense grove of trees hiding the remains of a once-thriving drag strip. Oswego Drag Raceway opened in 1954 and stayed in operation for 25 years, ultimately succumbing to the expansion of the Windy City’s suburbs. Everything but the track itself is gone, though at this point it’s covered by trees and surrounded by subdivisions.