Not all race tracks come in the same size, and the NASCAR schedule is full of short to intermediate ovals, superspeedways with long straights, and even road courses. Because there is so much variety, you may therefore wonder what the shortest tracks in NASCAR are.
The 5 shortest tracks in NASCAR are:
- Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
- Martinsville Speedway
- Bristol Motor Speedway
- North Wilkesboro Speedway
- Richmond Raceway
Below, we will outline what makes a short track in NASCAR. We will look at how many short tracks are on the circuit, and reveal the five current shortest tracks. Finally, we will move on to talk about the five shortest tracks in NASCAR history, the shortest race, and the shortest road course.
What Is A Short Track In NASCAR?
A short track in NASCAR is a track shorter than one mile (1.6 km) in length. These tracks differ from intermediate ovals and superspeedways with substantially shorter straights, which don’t allow drivers to build anywhere near as much speed as you see in places like Michigan, Daytona, or Talladega.
Despite the short straights forcing slower speeds, short tracks are among NASCAR’s most popular, which explains why we see two events per season at Bristol, Martinsville, and Richmond. NASCAR also brought North Wilkesboro back onto the schedule, and replaced the Clash at Daytona with a short track race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Rise, Fall & Rise Of Short Tracks
Short tracks used to be the norm in NASCAR, but intermediate ovals and superspeedways became more popular. This ultimately left Bristol, Martinsville, and Richmond as NASCAR’s last short tracks, but as NASCAR attempts to surge into the future yet simultaneously try to hold to its roots, short tracks are slowly making their return.
In 2022, we saw short track racing at the LA Coliseum, and North Wilkesboro makes its return in 2023 after a 26 season hiatus. There is also buzz going around the NASCAR world that the Nashville Fairgrounds, yet another short track, will eventually return to the calendar.
How Many Short Tracks Are There In NASCAR?
The NASCAR Cup Series features 5 short tracks:
- North Wilkesboro
- Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
While the Coliseum is still new to the sport, Richmond, Bristol, Martinsville, and North Wilkesboro have a long history with the Cup Series.
NASCAR has been racing at Richmond since 1953, while North Wilkesboro and Martinsville hosted races since NASCAR started in 1949. NASCAR started racing at Bristol in 1961. While the Cup Series has just five short tracks, they aren’t the only ones that NASCAR-sanctioned events race on. The ARCA Menards Series, for example, races on seven short tracks.
These tracks include Berlin Raceway, Elko Speedway, Iowa Speedway, Salem Speedway, Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, and the Toledo Speedway, along with Bristol.
The 5 Shortest NASCAR Tracks
1. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Length: 0.25 miles / 4 km | Laps: 150 | Race Distance: 37.5 miles / 60 km | First Race: 2022
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum started hosting NASCAR’s annual preseason race in 2022. This track is so small that it is not possible for all 40 cars to race on it at the same time, prompting NASCAR to run heat races before the main event, which features 23 cars.
Despite its ultra-small size, the event has proven to be popular, given the 50,000-plus fans that turned up for the inaugural event. For many of them, it was the first time they saw a race live and in person, meaning that this track could be a staple in NASCAR for the foreseeable future.
2. Martinsville Speedway
Length: 0.526 miles / 0.85 km | Laps: 400 / 500 | Race Distance: 210.5 miles (339 km) / 263 miles (423 km) | First Race: 1949
What distinguishes Martinsville from any other track on the NASCAR schedule is that it is composed of two surfaces: asphalt and concrete. The track mainly has asphalt, but when you look into the turns, you can see a few slabs of concrete. This track is also known for being the slowest track in NASCAR, given its minor banking in the turns, and the fact the cars cannot build much speed since it is so short.
But short track racing remains popular at Martinsville, thanks to its narrow width. This keeps the racing close, and you often never see cars leave the track without sustaining at least a scratch on their bodies because of its typical bumper to bumper racing. Like the other points-paying short tracks on this list, Martinsville Speedway hosts two events each year.
3. Bristol Motor Speedway
Length: 0.533 miles / 0.85 km | Laps: 250 / 500 | Race Distance: 133.25 miles (214 km) / 266.5 miles (429 km) | First Race: 1961
Bristol Motor Speedway is a fast track, even if it is only a little over a half-mile (0.8 km) long. Despite its status as NASCAR’s third-shortest track, it ironically has a greater fan capacity than most tracks two or even three times larger than it, since it is one of the few NASCAR tracks entirely enclosed within a stadium.
Bristol is also unique because of the annual dirt race NASCAR has held here since 2021. Its track surface is composed mainly of clay for the race, and during the annual night race, its surface is covered in concrete instead of asphalt. Despite steep banking of between 26 and 30 degrees, this track’s wide turns make it quite the challenge for drivers.
4. North Wilkesboro Speedway
Length: 0.625 miles / 1 km | Laps: N/A | Race Distance: N/A | First Race: 1949
North Wilkesboro Speedway last ran a Cup Series race in 1996 before NASCAR did away with the track in favor of races at Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire. The track continued to host non-NASCAR events, but it was eventually abandoned in the 2010s. However, in late 2022, news broke that NASCAR would run the All-Star Race at the historic track in 2023.
North Wilkesboro’s relationship with the Cup Series dates back to NASCAR’s inaugural season in 1949. In the first NASCAR-sanctioned race at the track, Kenneth Wagner won the pole award while Bob Flock went on to win the race. Future Cup Series champions Lee Petty and Herb Thomas finished second and fifth, respectively.
5. Richmond Raceway
Length: 0.75 miles / 1.2 km | Laps: 400 | Race Distance: 300 miles / 483 km | First Race: 1953
Yet another short track that has stood the test of time, Richmond Raceway is the largest short track currently on the NASCAR schedule. It hosted its first event in 1953, and the raceway became a permanent staple on the NASCAR schedule from 1959.
While Richmond hosts two points-paying races per season, it is the only one of the points-paying short tracks that does not host a playoff race (Bristol’s Night Race finishes the Round of 16 while Martinsville’s Fall Race is the penultimate event on the schedule).
The 5 Shortest NASCAR Tracks Ever
1. Islip Raceway
Length: 0.2 miles / 0.32 km | Laps: 230-300 | Race Distance: 46-60 miles / 74-97 km | First Race: 1964 | Last Race: 1971
NASCAR raced at this track between 1964 and 1969, before coming back for one more run in 1971. During its six-race run in NASCAR, Richard Petty and Bobby Allison dominated at the short track, winning a combined four of its six races. Other winners included Billy Wade (1964) and Marvin Panch (1965).
Like the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum today, Islip never had a full field of 40-plus cars at any of its events. The 1971 race saw its largest field, made up of 33 cars. All races before this featured between 22 and 29 cars. NASCAR did away with coming to Islip when they nixed all races of fewer than 250 miles (400 km) following the 1971 season.
2. Heidelberg Raceway
Length: 0.250 miles / 0.4 km | Laps: 200 | Race Distance: 200 miles / 322 km | First Race: 1959 | Last Race: 1960
NASCAR actually raced four times at the Heidelberg Raceway, but three of the four events occurred on the half-mile (8 km) layout. But in 1959, NASCAR ran on the 0.25 mile (0.4 km) layout, officially making Heidelberg one of the shortest tracks in the sport’s history. Slim Brown won the pole while Jim Reed ended up winning the event.
3. Tar Heel Speedway
Length: 0.250 miles / 0.4 km | Laps: 200 | Race Distance: 50 miles / 80.5 km | First Race: 1963 | Last Race: 1963
NASCAR only raced at Tar Heel Speedway for one season, but they ran three events at the track. Like other short tracks that are 0.25 miles (0.4 km) or less, you didn’t see a huge number of cars, with between 15 and 24 showing up to race at Tar Heel. Jim Peschel won the first two events, while Richard Petty took the checkered flag in the third race.
4. Starkey Speedway
Length: 0.250 miles / 0.4 km | Laps: 152-200 | Race Distance: 38-50 miles / 61-80 km | First Race: 1958 | Last Race: 1964
NASCAR legend Junior Johnson took two of the four races run at Starkey Speedway, while Jim Reed took the inaugural event in 1958. Reed also sat on the pole for that particular race. One fun fact regarding NASCAR’s four-race stint at Starkey Speedway is that all four winners of the race started in one of the first two rows.
5. Dog Track Speedway
Length: 0.250 miles / 0.4 km | Laps: 252-300 | Race Distance: 63-75 miles / 101-121 km | First Race: 1962 | Last Race: 1966
NASCAR ran seven events at Dog Track Speedway, but only the first three occurred on the track’s 0.25 mile (0.4 km) layout. Ned Jarrett won two of those races, starting on the front row on both occasions. Jimmy Purdue won the second event at the track, despite starting in the middle of the field. Starting in 1964, the speedway expanded to a 0.333 mile (0.54 km) layout.
What Is The Shortest Race In NASCAR?
The Bristol Dirt Race is the shortest race in NASCAR, at just 133.25 miles (214 km). This event replaced the Food City 500 and is made up of just 250 laps, instead of the original 500 that the Food City 500 ran. The race is so short because the cars race much slower than on any other track.
When NASCAR last ran the Food City 500 in 2020, the average speed of the event was 80 mph (129 kph). The 2019 event was even faster, running at 90 mph (146 kph), and the pole speed hit 132 mph (212 kph). In practice sessions for the 2022 Bristol Dirt Race, Tyler Reddick recorded the highest top speed of 90 mph (146 kph), which just matched the average speed of the 2019 race.
Dirt Races Are Slower
For the 2022 race, and the first in the Next Gen car, the average speed sat at just 35 mph (56 kph). It lasted 3 hours and 35 minutes, while the first dirt race in 2021 lasted 2 hours and 43 minutes. When you take the average of the two events, you get an average of just over 3 hours of dirt racing.
With the Bristol Dirt Race’s popularity, plus the fact that it is appearing to become an annual event on Easter Weekend, you can expect this race to remain a staple in the NASCAR schedule for years to come.
The Shortest Road Course In NASCAR
The Sonoma Raceway is the shortest road course in NASCAR, at just 1.99 miles (3.2 km) long. While the road course opened in 1968, NASCAR held its inaugural race at the track in 1989. The road course’s full layout is 2.5 miles (4 km) long, but the layout NASCAR races on is known as the Club Circuit.
NASCAR did run races on the full layout between 1989 and 1997, and they returned to the full circuit for one season in 2019. COVID-19 regulations shut down the annual race at Sonoma in 2020, and in 2022, NASCAR returned to racing at the Club Circuit once more. Increased fan visibility was one reason NASCAR started racing on the Club Circuit.
Like all road courses currently on the schedule, NASCAR only comes to Sonoma once a year, and the event often occurs in June. The track, while a staple in NASCAR’s current landscape, has not come without its fair share of issues. Between 1989 and 2001, there were only 34 pit boxes for 40-plus cars, forcing teams to either share pit boxes or to pit in the garage area.
Before 2002, NASCAR reassigned pit boxes as cars either dropped or crashed out of the event. To help fix the issue, NASCAR implemented makeshift pit boxes inside Turn 11, also known as the Hairpin Turn. NASCAR personnel dubbed this Gilligan’s Island, and it comprised another nine pit boxes, allowing all 43 cars competing in the race at the time to have their own pit box.
While there was an upside to this, the downside was that only the primary crew was allowed over there. This prevented pit crews from accessing the garage area if they needed to make major repairs to the car in the event of a wreck, leaving them only able to change tires, make minor adjustments, and refuel cars pitting there.
This gave some drivers a major disadvantage since repairable damage at the time could result in a did-not-finish (DNF). NASCAR officials also held drivers here for roughly 15 seconds following a pit stop, since drivers pitting in the main portion of pit road had to drive substantially farther to get to their pit stall.
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the shortest track in NASCAR, followed by Martinsville, Bristol, North Wilkesboro, and Richmond. Islip Raceway is the shortest track in NASCAR history, while the Bristol Dirt Race is the shortest event in NASCAR today.