The I-30 Speedway is a high-banked, quarter-mile, red clay, oval auto racing track located in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on Interstate 30 near the border with Saline County. As the heart of central Arkansas auto racing, the I-30 Speedway hosts Weekly Racing Series Events on Saturday nights from the second week in March through the last week in October, with special events held throughout the season. The track is open for sprint, mini-sprint, stock, modified, and other forms of dirt track racing. Events include races affiliated with the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS), Southern United Professional Racing (SUPR), and the Mid-South Racing Association (MSRA). The track’s signature event, the Short Track Nationals for Sprint Cars in October, pays $15,000 to the winner.
Opening on June 28, 1956, under the name Benton Speedbowl, the track was originally located on 4.5 acres at the intersection of U.S. Highways 67/70 and Alcoa Road in Saline County. The track was moved in 1959 after the state government condemned and purchased the land on which it was located to build an overpass. The landowner, Charles E. Addy of Benton (Saline County), challenged that purchase in court and was initially awarded damages based on the profit of the business, a total of $20,000. However, the Arkansas State Supreme Court overturned that decision, ruling that Addy was only entitled to be awarded the value of the land, some $6,900. Forgetting these events, many current track-goers attribute the move to a desire to sell alcohol at the races, which is not permitted in Saline County.
Though the track made a new home in Little Rock, it kept the name Benton Speedbowl through a succession of owners into the early 1980s, and many long-time fans still call it by that name. The owner as of 2009, Joe Clay, purchased the track out of bankruptcy in 1987 with partners Ron and Odus Pack. After various shares of ownership changed hands a few times, Clay became the sole owner in 1990. The property consists of the track itself, concession stands, restrooms, storage buildings, and seating for approximately 3,500.
Over the course of the season, the track draws hundreds of drivers from all over the country, including full-time drivers and part-time hobbyists. Some have compared the relationship between dirt track driving and paved track National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) to that of minor league baseball to the majors, a comparison given some credence by the success of Arkansas native Mark Martin, who won the 1974 Arkansas State Championship at the I-30 Speedway at age fifteen before going on to a successful career in NASCAR.
The track itself has also been seen by a national audience. It was one of several Arkansas locations used in the shooting of the 1973 film White Lightning, starring Burt Reynolds.
For additional information:
“Car Races Open to Large Crowd.” Benton Courier. July 5, 1956, p. 7B.
Christman, Jennifer. “Speed Demons.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. August 28, 1998, p. 12W.
“Court Rejects Jury Award in Land Suit.” Arkansas Gazette. December 9, 1958, p. 12A.
I-30 Speedway. http://www.i-30speedway.com/ (accessed March 15, 2009).
Stewart, Shea. “Nights of Thunder.” Sync Weekly. October 29, 2008, p. 20.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated: 02/29/2012