The economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic has taken an insurmountable toll on Virginia’s Southside Speedway, which announced on Friday morning that it was closing down for good after not being able to race in 2020.
Southside Speedway, which was the first track to host the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown and had been open since 1959, suspended operations just days before its 2020 season opener in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The track had hoped to be able to go racing at some point, but ultimately canceled their 2020 season back in June as a result of both the virus and restrictions regarding mass gatherings laid out by the state’s governor, Ralph Northam.
“After much discussion, work, and prayer, we have decided that Southside Speedway’s time has come to an end,” a statement from Southside Speedway read. “Please know that this was not a quick or an easy decision, and that we grieve along with you. The pandemic proved to be more than we could overcome, and rather than continue to keep you all in limbo, we have made the decision to close our gates.”
Southside Speedway was a 0.333-mile bullring located in Midlothian, Virginia, just outside the state’s capital city of Richmond, and typically raced on Friday nights. In the 1960s, the track hosted NASCAR Cup Series races won by Junior Johnson, Jimmy Pardue, Jim Paschal, and Ned Jarrett. In the years to follow, names such as Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, and Bobby Allison would compete at the track.
Denny Hamlin made his racing debut at Southside Speedway in the track’s Mini-Stock division in 1997 and would go on to win numerous races there and at other tracks prior to his jump to NASCAR racing. His charity event, the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, originated at Southside Speedway with races there won by two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch and C.E. Falk before moving to Richmond Raceway in 2012.
Southside Speedway was one of the oldest tracks in the Late Model Stock Car racing scene.
The full letter from Southside Speedway reads as follows
We wanted to write to you all directly, so that you can hear in our words the plans we have for the future of Southside Speedway.
When Covid began to affect us here in Central Virginia, we were just days away from beginning our 2020 season. With cautious optimism we held off cancelling our season. Ever-hopeful that the numbers would improve, the safety advisories would be favorable and that all would feel safe returning to race in the 61st season of Southside Speedway. That was not to be, and for the first time in over 60 years, there was no racing to be had.
After much discussion, work, and prayer, we have decided that Southside Speedway’s time has come to an end. Please know that this was not a quick or an easy decision, and that we grieve along with you. The pandemic proved to be more than we could overcome, and rather than continue to keep you all in limbo, we have made the decision to close our gates.
To our staff, our dear friends. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your talents and your love of racing with all of us. For mentoring generations of racing enthusiasts, and for sharing so much of your precious time with us, we will forever be grateful. We could never have asked for more.
To our drivers, owners and crews, we love and appreciate you. Thank you for showing up! You are all such a talented group of competitors. We hope that the cheers from your fans and the trophies in your shops will bring you joy for years to come. We have loved cheering for you, and seeing your successes. You showed us all what racing is supposed to look like. We will be rooting for you, as you find new places to race, and we hope that your time at the toughest short track in the south has left its mark on your heart.
To our fans. There wouldn’t be a Southside Speedway if it weren’t for y’all. In 1957, when the land was purchased with the intent to develop a community, the fans pleaded for it to remain a race track. The fans showed up, supported, and cheered each week. You brought your families, and then they brought theirs. Generations have grown up on Friday night racing. We will miss you all so much, and truly hope that you find new traditions and new ways to spend those Friday nights with your families.
For generations, there has been Southside Speedway. We are grateful that you were a part of its story.