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Ronkonkoma: the Never-Was Speedway That Could Have Brought Indianapolis-Scale Racing to Long Island

Posted October 30, 2017 10:15 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: classic auto history racing

A “mecca of motordom” is how one pundit put it. Nearly 900 acres of now prime Long Island real estate dedicated to racing automobiles at a time before many people had even seen one. Backers of the Ronkonkoma speedway envisioned a motorplex of a size that would dwarf the fledgling speedway in Indianapolis, recently unearthed documents show, but that size ultimately ended up preventing the track from ever becoming reality.

The effort to build the speedway, according to documents compiled by Howard Kroplick of the Vanderbilt Cup Races blog, grew out of William “Willie K.” Vanderbilt II‘s work to establish not only the eponymous race but also the Long Island Motor Parkway. The race, first run in 1904 on public roads, quickly drew the ire of Long Island residents and public officials; as early as 1906 the American Automobile Association demanded that Vanderbilt not conduct the race on public roads.

To do so, Vanderbilt began construction on the parkway as a private limited-access toll road extending from Queens to, initially, Bethpage. It opened in 1908 and for three years hosted part of the Vanderbilt Cup race, though the races still relied on public roads for some sections. Only after the New York state legislature banned racing anywhere but on a dedicated race track did Vanderbilt move the race to other venues throughout the country during the Teens.

So why did the country's largest-planned racetrack never even get a shovel in the ground?

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Re: Ronkonkoma: the Never-Was Speedway That Could Have Brought Indianapolis-Scale Racing to Long Island

11/03/2017 3:44 PM

Why lament over the race tracks that never existed on Long Island. Freeport racetrack, Islip figure 8 track and the famous Bridgehampton Raceway are now gone. The only thing left on Long Island is the tiny Riverhead Raceway that is now sandwiched between strip malls.

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