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Salem Speedway's Heritage Commemorated With Historical Marker Sign
Updated September 14, 2016 7:24 AM
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Cover Photo Left to Right: Salem Mayor Troy Merry, Indiana State Senator Erin Houchin, IRMA co-founder Mark Eutsler, IRMA co-founder Brian Hasler, Salem track owner Owen Thompson.

(SALEM) - Salem Speedway's grand heritage was commemorated Friday afternoon with a special ceremony regarding a brand new historical marker sign that describes the track's amazing 70-year legacy that produced some of the greatest open-wheel and stock car drivers in the world.

On Friday, a newly unveiled historical marker was placed at the track by Salem Mayor Troy Merry, Indiana State Senator Erin Houchin, IRMA co-founder Mark Eutsler, IRMA co-founder Brian Hasler, Salem track owner Owen Thompson.

The.555-mile oval that features imposing 33-degree banks was built strictly for speed. High powered sprint cars accelerate down the straights at speeds reaching nearly 140 miles per hour. Salem is a track steeped in history with many of the giants in auto racing having competed on the treacherous "hills" at some point in their careers. Names such as Ruttman, Carter, Sweikert, O'Connor, Jones, Foyt, Unser, Andretti, Vogler, Allison, Parsons, and Waltrip just to name a few, grace the list of past winners.

With such a storied racing history, it is not surprising that Salem has developed a strong racing heritage and tradition that continues today with some of the top names in open wheel and stock car competition visiting the famed high banks each racing season to challenge the demanding oval. The legendary A.J. Foyt once said," if a driver can go fast on the high banks, he can go fast anywhere." That's still as true today as it was 50 years ago. In recent years drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Ken Schrader and Joey Logano tested their skills on the Salem oval with varying degrees of success.

Situated in the scenic hills of southern Indiana, the Salem Speedway roars to life with upwards of 12-15 "Special Events" per year. With a season stretching from April to November each event is "Special" in its own right with sanctioning bodies such as ARCA, the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprints, the Ken-Ten Pro Late Model Series and the Top Speed Modified Tour helping bring the finest in professional automobile racing to the world famous facility.

Salem Speedway officially opened for business on June 22, 1947, with a Pennsylvania Dutchman Tommy Hinnershitz, winning the 20-lap feature event for AAA "Big Cars", as sprints were then known, in front of over 7,000 enthusiastic fans. Two Salem residents, James Summers and Everett "Foxy" Roberts, were partners in the operation of the speedway that first year of existence. Since that time, eight different individuals or groups have owned the historic race track with others having leased or promoted the races at various times.

After a violent windstorm left the track in shambles in July of 1981, the track sat idle for a number of years before a major restoration project was undertaken in the summer of 1987. After several months of work, the oval re-opened for the first time in six and one-half years in early October when the track hosted a two-day event, featuring late models and ARCA stock cars.

Under the guidance of owners Owen and Beverly Thompson, who purchased the track in 1995, the super-fast Salem oval is once again enjoying the distinction being one of the finest motorsports venues in the Midwest.
Among major improvements that have taken place under the Thompson ownership is the construction of a 11,600 sq. ft., three story structure that houses ultra-modern hospitality suites, press facilities, track offices, concessions, gift shop and restrooms. New grandstand seating, upgraded track lighting, concrete retaining walls and expanded pit road have also been added during the Thompson years.

The latest renovation to the Speedway complex occurred in 2010 and included the addition of a quarter-mile asphalt oval in the infield of the existing .555-mile track. It is undoubtedly hard for many longtime Salem Speedway fans to conceive the changes that have already become a reality at the famed racing facility with many more currently in the planning stages. Changes that almost certainly insure another half-century of memorable racing action at one of America's great race tracks.

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