The Walt Disney World Speedway and the Indy 200
The Walt Disney World Speedway and the Indy 200


Walt Disney World was always more than just
theme parks. Even back in the 70’s when it first opened
it offered guests other activities like golf, camping, and boating. It was just a way to round out a vacation
destination. However once the 80’s and 90’s rolled
around, that attitude changed. People were making Disney World one stop out
of many on their Florida vacation, but why not change that? Disney’s thinking was that if people were
coming to Florida for other experiences, they could offer their own Disney version of that
experience and keep them on property. Local night clubs? Pleasure Island. Beaches and waves? Typhoon Lagoon. Cruises? The Disney Cruise Line. Timeshares? The DVC. Many people made trips out to Daytona for
the Daytona 500. Well, Disney had an answer for that too, and
it was the Walt Disney World Speedway. In the mid 1990’s, there was a rift in the
world of racing. A man named Tony George felt that Indy racing
was getting too expensive. He argued that the variation between oval
and street tracks, along with the lack of standardization among the cars lead to this
sort-of arms race of increasingly expensive vehicles. It reached the point where the average IndyCar
season cost a team as much as fifteen million dollars to participate. He tried to work with CART or the Championship
Auto Racing Team to change the series to help, but they were unable to come to an agreement. So in 1995, he started his own series. IRL was the Indy Racing League. George claimed that it was going to return
the sport to it’s true form by lowering the number of races, focusing on oval tracks,
and limiting the car specs to lower the costs to participate. He claimed his league would lower that $15
million cost down to $3 million. Now George wasn’t just some random fan. You see, he was the president of the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway, home to the world famous Indy 500. So he not only had the resources to make the
Indy Racing League a reality, he had the pull to give IRL racers preferential treatment
when it came to the next Indy 500. The qualifying rules of the Indy 500 were
changed so that 25 of the 33 car spots were given to participants of the IRL. The racing community didn’t like this. His goals were noble, sure, but to many it
felt like a kid taking his ball and going home because he didn’t like the rules of
the game. Many big name drivers spoke out against the
changes to the Indy 500 and pledged to not partake in the IRL. Some were just contractually bound to the
other IndySeries anyway and couldn’t switch over even if they wanted to. CART countered by establishing the US 500
in Michigan to compete with the Indy 500. So it looked like regardless of public outcry,
the IRL series would be moving forward, though with a shortage of big name racers. This is where Disney enters the picture. The Indy Racing League partnered with The
Walt Disney Company to build a 1.1 mile tri-oval track just south of the Transportation and
Ticket Center in order to host the inaugural Indy 200 in 1996. It might not have been the first thing people
expected out of Disney, but it wasn’t much of a stretch either. Disney World had moved more into the world
of sports those past few years with their own marathon, bike tour, and even mini-Olympics. So racing didn’t feel far out of place. General manager of Disney Motorsports, Michael
Waggoner, claimed that he had been pitching the idea of moving into racing to Disney for
four years before it finally happened. By hosting the first of the five races, Walt
Disney World would lend a novelty to the new event. On the flipside, by kicking off the series
in January, the event would benefit Disney by bringing in more guests during what was
normally their slow season. Disney sold package deals for hotel stays,
park tickets, and race tickets for the event, and later claimed that most of the attendees
for the race were from the Midwest and purchased said packages. The Speedway itself was a barebones facility. It was built in under a year at a cost of
just $6 million. There were no permanent bleachers or sky boxes,
nor were there any garages for the cars. It was more or less just a track. That track was made up of 3.2 million paving
bricks, including one cornerstone brick from the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, often
known as the Brickyard. The track in Disney gained the nickname of
the Mickyard. Using temporary bleachers and sky-boxes able
to seat over 55,000 guests, the first Indy 200 was slated for January 27th, 1996, with
a prize purse of $1 million. As expected, the series struggled to attract
many big name racers, but according to Disney that wasn’t a problem. They claimed that their research showed that
people were going to the races for the cars and competition, and less-so for notable racers
themselves. And it seems that Disney was right, as the
inaugural event was attended by over 55,200 guests and was broadcasted on ABC, which Disney
had just acquired over the previous six months. The race itself went well, and averaging 139
miles per hour and winning by just .866 seconds, Buzz Calkins was the first winner of the Indy
200. Over the following 4 years the Walt Disney
World Speedway saw continued use. The Indy 200 would take place there up until
the year 2000, and a couple of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races would be held at the speedway
as well, not to mention a number of smaller supporting races for both events. After the IRL race in 2000, Disney and the
Indy Racing League failed to settle on an agreeable date for the 2001 race, causing
the IRL to go with a different venue. Disney didn’t know it at the time, but it
would mark the end of professional races at the track. With the rise in popularity of stock car racing,
and the continued rift between the IRL and CART, the racing scene was starting to struggle. However that wasn’t the end of the speedway’s
use. Introduced in 1997, the Walt Disney World
Speedway became one of the permanent homes to the Richard Petty Driving Experience. The experience allowed guests to pay anywhere
from $99 to $1250 to get into the passenger’s seat of a stock car and experience the speeds
of the vehicle firsthand, or even drive it themselves. Eventually the offerings expanded to the Indy
Racing Experience, and the Exotic Driving Experience. So what happened to the Speedway? Well, the very decisions that made it a low
risk investment for the Walt Disney Company also made it really easy to get rid of. The facility had only cost them $6 million
to build and didn’t involve any large permanent structures, and it was squeezed right below
the TTC parking lot in order to avoid laying new utilities. As the popularity of the parks continued to
grow, that land found itself becoming more valuable for extra parking space, and without
any professional races, it became harder to justify keeping around. So it was decided in early 2015 to close and
demolish the track in order to expand the parking facilities at the TTC. With the announcement there was virtually
no surprise. If anything people were more surprised the
speedway had lasted as long as it did. The Walt Disney World Speedway was one of
the more interesting projects for Disney in the 90’s. It certainly wasn’t the only instance of
Disney trying to dip their toes into a new venture, but usually when they did it either
involved a major investment, or extreme success, or extreme failure. The Speedway had none of that. It was built on the cheap. It saw some professional use, but that just
petered out without any fanfare. The use after that was small and sparse, and
then one day it was just removed. It felt like an afterthought, not just for
guests who visited, but to Disney as well. But even as an afterthought, it was a testament
to how willing Disney was to try something new.

75 thoughts on “The Walt Disney World Speedway and the Indy 200”

  1. JasonLvsDogs says:

    First

  2. The S.E.A. says:

    Hi rob!

  3. Kid Slimes says:

    Hello!

  4. Andrew._.T says:

    RIP Anthoine Hubert

  5. Jelo Feliciano says:

    finally someone talked about this forgotten track

  6. JaguarDude says:

    11th!

  7. Adrian Sierra says:

    Awesome!!!

  8. Scarlet Spider says:

    I may not be first but I'm still happy

  9. Josh Zilka says:

    You forgot to mention a few things there was a few accidents at the speedway which could’ve caused it close

  10. Commander Comic says:

    I remember seeing this all the time in the parking lot, when I was a kid.

    I think the reason (or one of the hidden motivations) it got removed was when someone crashed in the track.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-richard-petty-fatality-20150412-story.html%3foutputType=amp

  11. cesariojpn says:

    Missed opportunity to point out the exact location the former site on Google Earth now in 2019.

  12. Jacob November says:

    As of now, it's still just a field. Occasionally you see extra cars for the rental office but that's about it. There was a rumor that a garage was going to be built after the track's demolition but nothing yet.

  13. Avery the Cuban-American says:

    The former speedway still has one of the largest Hidden Mickeys, Lake Mickey

  14. Spinlok says:

    Wasn't someone killed in the Richard Petty driving experience?

  15. L G says:

    Oh look, Disney ruining something that's good and works because they got greedy. What with the spiderman news, seems like they haven't learned their lesson and probably never will.

    That being said, glad this thing is gone, since the noise would be annoying to hear at the parks and I just am not a racing fan

  16. Jordan Miller says:

    Wasn’t the death of a Richard Petty Driving Experience participant (going the wrong direction and so having insufficient safeguards) a contributor to the decision to close the speedway?

  17. Mike R says:

    Another Gem! Keep them coming!!

  18. E.A. Cackowski says:

    Great video Rob! Have you ever thought about doing a video on the origins of Radio Disney?

  19. JD M1275 says:

    Its cool that disney had a race track

  20. L8RG8R2U says:

    I remember the speedway when I was a kid. My parents worked at Disney World’s transportation (Mom drove boats, Dad drove buses), so we’d go to the parks a lot. We always drove by the speedway, but never got the chance to get much closer than that

  21. Jake 24 says:

    NASCAR!!!!

  22. Chris Molyneaux says:

    This is where Sam Schmidt has his accident that left him paralyzed.

  23. Fun Fiero says:

    Still love Lake Mickey!

  24. playboymaxim says:

    Anything halfway cool ain't gonna last long at Disney

  25. Mike Fangman says:

    I believe that, because of its shape, some NASCAR teams used it as a testing site for Pocono Raceway

  26. Christopher Curry says:

    90's Disney was a different breed of wild!!

  27. WickedWood04 says:

    I think the straw that broke the camels back was when someone got hit and died on the track right before it got shut down.

  28. Amy Meyers says:

    Would love to see a video about the Goofy Games

  29. Eric Levitt says:

    The way I heard it was the location was a test to so how it could be financially feasible with less risk and if it worked, they were going to build a larger more permanent version down at Wide World of Sports … Rob, did you run across anything related to that in your research? Btw great concise videos !

  30. Kevin Hitchcock says:

    Once again you do an awesome history video of something I've never heard about! I'm proud to be a Patron!

  31. raiderking69 says:

    It was a damn shame too, because they had that Richard Petty driving experience and it was fun as Hell!

  32. PastTime777 says:

    Small track. Needed to be a super speedway at 2.5 miles long. Daytona and Indy are 2.5 miles.

  33. Spencer Scott says:

    5:24
    a e s t h e t i c

  34. A.B.M. of PGH says:

    You didn’t mention the myriad of parking problems for the visitors? That’s one of the most important reasons why they stopped doing the Indy 200.

  35. Garrett Burkle says:

    Tony George is a idiot -a die heart indycar/Indy 500 fan

  36. Frank Conti says:

    You failed to mention the “deaths “ incurred on the track right up until it was closed permanently. 😥

  37. Michael Benedict says:

    I think it was a lot riskier than most people give it credit for. Imagine if there was a fatal accident on the track

  38. der kunstler says:

    youbleft out the crash there

  39. Dan Wynne says:

    Where exactly? I always park there and park hop all over using Disney transportation
    I never knew the speedway was there I had heard of it.

  40. Sam Cody says:

    Great story, I went to the first race in 96, I love racing and it was the first event I went to. I believe Roy Disney presented the trophy to the winner. Couldn't get the wife to get me the Petty driving experience though.

  41. Blair Aquilia says:

    I would have really liked to see a before and after arial of the track in the video

  42. SharpStudios0 says:

    didnt mention the few deaths that took place their as well. after the lamborghini crash in 2015 that left someone dead they never opened back up.

  43. 328am says:

    Rob, you should do a video on how much money Disney could make if they sued everyone that wore a home made Disney T-shirt since they break copywrite & trade mark laws. 😂

  44. Scott Mayers says:

    I also believe a major factor in removing the track happened to be that an exotic car driver died there a few months before the track was removed.

  45. nick p says:

    Bring back the Mickyard for United States Grand Prix

  46. locutusnj says:

    I actually driver at the Richard Petty driving experience. Was awesome driving a stockcar at over 130 miles an hour. It's ashame they did away with it.. Was looking forward to doing it again. 🙁

  47. John Haines says:

    I remember seeing the track when my family went to WDW in 1996. We parked near it.

  48. Matt McIrvin says:

    I was just wondering what the deal was with this and what became of it. You can tell on Google Maps that it's defunct.

  49. Alex Gordon says:

    The IRL was a joke and boring.

  50. Leslie Fillyaw says:

    Ive been watching you for 5 years and still watching! Keep it up!

  51. pokepress says:

    Insert Cars joke here.

  52. michael taylor says:

    I first visited WDW in 2001. The track was still there, but as you say starting to wain. While I thought it was a novel idea, it wouldn't have been anything I'd have the extra time or $$$ to experience. Even as a passenger. I was pleased with the "then" offerings. I do applaud them on there move though. Eisner even know you couldn't consistently make "blockbuster" movies. Sometimes base hits will get you "home" LOL

  53. fishflake1209 says:

    A couple hundred miles away, the Homestead-Miami Speedway opened its doors right around the same time as the Mickyard. Simply put, Homestead made WDW look cheap and barebones. It had permanent garage facilities; it provided first-class amenities for teams and spectators; it could be used in both oval and road course configurations.

    Florida is a desirable locale for racing teams to conduct winter testing, but with top-notch venues in Daytona, Homestead, and Sebring, WDW could not compete without spending much more than they were willing to invest in the Speedway.

  54. Adam Porter says:

    Only for a large company would a six million dollar investment be considered small…

  55. Kevin Peterson says:

    Universal… mgm studios. Sea world…?

  56. Alex12 Blanning43 says:

    Loved watching the nascar truck races they had their
    I've seen them a couple of times on YouTube

  57. Alex12 Blanning43 says:

    Yeah I hated it when they announced they were going to close and demolished to make way for more parking because I've been there a few times and it was awesome that's going there

  58. Matthew Hyndman says:

    Good Video, I would have preferred it to be released in the Month of May, but hay

    Are you going to pick up IMS and Disney first collaboration in the 1980s in a future video. – the Opening Ceremony for the 1987 Pan American Games, which was held at IMS and feature an Ceremony largely produced by cast members from WDW?

  59. Lady Lydia says:

    My dad took part in the Petty driving experience back in 2007. He got to drive. He said it was a highlight of his life.

  60. Anthony Tah May says:

    Imagine if it was Disney Rally Racing instead 😂

  61. Casey Fulp says:

    Hey Rob. Curious as to whether you intentionally left out mention of the death immediately preceding the shutdown? This was a big news item that most locals see as the “real reason” for the shutdown and rapid demolition. Curious if you found otherwise. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/tourism/os-fhp-richard-petty-disney-guardrail-20150820-story.html

  62. rich schindler says:

    Hey. I drove that track!!!! Yes indeed, I did the Petty experience there. It was cool. Now it’s gone.

  63. David Land says:

    Its so weird to hear a non-racing channel talk with such a deep knowledge of the CART/IRL split. Good work.

  64. dpm1982 says:

    Tony George is the grandson to the late Tony Hulman who bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1944 or 1945. After years of no use that was during World War II, Mr Hulman made vast improvements to the facility and those improvements continued over the years. I always thought IMS was used for a short time during WWII for testing for the War Department but I cannot find any articles on the Internet to support that thought or claim.

  65. Luke says:

    I think a great video would be about shadow, Disney’s hilton head resort mascot. Many people don’t know who he is and his backstory

  66. Sheri Ritholtz says:

    Very informative and enjoyable vlog!

  67. Cybertron Warrior says:

    My dad was good at that he won a few times

  68. socalisurfer13 says:

    It was shut down after a paying customer from the Richard Petty Experience crashed into a wall and killed the instructor and track manager.

  69. Dusty Bunny says:

    I remember during a Disney visit in 2014 the raceway was closed down due to a fatal accident.

  70. Kaleidoscope 65 says:

    Has DISNEY Ever though about Official hosting its own personal "HOT AIR BALLOONS FESTIVAL" on "Walt Disney World Property? Imagine not since DISNEY has the NO air Fly Zone in place??? But again it would be Totally Interesting to see DISNEY official pull that off and want Out come would benefit them too? And Here did the great Idea of the MICKEY Mouse Hot air BALLOON came from too. That we see in all their Disney official advertisement ???

  71. Mystic Eric says:

    Great Video as ALways!!

  72. O'Family On the Move says:

    I was at the first 200 and a truck race as a teen and got to do the Petty experience so I had some great memories there. I was sad to see it go!

  73. AutoRockinRacing94 says:

    The track was just injury plagued in such a short period of time. Truck Series put on some nice shows though.

  74. mike g says:

    I have a suggestion for video For years in the 80s and 90s there was rumors in Paris tx and Reno Tx joining towns That Disney was putting a park there but the city's always turned them down because they didn't want their cities to Grow don't know if there's any truth to the rumors But if it is true of like to know more about it

  75. Asriel Dreemurr says:

    And they still haven’t actually turned it into parking.

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