Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ‘Lost Speedways’ Is A Nostalgia Trip
Coming from one of NASCAR’s most storied family dynasties, it’s easy to see why Dale Earnhardt Jr. is passionate about racing history. But his Peacock show Lost Speedways, which came back this summer for a second season, focuses on one very specific aspect of that history: the tracks that time forgot. All of the racetracks featured on the show are retired relics of the sport, meaning fans can see the remains of once-great speedways like San Antonio and Arundel, as well as a couple key locations from Earnhardt’s childhood in North Carolina. But why unearth these forgotten tracks in the first place?
Well, there turns out to be a surprising amount of history hidden beneath this dusty asphalt. Although many of the tracks featured in the show have been defunct for decades, Earnhardt also shines a light on places like Myrtle Beach Speedway, which was an active racing site as recently as August of 2020. This short track had already been struggling to increase its attendance for years, and the Covid-19 pandemic certainly didn’t help. And a veteran like Earnhardt, who raced at Myrtle Beach in the ‘90s, clearly has a vested interest in making sure that the lost don’t also become the forgotten. It’s a show for racing enthusiasts, but the docuseries still has a pretty broad appeal, especially given the sheer number of obscure, fascinating stories these racetracks can tell.
The new season starts off with some high drama, exploring everything from feuding short track owners to the historic upset that put a rookie team on top at the 1981 Pennsboro Speedway Dirt Track World Championship. At times, Earnhardt and co-host Matthew Dillner are just using the speedways as a jumping-off point, which allows them to dive deeper into relevant NASCAR history and even some Earnhardt family lore. At the Columbia Speedway in South Carolina, they get a chance to talk about the NASCAR engine bans of the mid-‘60s, and subsequent Ford and Chrysler boycotts. It’s a fitting conversation, considering how season 1 of the show featured an episode with the racing “King” of that era, NASCAR legend Richard Petty.
However, one (probably) unintended consequence here is a lingering feeling that maybe American racing has seen better days. After all, pandemic restrictions hit live sports hard, and NASCAR had already been struggling to appeal to a younger and more diverse demographic. Ultimately, the question of whether or not that effort is successful may depend heavily on projects like Lost Speedways, which recontextualizes this sport as an essential part of America’s heritage. That means all of these lost speedways are cultural landmarks, and they’re finally starting to get the respect they deserve.
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