Around the Track & Looking Back
Even though the track has gone by many names over the years, the quality of racing at Madison has been second to none. Let’s take a quick look at how Madison International Speedway got to be what it is today.
The first track on this location was installed in the early 1950’s and was a quarter-mile dirt track. It was operated by local service organizations at first and was known as the Oregon Legion Speedway for several years. The track featured weekly racing throughout the summer and was one of two tracks located in southern Dane County with the other being a track located just west of Paoli.
In 1963, Sam Bartus purchased the track and paved the quarter-mile. This was only the start of bigger things to come.
Six years later in 1969, Bartus had a vision to create a state of the art racing facility. He decided to remove the quarter-mile and built a high banked, state of the art half-mile oval that we know today as Wisconsin’s Fastest Half-Mile. Along with a new track came the name Capital Super Speedway. Jerry Eckhardt won the first race on the new track with Jim Back becoming the first track champion on the half-mile
The 1970’s found the best drivers in the Midwest calling Madison home as drivers such as Joe Shear, Johnny Ziegler, Dick Trickle, Tom Reffner, and Jim Back drew huge crowds to the speedway. Unfortunately, by the end of the decade the track was closed in 1979 due to the combination of small car counts and crowds.
In 1980 Fred Nielsen purchased the track, re-opened it and hired ARTGO promoter John McKarns to run the speedway. This ushered in the running of weekly ARTGO events at the track. Highlighting the racing action was incredible run by Shear in which he won seven features in a row.
Bob and Tony Zider purchased the track in 1983 and installed the concrete grandstands and a backstretch scoreboard.
In 1987, Craig Hemmen bought the track from the Ziders and made a major change. The asphalt was covered with dirt and the track was renamed Impact Speedway featuring sprint cars, dirt late models, and midgets. The track closed again in 1989 and it appeared that the green flag would never wave again.
However, Wayne Erickson purchased the track in 1992 and immediately removed the dirt and repaved the track and made many improvements to the facility. On May 18, 1992, the first race under Erickson’s ownership took the green flag and Madison International Speedway was officially born. Current NASCAR star Matt Kenseth won the MIS track championship in 1994.
Erickson owned the track until 1996 when Jerry, Donna, and Kevin Fillner became the new owners. The Fillner family brought the Midwest Truck Series to their weekly racing program.
The Fillner family owned the track until 2002, when they sold it to current owner Terry Kunes of Orland Park, Illinois. Several RK Race Promotions events featuring Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart brought crowds of close to 10,000 to the speedway.
In 2006 the quarter-mile “Ring of Fire” was built to allow other divisions to race at the track.
In 2011 the ARCA Racing Series returned to Madison after a nearly forty year absence.
Madison International Speedway was purchased by Gregg and Angie McKarns prior to the 2015 season
So when you make your next visit to Madison International Speedway you now know why it is truly a legendary short track racing facility.