I wasn’t quite sure what to say at the time. Memphis International Raceway is where I learned to race and was a fixture, on and off, throughout my childhood. It was a polarizing track. Home mostly to drag racers, but a few of us were proud to call the road course home.
Few participated in road racing events at Memphis International Raceway. We are a niche within a niche, but the old school configuration runs down the dragstrip, around the carousel, through the m’s, into the ’90s, and then right through grants tomb to be thrown back onto the dragstrip, made for one hell of a 1.8mi circuit. Many a racer was born here.
And as I go through old footage, it is time to give Memphis International Raceway a proper goodbye.
History of Memphis International Raceway
You can view the official history of Memphis International Raceway here. But as this is my story, I would like to share my view of Memphis International Raceway, the view of a road racer.
The Racetrack Dry
Memphis International Raceway, or MIR, was a quick, technical, and short track that rewarded the brave. As cliche as that sounds, MIR forced racers out of their comfort zone. Whether it was the carousel with a drop-off on the outside, the VHT-covered drag strip that turned into an ice skating rink at the slightest hint of moisture, or the high-speed journey through grants tomb as walls on either side seemed to taper in the faster you go, if you raced MIR hard, you are a true racer.
The Racetrack Wet
The wet configuration was another animal altogether. Bypassing the VHT at the beginning of the drag strip in favor of a pothole-riddled ‘hot pit’ that shot drivers back onto the track mid-straight, but not before shooting through a gap in the concrete wall that the racers affectionately called the can-opener. And the only way to win races in this configuration was flat out, through the gap. Something that led many a racer to question their sanity as any good old-school racetrack should.
At the end of the post, I will link media from myself and others that will hopefully give outsiders a glimpse into the Memphis racing community. But first, Memphis International Raceway will always have a place in my heart. In my early 20’s, I spent years learning, building, and then racing drift cars. A hobby that brought me to MIR on more than one occasion. And after a painfully long hiatus in my late 20s, I reconnected with the Mid-South racing community through track days at Memphis International Raceway with NASA Mid-South.
When I came back to the racing community, I was welcomed with open arms and made many lifelong friends at this track as I restarted my journey to become a racecar driver. Now MIR was rough, gritty, and run down, and this phase of my journey would not have happened without it. MIR was an incubator of sorts for me. A place where I restarted, embarrassingly slow and painfully last. A place that honed my skill as I started finding victory where there once was none.
For the friends and family that raced MIR, if you know, you know. This place was different. This place elicited a feeling of delinquency. It was run down, rough yet nuanced, and challenged drivers at any skill level. It deserved a certain level of respect with its high reward/high consequence nature. MIR was endured when you raced it, even though the track did not.
My Last Laps at MIR
Here is the footage of my last laps at MIR. I find the dirty windshield and the camera that cut out two laps too soon a fitting tribute. I’m not gonna lie; there were very few dry eyes that day as we lost our home. With emotion building inside, I was thrashing this session. I knew it was the end, and I gave it everything one last time.
The Rumor Mill (Why is MIR gone?)
Less rumor and more observation, and I include this part because it is important to know why Memphis International Raceway is gone. Partially, MIR is gone because it had difficulty attracting crowds as a venue, and partially, it is gone because IRG Sports and Entertainment ran it into the ground. MIR decayed dramatically in the last few years as every last drop was squeezed out of it. With ever-changing local management and seemingly nothing left to reinvest after large events, MIR was doomed. Spectators were met with bathrooms that had no lights, inches of water on the floors from leaks that were refused repair, mold in the buildings, potholes on the track, etc.
When IRG went to sell, there was a solid offer on the table to keep the facility a racetrack (and to rehabilitate it, for that matter). Still, IRG kept the offer window open to entertaining a looney tune offer from an undisclosed party. That offer predictably fell through, but not before the ownership auctioned off anything of value from the facility making the property effectively useless.
As of now, IRG Sports and Entertainment closed the doors for good, leaving Memphis International Raceway to rot, stripped of the ability to one day be a racetrack again. And although MIR has risen before from horrible mismanagement, this one looks to be final.
Memphis International Raceway Highlight Reel
Most of these are mine. If you have something you would like added to this page, send it my way and I will be sure to include it.
Why we ran the hot pit in the rain
Hunka Hunka Burnin Rubber 2021
A Lap Around Memphis International Raceway
Last Lap at Memphis International Raceway Road Course