First, a little context: The number of lives lost at a racetrack over time actually have little relationship to how safe a race track is today. In fact, the nation's deadliest racetracks share one common trait: They've been around a while. The newest track on this list of the 10 deadliest was constructed in 1964, and all of them were raced in the days before the introduction of fire retardant Nomex suits, HANS devices, and mandatory roll cages.
Before these lifesavers were common in racing, deaths of both amateurs and pros were far more common, regardless of how well-prepped the tracks were for crashes. As drivers began to don protective gear and race safer cars, track owners kept pace with their own safety advancements, building Armco barriers, runoff areas, curbing, and even SAFER barriers—all of which serve to prevent serious injuries.
So how do we rank the most dangerous tracks in America? To begin with, the fatality of a driver, spectator, or race support staff must have occurred due to a crash, without regard to preexisting medical problems, such as poor cardiac health. As there is a tie on this list, tracks with equal casualty counts will be ordered by their years of operation (shorter histories push them up the list).
10. ISM Raceway, Arizona (6 Fatalities)
ISM Raceway is the modern name for a speedway some know as Phoenix International Raceway. Now a 1.022-mile, tricornered superspeedway, ISM once featured a 2.5-mile road course sewn into its layout that was reduced in 1991 to a 1.51-mile waltz through the infield. Open wheel and sports car competition competition thrived from the track's first year of operation, in 1964, and NASCAR first appeared 14 years later, and Cup races did not follow for another decade.
Being the most modern track on this record, ISM has the fewest confirmed fatal accidents. Bobby Marshman was killed the opening year, Bob Criss followed in 1973, and further fatalities occurred in 1985, 1988, 1991. Its most recent casualty was in 1996. No credible source reports any deaths since.
9. Darlington Raceway, South Carolina (7 Fatalities)
Darlington was first known as "Harold's Folly," after its sponsor Harold Brasington, who tried to recreate the Indianapolis 500 in a field where peanuts and cotton were once grown. Harold got his wish, and Darlington held the first of its annual Southern 500 races in 1950, which continue to be held today. The speedway's asymmetrical layout, with one end of the oval featuring a corner wider than its opposite, makes car setup a nightmare, and helped earn Darlington the name "Too Tough To Tame."
Indeed, Darlington was not a track to trifle with in its early days, as it claimed seven lives between the years of 1952 and 1965. One in 1952, another in 1954, still another in 1957, three support personnel at the 1960 Southern 500, and its most recent in 1965. Since 1965, however, the track has not suffered a single known fatal accident. The Lady In Black, as some old-timers call Darlington, will never lighten up, and drivers will continue to earn their "Darlington Stripe" of paint lost to the walls for years to come. The lives of future racers of Darlington, I hope, will remain with them.
8. The Milwaukee Mile, Wisconsin (9 Fatalities)
The Milwaukee Mile is the oldest circuit on this list and the second oldest speedway in the world. A dirt track at its 1903 opening until it was paved in 1954, the 1.0-mile speedway encloses a 1.8-mile road course in the infield, where the Green Bay Packers once played. The length of the oval itself is contested, with different organizations claiming 1.0-mile, 1.015-mile, and 1.032-mile lengths.
What is undisputed is that the Milwaukee Mile's future looks grim. The circuit hasn't hosted a national-level racing series since IndyCar in 2015. Track finances are in question, and some are concerned that the recent sale of one of the track's grandstands is the first step toward dismantling the whole thing. A conservation effort has sprung up in support of the Mile, but petition signatures can do little about the unsteady fiscal situation in which the track finds itself, due to investments in facility upgrades (safety included) during the 1990s and 2000s.
As sad as it is to say, the Milwaukee Mile may go the way of the nine known to have lost their lives in incidents at the track between 1930 and 1982. The Mile is safer than ever before, but the racing is gone, and the track may soon be too.
7. Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah (10 Fatalities)
Unlike circuit or drag racing, land speed record chasers adapt their sport to the environment, rather than adapt their environment to the sport. Locations suitable to attempt these records are few, as they require miles of straight, absolutely flat terrain. The Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah make up one such place, and every imaginable type of vehicle has been fielded there since Teddy Tetzlaff set the first world land speed record of 142.8 MPH in 1914.
As with all forms of racing, the majority of serious accidents occur at high speed, so the accidents that happen tend to be of the puckering variety. Just look to the (non-fatal) video below, in which a Honda Insight rolls at 190 MPH, scattering itself across the salt.
Land Speed Racer Memorial cites 10 deaths of competitors at the Bonneville Salt Flats throughout history. Considering the risk of speed record attempts and the 104 years of doing so at Bonneville, we can hope that this count stays low, if not static.
6. Riverside International Raceway, California (10 Fatalities)
Riverside International Raceway is the sole dedicated road course to make this register. Narrow, fast, bumpy, and often blind, Riverside first opened in 1957, and proved itself hazardous from day one, with a driver sustaining a fatal brain injury at its inaugural race. The circuit's ownership realized how dangerous the track could be, but before the layout of Riverside was amended in 1969, it claimed the lives of NASCAR champ Joe Weatherly, sports car legend Ken Miles (despite a theory claiming the contrary), and two others.
Riverside did not cease to take lives, however. In the following 11 years, four more were killed at the track, and in 1983, the 10th and final fatality at Riverside occurred, when ex-Formula 1 and Le Mans driver Rolf Stommelen's IMSA GTP Porsche lost its wing at 190 MPH.
In 1989, the circuit closed, replaced by a mall and a suburb. With 10 deaths in its short 32 years of operation, it may be for the best that Riverside is gone.
5. Charlotte Motor Speedway, North Carolina (16 Fatalities)
Charlotte Motor Speedway got off to an explosive start, hosting the NASCAR World 600 (now the Coca-Cola 600) in 1960, its opening year. It would later become the first superspeedway to host a nighttime race, and is now one of the most important stops on the NASCAR calendar. Within the 1.5-mile oval's confines, a newly-revised 2.28-mile road course, a quarter-mile short oval, and a 0.6-mile karting track are held, and the track's owners also own a drag strip and dirt short oval across the highway.
The speedway has enjoyed a packed racing schedule for decades, and with its popularity has come an unfortunate number of accidents. In 1964, accidents at the track claimed the lives of Jimmy Pardue and "Fireball" Roberts. The following year, another driver was killed.
In the 1970s, three more racers died. Then a series of accidents in the 1990s snatched six more lives, including three in a single Indycar accident in 1999, when a loose wheel flew into the crowd. Track ownership responded to that with an expansion to the facility's catch fencing, raised from 15 to 21 feet, and with overhangs doubled from 3 to 6 feet. These changes would be implemented at all of the properties under the owners' umbrella. Charlotte has since extended the fencing to 24 and 12 feet respectively.
Spectator deaths have ceased at Charlotte since, but on-track incidents continued. Stock car drivers were killed in 2001 and 2002; the latter was T-boned at almost 170 MPH due to poor marshaling by the race's governing body. Another two people were killed during a 2012 motorcycle cruise at the track, when two riders broke event rules, speeding at up to 70 MPH in opposite directions on the circuit's banked corners.
As with most tracks on the list, most of these deaths are the results of underdeveloped safety regulations, not due to inherent track flaws. Keep this in mind as totals continue to rise further down the list.
4. El Mirage Dry Lake, California (20 Fatalities)
Like Bonneville, the speeds built into El Mirage and land speed record racing means monumentally dangerous crashes. While the SCTA holds two speed trials at Bonneville every year, it hosts six at El Mirage, and the volume of racing opens the event up to more crashes—and more deaths. Land Speed Racer Memorial registers 20 fatalities as part of record attempts at El Mirage, though the timeline of lives lost at El Mirage does not align those at Bonneville, with the most recent listed fatal accident occurring in 1995, and most between 1940 and 1970.
3. Langhorne Speedway, Pennsylvania (27 Fatalities)
Langhorne Speedway is no more; its paddock closed for good in 1971, after 45 years. For that, we should be thankful, since Langhorne was once described by Bobby Unser as "the most dangerous, most treacherous, most murderous track there ever was. Nobody liked it, and the ones who said they did were lying."
Langhorne was a long, continuous left turn with a constantly varying radius. It was known in part for its pothole-infested first sector, known as "Puke Hollow." Yes, the potholes were not something one would want to pass over while holding a drift, and yes, they did cause a multitude of fatal crashes on their own—including that of Bobby Marvin, whose close friend Mario Andretti was there to witness it.
In time, drivers lost their patience with Langhorne. Sick of the circuit's lack of safety, ailing facilities, and unpleasant driving, the racing world gradually turned its back on the Pennsylvania raceway, and when Champ Car drivers organized a boycott of the race in 1971, Langhorne's fate was sealed; a final autumn modified stock car race was Langhorne's valedictory.
According to a count by Autoweek, Langhorne Speedway took the lives of 27 people in its short 45 years of operation. Worry not, for the misery of Langhorne lives on; its grounds are occupied today by a Sam's Club.
2. Daytona International Speedway, Florida (38 Fatalities)
Daytona opened in 1959, and within the steep, 2.5-mile tri-oval, which reaches 31 degree banking in some spots, a 3.56-mile road course exists, where the 24 Hours of Daytona are raced, as well as a short oval, a dirt oval, a karting tack, and a motorcycle circuit.
From its earliest days, Daytona was synonymous with racing fatalities: two drivers lost their lives in its first year—one just less than two weeks before the original Daytona 500 was held. Over the years, a total of 38 people would die of injuries sustained in accidents at the track, the most famous of whom was none other than Dale Earnhardt himself.
Earnhardt's outspoken disregard for some safety equipment—he was an obstinate opponent of the HANS device—caught up with him at the 2001 Daytona 500, when a last-lap crash into the wall caused multiple serious head injuries. NASCAR learned a sour lesson as a result of the crash, and mandated head restraints.
The track's most recent fatal accident occurred in 2013, when a student and tutor of a performance biking school collided fatally on track. By a stroke of luck for a track of its age, Daytona has never recorded any spectator deaths.
1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway (72 Fatalities)
Calling the Brickyard "the Graveyard" would be in poor taste, considering what has been reiterated so many times throughout this count: Unless it's Langhorne, the track is almost never at fault for the lives lost on its premises.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway was constructed in 1909, and originally paved with 32 million pounds of bricks, hence the name "Brickyard." Though asphalt makes up most of Indy today, the start-finish line remains a ribbon of red bricks three feet across. The first Indy 500 was held in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun, who opted to save weight and leave his mechanic behind. Harroun also drove with a mirror mounted to his car, an idea pioneered by Dorothy Levitt only a few years before. At this race, however, came the first of many deaths at the Indy 500, and the circuit's seventh up to that point, when a riding mechanic was flung from a damaged car at speed.
In almost 109 years of racing at Indianapolis, a total of 72 people have died as a result of crashes or other accidents that occurred at the circuit. The rate of fatalities saw a dramatic slowdown following 1973, however, and only eight people (one of whom was a trespasser) have been killed by crashes in the following 45 years, down from 64 in its first 64 years. Only two have died since 2000, and none since 2010.
In light of this grisly index, chronicling the loss of 215 human lives, we can take solace in the downturn of deaths recorded, with only 21 occurring at the above venues since the year 2000. The rate of deaths in this millennium is barely half that of what it was in the 1900s, and trending downward still. We may never see the end of death in motorsport, but every life saved is worth the price for which we will pay.
What is the most dangerous race track in America? ›
The 12.7-mile course wraps around the legendary Pikes Peak and ends at the mountain's 14,115-foot-tall summit. But even with its deadly hazards, which include 156 blind turns and steep cliffs with no guardrails, drivers continue coming back for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb race.What racetrack has had the most deaths? ›
Snaefell Mountain Course – Isle of Man TT
With recorded more than 270 fatalities since the inaugural event, of which 262 were competitors, this track is the most dangerous race track in the world.
- 1 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
- 2 Jeddah Corniche Circuit: Saudi Arabia. ...
- 3 Autodromo Nazionale Monza: Italy. ...
- 4 Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari: Imola, Italy. ...
- 5 Circuit de Monaco: Monaco. ...
- 6 Snaefell Mountain Course: Isle Of Man. ...
1. Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR's most famous track has also proven to be it's most lethal. Daytona International Speedway has claimed the lives of seven NASCAR drivers since 1959 and was responsible for the most recent fatality in the sport when Dale Earnhardt Sr.What race track has the most wrecks? ›
Isle of Man TT: The world's deadliest race.When was the last racing death? ›
The NASCAR Cup Series has seen 29 driver fatalities, the most recent of which occurred on February 18, 2001, when Dale Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500. Safety in the sport has evolved through the decades.What is the oldest racetrack in the United States? ›
The Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack at the Alameda County Fairgrounds is the oldest horse racing track in America, dating back to 1858, when it was founded by the sons of the Spaniard Don Agustin Bernal.What is the oldest car racetrack in the United States? ›
Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, built it 1907, is the first purpose-built motor racing circuit in the world. It predates other equally well-known international circuits, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Monza.What is the most dangerous land on earth? ›
- Lake Natron, Tanzania.
- Oymyakon, Siberia.
- Danakil Desert, Ethiopia.
- Skeleton Coast, Namibia.
- Mount Washington, USA.
- Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan.
- North Sentinel Island, Andamans.
- Madidi National Park, Bolivia.
What road has the most deaths? ›
|10 deadliest highways in the U.S.|
|Highway||2019 Fatalities||Fatalities per 100 miles|
|1. I-95 2. I-20 3. I-5 4. I-75 5. I-35 6. I-15 7. I-40 8. I-70 9. I-80 10. US-41||284 208 186 237 197 158 253 158 209 141||14.88 13.52 13.47 13.27 12.56 11.02 9.89 7.35 7.21 7.02|
#1 Road America
Road America, located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is the longest race track featured in the 2022 season. The 4.048-mile-long road course features 14 turns and many elevation changes along the long front stretch.
526 mile oval is the smallest and slowest track on the schedule and jamming 43 cars on this short track makes for close quarters.
- Pocono Raceway. 1 of 5. "The Tricky Triangle," as Pocono Raceway is affectionately known as, has been hosting Sprint Cup Series races since 1974. ...
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 2 of 5. ...
- Watkins Glen and Sonoma. 3 of 5. ...
- Kentucky Speedway. 5 of 5.
What are the biggest NASCAR races? The races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule with the most prestige are the Daytona 500, Dixie Vodka 400, and Coca-Cola 600.What is the most famous race track in America? ›
1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Home of the famed Indianapolis 500, NASCAR's Brickyard 400, and Lilly Diabetes 250, this sports venue is probably one America's most famed. Located in Speedway, a suburb of Indianapolis, it sits on 560-acres.What is the biggest race track ever? ›
The longest: Nürburgring Nordschleife, Germany
The combined track that's used for the Nürburgring 24 Hour race is even longer at 15.2 miles, but as it's made up of two separate tracks, with the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit flowing into the Nordschleife, it doesn't count.
Humans (Homo sapiens)
It's a cliche, but (aside from mosquitos) the most deadly animal is ourselves! Homicides account for an estimated 431,000 human deaths a year, making us by far the deadliest mammals.
- The Dakar Rally. The Dakar Rally has been one of the most notorious motorsport races since its inception in 1978. ...
- Isle of Man TT. ...
- The Baja 1000. ...
- 24 Hours of Le Mans. ...
- Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. ...
- The Erzberg Rodeo.
Bianchi's death was the first to result from an on-track incident in Formula One in over 20 years, after Ayrton Senna's fatal accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. As of 2023, it is also the most recent fatal accident to have occurred in Formula One.
Who was the first NASCAR death? ›
The first driver to die was Larry Mann. He crashed and died at Langhorne Speedway, an infamously dangerous early NASCAR track in Pennsylvania.What is the richest horse race in the US? ›
Ruidoso Downs Racetrack presents the world's richest Quarter Horse race with $3 million dollar purse! The All American Futurity, with a $3 million purse, is the Quarter Horse race that every owner, breeder, trainer and jockey wants to win is Ruidoso Downs' signature event.What race is the oldest? ›
A new genomic study has revealed that Aboriginal Australians are the oldest known civilization on Earth, with ancestries stretching back roughly 75,000 years.What is the famous horse race USA? ›
Belmont Stakes, oldest and longest of the three classic horse races (with the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes) that constitute the Triple Crown of American horse racing. The Belmont Stakes originated in 1867 and is named after the financier, diplomat, and sportsman August Belmont.What is the oldest NASCAR track still in use? ›
Founded in 1947 by the late H. Clay Earles, Martinsville Speedway is only track which has hosted NASCAR Cup Series races every year since the division's inception in 1949. At .Which state has the most car race tracks? ›
Florida is home to a lot of racetracks. So it's saying a lot that this is – by far – the state's most famous. Not only is it home to the Daytona 500, but it has consistently been hosting championship-level races for more than half a century.What is the new racetrack in America? ›
Flatrock Motorsports Park and Motorclub, a new racing circuit in Tennessee, aims to become “a world-class motorsports destination” that could host IndyCar and MotoGP in future, as ground breaking gets underway ahead of an initial 2023 opening.What is the number 1 most dangerous place in the world? ›
An awfully violent place, this Mexican city has unfortunately been ranked as the most violent city in the world. In 2021, Zamora recorded 610 murders for a per capita murder rate of 196.6 per 100,000 residents.
Ungainly as it is, the hippopotamus is the world's deadliest large land mammal, killing an estimated 500 people per year in Africa. Hippos are aggressive creatures, and they have very sharp teeth. And you would not want to get stuck under one; at up to 2,750kg they can crush a human to death.Where is the deadliest place to live in the world? ›
|1||El Salvador||48.71 per 100k|
|2||Venezuela||38.99 per 100k|
|3||Lesotho||35.95 per 100k|
|4||Colombia||35.71 per 100k|
What is the deadliest road in USA? ›
The 181-mile stretch of Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles isn't dangerous because of road conditions – it's because of the drivers on the highway. In fact, one study checked out data over a 15-year period and found it to be the deadliest road in America.What is the number one killer on America's roads? ›
Alcohol is the number one killer on American roadways. Alcohol affects your vision and slows your reaction time so it takes longer to act in an emergency. Alcohol affects your driving even if you are below the level of illegal intoxication.Who has the worst roads in America? ›
Hawaii has the worst roads, followed by Rhode Island and Louisiana. New Hampshire has the best roads, followed by Minnesota and Vermont. About 46% of survey respondents who rated their roads 1 out of 10 (terrible) were from California. Overall, respondents gave their roads an average score of 4.8 out of 10.What is the smallest race track? ›
|"Half Mile Of Mayhem" "The Paperclip" "The Augusta National of Race Tracks"|
A Cannonball Run is an unsanctioned speed record for driving across the United States, typically accepted to run from New York City's Red Ball Garage to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach near Los Angeles, covering a distance of about 2,906 miles (4,677 km).What is the deadliest motorsports race? ›
- The Dakar Rally. The Dakar Rally has been one of the most notorious motorsport races since its inception in 1978. ...
- Isle of Man TT. ...
- The Baja 1000. ...
- 24 Hours of Le Mans. ...
- Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. ...
- The Erzberg Rodeo. ...
- Nürburgring 24 Hours. ...
- The Rainforest Challenge.
Drivers race all bunched together, so if one car gets loose, it has the potential to wreck everyone else nearby. It's known as “the big one,” and it's almost impossible to strategize against.What is the fastest time to drive across the US? ›
53:30 Erwin George 'Cannon Ball' Baker
In 1933, Baker drove a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8 from New York to Los Angeles. He completed the drive in 53 hours and 30 minutes. This became the record time for driving across the United States.
Arne Toman, Douglas Tabbutt and Berkeley Chadwick say they started their drive on November 11 at 12:57 a.m. at the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan and ended at the Portofino hotel in Redondo Beach in 27 hours and 25 minutes, beating the previous record of 28 hours and 50 minutes to travel across the USA.Where is the oldest race track in the United States? ›
The oldest racetrack in the United States is Freehold Raceway in New Jersey. It opened in the 1830s but races harness horses (standard breds) not Thoroughbreds.
What is the oldest race track? ›
Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, built it 1907, is the first purpose-built motor racing circuit in the world. It predates other equally well-known international circuits, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Monza.Who is the meanest NASCAR driver? ›
1. Dale Earnhardt Sr. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was one of the NASCAR's all-time greatest drivers, but he earned the nickname "The Intimidator" due to his aggressive tactics.What is the hardest car sport in the world? ›
What is the hardest auto race in the world? The most challenging race in the world is the Baja 1000. This endurance race is a 1000-mile venture through the desert of Baja California. Racers use modified dune buggies, production cars, and even motorcycles on the sand.What is the bumpiest NASCAR track? ›
— When drivers show up to race at Kentucky Speedway, the track makes their teeth chatter. But it's not because the drivers are scared. Rather, the surface of Kentucky's 1.5-mile track is bumpier than any other in NASCAR — and that's no exaggeration.Why is Talladega so scary? ›
According to legend, Talladega Superspeedway is cursed, haunted and jinxed - supposedly because it was built on an American Indian burial ground. While the burial-ground myth never has been documented, drivers, crews and team owners love to tell the spooky stories that have unfolded at NASCAR's biggest track.What tracks are the most challenging or dangerous? ›
- 8 Guia Circuit.
- 7 Daytona International Speedway.
- 6 The Nurburgring.
- 5 Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
- 4 Spa Francorchamps.
- 3 Targa Florio.
- 2 Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- 1 Circuit de la Sarthe.