A stretch of cracked asphalt, crumbling graffiti covered walls , and silence are what remain of the raceway that once hosted drag-racing ‘s legends.Several years ago, after reading an article in the Sunday newspaper ( yes, we still had newspapers back then) , afraid that it would disappear before I got a chance to shoot, my friend and I searched and found Lakeland International Raceway that very afternoon.
Hidden behind an outlet mall which has since morphed into a church, we traveled a road that snaked out of the parking lot and found it in the woods. Deserted .
The strip itself is a quarter mile and dates to 1960 when it was owned by Raymond Goodman. It had its moment of silverscreen fame in Two Lane Blacktop (early 1970’s). During its heyday , records were made and broken by Daddy Don Garlits, Shirley Cha Cha Mudowney,and other Hall of Fame dragsters.I am not into racing, but even I know those names .To think that forty years ago they ran on this track in the middle of nowhere amazes me.
Standing on weed -ridden asphalt , surrounded by trees and silence ,except for the birds and us of course, it’s hard to imagine the crowds that came on Sundays to listen to the tires squealing and inhale the gas fumes.
But the strip remains . If you stand silently , you can hear the engines roar ,the cheers of the crowd, the squawk of the announcers ‘ calls , all ghosts of the Lakeland International Raceway waiting for the sound of the bulldozer.