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The rise and fall of motor car speedways in Simcoe County

September 2020

Motorsports has been a very popular attraction in North America and worldwide. Since the invention of automobile, people have wanted to race them at ever increasing speeds, along dedicated tracks and public roadways.

The first recorded motor vehicle race, dubbed a “speed trial,” occurred in 1900, with racers travelling along a forty-mile long route between Toronto and Hamilton.

IndyCar, NASCAR, CASCAR, Formula One, are well known racing organizations, whose participants will compete against one another in such Canadian events, such as the Montreal Grand Prix and the Honda Indy in Toronto.

Simcoe County was once home to several motorsport race tracks, but now only one remains in operation.

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Wasaga Speedway

The Wasaga Beach Speedway opened in 1956, on a property that was once home to a half-mile harness racing horse track.

A new paved, quarter-mile oval track was built inside the old horse track for Stock Cars, with drivers like Norm Lelliott, Doug Warnes, Ab Leach, Al Middlebrook and Tom Cuzilla regularly racing at the track.

Harness racing made a return to the track in August 1961, and continued for the following summer, after which the track was used for Stock Car races only.

By 1969, the Wasaga Speedway was in danger of closing permanently, but new owners Jack and Harry Stapleton attempted to keep it going through the 1970 season, when they ran “B” Modifieds and 6 Cylinder Diamond racers.

This venture failed to keep the speedway going, and it closed at the end of the 1970 season.

What remains can be found on Oxbow Park Drive, south of river Road West. Parts of the original half-mile horse track can still be seen from the ground; slowly narrowing openings in the trees surrounding the sports car track. It can be seen better from aerial photos.

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Edenvale/Stayner Speedway

Unlike most other racetracks, which were specifically built as racetracks, usually in an oval shape, the Edenvale Speedway made use of a former aerodrome.

The aerodrome, with its three 3000 foot runways in a triangle pattern, was built in 1940 for the Royal Canadian Air Force, under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and used as a relief landing field for No. 1 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Station Camp Borden, 10 miles to the south-east.

The Edenvale Speedway opened in 1950 and operated until the end of the 1956 season. It was during this last season that the owner re-named the track the Stayner Speedway, and held two USAC stock car races; one on 19 May and the other on 21 July. Johnny Mantz won the former, and Marchall Teague the latter.

After sitting empty for two seasons, the racetrack re-opened in 1959, this time named the Edenvale Raceway. This time, both motorcycle and sports car races were held.

The Edenvale Raceway closed again at the end of the season, this time for good.

In 1962, the property was re-acquired by the Canadian Army, for use as a remote communications transmitter station for Camp Borden, operated by the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. This facility closed in 1988.

The Edenvale Aerodrome, which opened in 2004, can be found on Highway 26, east of Stayner. In addition to being a very busy private, general aviation aerodrome, it’s currently home to an aviation museum, the Canadian Air and Space Conservancy, which has the only full-size replica of Canada’s legendary CF-105 Avro Arrow.

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Orillia Speedway

The Orillia Speedway was a 3/4 mile track, located in what was then known as Oro Township (now Oro-Medonte Township). The track, which unlike others found in Simcoe County was a dirt track, opened in 1952 and apparently operated for only one season.

Other than the outline of the track, now covered in vegetation, all that remains is a lone light stand.

The track can be found on the 15/16 Side Road East, just west of Line 14 in Oro-Medonte Township.

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Barrie Speedway

Barrie Speedway opened in 1964, on Line 8, south of Highway 11, in what was then known as Oro Township (now Oro-Medonte Township).

The quarter-mile oval track with tight, sharp corners was used by the CASCAR Super Series from 1989 to 1995, as well as the NASCAR All-American Series and Canadian Tire Series from 2007 to 2014.

The track was purchased by the owners of Burl’s Creek Event Centre, located directly next to them, in January 2015 and permanently shut it down. Although racing was still a very popular sport, the Barrie Speedway had seen a decline in both spectators and their regular racers for many years.

All structures and the racetrack were demolished in late 2015, leaving nothing but an empty field. Burl’s Creek plans to use the property as a camping and parking area for their events.

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Sunset Speedway

Sunset Speedway is the sole survivor of the motorsport tracks in Simcoe Count. Located in Innisfil Township, it opened in 1968, and is a NASCAR sanctioned 1/3 mile semi-banked short track motor racing oval.

The track features regular Saturday night racing from May to September, featuring Junior Late Models, Bone Stocks, Mini Stocks, Super Stocks and Late Models, along with touring events such as NASCAR Pinty’s Series, APC United Late Model Series, Hot Rods and Outlaw Super Late Models.

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Sources: http://www.canadianracer.com/wasaga.asp, https://www.ontarioabandonedplaces.com/Ghost-Speedway-abandoned-Ontario_loc2869.html, https://mikeonline.ca/gallery_Wasaga_Race_Track, http://www.canadianracer.com/orillia.asp, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorsport_in_Canada, http://www.canadianracer.com/edenvale.asp, https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/6124691-former-barrie-speedway-site-being-reworked-for-festival-use, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrie_Speedway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunset_Speedway_(Ontario), http://www.sunsetspeedway.ca.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-motor-car-speedways-in-simcoe-county/

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