Sunday, February 23, 2014

Racing, it's not just Daytona: Racing in Knox County

This post is a late night collaboration among friends on the You know you're from Knoxville if: facebook group.
The earliest reference to a Knoxville race track that I have found was about George Washing Harris marrying the "daughter of the inspector of the Port of Knoxville (who also owned a racetrack)." (The Human Tradition in America from the Colonial Era through Reconstruction
 edited by Charles W. Calhoun, p 244)

Cal Johnson developed a race track in South Knoxville which was active from 1881 to 1895.

Cal Johnson's track in South Knoxville from an 1895 map

Then Cal Johnson established a racetrack, in Burlington neighborhood near Chilhowee Park. 
"In 1910 ,Johnson drew a crowd to see the city's first airplane landing and , later, a race between a Wright brothers' biplane, a dirigble airship and a car driven by Herbert Graf. The biplane won." (A History of East Tennessee Auto Racing: The Thrill of the Mountains,David McGee, p 34)
It was the site of the first airplane landing in Knoxville during the Exposition of 1911. The track has since been converted into a street, Speedway Circle.

The Knoxville Motor Speedway was a dirt oval that operated during the Great Depression in Knox County's Inskip community. It was managed by J.B. Cate and also called Inskip Speedway.

Norwood Race Track KGIS Maps

 Broadway Speedway was most popular during the fifties.  It was used for midget racing and later for stock cars and even bicycles.

Remains of Broadway Race track

 Graveston area racetrack on Anderson Rd off Tazewell Pk.(Family History of Col. John Sawyers and Simon Harris, and Their Descendants, William Randolph Carter, p 184).

Racetrack in Graveston area.

Flanders Race Track, Flanders owned by John Flanders, Col. C C Camp, and Cal Johnson-horse racing. "In the early eighties the scene of fair activities was shifted and these attractions were staged at what was known as Flanders race track northwest of the city Racing meets featured the events In 1885 the first elaborate fair undertaking as a means of trade exploitation was held in Knoxville This was a successor to the old time county fair and was more pretentious and attractive. (The first exposition of conservation and its builders: an official history ... By Gifford Pinchot, Don Carlos Ellis, Julia Clifford Lathrop; p. 44)  Link

Flanders Racetrack in Third Creek Area

Racetrack behind the town of Farragut in the Concord Fairgrounds (History of Concord UMC) and one next to Berry Funeral Home.

Also see A Trip to Broadway Racetrack  Link


  1. Cyndi, I love this column and am curious about the references to Cal Johnson owned (or partially owned) racetracks before his Speedway Circle track. I found the Gifford Pinchot book online. Can you refer me to other references and/or the map sources for the South Knoxville and Flanders racetracks?

  2. Nancy, it is difficult to find resources for South Knoxville! Very little documentation on the South Knoxville track. The map was sent to me by a member of the You know you're from Knoxville if facebook group. There is an 1895 Knox County map available on the Library of Congress website. I am not certain if it shows this track because I am unable to download it on this computer. You can view it online, but it is very difficult to manipulate online.

    Robert Booker would be the best source for additional information. I understand that does not you email and suggest that you might try this contact: