Other than a weekend flea market that draws a decent crowd, things are pretty quiet at the corner of U.S. 183 and FM 812 in southeast Austin. There’s a VFW post, a small Circle K gas station and scattered Mexican restaurants.
Not much directly lines the highway, either, except for dirt roads and some high grasses that could be a vibrant green or a stiff, dead brown depending on the time of the year. But if you look down the gravel road leading to that flea market and strain your eyes just enough, some faint white lines will come into view—lines that used to mark the lanes on a race track.
Not far underneath the low-flying airplanes descending into Austin-Bergstrom International Airport lies the old quarter-mile Longhorn Speedway, a former local short track which resides, defunct and wilting from age, under five miles away from Circuit of The Americas—the shiny, new 3.427-mile international motorsports facility that hosted nearly 270,000 spectators over its Formula One weekend in the fall of 2016.
Over the years, Longhorn has joined hundreds of other race tracks across the U.S. and become what’s commonly known as a “ghost track”—a racing facility that, for whatever reason, eventually closed its gates and was left to crumble. The phenomenon stretches from local race tracks to ones that used to host NASCAR’s top divisions, such as North Carolina’s old North Wilkesboro Speedway that operated from 1949 to 1996 and hosted 93 races in what’s now known as the top-level Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.