Right off of Exit 420 on Interstate 80 cutting through eastern Nebraska, lies a dirt track teeming with racing history and excitement. Located right between the Cornhusker State’s two biggest cities, Lincoln and Omaha, I-80 Speedway has entertained race fans since 1994. Every summer spectators flocked to the track surrounded by cornfields to see their favorite local drivers compete.
For the time being, I-80 Speedway is a family-owned race track. The Kosiski family has held the title to the facility for nearly two decades. A family of racers themselves, some even in the Nebraska Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Kosiskis’ love racing and have been eager to see all the race fans every week.
“My brothers and I have owned the track for the last 20 years. I sold out of my share about 3 years ago, but my other two brothers are still owners,” Ed Kosiski said.
Recently, the rest of the Kosiski family has decided to put the track up for sale, leaving people questioning whether the speedway will remain after a purchase is made.
“It’s time for it to go, that’s why you see tracks across Nebraska selling, the cost to keep them running is just too much,” Kosiski said.
From Mid-Nebraska Speedway in Doniphan to Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction and now I-80 Speedway, local tracks in the state are closing citing low car counts at weekly races, dwindling fan attendance and land taxes that make it difficult to turn a profit.
“When you make $1 million in profit from races and merchandise, then get hit with $2 million in taxes, it’s impossible to keep up,” Kosiski said.
During its 28-year history, I-80 Speedway has not only been the 4/10-mile oval that every race fan knows, they have had other racing surfaces around the property. Including a 1/8-mile go-kart track, Little Sunset Speedway, that was located behind the grandstand. Here they hosted Mini Sprints and multiple karting races.
“A lot of people don’t know that we had Little Sunset, that was always one of the best tracks to watch races on,” Kosiski said.
I-80 Speedway has been home to several big-name racing events through the track’s existence. It has hosted the ARCA series, ASCS sprint cars, the Busch All-Star Tour. However, of all the events hosted at I-80 Speedway, one reigns over all others, the Silver Dollar Nationals. Every summer, it has been the crown jewel of the track bringing thousands of race fans and drivers from across the country to watch and compete for the grand prize of nearly $50,000 that goes to the winner.
“I go into the Silver Dollar Nationals every year thinking I have a chance at that $50,000,” said driver Rece Vaught, “but these are some of the best drivers in the country I have to beat,”
Not only has I-80 Speedway hosted some of dirt track racing’s biggest events, it has also hosted some of the biggest names in the sport. NASCAR drivers have stopped by to compete at I-80 Speedway on their nights off to gain some extra practice. Some popular names that have raced are Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Ken Schrader all from NASCAR’s premier division.
Drivers circle this track and event on their dirt track racing calendars. Local drivers from Nebraska always want to win in front of the home crowd. It may not be as popular as it is in the southern states, but to win in front of the fans in a state that has always taken sports seriously, it means more to these drivers.
“This is a track that us as drivers cannot wait to compete on,” Vaught said. “You get to race against the best of the best in late models from across the country and doing it close to home gives you extra motivation.”
In a state where auto racing has always been in the shadow of other sporting events, I-80 Speedway is a bright spot for race fans to come out and watch a sport they love where tracks are disappearing more and more. Now with the potential sale of the track, and the future unknown, What will happen to these events? Will race fans in Nebraska get to see the Silver Dollar Nationals next summer?
“All the tracks that I have grown up racing at are closing down, I hate to see them all go but I can understand the reasoning why they are,” Vaught said.
As rumors circulate about what could become of I-80 Speedway, it is leaving Nebraska race fans wondering how they’ll spend their weekends in the summer and early fall. The locals are proud of the track and the history that it has. Being located Greenwood, Nebraska with a mere 489 people, the track has always been their top attraction and they say they hope to not see it go.
“I love going to I-80 every summer to catch a race or two, it’s just a nice escape from the normal activities that we have around here. I hope to see the track continue,” said race fan Michael Krotchko.
The most likely answer as to what will happen to the track is what currently surrounds it. The owners of a salvage yard are the ones in line to purchase the speedway and the plan is to tear it down to make more space for their salvaged cars.
I-80 Speedway is something that not a lot of Nebraskans may know about, but for the race fans here it could not mean more. Memories were made and passions for the sport were developed as they watched the drivers kick up dirt going around this 4/10-mile track. Still, for the family who built it and maintained it, it is time to move on.
“I won’t miss it, if I had any advice, it would be to not turn your favorite hobby into a business,” Kosiski says.