For a small state sandwiched between two of America’s largest cities, Connecticut has enjoyed its fair share of exposure to professional sports. While Connecticut is best known for its association with professional hockey and baseball teams and for the many Olympic athletes who grew up in its suburbs, the state has also played host to several notable sporting events, including in the realm of motor sports.
In the 1980s, Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Connecticut hosted a number of highly publicized NASCAR races, pitting the best names in racing against each other in what was called the “Showdown of Champions.” By then, the racetrack had already been in operation for over 100 years, having first opened in 1870 as an agricultural park featuring a half-mile horse racing track. By the 1950s, the speedway had changed over to motor sports and signed an agreement with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing to feature nationally-sanctioned racing events, and on August 6, 1985, Stafford experienced one of its most remarkable NASCAR moments ever. That day, prior NASCAR Rookie of the Year and Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt won not one, but two short-track races at Stafford Motor Speedway’s 1985 Showdown of Champions.
Earnhardt’s back-to-back victories at Stafford extended his winning streak to five in a row, having just won three races in New Hampshire in the previous week. While it wasn’t the NASCAR Hall of Famer’s only visit to a Connecticut racetrack, it was certainly his most memorable, and helped reinforce his reputation as “the Intimidator” in racing circles. Today, Stafford Motor Speedway still hosts a number of amateur and professional racing events every year. Dale Earnhardt would go on to win several additional NASCAR Winston Cup championships and establish himself as one of America’s most well-known racing celebrities before a fatal crash cut his career short in 2001.
“History of Stafford Motor Speedway,” Stafford Motor Speedway website