On a muggy Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1951, a dust cloud rose to the west of The Strip and the thunder of V-8 engines gulping gasoline rippled through the village. The first heat of the auto racing season was under way at Chestnut Grove Speedway.
The quarter-mile dirt track was built on property owned by Lewis Kopp, who, in 1940, purchased the 478-acre Chestnut Grove as an investment for his children. The brainchild of race car driver Wallace Arkkelin, the speedway was financed with $10,000 from two racing friends; one of whom backed out before construction got under way.
Using the village’s road grader, cable salvaged from a shipyard and discarded railroad ties and telephone poles, Arkkelin and friends built the dirt track. At the conclusion of the first day of racing, the other investor demanded his capital, and Kopp chipped in $5,000 to keep the venture open. Competition from other speedways and liability insurance woes closed the
Chestnut Grove Speedway midway through the 1952 season.
It was a short-lived but fun venture.