After countless miles, Texas Thunder Speedway finally crossed the finish line.
For more than four decades, the area’s lone quarter-mile dirt track played host to hundreds of races, spotlighted numerous drivers and welcomed generations of fans through its gates, becoming a legend among Killeen landmarks.
The checkered flag waved one final time Saturday night, signifying the end of an era as the history-rich venue prepares to be demolished to make room for further development in the city’s rapidly expanding west side.
“It is a bittersweet deal,” said longtime driver Buck Owens, during the track’s final hours of operation. “It is hard to swallow, but I’m going to have look around and find me a new place to go.”
Owens, a former Copperas Cove resident, began racing at Texas Thunder Speedway in 1976 and has spent the last 10 years traveling from Leander every weekend to compete at the track.
“There are going to be a lot of rough memories (knowing it’s not here anymore).”
For track promoter David Goode, who purchased Texas Thunder Speedway four years ago, the emotions had not quite sunk in.
“Racing becomes a way of life,” he said, “and to pour your heart and soul into a place like this and it is just gone — I don’t think it has completely set in with everybody yet. But this is the final night.”
Constructed in 1972 in the outskirts of Killeen, which has evolved since, the track is now situated at the intersection of W. Stan Schlueter Loop and Bunny Trail — a highly attractive property for commercial developers.
Although the site will soon be transformed, the beloved Texas Thunder Speedway will never be taken away from local racing enthusiasts, who grew up spending Saturday nights at the track.
“I’m going to have good memories of it,” lifelong Killeen resident Pat Brumbalow said. “I’ve had a lot of good times out here and still could, but it just couldn’t be helped.”
Situated on leased land, the property was recently sold, leaving a passionate fan base searching for new ways to fill their Saturday evenings during racing season from March through September.
“Everybody loves it, and there is nothing to do in Killeen,” said Sharon Ellis, who brought her two young grandchildren out to final evening of races. “The one thing we do have is getting taken away, but I understand. It’s progress.”
The venue’s last event included a demo trailer race and the Race of Champions, encompassing the series’ final points night. But there were also a few farewell festivities.
Prior to the races, fans, drivers and staff congregated in the middle of the track and were encouraged to share their feelings and memories about the venue. Autographed and personalized mementos were given out to Goode and others, and several who spoke became emotional in front of packed stands while on the microphone.
While the ceremony was therapeutic for some, for Goode, it provided a form of closure following his years of work.
“I’ve been well supported and everybody has been appreciative of what we’ve done here,” he said. “At this point, all they can really do is say, ‘Thanks, man.’ (Anyone who was here) knows they are all thankful.”