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  • Writer's pictureMatt Colville

Mobile International Speedway



Photos by Matt Colville, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Mobile International Speedway

7800 Park Blvd

Irvington, AL 36544


Year Opened: 1965 Capacity: 9,000

 

The Fastest Half-Mile in Alabama

For over 50 years Mobile International Speedway has been South Alabama's premiere speedway. Nicknamed the fastest half-mile in Alabama, the oval-shaped track has welcomed some of the top drivers in the history of stock car racing. From Donnie Allison, Rusty Wallace, and Kyle Petty in their early years to Michael Waltrip and Kerry Earnhardt – all have come through Mobile on their way to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The track even launched the careers of local drivers Cale Gale and Grant Enfinger, who would later compete in ARCA and the Craftsman Trucks series. Mobile International Speedway has seen it all since opening in 1965, hosting some of the top drivers and local races. In addition, MIS has been a Hollywood filming location, a popular Christmas light destination, and was even once owned and promoted by a popular professional wrestler.


Recently Mobile International Speedway went through some changes, which included new ownership – the search for new owners resulted in the speedway closing for about a year, but when the track re-opened in July 2023, the new ownership included former local driver Eddie Shoemaker, who also operates Mobile Dragway, which is located next door to MIS. Now twice a month from March through September, expect to see action-packed, fast-paced racing on Alabama's Fastest half-mile track.   

 

Food & Beverage   2

There is one stand located under the grandstand about halfway down; the usual fare can be found with hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, corn dogs, sausage dogs, and popcorn rounding out the menu, with prices ranging from $3 to $6, while for $10 you can purchase the chicken tender or chicken wing baskets.


Coca-Cola is the soft drink provider here, with fountain drinks going between $2 and $4. In addition, right next to the concession stand is the beer garden, with prices running $5 for a Tall Boy canned beer. Also, make sure to check out the boiled peanut stand on the north side of the concourse under Turn 4 – for $5 you can purchase some of the best tasting boiled peanuts I've ever tasted in my life.   

 

Atmosphere   3

Part of the charm of attending Saturday night races here is that not much has changed since the 1960s. From the moment you arrive and pass under the brick archway welcoming you to the speedway, it is almost like going back in time 50 years. Racing is held usually every other Saturday from March until September, and while most of the drivers are local, occasionally you will get a big-name driver coming through the area.


Mobile International Speedway is located right next to Mobile Dragway with a huge grass field providing the parking. To get to the concourse you must walk up about 30 metal steps, entering the area which provides concessions under the grandstand. The grandstand itself is quite simple – made up of 15 rows of wooden boards held up by metal awnings, which hold 9,000 people. A small press box made of tin sits at the top of the rows.



The track is a half mile oval with the grandstand in between Turns 1 and 4. A unique thing about the track is there are no walls or barriers around the track, except in front of the grandstands. The track was built on farmland, so without any walls or barriers you can see a good way out into the fields, meaning if you go off the track there is nothing keeping you from walking onto the surrounding farmlands. An old barn sits beyond Turn 2, providing a nice added touch to the view. The pits also have wall pads filled with various local sponsors, adding to a small-town feel.          

 

Neighborhood   2

Irvington is a small community of about 800 people located in rural Mobile County. There's not much to do here after dark, with racing at MIS the only thing happening on the weekends here. On some Saturdays Mobile Dragway next door will be hosting drag racing, but that wasn’t happening during my most recent visit.


If you want to take a day trip before the races you are 15 minutes away from Bellingrath Gardens, which is one of the most beautiful gardens in the south, and a must visit if in south Alabama. Another day trip worth checking out nearby is Dauphin Island, about 20 minutes south of Mobile International Speedway – not very

many people know about Dauphin Island, so you'll have miles and miles of beautiful beaches all to yourself.


Once on the Island make sure to stop at Historic Fort Gaines, a Civil War-era fort believed to be haunted. There is also a ferry that takes you across Mobile Bay and to Gulf Shores if you want to explore that side of Alabama. Dauphin Island also has a small aquarium, an Indian mound, a golf course, and several miles of nature trails, and is less developed than the nearby beach towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, so you will find less people there, which may be appreciated by some.


Make sure to stop off in Bayou La Batre right before you get on the island – this tiny community is known as the shrimping capital of the country and was the setting for Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company in the novel and movie Forrest Gump. While there make sure to grab a bite to eat at Lighthouse Restaurant, voted one of the best seafood restaurants in the South, and if you come in May, you may even get to see the Blessing of the Fleet, the Catholic ceremony where ships are blessed for a safe and successful fishing season. It's a festive event because, before the shrimpers embark into the Gulf, the small town has a huge celebration for the shrimp boats, an event which attracts thousands of people.

 

Fans   3

MIS has been South Alabama's premiere racetrack for over 50 years now – it may not be close to Talladega, but this area of Alabama is also a hotbed for stock car racing, and it shows here. The 9,000-seat grandstand is usually about three-quarters of the way full on race night. A lot of the drivers are local, so you'll see many fans who come out every weekend. There's nothing else to do in Irvington on Saturday nights, so that helps as well with attendance at the track.



You'll also encounter a good mix of families who come out to the races. There are usually five or six different races each night, and each race features a different style car and is very fast, with each race only lasting 20 to 30 laps, which is pretty quick for a half-mile oval. Spectators are definitely engaged from the start to the checkered flag – during my most recent visit they raced pro trucks (30 laps), pure stocks (20 laps), pro late models (40 laps), sportsman (25 laps), and crown stocks (20 laps).

 

Access   3

Mobile International Speedway is located about 20 miles south of downtown Mobile on Highway 90, a rural two lane back road that runs from Pascagoula to Mobile. Getting to the track is fairly simple despite being located on a back road – the track is conveniently located a few miles south of Exit 10 on Interstate 10. You can't miss the track, as it sits to the left about 2 miles south of the Interstate.


There is plenty of parking in the huge grass lot on the property. The only issue I ran into at the track is the access if you are in a wheelchair or have a disability; because of the steep stairs at the entrance, and because there are no wall or barriers around the track, the only wheelchair access is between Turns 3 and 4, where you can be wheeled onto the track and into the stands. To access the pits there is an access point from the grandstand, but you must walk on the track to get to it.

 

Return on Investment   3

Tickets to sit in the grandstand are $15, while tickets in the pits are $30. I consider this a good return on investment, as concession prices are fairly cheap and you can't beat the free parking. My recommendation to get the full experience is to go on a Saturday when they are drag racing at nearby Mobile Dragway – you can catch drag racing in the afternoon, then go to MIS in the evening. The races at Mobile International Speedway usually start around 8 pm and last until around 11 pm. It is fairly quick, fast-paced action, and you are right up on the track less than 50 feet away from the cars as they line up.

 

Extras   5

One extra for the track being used as a filming location for the 2009 film The Final Destination; the opening race scenes were filmed at the track during the summer of 2008.


Another extra for all the big races and big names that have been here over the years, as mentioned earlier. Some of the races MIS has hosted include the ARCA Mobile 200 from 2012 to 2015, as well as regular stops in the 1990s of Mobile 150 (NASCAR K&N Series East) and the Hooter’s Pro Cup Series. A ton of NASCAR regional races and ASA races have been held here as well.


There is a billboard in the pits reading "Welcome to Mobile, Home of Lee Fields", who was a longtime owner and promoter of the speedway from 1972 until his death in 2000. Fields was also a notable wrestler in the Gulf Coast during the old territory days of pro wrestling – Lee held numerous titles in the 1970s including Gulf Coast Heavyweight Championship. Fields would have become a bigger star had he signed with another promoter, but he didn't want to move away from Mobile.



Another wrestler with an affiliation to Mobile International Speedway is former WWE wrestler Bob "Hardcore" Holly – this popular attitude-era star from Mobile actually began his career as a stock car driver here in 1992. Holly would later sign with Vince McMahon in 1994, embarking on a 14-year career in the WWF, beginning with a race car inspired gimmick wresting under the name of Thurman "Spark Plug" Holly. MIS also hosted the annual Alabama Racing & Wrestling Hall of Fame for a number of years, honoring some of the greatest drivers and wrestlers from the area. Former wrestling manager legend William "Paul Bearer" Moody was the emcee at the Hall of Fame ceremony.


Another extra for Mobile Dragway sitting next door if you want to catch some drag racing before you go into MIS – as mentioned they do drag racing there on most Saturdays. There is also another smaller track about 10 miles down the road in Grand Bay called Sunny South Speedway.


One final extra for the Christmas lights on display here during the holiday season – in 2023 Mobile International Speedway began hosting Mobile's Annual Christmas Nights in Lights. The Gulf Coast's # 1 Christmas lights display was originally set up at Hank Aaron Stadium, but moved here after that stadium's closing. During December lights are set up all around the track, and cars are welcome to drive on the track through the interactive Christmas display. They also do a pretty elaborate Halloween lights spectacle here called Thriller Lights.

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