Derby Days and Derby Nights
Posted On April 27, 2017
Story by Maitlan Wade; Photos by Ellie Cantor
Only 10 miles away from Baylor sits a dirt track speedway packed with action racing – flips, crashes and even fights over who’s in first place. If you’re looking for something exciting and out of the norm to do in Waco, this is it.
The speedway frequently hosts sorority and fraternity events and parties. Racing has been in Waco since the early 1900s, and the Heart O’ Texas Speedway is now in its 51st year as the longest running dirt track in Texas.
The racetrack originally started out in Cotton Palace across from campus. The speedway moved to its current location in 1966 and it’s been packing the stands ever since.
The speedway doesn’t just stick to one kind of car. Drivers race modified cars, stock cars, dwarf cars and sprint cars, just to name a few.
The promoter of the speedway, Selby Holder, has a fiery passion for racing. Holder started coming to the dirt track at 11 years old before starting his career at 18. From racing to tech to his current career as the promoter, Holder is focused on having a fun family environment and makes sure everyone leaves happy, “whether you’re 5 or 55.” Holder said the rewarding part of his job is to see the fans whooping, hollering and having a good time and to see the drivers drive with a passion and love what they do.
Holder has big plans in mind for the speedway – there will be renovations, including party boxes to sit in and watch the race and even stadium seating in the middle of the arena. Even after 51 years, the speedway is still alive and kicking.
Charles D. Hitt, an employee of the speedway, shared a story of the previous owner of the speedway, who had owned the speedway for 55 years.
At 99 he took what people call his “last lap” around the speedway. He got in his car and took one lap, got out, and walked away from the speedway.
Racing is in Hitt’s roots. Hitt has been around the racetrack for his whole life and doesn’t see that changing anytime soon. “I just love the sport of racing”Hitt said. Hitt shared a part of his racing history; he raced what was known as a “twister car.” For this type of race, everyone puts their name in a bucket and the person whose name gets drawn gets to drive the twister car. He got fourth place but quickly realized they only gave out money prizes to first, second and third places. Win or lose, Hitt holds this racing memory close to his heart.
The other employees of the speedway are the same way when it comes to racing running in their blood. An example is Richard, who has been working at the Heart O’ Texas Speedway part time for 35 years. He first came to this speedway at the age of 18 and hasn’t left since. He greets everyone with a smile as he takes their tickets. Richard describes racing as a part of his life. He can even recall years ago before the speedway was renovated when they had tin shacks for bathrooms.
Richard has seen the speedway grow and grow and it still continues to do so. Even the majority of the fans have been around racing for as long as they can remember. Stan, a friend of Richard’s is an example. When asked why he comes out here, he replied, “I’ve been a race fan for 60 years.”
The speedway races are usually on Friday nights, except for the occasional Sunday race. The full schedule and address can be found on their website: www.heartotexspeedway.com. The speedway offers action-packed excitement and something out of the ordinary for a fun night out — enough to rev the engines of any racing fan.