OK, here's the full story of Spearmint Raceway:
Chapter I. - From the Early Years until the accident (1941-1975)
In the darkest years of WWII. many of the traditional European racing circuits suffered damages beyond repair. In the meantime, America was intact. Many European car racers fled the old continent and settled in the New World. In a very short period of time the USA found itself in a bad need of good and modern raceways for.
In 1941, celebrating the 50th birthday of the Wrigley Company, the then-president Philip Wrigley, an accomplished amateur motor racer himself, decided to build a "modern raceway for these new guys so they'll know we can build a decent raceway too
". The constructions were finished in June 1941 and the Spearmint Raceway
was officially opened 29 August. It's location near Chicago, hometown of the company was excellently chosen - it was easy to get to from the Windy City.
The track itself, designed and built using some existing but unused road sections, was exactly 3 miles (4806 meters) long and ran clockwise. The main features got named after the most famous product of Wrigley.
It's start straight a bare 463 yards (514 meters) at length didn't really impress the racers - neither did some of the twisty parts - namely the Sawteeth Sector
and the part between the Freedent Corner
and the Hubba Corner
. On the other hand, the start straight followed by the slightly rising Altoids Curve
was a hugely enjoyable section.
The Spearmint Raceway, hosting a huge bunch of events in the decades to come, remained basically intact up until 1973, the time by which it got way too old for the modern cars with its - by then - too narrow and slow corner clusters and narrow track - not to mention the paddocks simply too small by any standards. The final kick was an accident - a horrible one.
Chapter II. - Stepson and the New Track (1975 - 1991)
On 29 August 1973 - the black irony of fate for it's the birthday of the track... - an amateur race was held on the Spearmint Raceway. By then the track was considered to old for professional level racing and Philip Wrigley's successor, William Wrigley (his son) didn't share his enthusiasm towards racing and consequently cared less and less about the facility. Rumours were going that he never once visited the racetrack before 1974.
But then that fatal late summer day came and everything changed.
The highest part of the track was the end of the Altoid, just before it reached the Doublemint Corner. There was no building there that could shield the track from the ever blowing winds. Consequently, that part was always covered with a thin film of dust. Philip, in his days, was careful to make sure that area around the track would always be well lawned so no much dust could get to the track but William, as I mentioned, didn't care.
The dusty part is reached via the Altoid, which resembles the Eau Rouge a lot - only as if going the opposite direction - a slowly but steadily rising, long curve. Cars pop up at it's peak at huge spead - and what they meet there is headwind and a dusty track plus a sudden right corner. Many accidents happened there during the decades but, since racers were more than aware of the danger they were careful enough not to suffer big crashes.
But Jack Stepson, a 24 year old amateur race driver from Phoenix, Arizona, was too young, and so too much of a daredevil - plus too unexperienced. Two laps from the finish he was 7 seconds from the race leader and knew: if he was to collect his first ever victory he must put safety and caution aside. And so he did. He negotiated the exit from the Altoid way to fast. He knew he risked a crash - what he didn't know was that a sudden gust of wind reached the track at the exact moment he skidded on the dust covered track. The gust picked up his car like a kite and slammed against an old oak tree more than 10 meters from the track! The car turned into a raging ball of fire in an instant. The rescuers came and did all they could but there was nothing they could really do to save him. He was almost certainly dead before his car's charred wreck hit the ground.
The accident was a headline in most papers and news programs. The shock that followed couldn't leave William Wrigley inert. Also, he knew: if failed to react somehow it would be a shame on the company's name - something he wanted to avoid like the plague.
The most logical step would have been closing the facility, but for some strange - and so far unknown - reason he decided to modernize the raceway. The work took 2 years and in 1975 he proudly introduced the new Spearmint Raceway.
Apart from widening the track and building a new, up-to-date paddokcs area there were some changes in the trackline. The two most hated parts, the Sawteeth section and the part under the Freedent were reconsidered along more modern lines. The latter was replaced by a very long sweeping turn, the Superbolica
that went up to the Hubba Corner. The Sawteeth was replaced by a similar curve, the Hyperbolica
The new track's lenght was 3.377 miles (5404 meters).
Ironically, the part that caused that bloody mishap wasn't changed. Only the surrounding area was redesigned making it sure that the track would be shielded from wind and dust - and the Doublemint Corner renamed Stepson Corner in tribute to the victim.
Chapter III - The Modern Spearmint (1991-2007)
William Wrigley was stubborn in making only the most neccessary changes in the trackline and leaving as much of it as was possible. The problem was that some parts of the track were just too slow for modern racecars. The track wasn't very popular among racers - they wanted speed and here they only got it once, in the Finish straight-Altoid combo. Luckily, William Wrigley heard these complaints. He knew that if he was to keep the track (still a very useful promotion opportunity) in the race calendars he had to do the surgeon's job again - and this time it must be more severe. So a new, longer start/finish straight - and a brand new paddocks area - was created and the Hubba corner, one of the slowest ones was replaced by a faster corner. Also, the race direction was reversed to anti-clockwise
The addition of the new section lenghtened the course, now 3.95 miles (6.319 meters) long with an 1063 yard (957 meters) long start/finish straight.
This way the Altoid began to resemble the Eau Rouge even more. And, since the name Altoid got a very bad reputation because of the fatal crash, it seemed appropriate to rename it - so it became Eau Jaune, "in remembrance of what I experienced when I heard about the accident
" William Wrigley later explained.
The new start/finish section reached deep into the infield area and looked - no ue denying it - like a penis, especially the end corner, The Pricque
Following that a short straight came followed the amply named Goolies
- the remnants of the Hyperbolica. The Hubba corner disappeared.
Chapter IV - The present (2007 - )
The final changes made to the track. The Big Red corner now, becoming the entry corner to the finish straight, proved to be too slow. It had to be replaced by a much faster, Parabolica-like sweeper thus giving the cars a much greater entry speed to the finish straight.
A bigger change that the Goolies- Hubba Bubba section was completely redesigned in a truely modern fashion. Now it features two really fast sweepers, the New Winterfresh Curve
and the considerably lenghtened Superbolica connected by two hairpins, the Orbit
and the Hubba Bubba
The new course was slightly shorter, 3.59 miles (5739 meters).
So now the track divides in two parts: the practically intact "upper section", from the Stepson to the Wrigley's exit and a totally redesigned one from the New Big Red Curve
top the Stepson.