The Aspen Motorsports Park traces its ancestry to the earliest days of auto racing in the Rockies. Few may realize it now, but Aspen was “the cradle of sports car racing in the Rocky Mountains,” as Steering Wheel magazine described the town in the 1950s. “Crowds of enthusiasts traveled from long distances to race there.” The first LeMans-style race through the unpaved streets of Aspen started in front of the Hotel Jerome in the summer of 1951. Competitors drove the aristocracy of sports cars. The choking dust and rough streets of the time gave rise to a peculiar driving technique be today’s standards. It was called “the four-wheel slide and hope you don’t hit a tree” technique; nevertheless, the field grew each summer. The road racing craze spread to towns like Kremmling, Golden, Salida, and Estes Park. Yet as technology improved and the cars became faster, open-road racing became almost too exciting. Colorado Governor Edwin C. Johnson put an end to the fun in 1955, banning any racing on public roads.
Some Aspen locals couldn’t imagine a summer without sports car races. The banded together to build the 1.1 mile track and the first race was July 27, 1963. Represented that day were Formula Vee cars and Formula Juniors, along with Corvettes, a Cooper Junior, Maserati, Lancia, Lotus and Porsche. One enthusiast reported that the course “closely duplicated the same color and conditions experienced by pioneer sports car racers.” Critics pronounced the Aspen Raceways track fun and demanding. Attracting racing aficionados from around the world, it was second in Colorado only to now-defunct Continental Divide Raceways over the mountains in Castle Rock. The Sports Car Club of America has used the track, as have Porsche, Jaguar, Shelby, and Ferrari and Lotus clubs, Motorcycle groups, car companies, and even bicycle racers.
Over the years, Aspen Raceways has changed names and owners, but never lost its appeal. It has “become part of Aspen’s history,” notes one longtime motor-sports enthusiast. “Thanks to this track, some of us look on Aspen from a far different perspective from the usual ski resort view. This was one feature that helped to make Aspen a real town.”
Authentic sports car racing is the heart and soul of the track. Still as exciting as ever, it offers timeless driving pleasure to the members of the Aspen Motorsports Park.