Before The Strip: Seeing Stardust

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a destination for drag racers since opening in 2000, but long before the birth of this unique racetrack that sits adjacent to Nellis Air Force Base in the middle of the Nevada desert, there was Stardust International Raceway.

Photo: Steve Westlund

Stardust Raceway was built in 1965 on land that now supports a housing development in Spring Valley, just a block or two away from McCarran International Airport. The quarter-mile dragstrip was part of a flat, 3-mile, 13-turn road course that hosted the Can-Am championship season finale (in 1966) and a USAC Championship Car series event (1968), among others.

Photo from the book Stardust International Raceway, Motorsports Meets the Mob in Vegas, 1965-1971. Purchase the book here.

As for drag racing, well, NHRA’s Stardust National Open was held there each year from 1967 to 1969, then again in 1971.

Photo: Mark Haefs

Longtime Las Vegas resident Ken Black, who owns the eight-time championship winning KB Racing NHRA Pro Stock team, took his first trip down a dragstrip at Stardust Raceway in 1965.

Photo from Stardust International Raceway, Motorsports Meets the Mob in Vegas, 1965-1971. Purchase here.

“I was there for the very first race,” Black recalled. “I’d done a lot of street racing, but never on a dragstrip. I went out there with a 1964 Chevy II Nova SS and won a trophy and jacket that said ‘Stardust Raceway’ on the back. That hooked me for life. I wore that jacket out.”

Ken Black’s Numis II Chevy Nova SS
Article clip with photo: Cliff Ricci

The racetrack is said to have been an effective marketing tool developed to attract high rollers to the Desert Inn and Stardust casinos. Much more on this can be found in the book, Stardust International Raceway, Motorsports Meets the Mob in Vegas, 1965-1971.

Photo of advertisement: Dennis Jensen

If you’re visiting The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Halloween weekend, be sure to give a nod south towards what was once Stardust International Raceway. It’s part of drag racing history!

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