The First Race In Texas Was A Hot Mess

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Photo: twm1340/Wikimedia Commons

When Dallas hosted the Formula One World Championship for the first time in 1984, it was imagined that the race would be the inaugural edition of a long-standing event. An event that would elevate Dallas, Texas to being a major city on the international stage. According to the New York Times, the race organizers spent $6 million arranging the F1 round with $2.5 million of that amount going to circuit construction. They hoped to make a profit after holding the race again next year. However, the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix would be the only edition of the Dallas Grand Prix.


When Formula One visited Fair Park, the State Fair of Texas’ home, temperatures consistently stayed over 100 degrees. Also, the track was literally crumbling in corners beneath the cars. Crews had to dig out the damaged pavement and repair the surface with a quick-drying cement at 3 a.m. the day of the race. Though due to a bad batch of cement, the repairs had to be done again. The poor track conditions and scorching temperatures led to the drivers hinting at a potential strike. The race day went on as scheduled with no warm-up session and a shortened race distance.

The race was started by Larry Hagman, famous for playing J.R. Ewing on the primetime TV soap opera Dallas. Of the 26 drivers that started the race, 14 of them retired after crashing into the concrete barriers that lined the circuit. One of the retirements included Ayrton Senna, who complained that the barrier he had struck was moved. Allegedly, the barrier shifted slightly after another driver hit it. Between the rough surface and high heat, drivers were under incredible pressure just to operate their cars. Keke Rosberg eventually won the race for Williams. In the New York Times, Nelson Piquet said that the Fair Park circuit was “For sure, 100 percent, it’s the worst track we’ve had.”

Carroll Shelby, one of the race organizers, believed that the conditions for the race would be much better as the Dallas Grand Prix requested to be moved from July to cooler weather in the spring for the 1985 season. However, the Dallas Grand Prix would not return despite only being one year into a five-year contract.

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