Since 1950, about a dozen speedways came and went in the Thompson-Okanagan, not the least of which was the Billy Foster Memorial Speedway in West Kelowna.

“The speedway was started by Noll Derriksan after attempts at a race track were done at Knox Mountain in the early 1950s and Glenmore sometime between 1954 and 1967 (when the Knox Mountain Track closed and the Billy Foster Memorial Speedway opened),” Brenden Studer, Westbank Museum and Visitor Centre coordinator, said in an email to “The intention was to make it one of the top competitive tracks in Canada."

Billy Foster Memorial Speedway
Billy Foster Memorial Speedway
Image Credit: Westbank Museum and Visitor Centre

Billy Foster was a Vancouver Island native who started racing stock cars in the early 1950s before becoming the first Canadian driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 1965.

In 1967, during a practice run at a U.S. Auto Club stock car event in Riverside, California, a front brake drum failed “sending him into the course’s 9th turn wall and killing him instantly,” according to a Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame posting. He was inducted into that hall of fame in 1984.

While Foster never lived in the Okanagan, Derriksan named his speedway in honour of him in 1967.

According to Canadian Racer, the track was a one-quarter mile paved oval that ran until about 1972. It’s now the site of Westview Village manufactured home park and some it is part of Berkley Estates Mobile Home Park, Studer said.

The Billy Foster Memorial Speedway was not the first such facility in the region but there are very few still running.

Billy Foster Memorial Speedway
Billy Foster Memorial Speedway
Image Credit: Westbank Museum and Visitor Centre

Canadian Racer has an online interactive map that shows past and present speedways and drag strips in Canada.

One of the oldest on the list for the Thompson-Okanagan is Queen’s Park in Penticton, where the South Okanagan Events Centre now stands.

Its first event was listed as May 24, 1950 and was organized by the Penticton Lion’s Club using cars from the B.C. Midget Auto Racing Association on a 1/5 mile dirt oval.

The closing date is a question mark.

In 1954, the Knox Mountain Speedway opened in Kelowna on a former ¼ mile horse racing rack.

The first race was July 18, 1954 and seating was "by way of a terrace in the mountain-side,” Canadian Racer says. It was closed half-way through the 1957 season due to a lack of cars.

The Kel-Win Speedway off Glenmore Road in Kelowna opened as a 1/5 mile kidney-shaped paved track in the mid-1960s into the 1970s and the track is still visible on Google Maps, north of McKinley Road. That's according to Canadian Racer but those dates don't match what Studer's.

The Kal-Win Speedway in Kelowna is still visible.
The Kal-Win Speedway in Kelowna is still visible.
Image Credit: Goggle Maps

That was followed or overlapped by the Billy Foster Memorial Speedway, which was a ¼ mile paved oval.

In the Thompson region, the Har-Win Speedway opened in the Barnhartvale neighbourhood of Kamloops on a ¼ mile dirt track on May 22, 1961, operating through to 1965.

It was run by the Kamloops Track Racing Association that moved to the Intervalley Speedway in 1967.

Intervalley opened on July 16, 1967 on a 3/8-mile paved oval and ran until 1973, Canadian Racer said. It reopened from 1976-78 as Scheidam Raceway before closing for good when the cost of the lease doubled.

That track, too, is still visible.

READ MORE: Kamloops's last racetrack, and why it was abandoned 42 years ago

The Scheidam Flats Raceway in Kamloops.
The Scheidam Flats Raceway in Kamloops.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Gradyn Cooper-Robertson

One of the longest - and still - running raceways is the Penticton Speedway that started off as Penticton Raceway from 1968-1981 before being renamed the Sun Bowl around 1982 and, later the Penticton Speedway.

It started with a 1/3 mile dirt oval and was converted to a ¼ mile paved oval in 1972.

READ MORE: Penticton Speedway races into new season with major changes

Penticton Speedway.
Penticton Speedway.

Many others have come and gone over the years.

“Some if it was due to pressure from housing,” Ray Stec, president of the Sports Car Club of B.C., told “That had a lot to do with it. Land values increased to the point where operating was no longer viable.”

The increased land values brought new neighbours and, with them, noise complaints.

The appeal of stock car racing, as opposed to road racing on a winding track, is the entire race is visible to the fans, he said.

Most of the tracks in the Thompson-Okanagan were ¼ to 1/5 of a mile, although some in the U.S., where the sport is still very popular, stretch closer to three miles.

Stock cars were originally vehicles that had “stock” parts that anyone could buy to modify their cars for greater speed.

While the sport, led by NASCAR, is still big in the U.S., getting sponsorships in Canada has proven difficult, Stec said.

Along with rising real estate prices, lovers of the sport are retiring with no younger people coming in, he added.

The high cost of travel and accommodation for races hasn't helped.

In fact The Western Speedway in Langford (near Victoria), held its final race last month.

There are only three speedways operating in the region, in Penticton, Merritt and Clearwater.

Here are some other former speedways, based on information posted by Canadian Racer, that came and went.

Tillicum Raceway – Vernon

This 3/8 mile paved oval opened in 1970 and hosted the NASCAR Can-Am Super Stocks in 1974 and the Export “A” Western Canadian Stock Car Series in 1975 but ceased operations that year.

Lumby Raceway

This started as a ¼ mile dirt oval in 1976 and was paved in 1978, running until 1985.

Canadian Racer says it was built in response to the closing of Tillicum Speedway and that it was built into a hillside. It closed due to a lack of registered cars.

SunValley/Motoplex – Vernon

This opened on Aug. 12, 2000 as SunValley Motor Speedway hosting a NASCAR West Series race on a ½ mile paved “tri-oval.” Its stands had seating for 7,500.

It closed at the end of the 2015 season “due to noise complaints from a nearby retirement community,” Canadian Racer says.

READ MORE: Noise limit making it hard to return to the races at North Okanagan's Motoplex Speedway


Clearwater Speedway

A race at the Clearwater Speedway, about 15 years ago.
A race at the Clearwater Speedway, about 15 years ago.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Rusty Clark

This started around 1983 and continued, with one interruption until about 2003 on a 3/8 mile dirt oval.

Brian Fehr bought the abandoned track in 2020 and the Merritt Stock Car Association revived it for the 2021 racing season.

Merritt Speedway

This is a ¼ mile oval that, according to Canadian Racer, opened in 1991 and bills itself as B.C.’s “fastest dirt track.”

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