NASCAR: Former Drivers Reflect on Abundance of Deer and Rattlesnakes in Texas

by Caitlin Berard

It was the year 1969 and the Texas World Speedway was opening its gates to NASCAR fans for the very first time. The addition of the track, originally known as Texas International Speedway, to College Station, Texas, put the Lone Star state on the map for NASCAR Cup Series racing.

Now, if you’re a NASCAR fan, you’re probably thinking about how much you would have loved to have been there on opening day. But keep in mind: it was the late 60s. NASCAR wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it is today. Along with the high speeds and high stakes action, NASCAR drivers and fans had to deal with deer and rattlesnakes. And lots of them.

“I remember the rattlesnakes there,” said Darrell Waltrip, who won a race in the Texas World Speedway in 1979. “They said they would send their people in and clear the infield of snakes before we got there. But our guys went out and caught a few. Me? No, I don’t do snakes.”

NASCAR Driver Donnie Allison Remembers a Deer-Covered Parking Lot

Stepping onto a race track knowing that you might very well suffer the wrath of an angry rattlesnake sounds terrifying. Fellow NASCAR driver, Donnie Allison, however, didn’t comment on the rattlesnakes. What he remembers is an abundance of deer.

“I got there about 7:30 in the morning one day during a race week and there were deer out eating grass in the parking lots,” Allison said. “A lot of deer. One of the guys said, ‘Wait until tonight.’ He was right. We went out about 5:30 [PM], and the parking lot was full of them.”

Sadly, the days of deer and rattlesnakes on the NASCAR track are long gone, and so is the Texas World Speedway. While that’s probably for the best, as it seems unnecessarily dangerous, Darrell Waltrip remembers the rather unfriendly track fondly.

It was “a great track, but rougher than heck,” Waltrip said. “Real bumpy. I liked it. It was Michigan but with more banking.” For those curious, Waltrip is referring to the Michigan Speedway. The Michigan Speedway was known as the Texas World Speedway’s sister track, as TWS was modeled after the Speedway in Michigan.

Donnie Allison weighed in on the comparison between TWS and the Michigan Speedway as well. “The races there were like those at Michigan, just faster,” Allison said. “The racing was probably as good as you saw in Michigan, but the difference in banking made a difference in how you got into the corner. The fastest way was around the bottom, but you could run the top.”