LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — There’s a part of the Las Vegas’ 1960s history that has long since been paved over and is now one of the city’s better known neighborhoods.
For six years, Stardust International Raceway brought together racing heroes from across the country. It was one of the earliest homes for major league racing in Las Vegas, but left little trace of its past.
In fact, today you’d just call it Spring Valley.
The first event, which included a full field of road racers, was in 1965. The track was three miles of road carved into the unused desert.
Frank McGoo painted many of the cars. He also raced when a drag strip was added in 1966.
“It was a quick track. It was a track to be on. It was one to go to,” he said.
Legendary drivers came to Stardust. Names that still excite race fans today. And it wouldn’t have been possible without another major aspect of 1960s Las Vegas — organized crime.
Randall Cannon and Michael Gerry explore the history of Stardust and its ties to the mob in a fascinating book. As they learned, the track was mostly owned by Moe Dalitz and his business associates.
Dalitz is better known as the owner of the original Desert Inn, a philanthropist and of course, a former gangster.
According to Cannon and Gerry, Stardust raceway’s land was used by several organized crime families to launder and hide money.
According to McGoo, racers that used Stardust didn’t care.
John Langeler: “Did you know about the origins of the track?”
Frank McGoo: “Yup. I think everybody out there had a good idea about that. In my opinion, it was cool. They were spending their money in an area that was greatly needed.”
The track was successful and popular. But after just six years, the Stardust was gone, abandoned for home development.
“I don’t know about the other guys, but I was po’ed,” McGoo said. “It was like you gave us a good meal then kicked us out.”
It’s life came and went as fast as the racers who loved it.