IRVINGTON, Alabama — One of the deep south’s most legendary paved ovals will roar back to life in 2021. Mobile International Speedway (MIS), located in Irvington, Alabama, will be managed and operated by racing promoter and Houston, Texas, native Gina Schild-Knowles.
The facility is owned by Ida Fields, widow of legendary wrestling champion and short track promoter Lee Fields. The former wrestler-turned-promoter successfully ran the track from 1972 until 1999. Fields passed in 2000 and was inducted into the Alabama Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2017.
Schild-Knowles has signed a one-year lease agreement with an option to buy the facility.
“I’m excited to be carrying on the tradition of great racing that Miss Ida and Lee Fields built,” Schild-Knowles said. “The plan is to run it as a sister track to Houston Motorsports Park. I feel that if we sanction them identically, it will be a good thing. We want to see MIS and HMP thriving together, and to present exciting short track action for race fans on a consistent basis.”
Mobile International Speedway was built by Walter ‘Skip’ Wetjen and opened in 1965. From 1966 to 1968 the track hosted open-wheel racing, highlighted by the World 300 for SuperModifieds. Several of NASCAR’s former stars raced and won at MIS, including Red Farmer and Bobby Allison.
In the 1980s, Mobile International hosted events sanctioned by both NASCAR and the Midwest based American Speed Association. Household names like Donnie Allison, Rusty Wallace and Dave Mader all competed on the famed oval.
The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) ran a 200-lap event at MIS from 2012 to 2015, with local favorites Grant Enfinger (3 wins) and Cale Gale (1) earning victories. Most recently, the track has played host to modern-day legends Bubba Pollard and Kevin Swindell.
Fields has done well to keep the track going after her husband passed in 2000. She feels very strongly that Schild-Knowles can bring new enthusiasm to a track that still means so very much to her.
“I still have a big piece of my heart in that track,” Fields said. “My family means the most to me, but we had so many good years at the speedway. I’m very proud of what my husband accomplished in his years of running Mobile International Speedway. It was a big part of our lives for a long time.”
The longtime track owner also feels a positive energy from Schild-Knowles, and is excited to see the legendary oval roar back into action later this year.
“I was very impressed with Gina when I first met her,” Fields said. “She seems like a sweet, caring woman with a deep passion for racing and racers. I think she’ll do good things at the track. The racers have to trust you, and I think Gina will earn that trust. She’ll restore that faith in the community.
“A lot of people still do feel good about Mobile. Every person I speak to about it has good things to say. They understand I can’t do it any more, and Gina has the experience and knowledge to get things headed in the right direction. I wish her nothing but the best in her efforts at Mobile this year.”
For Schild-Knowles, this transition is as important as anything she’s ever done in the sport. It is a very personal endeavor. Coming from a longtime Houston racing family, she grew up going to asphalt and dirt ovals across the state of Texas.
She has successfully rejuvenated the asphalt oval at Houston Motorsports Park and credits the racers’ unwavering commitment to the sport as the biggest contributing factor in that success. With her philosophy of putting racers first, her intent is to create the same loyal core following in Mobile.
“Mobile has a rich history, and we plan to add to that history in the coming years,” Schild-Knowles added. “It is a beautiful facility with a lot of room for growth. We think with some hard work and solid promotion, racers and fans will come back to enjoy it again. I’m anxious to get things rolling and excited to be working with a team of people who genuinely love short track racing.”
“Working with Miss Ida on this deal to operate the speedway has allowed us to draw on her years of experience. She’s offered guidance as to how to revive the place, which I value a great deal. She shared some great stories with me one evening, I can’t wait to hear more.”
Schild-Knowles and her husband Bo will be living in a house on speedway property prior to and during the 2021 season to facilitate improvements to the facility. Both will be hands-on in the effort to breathe new life into Mobile International Speedway.
For more information, go to www.texasshorttrackracingseries.com. A new website for Mobile International Speedway will be launched in the coming weeks. In the interim, please visit the track’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FastestFunAround/.
-Mobile International Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo