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Thread: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

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    Default Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    A place called Fort Wayne Speedway operated on the north side of Fort Wayne just north of what is now Coliseum Boulevard and Glenbrook Square mall. It's now a place adjacent to a Putt Putt where little kids go to drive (very) small vehicles. The track was built in 1928 by Frank Funk, who also built other racetracks, including the former Jungle Park at Rockville and the Winchester Speedway, still operating.
    When the Fort Wayne Speedway was built in 1928, the area was farmland; it remained so for most of the track's existence. Coliseum Boulevard was California Road -- a dirt road then -- and neighboring farmers probably constituted what little traffic there was.
    From 1951 to 1964, another race track broke the silence on the south side of town. South Anthony Speedway ran two nights a week on a 3/8-mile asphalt oval. The homes in Victoria Park are in that spot now.
    Race tracks may come and go, but people's memories of them do not fade. The Fort Wayne Speedway especially is remembered for its track, which was said to be the highes****anked and fastest 5/8-mile track in the world.
    As you drove into the parking lot, the huge wooden grandstand was on your right. It could seat 6,200 people; the box seats were on a platform in front of the grandstand, but they were not plush -- just six or eight folding chairs inside a railing. The track straightaway ran north and south and the banked ends of the oval topped off about 20 feet from ground level.
    The parking lot, which for years was the site of the Fort Wayne Free Fair, was to the left (where Fort Wayne Lincoln-Mercury is now), and horse barns and about 40 acres of woods were to the west and rear of the lot.
    In 1942, Charles ``Dutch'' McKinley bought the track. Dick Bradtmiller, his accountant, says McKinley primarily was interested in a place for his trotting horses. Auto racing had stopped during World War II, so except for the horses working out, the Speedway was idle.
    In 1946, McKinley built a 1/2-mile dirt oval and a 1/4-mile midget track inside the 5/8-mile banked track. He ran his trotters on the dirt track and built them a state-of-the-art horse barn.
    Harry McKinley, Dutch's brother, says the barn even had living quarters for the trainers and offices for his brother. The building, which once housed 20 to 30 horses, still stands at the west end of Stable Drive. Dutch wanted to have harness races and was trying to get parimutuel (betting) in Indiana. He knew you'd never attract enough people to harness races without it,'' Harry McKinley says.
    When that plan didn't materialize, harness racing was limited to the week of the fair, though Dutch took his horses to other race tracks and often drove sulky himself, his brother says.
    ``The track was in terrible shape by the time the war ended; big trenches washed across the track,'' Harry McKinley says. ``It needed new tile and lots of work when Dutch decided to put it back in operation after the war.''
    Sunday afternoon stock car races became the standard attraction, though numerous other events, such as thrill shows, rodeos, wrestling matches and the Clyde Beatty Circus played there.
    ``In the summertime, if you had a cloudy day, you'd have a perfect crowd,'' Bradtmiller says. Dick Hire raced there in the 1950s; his moniker was Rapid Richard.
    ``After World War II, when they opened the track up to cars off the street, you'd just go out and line up,'' Hire says. ``Then after the second year, they required seat belts. We had to go to the Army surplus store for large webbed belts. Then they required helmets, and there were no racing helmets, so we wore football helmets.
    "Stock cars just took off; they were very popular locally. Dutch ran a good clean operation; he had bank tellers handling the gate," Hire says. "The most I ever came away with was a $500 purse -- that was a large purse then."
    Hire says the high banks at both ends of the oval had rough surfaces.
    ``They were built up with railroad ties and telephone poles, and I think some of those things would deteriorate and the track suffered.''
    He says the advantage of the high-banked track was that ``you could maintain greater speeds, whereas on a flat track, you have to slow down for the curves.'' Hire drove a 1934 Ford coupe; he had no speedometer, but guesses he ``probably did in excess of 100 down the straightaway.'' On the banked track, ``you had a better opportunity to pass slower cars. You could let it fly; you didn't have to follow someone.''
    Bradtmiller says Dutch McKinley ``never could get that 5/8-mile track smooth.'' He says the mounded banks were filled with logs with dirt on top.
    ``The logs would rot and they'd fill them in, put asphalt on top and smooth it out.
    Jim Hoagland, a former race driver, says driving on the high-banked track was ``like going to King's Island. . . . It was high and rough at the last.''
    Hoagland says they also raced Big Cars, sprint cars and midgets and attracted some of the well-known professional drivers of the day. Sunday feature races usually were 25 laps, and he says, they often had special features, such as ``the Roaring Roadsters. That's a jalopy with no roof.''
    ``Every Monday after a race, I'd take a wrecker up and get the cars out of the trees and brush outside the north bank.''
    He says the south bank, along California Road, was more dangerous for those who went off the track.
    ``If someone went over the south bank, they could get killed.''
    Another one of McKinley's jobs was taking care of the grandstand.
    ``Every Sunday morning before a race, we soaked the grandstand down with water on account of fire. We'd soak it good and the seats would be dry by race time, but there'd be water down below. Then, after the race, we'd go in with rakes and shovels and clean up all the trash below the bleachers.
    "The worst job was cleaning up at the fairs. We had to clean up after the elephants -- that was a job!"
    Bradtmiller notes that Dutch McKinley had a mutually beneficial arrangement with the city.
    ``Dutch got cinders from the city power plant for a cinder track in the parking lot where his horses jogged. And the park board got the horse manure for park flowers.''
    Even when the Fort Wayne Speedway was going full tilt, Dutch McKinley still preferred his trotters and pacers.
    ``When he was working out his horses, he wouldn't let the drivers use the dirt track and that caused some problems,'' Bradtmiller says. ``Then they started the South Anthony Speedway, so some of the drivers just went out there.''
    The South Anthony Speedway had a 3/8-mile lighted asphalt track and ran races on Tuesday and Saturday nights. Carl Harber Jr., whose father owned the farm where the track was built, says Mason and Robert McCulloch and Ray Walter built the speedway in 1951.
    ``Dad leased the ground to them, then bought the lease back and ran it for about the last four years before it closed in 1964,'' he says. ``The first year, it was a dirt track; it was on the south 30 acres of our 81-acre farm. There were two roads that went back to the track. The pit road ran back along where the I&M power lines are and the main entrance was a little north of there.''
    Harber says the track sat east of Anthony Boulevard, back about 600 feet. Bleachers ran along the west and southwest side. Along the backstretch, on the east and southeast side, spectators could pull up to the guard rail, park and watch the race.
    ``Dick Hire won the first feature race that was run there,'' Harber says.
    Mike Hendricks, a weekend stock car racer, went to the track as a kid and remembers it being ``out in the country then. . . . They started in May with Sunday afternoon races, then went to two nights, then back to Sunday afternoons in the late fall.''
    Jim Stovall, who raced about three years and owned race cars for 26 years, says the peak years at South Anthony were 1953 through 1955.
    ``Guys came from all over the country to race super-modifieds on Tuesdays nights,'' Stovall says. ``It was the only place in the tri-state area that raced them.'' He says super-modified stock cars had no fenders.
    ``They were the fastest in their day,'' Stovall says.
    ``All the best drivers came to South Anthony. The first in the country to have a wing on his car was Jim Cushman of Columbus, Ohio. He raced it at South Anthony. . . . But Saturday nights, it was mostly the local race drivers.
    ``In the old days, everybody built their own car. They'd get one out of a junk yard and soup it up. Nowadays people, most of them, buy a racing chassis. You can even buy one ready to go.''
    Stovall says when they tore down South Anthony, Howard Bice, who had raced there, bought the bleachers and the concrete walls, which were in eight-foot sections, and hauled everything to Avilla, where he built Avilla Raceway. Harber says Bice ``also bought the guardrails, the lights, concession stands, trucks, ambulance -- everything."
    No wonder Hendricks calls the Avilla track ``almost a snapshot of South Anthony Speedway.''
    It, too, will be closing; Bice's widow, Barbara, has announced this is the last season at Avilla Raceways.
    Daisy McKinley, Dutch McKinley's widow, says Fort Wayne Speedway closed when ``the racing business wore out and the land became so valuable, we couldn't go on the way we were. There were 80 acres all together. He sold the first lot to Lincoln-Mercury, then we put up the Arby's. Piece by piece, he sold it off.''
    The Harber farm, including the race track acreage, was sold to the developers of Victoria Park.
    At Baer Field Raceway, south of Fort Wayne International Airport, racing continues.

  2. Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Wow, thanks for the history lesson. My dad raced #69 at FW Speedway till mom made him quit. They said grandma raced in the powder puff events. Dad said there were nights when so many racers showed up the front row was half a straightaway behind the last row when the race started.
    "You don't have to agree with me, it's ok for you to be wrong." A.R.Rogance

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Quote Originally Posted by hairypumper View Post
    Wow, thanks for the history lesson. My dad raced #69 at FW Speedway till mom made him quit. They said grandma raced in the powder puff events. Dad said there were nights when so many racers showed up the front row was half a straightaway behind the last row when the race started.
    You need to share some of those photo's with our museum. I can scan them and give you back your photo's. Or if there's anything else you want to share with our museum that would be great too. By the way what was your Dad's name?
    Last edited by RaceFan; 10-23-2009 at 10:05 PM.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    We have these photo's hanging in our museum so I thought it might bring back some memories. The one photo is so big I had to split it into three photo's to get the detail ok.









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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    And one more:

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Quote Originally Posted by hairypumper View Post
    Wow, thanks for the history lesson. My dad raced #69 at FW Speedway till mom made him quit. They said grandma raced in the powder puff events. Dad said there were nights when so many racers showed up the front row was half a straightaway behind the last row when the race started.
    Do you think that your Grandmother is in this photo?

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    To see some of the racers from way back that raced at The former Fort Wayne Speedway go to: http://www.stockcarextreme.com/forum...p=25398#p25398

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    I just stumbled onto this posting after googling South Anthony Speedway. I grew up in Fort Wayne from the mid 50's to the mid 60's. I spent many a Saturday night at the South Anthony Speedway. I also was in attendence at the last ever race at the "big" track the Fort Wayne Speedway. I believe this last race was held in the fall of 1962 or 63 and was a one time event. Your posting brought back a lot of fond memories. Thanks for sharing. I currently live in Tennessee but I have a step son who lives in Fort Wayne. Next time I am in Auburn I will visit your museum.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    We hope you will visit.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Wow! I just discovered this thread! My Dad, Russ Tracy, raced at the 5/8 mile track in the early 50's and I was present at most of them. He actually won two feature races and held the track record for qualifying for a short two weeks. My stepmother, Edna Tracy, raced in the Powder Puff races and won most of the ones she raced in. When no one was looking, she drove Dad's car around the highbanks. We all were there the day someone crashed into the judges stand/tower and knocked it down; no serious injuries resulted. I have a copy of the Journal-Gazette article telling about it. I need to go to Auburn to the museum to see what they have. Did you know that the Kruse Victory Museum has a section about racing in Ft. Wayne?

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Quote Originally Posted by RaceFan View Post
    What is this road at the right of this photograph? Is this Coliseum Blvd (built in 1952)?
    I think so, as I can make out where California is down after Coliseum bends to the southeast at Clinton. It's amazing to see Coldwater Road as just a small line.
    And would Speedway Blvd. be where the track actually set? Or is it to the east of where the track set?
    Last edited by nathandiehl; 04-12-2010 at 08:49 AM. Reason: wrong direction--silly me.
    "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on the article of the Constitution which grants a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
    --James Madison

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Hmmmm. I wonder if my uncle, Larry "Boom Boom" Cannon, ever raced at the local tracks? He was based in Central Illinois but raced midgets and sprint cars throughout the midwest starting in the late 50s. He went on to race indy cars, competing in the 500 in '74, '76 and '80.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Quote Originally Posted by nathandiehl View Post
    What is this road at the right of this photograph? Is this Coliseum Blvd (built in 1952)?
    I think so, as I can make out where California is down after Coliseum bends to the southeast at Clinton. It's amazing to see Coldwater Road as just a small line.
    And would Speedway Blvd. be where the track actually set? Or is it to the east of where the track set?
    Yes Speedway Blvd. is where part of the track sat. Also part of it was where K-Mart used to be.
    We are always looking for more old racing photo's or other racing artifacts to display at The Northeastern Indiana Racing Museum. We scan your photo's and make a copy for us and return your's.
    So if you have a family member who used to race in Northern Indiana and you'd like them to be remembered please contact me at ksplace1@verizon.net or at 260-316-0966.
    Last edited by RaceFan; 04-24-2010 at 10:32 AM.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    I was sitting here in my office remembering the days of the early 1960's. I was just a boy then but my family was big into racing. My office is just off of Speedway Drive right about where the main grandstands stood. I think about how ironic it is that I am working at a location, that as a boy, I frequented regularly to watch my two uncles, Dick Stetler, and Bob Stetler race at. On June 19, 1961 tragidy struck our racing family. My uncle Dick was killed at teh "Big Track" in a spectacular crash. His car came off trun 2, and headed down the backstretch when another car clipped him in the rear starting him to skid ever so slightly sideways, causing his car to litterly run up and over the car in front of him. When that happened his car became air borne. The car spirolled, fliped and came to rest on its side. In the process of the car flipping Dick's set belt riped in half and he was thrown from the car. As it would be the car then landed on him pinning him between the left rear wheelwell and tire. Didk did not die right away though. He was rushed to Parkview Hospital where he died a little later that evening.

    The memory of that night is etched in my head as I was there watching as I always was. My mom also raced in the powder puff derby races at the big track and South Anthony. Those are some great memories. Names that come to mind are Jack Riley, Junior Clem, "LIttle" Joe Bennet, Bob Coe, just to name a very few.

    I was very pleased to have found some history about the Big Track. As I said in the beginning of this writting, I was sitting ion my office just thinking about events that took place at this location nearly 50 years ago that had a profound affect on me. Thank you for letting me go down memory lane.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Thank-You Mike for that piece of history. I'll have to look and see if we have Dick or Bob's photo's at the museum. If not we'd sure like to have some. I'll scan them and give you back the originals. And if you have any other items you'd like to share please do so. I'll read your letter at our next meeting and see how many of them remember Dick and Bob. We have a couple of members who raced at "The Big Track", one of them being Paul Ladd.
    Last edited by RaceFan; 04-29-2010 at 09:57 PM.

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    Loco Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Hello, I really enjoyed all the stories about the big track, I Lived in the Ft Wayne area many years, And have raced at The Ft wayne speedway several times, And several years off, And on, At the South anthony Speedway, I was there at the last two Friday night races, I believe Paul Ladd was the flagman at both of these races, I remember Paul driving a convertible some of the time when he raced there. Some of the drivers I raced with was, Jack Reilly, Junior Clem, Joe Wallace, Howard Bice, Bob, And Oscar Coe, Cliff, And Fred Setzer, Cecil Wells, Elmer Harpe, And Dave Sorg. These are just a very few, I can think of at the present time, I have raced at the Angola Speedway, Avilla, And New Paris. Howard Bice finished second in the very first race I won At New Paris, In. I drove a Red Ram Dodge owned by Dick Bolenbaugh the most of one season at the big speedway, We worked together at Zent's garage, Located on Parrot Rd. between Ft. Wayne and New Haven. I drove a 6 cylinder Chevrolet coupe a couple of years for "Pappy" Zent at South Anthony, Pappy, As some of you may know is Larry's dad, Larry is still driving, I don't have any pictures from the big track, But, I visit Larry every now, And then, And I will see if he has any, Or if he knows someone that does. Thanks, And God bless, From an old race fan.
    Last edited by carlos999; 08-04-2010 at 08:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    I printed your post off so I could take it to our Northeastern Indiana Racing Museum meeting this Saturday(8/7/2010). Some of the guys will probably know who you are, but just so I can confirm your name will you please email me at ksplace1@verizon.net . The museum would be interested in anything you'd like to donate or loan us from back then.
    You can also contact me at 260-316-0966.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Mike,
    I read your post to the guys at the Northeastern Indiana Racing Museum at our last meeting and former racer Paul Ladd remembers that crash because he was in that race.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    Thanks for the pictures of the drivers and cars from the past, I enjoyed looking through them, And I remember the most of them very well, The cars of Olin friar, And Rusty Hartman, 97 & 98, They usually finished 1st, And 2nd in the feature. The most of these fellows had retired before I began racing, Except Cliff Setzer, Cowboy Likes, And, Mickey potter, The unidentified man in the picture between Lucky Long, And Nub Wysong, Is Mickey potter. Although I never raced with him, i knew Duke Krocker, I bought a used car from him at a Ford dealer in Garrett, In. He had just been in an accident on the race track somewhere, And had a broken neck, He had a cast on his head, And neck,And looked like a mummy. He said he was a new car salesman, At the headquarters, And the manager ran him out of there, And put him on a used car lot, Because he was scaring all of the customers away. I remember a lady coming in, And Duke said, "Well, You told me I would get my neck broken if I didn't stop racing".
    Last edited by carlos999; 09-12-2010 at 01:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Some History About Former Fort Wayne Speedway

    We have found a guy with 8mm film of racing right after WWII at The Fort Wayne Speedway that hopfully we can get on a DVD.

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