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1 RACING, REGION, AND THE ENVIR ONMENT: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN MOTORSPORTS By DANIEL J. SIMONE A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009
2 2009 Daniel J. Simone
3 To Michael and Tessa
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS A driver fails without the support of a solid team and I thank my friends, who supported me lap-after-lap. I learned a great deal from my advisor Jack Davis, who when he was not providing helpful feedback on my work, was always willing to toss the baseball around in the park. I must also thank committee members Sean Adams, Betty Smocovitis, Stephen Perz, Paul Ortiz, and Richard Crepeau as well as University of Florida faculty members Michael Bowen, Juliana Barr, Stephen Noll, Joseph Spillane, and Bill Link. I respect them very much and enjoyed working with them during my time in Gain esville. I also owe many thanks to Dr. Julian Pleasants, Director Emeritus of the Samuel Proc tor Oral History Program, and I could not have finished my project without the encouragement provided by Roberta Peacock. I also thank the staff of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program Finally, I will always be grateful for the support of David Danbom, Claire Strom, Jim No rris, Mark Harvey, and Larry Peterson, my former mentors at North Dakota State University. A call must go out to Tom Schmeh at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, Suzanne Wise at the Appalachian State University Stoc k Car Collection, Mark St eigerwald and Bill Green at the International Motor Racing Resource Cent er in Watkins Glen, New York, and Joanna Schroeder at the (former) Ethanol Promotion a nd Information Council (EPIC). I must also mention racing historians and motorsports part icipants who helped along the way and provided me feedback during my projec tincluding Marty Little, Bert Kramer, Robert Coolidge, Roy Morris, Brian Pratt, Lynn Paxton, Amy Konrat h, Venlo Wolfsohn, Pete Daniel, Randal Hall, Tom Helfrich, Ed Davis, Je ff Simmons, Eric Mauk, Hugh Reno, Mel Anthony, Dave Argabright, Ralph Capitani, Bob Trostle, Earl Krause, A llan Brown, Gordon White, Steve Zautke, Bruce Boertje, Rodger Wade, David Hoska, Gene Fechte r, Bob Mays, Steve Barrick, and Jake Bozony. I also would like to single out Don Radbruc h, who passed away on New Years Day, 2007. Don
5 was a good racer, but a great historian, and many of us in the auto ra cing history community benefited from his generous assistance. Most of all, I thank my parents, Sam and Chri stine, my brother Michael, his wife Kristen, my godson Michael, and my niece Tessa.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................7 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................8 2 PLACES, SPACES, AND RACES: THE BEGINNING, (1895-1918) ................................. 26 3 MINOR LEAGUES, FUEL, AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION, (1919-1944)...................50 4 IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL RACE (1945-1955)......................................................... 78 5 SUPERHIGHWAYS, SPRAWL, AND SUPERSPEEDWAYS (1956-1969) .....................110 6 RESURGENCE AND INSURGENCE, (1970-1979).......................................................... 131 7 PETROLEUM AND POLLUTANTS, (1970-1979)............................................................ 150 8 PLACES, SPACES, AND RA CES: REDUX, (1980-2005) ................................................ 179 9 ENVIRO-MOTORSPORTS & THE GREENER ERA....................................................... 210 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................234 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................244
7 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy RACING, REGION, AND THE ENVIR ONMENT: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN MOTORSPORTS By Daniel J. Simone August 2009 Chair: Jack E. Davis Major: History This dissertation is a comprehensive envir onmental study of motorsports and defines, discusses, and analyzes the re ciprocal relationship between auto racing on one hand and the cultural, regional, ecological, a nd geographic environments on th e other. It explains how environmental issues and geographic dimensions served as catalysts for continuities and discontinuities in the course of local, regional, and nati onal motorsports development by exploring how track owners, promoters, drivers, and motorsports entities organized themselves around the environment. This study provides a better understanding of regional motorsports development by studying the relationship between auto raci ng and topography. It investigates how environmental issues and questions over public and private space affected motorsports and devotes specific attention to explaining how suburbanization impinged on motorsports and influenced speedway construction and demolition. This dissertation also outlines the degree in which environmental and ecological concerns have affected auto racing in selected areas of the country. Finally, this study shows how some auto racing entities have embraced or have been forced to assume specific responsibility for th e environment by mandating alternative fuels and setting eco-friendly regulations.
8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The environm ent has always influenced the course of automobile racing, and this comprehensive study provides both an understandi ng of the history American motorsports, while placing auto racing in the greater contexts of sport history and environmental history. Nature provided the first track surfaces and determin ed the aesthetic of racing. Geography and demography dictated the location, construction, a nd destruction of racetracks. Speedways were created environments and most American auto racing facilities occupied private space, while others existed on state or county property. Oval tracks, where ca rs raced in a counter-clockwise direction on either dirt or asphalt, were most common in the United States. Ovals one mile or longer in circumference became known as supersp eedways. In addition, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits c onsisted of twists, turns, and el evation changes and the vehicles raced in either direction (usually on pavement). Drag strips were one-quarter or one-eighth-mile paved straightaways. Over time, humans conquered both natural and constructed environments with speed, and racecars eventually had to be slowed down because vehicles became too fa st for the tracks, and safety became a concern. The environment fostered and impeded speed and pl ayed a critical role in the aesthetic of speed. Wind, sunlight, cloud cover, and humidity all affect the performance of a racecar. To maximize performance, engineers must find the correct balance between the car and the environment, and drivers have to ma ster track conditions, which change with the changing elements. The most successful competitors were most in-tune with the environment. Many memorable races occurred when unexpected c limatic conditions affected the racetrack and the racecarscountless upset winners prevailed in rain-shortened races. Factories, teams, and
9 drivers spend millions of dollars every year to overcome environmental obstacles presented by the racetrack and its surroundings. Since the earliest races, c ountless sanctioning bodies organized motorsports. Small, locally based sanctioning bodies were sometimes referred to as clubs. These entities brought organization and stability to the sport, and their functions changed little since the sport began. A sanctioning bodys main purposes usually includ ed finding venues at which to compete, negotiating contracts with tracks, officiating races, and raising a nd distributing purse money. In some cases, they provided travel expenses for drivers and teams. Sanctioning bodies often required a sanctioning fee charged to the venue, which varied from track to track, and played a major role in promotion and public relations. Much like the environment, sanctioning bodi es influenced and changed the sport throughout auto racing history. A lthough envisioned to foster stability, various sanctioning bodies clashed with drivers, raceca r owners, and automobile compan ies in the earliest days of auto racing, and this remains the case today. So me sanctioning bodies we re involved with only one type of racing while others incorporated di fferent series or divisions. A few entities and types of racing rose from regional to nationa l influence. Sanctioning bodies dictated the geographical, environmental, and ecological devel opment of American motorsports, and a detailed account of auto racing mu st address the history and influence of these entities. Shifts in the organization of different types of racing tend to move quick er than other sports, due to constant splitting, forming, and fight ing between sanctioning bodies. As there were a myriad of sanctioning bodies, numerous varieties of auto racing existed in America. The major distinction is that between open-wheel cars, stock cars, and dragsters. Top American divisions of open-wheel cars were commonly known as championship cars or Indy
10 cars. These true racecarslow-to-the ground, open-cockpit, machinesshared very few characteristics with the contemporary highway automobile. Open wheelers race on oval tracks as well as road courses. Notably, Formula One, the Indy Racing League (IRL), the United States Auto Club (USAC), and the World of Outlaws r aces were all contested with open-wheel cars.1 The international sanctioning body for auto racing, the Federation Internationale de lautomobile (FIA), formed in 1950. That year the term Formula One came into use. Formula One was by far the most expensive and technologi cally advanced racing series on the planet. Historically, two-car teams competed in Formul a One, and each team had an engine program from a notable worldwide producer, such as Merced es, Toyota, or Renault. Some teams received chassis support from these companies while others designed their own chassis. Contests between these fenderless, fragile, super-sleek racecars, known as Grand Prix events, were staged throughout Europe and Asia, as we ll as in Brazil and Australia and held exclusively on road courses or street circuits.2 Although the racing was bland with little ontrack passing, Formula One (behind soccer) remained the second-most popular sport in much of Europe and South America. Formula One drivers were heroes and legends in their home countries, even more so than sport heroes such as Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth were in America. Formula One, by contrast, has enjoyed limited success in the United States, and only two world champions, Phil Hi ll (1961) and Mario Andretti (1978), hail from this country. This studys discussion of Formula One racing is limited to 1 In this study, motorsports pertains strictly to automob iles. There is an even larger gap in scholarly literature regarding motorcycle, boat, or air racing. 2 A useful recent resource on the general history of Formula One racing is Giuseppe Guzzardi and Enzo Rizzo, The Century of Motor Racing: The Drivers and Their Machines Translated by Neil Davenport. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1998). See also Chuck Dressing, F1 at 50, Racer, January 2000, 34; Maurice Hamilton, Globe Theater, Racer, September 2000, 30-43.
11 mentioning some of the events that occurred on American soil, and more specifically, at both rural and urban venues.3 A more popular form of open-wh eel racing in America, champi onship racing, dates back to the earliest days of automotive competition. It must be pointed out th at open-wheel and stock cars were initially one in the sa me before cars were designed with hoods and windshields (the first open-wheeled racecars were two-seaters occ upied by both a driver and a mechanic). Once inventors and mechanics devel oped components that increased speed and performance not necessarily adaptable for commercial autom obile production, stock racecars evolved into championship cars. In the early days of racing, proponents differ ed whether the purposes of racecars should be strictly for sport or to promote the commercial industry and showcase automotive innovation. The American Automobile Association (AAA) began sanctioning races in 1902 and awarded its first formal champi onship in 1910. Championship cars raced on all types of tracks and surfaces and were the cars that competed at the Indianapolis 500, first held in 1911.4 American championship racing was similar to Formula One, and the cars were less expensive and technical with s lightly lower performance. AAA-sanctioned championship racing was the premier form of auto racing in the Unit ed States through 1955. At the end of that year the AAA withdrew from motorsports, and the ne w United States Auto Club (USAC) assumed control over championship racing. Although sancti oning bodies, in theory, were intended to foster stability, over the course of racing history, disagreement a nd disgruntlement frequently led to a new organization being formed out of an existing sanctioning body. In a most far-reaching 3 Maurice Hamilton, Golden Geese, Racer, March 2001, 34-40; Adam Cooper, Silent Expectations, Racer, February 2002, 38-45; Chuck Dressing, Never Before or Since, Racer, June 2001, 78-81. 4 Constitution and By-Laws of the AAA, The Automobile, 11 May 1902, 145; New Road and Track Racing Rules of the American Automobile Association, The Automobile, 6 May 1905, 559-561.
12 example with long-term repercussions, a gr oup of championship car teams left USAC and created Championship Auto Raci ng Teams (CART) in 1979. The USAC Championship division faded over the next couple of years, and CA RT replaced USAC as the top championship car racing series in America. But the formation of the Indy Racing League (IRL) in 1994 slowed CARTs growth. CART (which became th e Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford beginning in 2004) and the IRL bot h contested open-wheel races in North America from 1996 through 2007. In 2008, the two entiti es merged under the IRL banner.5 This study explains in part how regional a nd environmental factors shaped the rise and demise of this form of American motorsport, be st known as the type of cars that compete at the Indianapolis 500 every Memorial Day weekend. To alleviate confusion, this study will only identify the variety of championship cars that competed under the sanction of the Indy Racing League as Indy cars. The Indy cars shared so me characteristics with Formula One cars, though less technical and expensive, and IRL teams did not build their chassis in-house but purchased them. Currently, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick are tw o of the biggest stars in the IRL. In April of 2008, Patrick became the first woman to win a major American auto racing event.6 As the commercial automobile industry and racecar industry continued to mature, sometime in the 1910s, sprint cars emerged on th e scene. They were less powerful and less expensive versions of a championship car. Fr om the 1930s through the early 1960s, they were better known as big cars. Sprint cars race on dirt or asphalt, and these front-engine speedsters 5 Beginning in 1971, championship races were no longer held on dirt. US AC sanctioned championship races from 1979-1981. It then withdrew from championship cars with one notable exception. USAC continued to sanction the Indianapolis 500 through 1997. The IRLs first race to ok place on Janua ry 27, 1996. 6 The Indianapolis 500 was not held during the war years of 1917-1918 and 1942-1945. A comprehensive history of American championship racing is a topic awaiting full-length treatment.
13 were some of the most popular racing cars at Americas smaller local tracks and most commonly found on dirt track facilities of a half-mile or less. The sprint cars usually raced in a series of qualifying heats, with the feature as the last race of the day, usually tento thirty-laps-long, when the final winner is determined. Sprint cars were once the major path to Indianapolis, but as of late, most sprint car drivers were short-track specialists that remained at the top-levels of sprint car racing. The Interna tional Motor Contest Associati on (IMCA) was one of the most popular sprint car sanctioning bodies from 1915 to 1977. Present sprint car racing sanctioning bodies include the World of Outlaws, United Racing Club (URC), and A ll-Star Circuit of Champions.7 Sprinters evolved from championship cars; mi dget racers sprang from sprint cars. Midget racing has existed for over 75 years. Contempor ary midget racers are front-engine, purpose-built racecars similar to sprint cars although less pow erful and smaller. Midget racing, once an inexpensive means of getting star ted in the sport, has become more costly. Midget racing was sanctioned by countless predominately regional en tities, and today, USAC is perhaps the most prestigious. Other major entities include the Am erican Race Drivers Club (ARDC) and Badger Midget Auto Racing Association (BMARA).8 Another major type of vehicle utilized for racing purposes in America, and perhaps the best known, is the stock car. The name stock car de rived from the fact that originally the cars on the track were identical to cars produced by au tomakers for the mass consumption market. Before racers began transforming their vehicles into specialized racecars, the very first American and European racecars were in fact stock cars. The National Association for Stock Car Auto 7 Throughout racing history, the term outlaws was mostly identified with sprint car drivers. 8 Jack C. Fox, The Mighty Midgets: The Illust rated History of Midget Racing (Speedway, Ind: Carl Hungess, 1977).
14 Racing (NASCAR) was born in De cember 1947, and the strictly stock or Grand National division was inaugurated in 1949.9 Initially, Grand National cars re plicated vehiclesfrom body styles to engine design available for purchase at a local dealership. In NASCARs early days, NASCAR head, Bill France Sr., had rules prohibiting modification an d enhancement that changed cars minimally. Many drivers attempted to cheat the rules, a nd suspensions and fines were commonplace. Throughout the 1950s, NASCAR grew into less of a strictly stock car organization. Rules were slowly altered to allo w modifications to the cars, which gradually improved and demonstrated enhanced speed and performan ce, and commercial automakers and other automotive companies began to develop spec ialized equipment solely for racing, while maintaining selective stock char acteristics such as body styles.10 Numerous organizations over the decades sa nctioned stock car racing. The AAA, USAC, and IMCA once had stock divisions. Founded in 1953, the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is one such contemporary entity, bu t NASCAR became, without a doubt, the most popular, successful, and lucrativ e racing organization in the Un ited States. The Sprint Cup Series was NASCARs top level, but smaller di visions competed under the NASCAR banner, in which the most popular were the Nationwide Gr and National Series and the Camping World Truck Series. Ranking only behind football, Spri nt Cup racing was Americas most heavily attended spectator sport, feat uring such stars as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Tony Stewart. Some tracks average well over 200,000 sp ectators at their respec tive events. Over the last couple of years, American attendance and te levision ratings leveled off, as the Sprint Cup 9 From 1972 through 2003, the series was known as the Winston Cup. 10 Other forms of stock car racing (but not limited to) include jalopies, modified, sportsman, street stocks, and bombers.
15 series gained a larger following outside of America, attracting drivers fr om such countries as Colombia, Canada, and Australia. In 2008, four worldwide automakers (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, and Toyota) provided engines a nd technological support to NASCAR teams.11 Road racing, sometimes referred to as sports car racing, was similar to Formula One racing in that it is a form of motorspor t that competes exclusively on ro ad courses and street circuits. However, the emphasis in sports car racing was ti me; drivers raced the trac k, with little side-byside racing action. This was especial ly true at the lower levels of sports car racing. Sports cars fell into two main categories. Some were pur pose-built racecars that ha rdly resembled their street counterparts, instead looki ng more like open-wheel-style race cars. At the same time, some classes of sports car racing were similar, if not identical, to fore ign and American stock vehicles. Road races often featured differe nt classes and makes of cars sh aring the same racetrack while contesting separate races. Like championship racing, American sports car racing has been plagued by battles between a nd within sanctioning bodies. In 2008, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), Grand American Road Racing A ssociation, and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) were the largest sports car r acing organizations in the United States.12 Drag racing is another significantl y different kind of auto sport. Straight tracks, typically a quarteror eighth-mile long accommodate these head-to-head events. Many divisions and varieties of drag raci ng comprise this uniquely American racing form. The very bottom level featured local mechanics transforming their streetcars into so-cal led hot rods. The pinnacle was the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), whic h began in 1951. This organizations most popular types of racers are: Funny Cars, Top Fuel, and the Pro Stock Cars and Motorcycles. As 11 The Camping World Truck Series was known as the Craftsman Truck Series from its inception in 1995 through 2008. The Nationwide Series was known as the Busch Grand National Series from 1984-2003 (simply known as the Busch Series from 2004-2007). Kimberly McGraw, Growth Spurt, Speedway Illustrated, February 2007, 122-124. 12 Bill Oursler, Buying Power, Racer, January 1997, 40-41; John B. Heiman n, The Last Great American Road Racing Series, Part 1, Vintage Motorsport, Nov/Dec, 1993, 48-62.
16 of late, drag racing has enjoyed significant gr owth. Recent years have seen increases in attendance, media coverage, and television rating s. Hosting events in nearly every major American market, the NHRA is truly a national series and has also transcended race and gender more than other types of motorsports. For in stance, Shirley Muldowney won three Top Fuel championships in 1977, 1980, and 1982, and African American driver Antron Brown won two Top Fuel events in 2008.13 Modifieds were purpose-built racecars best described as an open-wheel, hot-rod hybrid. They share characteristics of both open-wheel car s and stock cars and competed on both dirt and asphalt. Modified stocks, however, are soupedup stock cars that still somewhat resemble a commercial automobile. Todays Sprint Cup cars may look like showroom body styles but nearly all of the components ar e modified with expensive parts made out of costly alloys and materials. Definitions and speci fications of modifieds vary not only from region to region, but from track to track. Also somewhat falling into the middle is supermodified racing. Most famous in New York, this form of racing also became popular in other pockets of the country, namely Texas and California, but the supermods are still most associated with Oswego Speedway in New York and a few other tracks in New England. These cont raptions, possibly the ultimate racing hybrids, also differ by differences in regional definition and rules.14 13 The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) serves as a second major American hot rod racing entity. For details on drag racings history and technology and in-depth descriptions of the different types of hot rods see the fine studies, Robert C. Post, High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-2000 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1994), and H. F. Moorhouse, Driving Ambitions: A Social Analysis of the American Hot Rod Enthusiasm (New York: Manchester University Press, 1991). John Asher, Maximum Impact, Racer, May 2001, 98-101; John Asher, Its All Good for the NHRA, Racer, May 2002, 112-116; John Asher, Return Engagement, Racer, November 2000, 56-60; John Asher, The Last Pass, Racer, March 2004, 74-78. 14 New England Supermod Club Looking for Big Year, Illustrated Speedway News, 26 January 1971, 10; Shirley Letcher, ISMA International Super Modified Association, Open Wheel, February 1982, 38-39, 89.
17 Dirt late-model stock cars are greatly modified racecars set up to run exclusively on natural surfaces. In the 1970s, the first national travelin g entity, the National Dirt Racing Association (NDRA) formed, and this type of racing grew at both the regional and national level. Despite their misleading moniker, these we re true racecars with very few stock characteristics. This study sporadically addresses drag racer s, modifieds, supermodifieds, a nd dirt late models, and these subsets of racing await future fu ll-length academic studies. These types of racecars, however, have competed at many of the tracks mentioned in the text.15 The history of motorsports development certainly must take into account the drivers and the cars, but this study focuses on racetracks and regions and a study of places and environment, rather than a study of people. Motorsports has exhi bited varying degrees of staying power in different regions of the country providing the opportunity to apply co mmunity studies to the bigger picture of American motorsports. This di ssertation traces the hi story of varieties of motorsports and investigates how motorsports de velopment varied in the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, and West. For the purposes of this study, the Northeast co nsists of all of New England and most of the Mid-Atlantic states of Ne w York, New Jersey, Delaware, a nd easternmost Pennsylvania and Maryland (incorporating both the Baltimore and Wash ington, D.C. markets). With the exception of Philadelphia and the extreme eastern quarter of the state, most of Pennsylvanias racing history resembled the Midwest. Western Mary land remained rural and also resembled the 15 Steven Cole Smith, Live Fast, R ace Hard, Sell a lot of T-Shirts, Car & Driver, March 1999, 132-139; Jerry F. Boone, Dirt Done Right, Stock Car Racing, January 2006, 32-34; Norm Fros cher, Getting Started on Dirt, Stock Car Racing, September 2008, 14-17.
18 Midwest in terms of racing development. The Southeast includes Virg inia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida.16 The Midwest had racing sub-regions. Th e most notable was th e eastern Heartland, which consists primarily of central Pennsylvania we st to Ohio, Indiana, an d Illinois. In addition, four cotton states, Texas, Mississippi, Louisi ana, and Arkansas shared more in common with the Midwest than the Southeast. The Rocky M ountains and Plains stat es also fall in the Midwestern category. As for Alaska and Hawaii, these states easil y fall into the Midwest region. The Alaskan wilderness and the island paradise were both dirt-track country. Th e same could be said about the western states of Oregon and Washington. For the purposes of this study, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada are grouped in with California. These western states shar e similarities in climate and topography, and their racing developments, although not parallel, share many of the same characteristics.17 Case studies reflected general regional trends, and this study integrated a cross-section of American racing geography. States such as California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, New York, and New Jersey have been devoted more gene rous attention. Of course, case studies a nd regional organization offers limitati ons, and as this study points out, boundaries are fluid in racing geogr aphy. Not unlike politics, diffe rent parts of states have distinct racing preferences and thes e preferences periodically shift. States such as Florida are especially challenging. Envir onmentally it was Southeastern, but Floridas racing history in 16 Maryland is home to one of the top American dirt tracks in the country located in Hagerstown just south of the Pennsylvania border. Venlo Wolfsohn, Auto Racing in Area Has Banner Season, Washington Post, 16 October 1968. 17 John Sawyer, Yukon Tim Gee, Open Wheel, January 1984, 38-39, 75; J.R. Williams, Sprinters in Paradise, Open Wheel, January 1984, 42-43, 75-76.
19 many ways also reflected Northeastern and Midwestern trends. And like the western states, the Florida beach has been conducive to record-se tting land speeds as was the case with the hardpacked California and Utah deserts. Until recently, scholars paid l ittle attention to American auto racing. Although books on baseball, boxing, and horse racing are numerous, acad emic treatments of motorsports are rare. Most of the auto racing texts found in todays bookstores are fan-inspired accounts, pictorial works, or ghost-written biogr aphies. The popularity of NASCAR provides the major impetus for academic interpretations of auto racing in this country. As a result, the bulk of motorsports scholarship focuses on NASCAR and its socio-cu ltural connection to the American Southeast.18 NASCAR was, unquestionably, a fraction of Am ericas motorsports tradition, but even grassroots and alternate form s of non-NASCAR stock car raci ng have been neglected in academia. Although millions of spectators have a ttended countless varieties of auto races and thousands have participated, most forms of racing remain ignored by the academic community. The histories of open-wheel (championship, sp rint, and midget) racing remain virtually untouched by scholars. In addition to NASCAR, this study focuses on four of the largest and longest-lasting open-wheel racing groups: USAC, IMCA, CART, and the IRL. These entities have separate and distinct histories and uniquely shaped the geography of American motorsports. 18 For instance, Mark D. Howell, From Moonshine to Madison Avenue: A Cultural History of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Pre ss, 1997). Richard Pillsbury, Carolina Thunder: A Geography of Southern Stock Car Racing, in Fast Food, Stock Cars, and Rock n Roll: Place and Space in American Pop Culture ed. George O. Carney (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1995), 229-238; Richard Pillsbury, A Mythology at the Brink: Stock Car Racing in the American South. in Fast Food, Stock Cars, and Rock n Roll: Place and Space in American Pop Culture ed. George O. Carney, 239-248; Jim Wright, Fixin to Git! A Fans Love Affair with Winston Cup (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002); Neal Thompson, Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006); Pete Daniel, Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 91120. For a solid study on the intersection between the national growth of NASCAR and technology, see Ben A. Shackleford, Going National while Staying Southern: Stock Car Racing in America, 1949-1979 (Ph.D. Diss., Georgia Institute of Technology, 2005).
20 This dissertation will be the first scholarly study to thoroughly address the histories of openwheel racing. Road racing is another form of American moto rsport lacking significant academic analysis. This study would be incomplete without touching on the distinct regional development of this European type of motorsport, which retains a vibrant subcultu re in this country. Some attention is devoted to sanctio ning bodies such as the Sports Car Association of America (SCCA), American Le Mans Series (ALMS), and International Motorsports Association (IMSA). Sports car and, to an even much lesser extent, drag racing will fall moderately within the scope of this examination as they c onnect to American racing developm ent and racetrack construction. This study complements scholarly contribu tions regarding NASCARs history and development but adds to existing stock-car ra cing academic literature by discussing factors outside of NASCAR that contribut ed to its rise, and by doing s o, this work contextualizes NASCAR as part of the larger American racing st ory. Central to this dissertation is a thorough explanation of why forms of r acing other than NASCAR subsist, survive, thrive, and die and how environmental, regional, and ecologica l forces accounted for their developments. The study is organized chronologically, and each chapter examines different forms of auto racing through various environmental and geogr aphical lenses. Without question, technology also intertwined with the environment in the history of American motorsports, and this study attends to this connection. Th e earlier chapters tend to addre ss regionalism and geography. The latter chapters deal more extensively with sprawl, envi ronmentalism, and ecology. The environment was a principal determinate in th e course of motorsports history, and as an American environmental consciousness intensif ied, an institutional self-consciousness of connections to the environmen t emerged within motorsports.
21 The green flag waves with (Places, Spaces and Races: the Beginning, 1895-1918), which explores the early development of motorsports in the United States from the turn of the century to World War I. Just as the first domestic anim als competed with draft animals on the countrys limited roadways, the first automobile racers en countered similar resistance when they first rolled onto horse-racing tracks, seemingly logical if not altogether ideal venues for testing the speed of horseless carriages and th e skills of drivers. Space acceptable to race rs and to the public (not to mention animals) presented the sport whether staged on sand, dirt, or board tracks with one of its first challenges. Geographic, demographic, social and economic factors combined to shape the rise of American motors ports, the types of racing that defined the new sport, and the sanctioning bodies th at gave it an organized and offi cial cast. Gradually spreading out from urban population centers to rural venue s, auto racing began to show an enduring presence by the 1910s. Chapter three (Minor leagues, Fuel, and th e Great Depression, 1919-1944) begins with a look at board track construction in the 1920s. As wooden superspeedways in major markets hosted championship races, local dirt track s accommodated the development of grassroots racing. Motorsports reflected the American publics enlarged search for recreational outlets and minor-league entities sprouted up to accommodate th e growing sport. The development of more powerful automobile engines, racing or otherw ise, required better fuel. After scientists discovered that the addition of te traethyl lead to gasoline improve d engine performance and fuel economy in 1921, this toxic substanc e quickly found its way into th e fuel tanks of racecars. Leaded gasoline became standard in commercial American automobiles for over half a century, although safer, alcohol-based additives such as et hanol could have substituted for leads higher octane properties. But ethanol was all but forgotten by the time of the Great Depression.
22 Motorsports was not. The depression spawned midge t racing and a growing interest in stock car racing. To be sure, the 1930s offers clues expl aining the future succe ss of NASCAR. By the early 1940s, sports car and drag racing emerged in the Northeast and California, respectively. The fourth chapter (If You Build It, They Will Race: 1945-1955) explains how auto racings growth can be traced in part to military veteran participation and the proliferation of hundreds of new motorsports faci lities. Although some of th ese new speedways featured pavement, the majority of national and grassroo ts races remained on natural surfaces. Road racing and drag racing found suitable venues at ab andoned military airstrips, but the popularity of these forms of racing led to the emergence of permanent road courses and drag strips during this period. Midget racingmost popular in the late 1940squick ly faded. Meanwhile, stock car racing exploded, and the esta blishment of NASCAR brought organization to the growing sport. Although most Grand National races took pl ace in Dixie, the schedule featured numerous events in other parts of America throughout the 1950s. This chap ter explores how the development of stock car racing in the Northeast, Midwest, and West was similar and different from that in the Southeast. Chapter five (Superhighways, Sprawl, a nd Superspeedways, 1956-1969) illustrates how urban sprawl spelled doom for many tracks, whic h suburbia ultimately forced to close. New interstate highways webbed across America, which had major effects, both positive and negative, on racing venues. This period saw the unveili ng of European-style road courses carved throughout the American countryside. The Grand National series reduced its northern schedule, becoming entrenched in the Southeast during this time. Asphalt superspeedways sprouted up throughout the region, which accommodated ten thous ands of fans, while fostering wicked
23 racecar speeds. In many locales, asphalt replaced dirt surfaces. The decade also marked the last golden era of IMCA-sanctioned dirt-track racing at annual agricultural expositions. Two chapters cover the 1970sthe decade marking the start of auto racings modern era. Chapter six (Resurgence and Insurgence, 1970-1979) traces the rise a nd decline of USACs championship division and the short-lived Ontario (California) Motor Speedway. Baby boomers grew up, metropolitan areas grew out, and America s growing population intr uded on racetracks. USAC lost Langhorne and Trenton, two of its most storied venues, to suburban sprawl, while NASCAR established a solid schedule of supe rspeedway races. America became more captivated with southern cultu re in the 1970s, and NASCAR attracted more northern fans. NASCAR also benefited from a long-standing relationship with the tobacco industry during this time. As NASCAR gained strength and stability, ot her sanctioning bodies split, formed, and disappeared in this turbulent ten-year stretch. Developments in American environmental policy took some time to trickle down to American auto racing. As chapter seven (P etroleum and Pollutants, 1970-1979) shows, environmentalism and the environmental moveme nt had an impact on American auto racing beginning in the 1970s. The 1970 Cl ean Air Act granted auto raci ng a welcomed exception from a federally initiated phase out of commercial leaded gasoline, but the OPEC embargo made no such discrimination and had a direct impact on motorsports. Motors ports entities mobilized in an effort to protect their sport from a possible federally directed limit or ban on racing. The Federal Noise Abatement Act of 1972 also granted auto racing an exemption from noise statutes. However, states and communities enacted thei r own ordinances, which led to curfews and muffler-equipped racecars. As the morphing American population moved its residential
24 neighborhoods closer to racetracks. Politicians and citizens clashed with track owners, racers, and fansmore often than not speedways fell on the losing side. In addition to showing how NASCAR continued its climb into becoming Americas premier motorsports entity, chapter eight (Places, Spaces, and Races: Redux, 1980-2005) explains why temporary street-circuit races he ld in Americas largest cities became a most popular venue for open-wheel racing and how thes e events transformed local environments. A fourth and final superspeedway boom took place during this period, with implications for the increasingly popular and dominate NASCAR. Meanwhile dirt ra cing was clearly not dead in many parts of America, and this version of th e sport remained resilient in the Heartland. Glimmers of green racing began to take shape when environmentalists confronted developers over the construction of a ma jor racetrack on the edge of Floridas Everglades. By the early twenty-first-century, as the last chapter (Enviro-Motorsports and the Greener Era, 2006-2008) shows, the relationship between ecology and motorsports heightened, and a greener era emerged. A coalition of environmen talists, politicians, and residents thwarted the construction of a massive speedway in the midst of ecologically sensitiv e saltand freshwater wetlands on Staten Island. As a result, America s largest metropolitan market still does not have a major racetrack. Only very recently ha s motorsports clearly developed a greener consciousness. This chapter concludes by examining a proactive effort on the part of the Indy Racing League to embrace green technology, mainly th rough ethanol fuel. In an era of flex-fuel vehicles and extremely volatile oil prices, the contemporary debate over ethanols benefits and drawbacks heightened as of late The IRLs use of ethanol serves as a valuable backdrop in which to examine the environmental, technological, ecological, and economical benefits and drawbacks of alcohol-based fuels in the early twenty-first century.
25 Although automobile racing, as of late, has become greener, it remains a rather pale shade of green. This study concludes with the assertion that environmental factors will play the biggest role in the future of motorsports. They we re a fact in the spor ts history, too, and the fate of auto racing rests with the physical and natural environment.
26 CHAPTER 2 PLACES, SPACES, AND RACES: THE BEGINNING, (1895-1918) Get a horse! Unknown A great deal of m oney [was] left with the Long Islanders by the automobilists and their friends. The Automobile1 Almost certainly, undocumented and unorganize d duels between horseless carriages and their drivers began soon after pr imitive automobiles first chugged out of factories and barns during the 1880s and early 1890s. However, the first organized auto race in the world was held in France in 1894, and a year later, the Chicago Times-Herald sponsored the first organized American auto race. Although organizers sche duled the contest for November 2nd, on race day three cars and drivers showed up, with only two cars ready to run. Thus, a November 28th extension was granted to attract a dditional entrants. However, to en sure that specta tors were not completely disappointed, the cars that were pr epared on November 2nd competed in a 92-milelong exhibition match. A Benz-Mueller prevailed with a time of nine-and-half hours at an average speed of ten-miles-per-hour. Usually overlooked by historians, this duel was the first sanctioned race in America.2 With the initial event, th e natural and physical environment impinged on American motorsports. On November 28th, a wet snow blanketed the streets, but the official event was contested. Six vehicles, includi ng a motorcycle, competed in a round-trip race from Chicago to Evanston. Frank Duryea won this survival-of-th e-fittest in his home-built creation. He plodded 1 Entries for Vanderbilt Race Close May 15, The Automobile, 13 May 1905, 599. 2 A Race for Motocycles, New York Times, 22 October 1895; Will Run a Scrub Race, Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 November 1895; Two Fall by the Way, Chicago Daily Tribune, 3 November 1895.
27 along a slushy, 54-mile road course in ten hours and seventeen minutes at an average speed of just under 5-miles-per-hour.3 Initially, auto racing was a city sport, where the automobile was most popular. During the 1890s, most American auto contests took place with in or on the periphery of large to mid-sized cities, such as Chicago, New Yor k, Philadelphia, and Boston. In a matter of a few years, auto racing branched out of industrial centers to beach front resort communities and into the American countryside. By the turn of the century, auto sport could be witnessed on open circuits, such as beaches or public roads, and at contained facili ties, such as horse tracks or driving parks. Different combinations, configurations, and su rfaces offered various advantages to the testing and sporting use of the automobile. Hard-packed beaches fostered maximum straightaway speeds. The bumps, d itches, and turns of street circ uits tested a cars performance and also measured the reflexes, physical toughnes s, and maneuvering skills of a driver. Unlike road races, where spectators caught a quick glan ce or two of cars whizzing through one section of a long course, oval circuits al lowed spectators to watch machin es go by lap after lap for the entire race. Fans also watched mechanics work on the vehicles from the grandstands. As early bicyclists discovered, beach sand served as an ideal surface for hard-rubber covered wheels. Shortly after the automobiles invention, people started driving on the beach, and some began to feel the quest for speed. From the first days, drivers challenged and repeatedly broke the land-speed record and thro ughout racing history th e fastest straightaway speeds have always been achieved on natural surfaces. Early beach automobile racing took place in upscale, oceanside resort communities, such as Atlantic City, and Cape May, New Jersey, but the most famous and longest-running of the 3 Duryea Motocycle Wins the Race, Chicago Daily Tribune, 29 November 1895; George S. May, The Thanksgiving Day Race of 1895, Chicago History 11 (Fall 1982):175-183.
28 shore contests were those held at Ormond and Daytona Beach, Florida.4 These races occurred on a 16-mile stretch of coastline that was approxima tely 100-yards-wide at lo w tide. The direction the racecars sped depended on the direction of the wind. The ideal surface at the time contained a particular type of tiny shell found in the co mposition of sand on the Northeast Florida coast.5 In 1903, The Automobile described the environmental superiority of the beach course to a tee: The coquina shell, a small she ll of the cockle variety, acts as a binder for the sand of the beach between Ormond and Daytona, making th e beach quite different from any other beach in that it is almost as hard as cement. As the beach is perfectly smooth and level, the action of the tide keeps it in excellent condition in mid-winter, when the air is not dry and hot enough between the tides to take out of the moisture and soften the surface.6 Coquina (meaning small shell in Spanish) se rved as an important natural aggregate for building construction since Europeans arrived. During the late 1600s Spaniards used the material to build the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. Designated as a United States National Monument in 1924, the famous fort rema ins intact. Hundreds of years later and about sixty miles south of St. Augustin e, racers found the coquinas prope rties ideal for another use. With high temperatures averaging in the upper 50s and lower 60s during January and February, mild winters allowed year-round testin g and racing of automobiles on the Florida coast. The timing allowed for maximum a ttendance and participat ion because northern vacationers were still in the st ate in full force and the racing season had not begun yet elsewhere. Auto racing, in some respects, was Floridas first spring-training sport.7 4 Tom Coopers Sand Mile, The Automobile, September; Good Racing Beach at Cape May, The Automobile, 25 May 1905, 640-1; Cape May Races, The Automobile, 31 August 1905, 242; Racing Over the Sand at Atlantic City, The Automobile, 6 September 1906, 298-300. 5 Outlook for Florida Tournament Planned for January, The Automobile, 29 July 1903; Program of Florida Coast TournamentReduced Freight Rates, The Automobile, 26 December 1903, 676; Opening of the Racing Season, The Automobile, 28 March 1903, 363. 6 European Road Racing St ars Expected at Florida, The Automobile, 14 November 1903. 7 The first year races were contested in late March and early April. Straightaway Records Smashed in Florida, The Automobile, 4 April 1903, 365-366, 386-387.
29 The resort appeal of Florida also served as a catalyst in the spread of racing from the Northeast and Midwest to the Sout heast. Most racers were gentlemen able to afford automobiles (although some competitors were struggling entrepreneurs trying to stake their claim in the young auto industry). Ormond and Daytona Beach served as a social and recreational playground for the wealthy elite, and early auto r acing, like polo another Florida winter sport, was a domain of their class. Waterfront hotels were fully booked, and special train routes were established to accommodate spectators. The be ach competitions were an early example of a marriage between motorsport and community, as boosters from the growing state sought to attract northerners and foreigners for their touris t dollars. Every January and/or February during Speedweeks, competitors from all over America and the world traveled to the Florida beach, not simply the province of lounging and picnicking tourists, where the flat, smooth, and hard sand provided optimal conditions fo r speed and spectator pleasure.8 Beginning in 1903, Ormond and Daytona Beach hoste d a festival of racing events nearly every winter. Spectators watched from the natural grandstands on the dunes, as drivers battled in series of races of varying distances between different classes of autos. The biggest spectacles were the world-record assaults in the mile. Although there were other straightaway contests before and after 1903, the most popular American speed-record racing took place on the Florida beach. In their quest for speed, drivers and mechanics modified commercial automobiles, producing the first pure racecars in the mid-1900s The faster the racecars, the less they resembled a street automobile.9 8 Beverly Rae Kimes, The Dawn of Speed, American Heritage, 38 (November 1987): 93-101; Alice Strickland, Floridas Golden Age of Racing, Florida Historical Quarterly 45, no. 3 (1968): 253-269. 9 For example, Preparations at Ormond, The Automobile, 14 January 1905, 91-2; Long Auto Race at Ormond Today, Chicago Daily Tribune 30 January 1905; Chronological Story of Ormond, Horseless Age, 2 February 1905, 1; Florida Beach Situation, The Automobile, 22 April 1905, 504; Florida Meet Spoiled by Freak Sprinter, The Automobile, 31 January 1907, 247; Ideal Auto Defined, Washington Post, 14 June 1914.
30 Straight-line duels comprised most, but not all, of the scheduled races. For instance in 1909, race organizers created a course and set up artificial markers (flags) separated by 12.5 miles. One flag was placed in Ormond, the othe r in Daytona, and drivers raced varying distances around the flags. One benefit of a naturally occurr ing racetrack lay in the fact that it required minor upkeep since the surf and storms kept sand replenished. At the same time, tides and beach conditions made certain sections of coastline be tter suited for speed, which necessitated yearly modifications of courses. The intrusion of waves not only affected the surface but added an extra element of danger. Drivers jeopardize d their lives and the safety of their fellow competitors when they strayed to close to the impeding surf and maneuvered their cars to avoid the sea. Wind also greatly affected the speeds attained on the beach.10 Before 1910, wealthy sportsmen began leaving the driving and th e danger presented by higher speeds to hired professional drivers. St ill, Florida beach racing continued in the years before World War I, and Ormond/Daytona rema ined an important venue for amateur and professional racers. In 1911, the major events migr ated up the coast for a series of races at Pablo Beach in Jacksonville, but Ormond/Daytona Beach quickly remerged as the premier American speed-record venue. Racing on the Florida coast persisted, remain ing a critical component of motorsports history until the last major event was held at Daytona Beach in 1958.11 Street-circuit racing enjoyed a similar popular foll owing during the first d ecade of the twentieth century. Designated public roads formed the earlies t courses. Cars sped through villages, farms, 10 One Mile4 1-5 Seconds, The Automobile, 28 January 1905, 163-167. 11 Outlaw Promoter Apparently Pulls Wool Over Daytona Clubs Optics, Horseless Age, 22 February 1911, 329; Racing at Pablo, Horseless Age, 30 March 1911, 844; Speed Meet on the Jacksonville Beach, Motor Age, 30 March 1911, 9; Worlds Marks Fall at Pablo Beach, Horseless Age, 5 April 1911, 604-607. After World War I, most racing activity migrated south from Ormond to Daytona Beach.
31 and central business districts. As was the cas e in the beach events, boosterism and location contributed to the mass appeal and success of street racing venues. The Northeast, MiddleAtlantic, and places such as Chicago and Detr oitwhere much of the wealth and early car ownership was concentratedaccommodated the biggest racing events. Some wealthy car owners took an active role in promoting motors ports. The railroad heir William K. Vanderbilt organized the Vanderbilt Cup, Americas first gr eat annual race. Contested on Long Island from 1904 through 1910, the event attract ed international drivers a nd manufacturers and became an American equivalent of the European-style Grand Prix road races of the period. The other great American road race of the era was the Grand Prize. It was held from 1906 to 1915 in cities such as Savannah, Georgia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin ; and San Francisco, California. Like the Vanderbilt Cup, the Grand Prize also attracted top European drivers and manufacturers as well as American pilots and brands.12 The sport of auto racing developed with li ttle concern of the effects racecars and speedways had on the environment. Unlike the b each, which replenished itself, streets required maintenance, and because dust presented a huge pr oblem from a competition as well as a safety standpoint, oil was applied to th e courses. For the inaugural Vanderbilt Cup, workers sprayed 90,000 gallons of crude petroleum on the roads to alleviate dust. Eviden tly the oil had lasting effects on some sections of the course and kept the dirt and gravel better packed many months after the event. The following year a differe nt substance, an oilwater mixture known as westrumite, kept the circuit be tter groomed. Although spraying oil on the streets co ntributed to a better racing surface, residents complained that it made quite a mess because people 12 There was no Vanderbilt Cup race in 1907. Geoffrey L. Rossano, Long Is land Goes to the Auto Races: The Great Vanderbilt Cup Controversy of 1904, Long Island Historical Journal 3, no. 2 (1991): 231-244; Heath Auto Wins; One Man Killed, New York Times, 9 October 1904.
32 inadvertently tracked the oil into houses and barns, and furthermore, cleaning oil from horse hooves was especially burdensome, to say not hing of what the oil did to groundwater.13 Although the oil, speeding car s, and pedestrian traffi c on race day presented inconveniences, Long Island resident s quickly realized that fast automobiles generated economic benefits. As The Automobile commented: while many residents of Nassau county admit th at to some degree the presence of the highspeed racing cars puts them to inconvenien ce previous to and during the races, the consensus of opinion is that the benefits accru ing, in the way of advertising Long Island and attracting a most substantial class, outweigh any temporary dist urbance resulting from the harboring of the automobile army, which incidentally leaves a generous supply of dollars in its trail.14 The races brought money to Long Island farmers and merchants, and street-circuit events remained popular in select parts of the count ry up until World War I, because of this combination of spectacle, technology, and econom y. There was a dangerous flip-side, however, and automobile racing on public ro ads could be just as deadly fo r spectators as it was for the participants. People often wande red across the Vanderbilt Cup cour se, and pedestrian autos also found their way onto the st reets during the races.15 As the number of automobilesand noise and tr affic increasedcities and states started banning automobile racing on public roadways in the early 1900s. Organizers then simply moved races to new cities seeking economic benefits and community pride associated with hosting prestigious nationally known motorsports events. Most major road races moved west and south from the Northeast. For instance, in 1909, a major race took place on a 23-mile course 13 Auto Race Good for Roads, New York Times, 1 October 1904; Trouble Over Auto Race Oil, New York Times, 3 October 1904; Entries for Vanderbilt Race Close May 15, The Automobile, 13 May 1905, 599; All Ready for the Vanderbilt Cup Race, The Automobile, 12 October 1905, 398-399; The Preparations for the Cup Struggle, The Automobile, 30 August 1906, 259-261. 14 Long Island Again Provides Cup Course, The Automobile, 23 August 1906, 226. 15 Entries for Vanderbilt Race Close May 15, The Automobile, 13 May 1905, 599; Working on Auto Course, New York Times, 8 September 1906.
33 set up in between the towns of Crown Point and Lo well, Indiana, not far outside of Chicago. As street racing pushed westward, major races were held on lengthy courses in cities, such as Denver, Colorado; Tacoma, Washington; and San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Corona, California.16 Although Dixie became famous for oval-track raci ng fifty years later, street-circuits and beaches served as primary venues for major southern races before World War I. In addition to beach racing at Jacksonville and Ormond/Dayton a, Savannah and Galveston Beach served as pre-World War I southern hubs of championship st reet-circuit racing. The races at Savannah and Galveston were similar to the Florida events in that they were aristo cratic-flavored, Kentucky Derby-style social events and mo re about spectacle, and being s een, than the actual racing that unfolded on the course (similar to the carnival an d glitzy atmosphere of todays Formula One events).17 Despite the popularity of racing on public roadways, this type of motorsport, even where it remained legal, suffered from problems that ev entually led to its demise. Acknowledging the automobile as a replacement for the horse was an issue that many people eventually learned to accept. Putting up with traffic and noise was a nother issue, and despite the fact that racing stimulated local economies, many citizens did not want automobiles racing invading their quiet 16 Two events were held on successive days at the Cr own Point/Lowell circuit, known as the Indiana Trophy Race and Cobe Trophy race, respectiv ely. The latter event was also heralded as the western equivalent of the Vanderbilt Cup. Denver Road Race Won by the Colburn, Motor Age, 8 July 1909, 6-7; Grand Prize Race Sanctioned, Horseless Age, 13 April 1910, 541-2; Lozier Wins Elgin Race, New York Times, 28 August 1910; Conditions for Tacoma Road Race, Horseless Age, 15 May 1912, 875; Tacoma Getting Race Entries, Motor Age, 19 June 1913,11; Twenty-five Entries to Date for Tacoma, The Automobile, 2 July 1914; Elgin Course in Good Shape, Motor Age, 15 July 1913, 18; Walt Woestman, Circle City, Speed Age, Aug/Sept 1948, 10-11, 28; Harry P. Hunt, Racings Golden Era, Speed Age, October 1953, 64-75. Due to scheduling issues, there was no Vanderbilt Cup in 1913. 17 Randal Hall, Before NASCAR: The Corporate and Ci vic Promotion of Automobile Racing in the American South, 1903-1927, Journal of Southern History 68, no. 3 (2002): 629-668; Savannah Inviting to Automobilists, The Automobile, 15 April 1905, 496; 1910 Season Produced Some Great Racing, Horseless Age, 28 December 1910, 910-913.
34 streets. Even today, residential concerns over race-day congestion remains a pressing issue for speedway operators and street race organizers. Furthermore, race organizers and police found it increasingly difficult to keep spectators safe fo r these events. It was not uncommon for fans and innocent bystanders to be hurt or killed by the cars. Spectator safety began as an overlooked priority, but gained reco gnition. These factors led to the de mise of the Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island; similarly, auto races did not return to Savannah after 1911. 18 Oval racing minimized these concerns and consequentially grew at a faster rate than street-circuit competition. Agricultural expositions provided im portant arenas for early closed-track races. Americans had long before preferred horse raci ng on oval configured tracks. The massive popularity of that sport during the Gilded Age meant that horse trac ks were plentiful by the time racecars came along, eventually sharing the dirt tracks with horses. The first organized American auto race on an oval horse track took place in 1896 at Narragansett Park at the Rhode Island State Fair in Cranston. By the turn of the century, oval racing quickly spread across the country, and these showcases, which pitted car s in constant, close contact, lap-by-lap over lengthy distances, served as tests of enduran ce and durability for th e new machines. Unlike temporary courses set up on public roads, permanent, enclosed structures existed nationwide, and oval tracks soon played the biggest role in the growth and development of motorsports. The faster the cars, the more dangerous the sport became, and as was initially the case in beach and oad racing, wealthy car owners even tually hired drivers to prove their automobiles superiority.19 18 Many Entries for Auto Road Races, New York Times, 28 August 1910; Savannah Abandons Road Classics, Horseless Age, 13 March, 1912, 518. 19 M. Wolth Colwell, Americas First Track Race, Horseless Age, 1 February 1911, 272-274; Program of Providence Races, The Automobile, 29 August 1903, 220; September Race Meet at Nassau, N.H. The Automobile, 29 August 1903, 220; Good Sport at New York State Fair, The Automobile, 19 September 1903, 272-
35 Was oval racing safer? It was, and it was not On self-contained tracks, medical attention was more quickly available. By the time the medical crew received word and rushed to the accident site on a street circuit, they often arri ved too late to save lives. Initially, the short straightaways and unbanked turns of horse track s prevented high speeds. As racecars became more powerful, and purpose-built speedways were constructed with longer straightaways and steeper banks, oval tracks facili tated higher speeds. At the same time, tightly bunched-up cars caused more deadly multi-vehicle crashes, and on ce the racing action started, a giant dust cloud commonly settled over an entire oval, thus re stricting the views of both participants and spectators. Oval facilities were easier to maintain because unlike street circuits, only a short distance required maintenance. Although usually groomed before competition, weather and civilian automobile use often made street surfaces unpred ictable; trees and wandering animals presented hazards that oval racers did not have to conte nd with. Even though fairground tracks often had little fencing or guardrails, fans were usually confined to the bleachers. Raised grandstand seating made contained circuits sa fer for spectators at all types of tracks, but roadside fans were always in constant danger of out-of-control cars and flying debris. (Still, throughout racing history, the problem of flying debr is has never been completely re mediedregardless of the type of circuit.) Moreover, charging for reserved s eating and grandstand admission was easier at oval facilities. Hiring enough bouncers to efficiently patrol a lengthy road course was nearly impossible, and crashing an oval facility to gain free access was similarly challenging.20 274; Fatal Accident at Wisconsin Fair, The Automobile, 19 September 1903, 275; Racing Season Opens in New York, The Automobile, 13 May 1905, 591-592. 20 Drivers Rebel at Vanderbilt Track, New York Times, 3 October 1910.
36 Motorsports quickly became one of the major sources of income for fairs. Auto races were often the biggest attractions of the annual expos ition and primary indicators in how financially successful a fair would be in that given year. During fair week, rail rates were reduced and shopkeepers promoted special sales. The state fair brought people from all surrounding areas to the races. In economic and promotional terms, fairground oval racing was not too different than the Ormond-Daytona Beach eventscommerce, a dvertising, and marketing linked with sport, spectacle, and entertainment. At the same time the growth of fairground motorsports occurred at the dismay of horsemen, and conflicts emer ged when automobile races took place on tracks specifically designed for horse racing. Nevert heless, the use of fair ground facilities was a boon to early American motorsports, and oval track s became the most popular venue for American auto racingstimulating a need for bigger tracks designed speci fically for automobiles. Although street-circuit racing show cased a commercial cars capa bility in more realistic conditions, the superspeedway (tracks one-mile or longer in circumference and designed exclusively for automobile racing) became the ne w motorsports venue of choice for automakers, drivers, and spectators.21 Stadium and speedway construction characterize d the Progressive era. The fan base for baseball, basketball, and footba ll expanded, and auto racing was no exception. As the lowerand middle-class became more consumptive, citizens competed in and attended sporting events in greater numbers. By the late 1900s, American auto racing was no longer exclusively a recreational blue-blood activity st ruggling to gain legitimacy with the general populace, but a full-fledged young sport gaining widespread acceptance and here to stay. Fair tracks and other 21 In 1910, the AAA began awarding a formal championship. For instance, Ten Miles Under Ten Minutes on a Mile Dirt Track, The Automobile, 11 July 1903, 34; Coast Records Sure to Fall at Los Angeles Meet November 20, The Automobile, 14 November 1903, 524.
37 dirt oval facilities were often incapable of containing larger cr owds attending the new sport in growing numbers. At the same time, large baseball and other multi-purpose sports facilities sprang up on the American landscape, new, stat e-of-the-art, racetracks went under construction serving as civic monumentssources of pride and distinction for growing American cities. Famous examples of these stru ctures of sport included Boston s Fenway Park (1912), Brooklyns Ebbets Field (1913), and Chi cagos Wrigley Field (1914).22 Built on the western side of a city of nearly a quarter-million people and initially envisioned as a testing facility for the commerc ial automobile industry, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway became American auto racings first ci vic monument. The inaugural race at Indy took place in the spring of 1909 on a surface composed of crushed tar, gravel, and dirt. It is important to point out that its original surface was a failure, and the track fell apart under the attrition of the race. The speedway was immedi ately repaved with 3,200,000 clay bricks. Fortytwo other races were contested in the latter part of 1909 and on Memo rial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day in 1910. These races drew strong crowds, and the popularity of the Brickyard kicked off a superspeedway boom. Eventually, speedway owner Carl G. Fisher decided to stage one race at th e Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the richest payout in sports.23 The first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 was a huge success and drew over 80,000 spectators. The 22 Steven A. Riess, City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sports (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989). A lthough there is little mention of auto racing in this work, Riesss study is invaluable, and his discussion of the growth of sports such as horse racing, boxing, and baseball share commonalities with auto racing and speedway construction when inserted into the context of the urban development of sports during Progressive Era. Elliott Gorn and Warren Goldstein, A Brief History of American Sports (New York: Hill and Wang 1994); Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). 23 According to the 1910 U.S. census, Indianapoliss popu lation was 233,000. Carl G. Fisher, Arthur C. Newby, Frank H. Wheeler, and James A. Allison were the principal investors, but Fisher eventually claimed sole ownership of the property. For an account of Fi shers life see particularly his activity in the Florida land boom of the 1920s, see Mark S. Foster, Castles in the Sand: The Life and Times of Carl Graham Fisher (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).
38 event also showcased one of the most far-reach ing innovations passed down from professional motorsports to the commercial automobile. R ace winner Ray Harroun and relief driver Cyrus Patschke were the first to use a rear-view mirror and prevailed in this endurance contest, completing the 500 miles in just ov er six hours and forty-one minutes.24 This sporting event was quite a spectacle according to the New York Times : Throughout the thrilling contes t a series of succeeding accid ents kept the immense crowd in a state of fearful expectancy and kept thous ands of eyes strained on the track for a fatal collision that seems imminent whenever several cars flashed close to each other. The crowd was too big to be controlled by a company of militia, and hundreds of special policemen were posted about the grounds.25 The construction of Indianapolis kicked o ff the first American superspeedway boom, which peaked in 1915 and persisted until America s entrance in World War I in 1917. The first American superspeedway boom was nationwide, but some parts of the country were more accommodating to racing than others. As was the case of Indianapolis, superspeedways tended to be constructed in major metropolitan areas, usua lly at the edge of urba n centers and located in close proximity to railroads, making the facilities more accessible to patrons and competitors, and easing the delivery of construction materials.26 In addition to the unique brick surface at Indianapolis, track builders turned to two new surfaces, wood and concrete. The success of Indy and the advantages of these new surfaces 24 The story of the Indianapolis Motor Sp eedway has been told elsewhere yet th ere remains no scholarly treatment of the Worlds most famous auto race. Terry Reed, Indy: The Race and Ritual of the Indianapolis 500. Second Edition. (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005) is, by far, the best book on the speedway. Rich Taylor, Indy: SeventyFive Years of Racings Greatest Spectacle (New York: St. Martins Press, 199 1) is also a fine treatment. Fortyfour Cars will Start in Indianapolis Sweepstakes, New York Times, 28 May 1911; Mulford Wants Record, New York Times, 4 June 1911. 25 Marmon Car Wins Death Race, New York Times, 31 May 1911. 26 Maxwell Averages 91.74 at Omaha, The Automobile, 8 July 1915, 58-59; Maxwell Car Wins First in Omaha Event, Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 July 1915; Full Season for Des Moines, The Automobile, 16 March 1916; Two Races for Uniontown Speedway, The Automobile, 26 October 1916, 691; Uniontown Speedway Program Announced, The Automobile, 5 April 1917, 679; Uniontowns 1 1/8-Mile Speedway to Open Thanksgiving Day, The Automobile, 5 October 1916, 593; W. K. Gibbs, Mulford wins Omaha Valedictory, The Automobile, 12 July 1917, 72; Mulford and Oldfield Win at Uniontown, Automotive Industries (The Automobile), 23 May 1918, 1017.
39 promoted the construction of more superspeedwa ys, and in the 1910s and 20s, board tracks were the most popular racing venues in America. The first of the board tracks opened in 1910 at Los Angeles (Playa del Ray) and in 1911 at Oakla nd (Elmhurst), California. Most of the wooden speedways were designed by Jack Prince and Arthur C. Pillsbury, and the board tracks served as an integral part of the development process of auto racing as a sport and as valuable testing facilities for automobile, engine, and tire manuf acturers. Over time, newer wooden speedways were built with higher bankings and eventually, drivers actually experienced the simulation of a continuous straightaway because the track s were so circular and steeply banked.27 Board tracks were built first in California, but demand for this type of racing surface soon spread eastward to the Midwest and Northeast. No board tracks were built in the Southeast during the first speedway boom. As the name indicates, The Los Angeles Motor Motordrome at Playa del Ray was constructed in close proximity to the beach. The 45-foot, banked oval was composed of 16-foot, two-by-four-inch planks; it was a mile in circumference and seventy-five feet wide. Engineers praised the design of the trac k but also the suitabilit y of rubber-coated tires on wood. According to the Horseless Age : Some of the best engineers in the country ha ve been quite free in their praise of the wooden surface, claiming the coefficient of fric tion is much better than between rubber and any other surface; that there will be much le ss tendency to heat, and what is generated by friction will be much quicker dissip ated than through any other medium.28 27 Season Produced Some Great Racing, 910-913. Oakland Motordrome Opened, Motor Age, 27 April 1911, 4; Doc Conway, Remember the Boards, Speed Age, May 1947 10-11; Michael Giantu rco, The Infinite Straightaway, American Heritage of Invention and Technology 8, no. 2 (1992): 34-41. 28 Los Angeles Motordrome, Horseless Age, 19 January 1910, 131.
40 The grandstands and bleachers, also construc ted from wood, were five rows deep and 3000 feet long. This design provided good views and also prevented too ma ny spectators from being bunched up, which was often the case in gene ral admission seating at fair facilities.29 Wooden speedways, like racecars, served as technological models of early twentiethcentury ingenuity and the racing wo rld, as well as the media, marveled over the tracks. But at the same time, despite the fact th at thousands of trees of different varieties were used for boardtrack automobile racing, media accounts provided little to no mention of the type of lumber used, nor where the lumber originated, in the construction of these facilities. Nevertheless, engineers and builders surely accounted for the wood types with regards to hardness, durability, and heat absorption when designing tracks. When availa ble, locally harvested timber would make most sense economically and for making repairs and o ccasional modifications. Unlike fairground dirt ovals, board tracks were innovative and responsive to changes in the sport. Like natural sand, the smooth wood accommodated wicked speeds. As newer board facilities featured longer straightaways and higher banks, the aesthetic of speed intensified and the racing became faster and deadlier. The speed, thrill, and tire hum of board tracks made them popular nationwide. By the mid1910s, they replaced street ci rcuits as the dominate type of track on the AAA championship schedule. For instance, Tacoma was the northwestern hub of major American auto racing, and after the championship street races were discon tinued in Tacoma, an oval track was promptly built in that city to satisfy racing fans in the Pacific Northwest. According to the Automobile about 2,000,000 board feet of Douglas fir was used to build the speedway in 1915. This 29 Los Angeles Motordrome, Horseless Age, 19 January 1910, 131; Progress Being Made on Board Track, Horseless Age, 23 February 1910, 306; Oakland Saucer to Open this Month, Horseless Age, 11 January 1911, 129-130.
41 coniferous tree, indigenous and plentiful in the heavily forested Pacific Northwest, provided a sturdy wood for board track construction and econ omy in its local availability. The two-milelong board track existed until 1921.30 In addition to California and Washington, the Midwest became a board track hotbed. The racing industry built a two-mile lo ng track at Sharonville in s uburban Cincinnati, and shorter board tracks in both Omaha and Des Moines. Farther east, the popular and successful Uniontown Speedway, outside of Pittsburgh, was constructed in 1916, and was the last board track built before the United States entered Worl d War I. Additional board tracks did not appear until the early 1920s.31 By 1915 Chicago had its first superspeedway. A 315-acre weeded pa rcel of vacant land near nine transportation lines and a ten-minute automobile driv e from Chicagos business center served as the site for the two-mile wooden sp eedway. Because the track was not quite close enough to a railroad, horse-draw n buggies brought building supp lies to the construction site, where fourteen million feet of two-by-four-inch boards were assembled in forty-seven days. The track was 60 feet wide on the front stretch and 50 feet wide on the back stretch straightaway, but 70 feet wide in the turns, which fostered safe r passing and more side-by-side action on the corners. Designers conceptualized this configuration to secure a speedway that will be safe and 30 Tacoma Speedway Nears Completion, The Automobile, 6 May 1915, 828; Stutz and Maxwell Star at Tacoma, The Automobile, 9 July 1914, 70-71; Mercer Dual Winner at Tacoma, The Automobile, 8 July 1915, 57-58. W. Scott Prudham, Knock on Wood: Nature as Commodity in Douglas Fir Country (New York, Routledge, 2005). 31 Maxwell Averages 91.74 at Omaha, The Automobile, 8 July 1915, 58-59; Maxwell Car Wins First in Omaha Event, Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 July 1915; Full Season for Des Moines, The Automobile, 16 March 1916, 516; Racetrack Planned for Omaha, The Automobile, 5 November 1911, 868; Cincinn ati Gets Auto Speedway, Ready Next Fall, Chicago Daily Tribune, 10 April 1915; -Mile Speedway for Cincinnati, The Automobile, 13 January 1916 109; 36 Cars Entered for Cincinnati, The Automobile, 31 August 1916, 377; Russ Lewellen, Uniontowns Wooden Racetrack Thrilled Fans and Drivers, Pennsylvania Magazine, 20 (February 1997): 32-34.
42 at the same time produce interesting competition.32 Part of a sports complex, the speedway was adjacent to a polo field and had a golf course in the infield.33 The boards were assembled in a similar manne r as bowling alleys and gymnasiums but had a relative short life because the wood was left untreated. For example, the Omaha track survived a little over two years; because of its poor construction, holes in the 1.25-mile track had to be filled with cement and asphalt. Maintenance was costly, especially in snow-prone areas such as Omaha, Chicago, and Des Moines, cities known for hard winters. Board tracks were short-lived in the Los Angeles area, t oo, but for a different reason. Commercial and resi dential sprawl began engulfing speedways in the Golden State before World War I.34 Although the boards became the surface of choice for championship racing, concrete edged into the scene. Concrete offered durability, and un like the short life span of board track racing as a whole, remains today. The first great concrete racetrack, the two-mile, high-banked, Twin City Speedway was built in 1915 on 342 acres south of Minneapolis and located between the suburban communities of Ft. Snelling and Minnehaha in close proximity of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. This stateof-the-art superspeedway had a seating capacity of over 70,000, 32 The track was in the Maywood section of Chi cago. A 2-Mile Board Speedway for Chicago, The Automobile, 17 December 1914, 1137. 33 None of the sources investigated mentioned the type of lumber used in track construction. A 2-Mile Board Speedway for Chicago, The Automobile, 17 December 1914, 1137; Reed L. Pa rker, New Speedway is a Marvel Says Carlson, Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 June 1915; Wiehe Builds Speedway in Spite of Woes, Chicago Daily Tribune, 26 June 1915; -M ile Race for Chicago, The Automobile, 8 March 1917, 500. Chevrolet Victor in Chicago Derby, Automotive Industries, 27 June 1918, 1288. 34 Borgeson, Golden Age of the Am erican Racing Car ; Maxwell Averages 91.74 at Omaha, The Automobile, 8 July 1915, 58-59; Maxwell Car Wins First in Omaha Event, Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 July 1915, 14; Full Season for Des Moines, The Automobile, 16 March 1916, 516.
43 was close to railroad lines, and located alongs ide four main highways that linked the Twin Cities.35 To ensure its completion before the firs t scheduled race in the late summer of 1915, constructors built the Twin City Speedway surface in haste, leaving a bumpy and unsafe surface. The massive track cost more than estimated, a nd investors quickly lost money. Nevertheless, 40,000 spectators attended the inaugural event, a 500-mile test of endurance, on a sunny afternoon on September 4. The tracks rough su rface contributed to lower speeds, poor racing, and more wear-and-tear on the cars than boards or dirt caused. Only six out of the starting twenty-five vehicles co mpleted the full 250 laps.36 The following year the Twin City Speedway co ntinued to lose money after a disastrous and poorly promoted event that spring generate d poor gate receipts, wh ich failed to meet the funds of the promised purse. The first of many speedway causalities in the Twin Cities throughout the century, the speedway went into r eceivership in June 1916. Any hope of bringing racing back to the concrete oval was ended by metr opolitan growth, a tale of future tracks around the country. The Twin City Motor Speedways location between Minneapolis and St. Paul proved to be too valuable, and a few years la ter the site was converted into the citys international airport. The failure of Twin City also somewhat indicated an American preference for dirt and board surfaces. T hus, despite the popularity of th e Brickyard, wood that became the 35 -Mile Saucer for Twin City Races, The Automobile, 5 November 1914, 869; Two Speedways Promised for St. Paul, The Automobile, 15 April 1915; Twin-City Speedway Under Way, The Automobile, 6 May 1915, 828, New Minneapolis Speedway to be Finest in Country, Fargo Forum, 29 June 1915; Americas First Concrete Speedway, The Automobile, 2 September 1915, 434. 36 Stutz Wins First and Second Places at Twin Cities, The Automobile, 9 September 1915, 455-456.
44 preferred surface for speedway developers, and th e board tracks, with their fantastic speeds and massive grandstands, became the big draws.37 With the major exception of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, all of the purpose-built wooden and concrete superspeedways erected in between 1909 and 1917 were gone by the early 1920s. Smaller dirt facilities, on the other hand, had a great deal more staying power. They were cheaper to construct, easier to maintain, and better suited for climate change. Unlike the superspeedways, the majority of dirt facilities existed far en ough in the American hinterlands that sprawl was a non-factor. As supersp eedways cropped up throughout America, many areas still thrived with dirt track racing on fairground facilities. Professional auto racing was the biggest draw at some of Americas largest fairs, but despite the sports growing popularity in the 1910s, fair operators had an increasingly diffi cult time landing AAA-sanctioned races for their dirt tracks. The AAA tended to shun dirt, except for a few mile-long-ovals, mainly in the Midwest (Columbus, Ohio; Sioux City, Iowa; and Ga lesburg, Illinois) or on the West Coast in Los Angeles. The AAAs selectiven ess threatened to stunt big-tim e motorsports on that type of racing surface, especially in smaller markets that could not afford the high sanctioning fees. In addition, the AAA Contest Board pref erred hosting races at Indian apolis Motor Speedway, board or concrete tracks, and street ci rcuits, and rarely staged races at short (half-mile) horse tracks, which could not accommodate the massive cr owds commonplace at the major speedways.38 37 De Palma Wins Twin City 150-Mile Race, The Automobile, 6 July 1916, 1, 42; 000 See Races at Twin Cities, The Automobile, 1 June 1916, 998. 38 The Sioux City track was located in South Dakota. Ric kenbacher Wins 300-Mile Race at 78.6 Miles Per Hour, The Automobile, 9 July 1914, 66-67; Wishart Creates New Records At Columbus, Horseless Age, 28 August 1912, 301; Burman Wins Match Race, Motor Age, 8 April 1915, 14; Records Broken at Galesburg Dirt Track, The Automobile, 29 October 1914, 824; Boiling Oil Pe trifies Track for Sioux City Races, The Automobile, 2 July 1914, 26; Hawkeye Track in Poor Shape for Race Today, Chicago Daily Tribune, 3 July 1915; Sioux City Track
45 The AAA also enforced strict fencing and gua rdrail specifications for horse tracks and demanded that dirt track operators use oil or other non-equine friendly chemicals to alleviate dust. Calcium Chloride became the track treatm ent of choice but had th e potential to blind a driver or spectator. For example, in a 1914 AAA-sanctioned dirt track race in Brighton Beach, New York, 1909 AAA champion Ralph DePalma nearly lost his sight when calcium chloride got under his goggles. As the first supersp eedway boom peaked by 1915, the AAA abandoned sanctioning motor contests on dirt tracks shorter than one mile. Very few fairground facilities offered tracks larger than a half-mile, forcing many fair operators to c hoose between the cars or the thoroughbreds.39 Most of the races held on the board and concrete speedways were between professional drivers and AAA-sanctioned, but many fair races drew local competitors and/or outlaws who barnstormed the country. The term outlaw goes back to the beginning of auto racing. They were drivers who raced without sanctioning-body affilia tion. As the sport grew, and as the AAA assumed greater control of American auto racing, many drivers a nd promoters reacted by organizing their own non-sanctioned races. Some races, especially those at state and c ounty fair events, were not really races, but staged events. This practice of hippodroming grew in the mid-1910s, as longtime AAA official Fred Wagner explained: [Barney] Oldfield was about the first to st art the hippodrome or ci rcus style of racing that is the sport which is s carcely real racing, although it ma y be spectacular. Of course at meets run by Oldfields manager, Ba rney always would have to be the star, and Hard on Cars, The Automobile, 8 July 1915, 56; Coopers Stutz Wins Ascot Race, The Automobile, 8 March 1917, 500. 39 914 A Good Contest Year, The Automobile, 24 December 1914, 1147, 1183.
46 of course, he would drive the fast est car in the stable. At close finishes Barney was an artist, often managing to win by less than the width of a tire.40 Although auto racing spread across the count ry in the early 1900s, most American fairgoers had never seen professional racers or a bona-fide racing superstar. That changed when in 1907 Oldfield went on a historic barnstormi ng tour. The cigar-chomping daredevil appeared at fairs all across the country w ith his car, the Peerless Green Dr agon, and took part in exhibition races with his staged competitor, Bruno Seibel. They intentionally raced close and tight, with Oldfield always defeating Seibels Red Devil at the end (unless Oldfield had car trouble). Oldfields tour was important because it indicate d auto racings potential as an exhibition as opposed to a competitive sport, and it was appa rently the first time true racecars (built exclusively for the speedway) appeared in many American cities and towns. This spectacle appeal would become a major factor in the developing popularity of American auto racing.41 Close, fast races with neck-to-neck fini shes generated great crowds. But, the AAA frowned upon phony racing. The Contest Boards f ears were real, because showmanship not sport became a major part of racing. The AAA saw hippodrome races not only as a nuisance but also as a threat to the legitimacy of their events and prohibited any of its licensed drivers from racing outside of the association, fining or suspending those who did.42 40 Fred Wagner, Automobile Racing in America, Colliers, 11 January 1913 suppl., 40. 41 Peerless was a Cleveland, Ohio-based automobile manufact urer in existence until the mid-1930s, and appeared in a limited number of major American auto racing events. Green Dragon and Red Devil Here, Fargo Forum, 24 July 1907; Worlds Records Will Be Smashed, Fargo Forum, 25 July 1907; Peerless Pilot Awaits Signal, Fargo Forum, 26 July 1907; Auto Racing to Be Big Feature, Fargo Forum, 27 July 1907; Oldfield Lowers Worlds Record, Fargo Forum, 30 July 1907, 8. A rather vague and light-hearted account of Oldfield, is William F. Nolan, Barney Oldfield: The Life and Times of Americas Legendary Speed King (New York: Putnam, 1961). 42 Since the first race, there has always been a degree of sh ow business to motorsports. The question of whether the fans are provided a good show and getting their moneys worth was more prevalent in auto racing than in other sports.
47 The year 1915 became a most important year in American auto racing development. Because the AAA mostly abandoned fairground racing, members of the American Association of Fairs and Expositions founded the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) in Chicago, Illinois, on March 29 of that year. People associated with the fairs realized the profit potential of racing and determined they could better serve their interests by creating their own independent racing series. The IMCA only sanctione d dirt track racing at fair faci lities. Fair leaders from the Midwestern states of Minneso ta, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Michigan spearheaded the endeavor.43 Gaylord White, long-time IMCA promoter, reflected: Legend, still current among IMCA oldtimers, cr edits officials of the Minnesota State Fair with leading the fight. The result of what was considered an ex cessively stiff AAA levy against that event. Complain ts that AAA officials were clu ttering the fairground tracks, at big salary and expense to the fa irs, added fuel to the flame.44 It is imperative to point out that altho ugh countless IMCA races were hippodromed, the formation of the IMCA indicated that the spor t of auto racing had grown too popular nationally to be encompassed by only one organization. Competitors who raced in the inaugural IMCA campaign in 1915, such as Louis Disbrow, Johnny Raimey, and Eddie Hearne (all of whom competed at one time in the AAA), were professi onal drivers whose racecar s were similar to the ones that appeared in AAA-sanctioned races. Unlike the AAA championship events, the IMCA sanctioned short, sprint races. The AAA sche dules contained speedway and street events ranging from 100 to 500 miles sometimes between 20 to 30 racecars, but IMCA events were less 43 Keith Knaack ed., IMCA Records Volume 1 (Cedar Rapids, IA: Crest Microfil m Inc., 1985); Fair Directors Quit National Auto Race Body, The Chicago Daily Tribune, 30 March 1915; Brian Pratt, Fairground Dirt: The International Motor Contest Association in Cana da (Unpublished, in possession of author). 44 Gaylord White, IMCA, Speed Age, July 1953, 8.
48 than 50 miles long and almost always on half-mile converted horse tracks with usually no more than eight cars on the track at the same time.45 As a result of the IMCAs formation, professional drivers and stat e-of-the-art racecars found new outlets. The IMCA granted sanctions to fairs all across the country, in places such as Sedalia, Missouri; Peoria, Illinois; and Hibbing, Minnesota. Many fairs guaranteed auto races, fixed or not, at least once a year. With the es tablishment of the IMCA, Huron, South Dakota; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Missoula, Montana; and other smallto medium-sized cities scattered throughout America introduced professional au to racing to the masses. 46 Dirt-track racing planted deep roots in the middle of the country, and many locales in which the IMCA first held auto races in 1915 rema in as some of Americas most successful dirt track auto racing markets. Over time, the new organization provided mo re drivers with more opportunities to race, and the IMCA catered to drivers who were uninter ested (or lacked the required funding and racecar tec hnology) to compete on the AAA circuit. That entrenchment cannot be overemphasized, and no portion of the United States remained more committed to racing on dirt surfaces than the Heartland. Barn ey Oldfield, the agricultural fair, geography, and the formation of the IMCA contributed a regional preference for dirt track racing that has withstood the test of time. After the United States entered World War I, the Indianapolis 500 shut-down in 1917 and 1918, and although motorsports did not completely cease, races were less frequent. The AAA 45 Keith Knaack ed., IMCA Records Volume 1 (Cedar Rapids, IA: Crest Microfilm Inc., 1985); 46 Knaack, IMCA Records: Volume 1 Keith Knack, IMCA Records: Volume 7 (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Crest Microfilm, 1985). John Sawyer, The Ca rs Were Steel, the Men Were Stronger, Open Wheel, February 1983, 4851, 85-86; Don Radbruch, Hard-to-Get-T o Montana Hosted Several Early Races, National Speed Sport News, 25 October 2006, 14; De Palma Gets 50-Mile Record, The Automobile, 26 October 1916, 691.
49 maintained its place as the top American raci ng entity, and a few of the biggest IMCA names, such as Hearne and Tommy Milton, permanen tly switched over to the AAA to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and for the national championship (Milton won the Indianapolis 500 in 1921 and again in 1923). By this time, it was apparent that motorsports in Europe and the United states would develop in respective ways Unlike Europeans, Americans quickly became intolerant of the use of public roadways for automobile racing. The end of the Long Island, Savannah, and Santa Monica races represented a wi despread American attitude against racing on public roads. The demise of road racing opened the way for the growth of oval tracks, which survived after the end of Wo rld War Iwith championship cars racing predominately on the boards or bricks, and other types of cars on dirt.
50 CHAPTER 3 MINOR LEAGUES, FUEL, AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION, (1919-1944) Why do you want to break into the racing game? Eddie Skinner1 For the last four years the winning drivers in th e worlds racing classic at Indianapolis have used Ethyl gasoline. Unknown2 After World War I, well-financed national r acecar drivers shared speedways with homebuilt speed machines and local and regional ra cing heroes. The growth of all types of motorsports in the 1920s originated from an a bundance of inexpensive new autos, development of specialized racing component companies, a nationwide increase in di sposable income and recreational activities, the emergence of new sanc tioning bodies, and revitalized agricultural fair economies. During this period, American-born dr ivers and domestically constructed racecars dominated automobile racing in the United States. Americans embraced various types of motorsports, and regional distinctions continued to take shape. By the end of World War I, the internal-combustion engine had become an ever yday part of American lifemore cars meant more racing, and men and women converted dom estic automobiles into racecars with more efficiency. The distinction be tween pure racecars and stock cars intensified during this period, looking and performing less similarly. After the war concluded, and throughout the 1920s, American autom obile racing occurred almost exclusively on dirt or wood. The IMCA, sm aller entities, and gras sroots racers stuck to the dirt tracks; the AAA championship schedule dominated the boards, with two-thirds of all 1 Eddie Skinner, Breaking into Dirt Track Racing, Popular Mechanics April, 1934, 562. 2 Atlantic City Speedway Official Souvenir Program, 7 May 1927.
51 AAA-championship races taking place on wooden speedways from 1915 to 1931. The entire 1918 season took place solely on board tracks.3 Before the depression, championship board tr ack racing was the most glamorous, popular, expensive variety of American motorsports. A second superspeedway boom ensued shortly after the conclusion of World Wa r I, and, as in previous years, th e board tracks were stadium-like in design and tended to be located on the edge of cities usually in close proximity to railroads. The machines that raced on the boards were tr ue racecars, and many of the aerodynamic and mechanical modifications made to accommodate the steep boards were not suitable for highway use. Although this form of motorsport was exci ting, it was also deadly. The tracks became more dangerous as they deteriorated; the wooden sa ucers shredded during the races, and splinters became projectiles that pierced the drivers meag er protective gear. Board track racing has an interesting place when inserted in to a greater techno-historical context. These were short-lived, purpose-built facilitiesalmost futuristic in terms of technology and speed, but way behind the times in safety. Frankly, the board era cam e too soon, but as with home construction they reflected the widespread availability of a natural resource before its demise.4 After World War I, California, the Midwest, and eastern seaboard served as board track racings main hubs. In 1920, a new 1.25-m ile board track known as the Los Angeles Speedway went up in the small southern California enclave of Beverly Hills, and that same year, Fresno had a new board track. In 1921, further north of Oakland, a 1.25-mile track was built at 3 There was no Indianapolis 500 in 1917 or 1918. A.A.A. Control for Racing, Automotive Industries, 14 March 1918, 571; Racing Events More Popular, New York Times, 10 January 1926; The AAA did sanction other races on different surfaces (including dirt), but none of the dirt events during this period had championship status. 4 Speedway for Kansas City, Automotive Industries 9 March 1922, 593; Driver Sarles Killed, 9 Hurt, at Kansas City, Chicago Daily Tribune 18 September 1922; Race at Kans as City Won By Eddie Hearne, Automotive Industries, 5 July 1923; Tommy Milton Wins Kansas City Race, Automotive Industries, 21 September 1922, 591; Fourteen Cars Start Today in Kansas City Race, Chicago Daily Tribune 21 October 1923; Catlin, The Wooden Wonders.
52 Cotati, and another of the same length was construc ted at San Carlos, just outside of San Jose. Despite an ideal dry and mild climate and generally solid attendance, all of the board tracks in the state were short-lived. Hi storically, sprawl was the major environmental force that impeded auto racing in southern California. But the demand for motorsports persisted, and auto racing always seemed to find a new home in the Los A ngeles area. As soon as one track disappeared, a new one emerged. The same year the Beverly Hi lls track disappeared, a new Los Angeles track was erected in nearby Culver City. People we re hungry for racing, a nd, if there was enough capital and manpower to build a track in the 19 20s, it was built. Lumber was inexpensive to construct racing facilities that rarely lasted more than a few years, and depleting a forest raised few complaints.5 The AAA championship series spanned both coas ts. New Jersey was also a national auto racing hotbed, and home to two board tracks, Woodbridge and Atlantic City. The Atlantic City track was existed on the former site of the milita ry arsenal of Amatol on a tract of meadow land in the town of Hammonton within the south Jersey Pine Barrens. Environmentally, this sparsely populated part of New Jersey resembled the co astal Southeast, known for its flat terrain, evergreen trees, and coastal wetlands. Built al ongside the Pennsylvania Railroad, the 1.5-mile long, and 50-foot wide oval, had slightly banked 1,750-foot-long straightaways and 45-degreebanked turns. Constructed out of 16-foot-long tw o-by-fours, the Atlantic City Speedway seated approximately 50,000 spectators. With $500,000 of Bethlehem Steel Money, Charles Schwab and Dr. M. R. Ward financed the construction of the Atlantic City Speedway. Board tracks were an investment, and built for prof it with private or corporate money, unlike the fair tracks, 5 Harold Osmer, Los Angeles Speedway, Speedway Illustrated, April 2007, 86-87; Elliot Sets Mark in Cotati Contest, Automotive Industries, 10 August 1922, 300; Peter De Paolo, I Drove the Boards, Speed Age May 1952, 42-43, 66, 68-69; Hill Wins Fr esno Race in Miller Special Car, Automotive Industries, 5 October 1922, 688; Gene Banning, 0 Years Ago: 1924 was a Milestone in the Evolution of Auto Racing, Auto Racing Memories and Memorabilia, Spring 1984, 6-9.
53 essentially built with fair revenue and managed by elected or appointed state and county fair commissions. The Atlantic City board track served beyond the needs of the AAA championship division and hosted local races and a 30,000-mile Studebaker endurance run.6 After the final beach races at Galveston, Te xas (a state that more closely resembled Midwestern racing development) in 1914, AAA championship racing was non-existent in the South with two major exceptions. In Pineville, ju st outside of Charlotte, a board track hosted a series of championship and other races from 1924-1927; the other major southern board track was located in Miami, Florida.7 The Fulford-Miami Speedway was part of Indianapolis 500 and Miami Beach founder Carl G. Fishers south Florida development empire. A lone championship race took place on a Monday afternoonthe Wash ingtons Birthday holidayin February 1926 at the height of the cold season up North and the tourist season in Florida. The 1.25-mile track featured, at the time, some of the fastest ov al-track speeds ever re corded, and 20,000 spectators watched Peter DaPaolo capture the Carl Fisher Trophy, being the first to complete the 300 miles. The thriving city was a year-round playground an d home to a vibrant horse racing, polo, golf, and jai alai scene, and a state-of -the-art racetrack in south Florid a made a great deal of social, economical, and recreational sense. However, the tracklocated in present-day North Miami Beach, only a few miles from the Atlantic Oc eanmade little environmental sense as it happened. The famously destructive Miami Hurri cane of 1926 turned it back into timber that September. Because the track was likely built out of local, termite-resistant Caribbean pine, an 6 Herb Anastor, The A tlantic City Boards, Open Wheel, February 1987, 80-89; Atlantic City Plans $4,000,000 Speedway, Automotive Industries, 23 November 1925; Big Speedway for Jersey, New York Times, 27 January 1926; De Palma will Race on Speedway Track, New York Times, 18 April 1926; 3 Drivers Qualify for Auto Classic, New York Times, 29 April 1926; Robert L. Cusick, Hartz Wins First Race on Worlds Fastest Track, Automotive Industries, 6 May 1926, 762-763. 7 More Cities Show Desire to Construct Speedways, Automotive Industries, 30 November 1922, 1107; Charlotte Race Won By Milton, Automotive Industries 790; Earl Cooper Wins Ch arlotte Race, August 1926, Automotive Industries, 883; Race at Altoona Won by Murphy in Miller, Automotive Industries, 19 June 1924, 1357; Auto Races Attract 22,500, Washington Post, 20 September 1927; Hall, Before NASCAR.
54 ideal wood for board track construction, the wood, acco rding to local lore, that was salvaged was used to rebuild the city (some buildings apparent ly still have original racetrack wood in their structures).8 Miami was an omen. The rest of the woode n speedways were gone by the early 1930s. Board tracks did not survive beyond the depression, and some of the facilities were turned into firewood or building material. Part of their fate was attributed to the fact that the novelty wore off, and board track racing became less of a sp ectacle. Plus, the costs of repairing and maintaining the facilities became too great for in vestors as forest resources were disappearing and timber prices were increasing. Woodbridge New Jersey, hosted the last AAA championship board track race in 1931.9 As a whole, even without the support of the AAA championship division races, and despite the growth of AAA-sanctioned events on the boards and Indianapolis bricks the popularity of dirttrack racing accelerated after the war. Dirt track racing assume d its own identity throughout the country. In 1919, the Fargo Forum summed up the duality of th e post-World War I American motorsports scene: Speedway racing is having a formidable rival in 1919 in dirt track auto racing, which is fast becoming a popular sport over the country. The fact that cars built especially for dirt track racing can attend and compete at ten tim es as many races as on superspeedways is partially responsible for this.10 8 According to the New York Times, 30,000 witnessed the race. Miami Prepared to Entertain Vast Visiting Throngs, Washington Post, 27 December 1925; Speed Trials Delayed, Miami Herald, 20 February 1926; Drivers in 300-Mile Fulfor d Race will Qualify Today, Miami Herald, 17 February 1926; Howard S. Purser, Ralph Hepburn Clicks off 141 Miles an Hour, Miami Herald, 18 February 1926; Cooper, Milton Expected to set Fulford Lap Records, Miami Herald, 19 February 1926; Steve Hannagan, Cooper and MDonogh Favored in 300Mile Race, Miami Herald, 22 February 1926; De Paolo Triumphs, Sets Worlds Mark, New York Times, 23 February 1926. 9 Russ Catlin, The Wooden Wonders, Automobile Quarterly 4 (Spring 1971): 256-265. 10 $5,000 Offered in Purses for Auto Races in Fargo July 26, Fargo Forum, 26 May 1919.
55 State fair tracks such as Wisconsin (Milwa ukee), and Iowa (Des Moines), whose urban locations attracted many rural sp ectators, played a large role in this boom, but more significant, were the widespread local speedways and county fa ir facilities that nu rtured the dirt-track version of the sport. Rural America and sma ller locales such as Winchester, Indiana; Ord, Nebraska; and Grand Forks, North Dakota, assume d dirt track racings biggest popularity base after World War II.11 Like other forms of fairground entertainment, such as the circus and the rodeo, auto racing provided a major source of fair revenue, and almost every county, especially in rural America, had a fairground. Since its incepti on in 1915, the IMCA carved a niche in the Heartland, and by the 1920s, firmly established itself as a regi onal organization that contested races mostly in Midwest and Great Plains, but also in other parts of the United States and Canada. At the same time, the grassroots growth of racing led to the emergence of minor-league entities, which provided drivers and spectators wi th regional and locally organized racing. One notable regional entity, established in the 1920s, was the Dayton, Ohio-based, Central States Racing Association (CSRA). Auto racing outpa ced existing entities, and new organizations formed. Smaller markets develope d self-sustaining, dirt-track au to racing scenes and no longer depended on national entities such as the AAA, and IMCA, to bring motorsports to their respective communities.12 11 For example, Don Radbruch, Well Known for Mo torcycles, Sturgis Once Hosted Auto Races, National Speed Sport News, 3 May 2006, 14; Bob Wilson, Origins of the Ma rion County Fairgrounds: Knoxville Raceway, Vintage Oval Racing, August 2005; Terry Reed, Indiana Gothic: Fr ank Funks Winchester Speedway, Part I, Open Wheel, June 1993, 67-76. 12 A primary account by a man who raced throughout the Midwest in the 1920s is John B. Gerber, Outlaw Sprint Car Racer (Marshall, Ind.: Witness Productions, 1997). Mary Lou LeCompte, Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993); Stars of Dirt Track Compete in Races Today, Chicago Daily Tribune 21 October 1923; Don Radbruch, Dirt Track Auto Racing: A Pictorial History, 1919-1941 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004); Fox, The Illustrated History of Sprint Car Racing: Vol. 1, 1896-1942
56 Dirt-track racing, before World War II, was not limited to the Heartland. Dirt was the major racing surface throughout most of Ameri ca, and many people had never witnessed a race on any other type of surface. Although Califor nia was known for its earl y history of streetcircuit events and seven board tracks, dirt-track racing on ovals was immensely popular in the Golden State. In 1924, auto racing began at Le gion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles, and the importance of this dirt speedway in the develo pment of motorsports in the American West cannot be exaggerated. The trac k, among the first to feature ni ght racing, was an American racing hub during the winter, and Legion Ascot deve loped many of the western drivers that later became successful at Indianapolis.13 After World War I, the majority of motorsports technological and cultur al innovation originated from Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Howe ver, a major engineering development, with most expansive long-term global consequences, began in 1921 at General Motors Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, when a team of sc ientists, headed by Thomas Midgley, discovered that the addition of a small amount tetraethyl lead to gasoline reduced engine knock. According to one mechanic, engine knock also called spar k knock or detonation, occurs in the combustion chamber when an unburned air/fuel mixture is ignited a second time, not the by the spark plug, but by pressure and heat in the cylinder. This usually happens because of improper engine timing or incorrect fuel [low octane] and can be a serious problem resulting in anything from poor engine performance and the characteristic "p inging" sound under moderate acceleration, to 13 Legion Track Plans Night Auto Events, Los Angeles Times, 7 July 1930; Harold Osmer, Where They Raced: Auto Racing Venues in Los Angeles, 1900-1990 (Chatsworth, CA.: by the author, 1996); John Lucero, Legion Ascot Speedway (Huntington Beach, CA.: Orecue, 2002).
57 severe engine damage.14 Lead provided the magic bullet in the reduction of knock. In 1924, General Motors and Standard Oil of New Jersey formed the Ethyl Corporation to market the fluid.15 Although knock had been an issue in the ea rly gasoline-powered, internal combustion engines, it presented an even larger probl em as designers built more powerful, highercompression engines, which required higher oc tane to operate smoothly. In no place were engines more powerful and so consistently unde r strain than at the racetrack. Evidently, tetraethyl lead made its first major racetrack ap pearance in a racecar at the 1923 Indianapolis 500, the car of the winning driver, Tommy Milton. Apparently, racers used lead throughout the season, and according to Midgley, the substance provided both more octane and essential lubrication required in high-comp ression racing engines. As was always the case in American automobile racing, the engine was the most e xpensive component, and saving an engine could result in the saving of millions of dollars.16 While the performance aspects of lead were showcased on the racetrack, in 1924-25, lead exposure caused severe illnesses and violent deat hs at Standard Oil and DuPont plants in Elizabeth and Deepwater, New Jersey, respectiv ely. About forty workers became sick and two died at the General Motors La boratory in Dayton. The media picked up on these tragedies, generating a public scare, and many state and municipal governments banned the use of 14 Email correspondence with Mark Cole, 8 January 2009. 15 New $5,000,000 Gasoline Concern, New York Times, 24 August 1924; du Pont Corporation (a major shareholder in General Motors as we ll as a producer of tetraethyl lead) was also involved in this venture. 16 There is little scholarly literature on the connection between lead and motorsports. One notable exception appeared over eighty years since Miltons win. Joseph ONeil, Gregory Steele, C. Scott McNair, Matthew M. Matusiak, and Jyl Madlem, Blood Lead Levels in NASCAR Nextel Cup teams, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene ( February 2006): 67-71; Borgeson, The Golden Age of the American Racing Car, 208-210; Tom Ceretto, Unlikely Hero, Indy Car & Championship Racing, November 1998, 78; Taylor, Indy; Reed, Indy 20.
58 tetraethyl lead. In 1925, Ethyl ceased production for American consumption, and at about that time, Surgeon General Hugh S. Cumming formed a seven-member committee of scientists and physicians to conduct a study to determine whether leaded fuel, was, in fact, a danger to the general public.17 There was a safe alternative. Since the first days of the automobile engineers had success using alcohol fuel. Ethyl (drink ing) alcohol (ethanol ) derived from corn or other agricultural sources provided higher octane. It was better suited for higher compression ratios, safer due to its lower-burning temperature, and it could be exti nguished with water. Moreover, alcohol fuels were cleaner-burning and reduced engine deposit s. Henry Ford was a long-time advocate of ethanol, and he designed the Model T with an adju stable carburetor to run on ethanol, gasoline, or a blend of the two fuels.18 The strong Progressive-era temperance movement in the United States was absent in Germany, Italy, and Brazil. These nations expe rimented with, and more widely promoted, alcohol-based fuels in commercial vehicles during the early days of the automobile. Once the federal government lifted a federal tax on denatu red alcohol beginning in 1907, the smaller, yet budding alcohol fuel industry failed to produce at the same capacity as the major oil companies, and before World War I, ethanol fuel remained much more expensive than petroleum. The domestic production of ethanol picked up signi ficantly for use in military machines during United States involvement in World War I, but Prohibition establis hed by the Eighteenth 17 Ethyl Gas Result of Long Research, Washington Post, 3 June 1923; Autoists Interest aroused by Ethyl Standard Gasoline, Washington Post, 6 April 1924; Bar Ethyl Gasoline as 5th Victim Dies, New York Times, 31 October 1924; Yandell Henderson, H ealth Hazards in Automobile Gas, New York Times, 3 March 1924; To End Sale Today of Leaded Gasoline, New York Times, 5 May 1925; Shift Ethyl Inquiry to Surgeon General, New York Times, 21 May 1925. 18 Alcohol as a Fuel for Motors, The Automobile, 15 June 1905, 719; Praises Alcohol As a Motor Fuel, New York Times, 24 May 1914.
59 Amendment ratified in 1919 and put into eff ect in 1920, stymied the promotion and production of alcohol fuels in the United States. Even in the early days of the automobile, politicians hesitated to support ethyl alcoho l because of its drinkability, and during Prohibition, the subject of legalized alcohol became a greater political taboo.19 Yet, from the beginning cost effectiveness plagued the alc ohol-as-fuel industry. In the early 1900s, oil was cheap and plentiful and widely available in American oilfields. 20 In addition to social and political hurdles economic and engineering drawbacks impeded the use of fuel ethanol in America. Ethanol ne eded to be denatured to prevent the fuel being produced for booze. Unlike gasoline, ethyl alc ohol presented an engine ignition problem in cold weather, but engineers remedied this problem with fuel additi ves or by adding a small alternate gasoline fuel tank to aid start-up. Thes e issues prevented a massive shift to ethanolpowered engines in the United States. Although ethanol faced an uphill road in the Un ited States, it had another viable potential beyond a fuel. Engineers discovered that they coul d use ethanol as a gasoline additive much like lead, to control knock and boost octane. Automobile s could operate with a percentage of ethanol (in between 10 and 15 percent) with out engine damage. Nevertheless, ethanol as an additive also had liabilities. For instance, critics argued that ethanols cleaner-burni ng properties could have negative side effects. Alcohols solvent action can loosen en gine deposits and create clogs within fuel lines, and unlike gasoline, (or more specifically lead-enriche d gasoline), it lacked lubrication properties; ethanols use over time could wear away engine components. Opponents of alcohol also stressed that although alcohol mixed easily with gasoline, miniscule amounts of 19 Tracey Makes Test Run, Washington Post, 1 January 1907, 8. 20 Alcohol as a Fuel for Motors, The Automobile, 15 June 1905, 719; Hal Bernton, The Godfather of Gasohol is Henry Ford! Washington Post, 5 August 1979; August W. Giebelhaus, Farming for Fuel, The Alcohol Motor Fuel Movement of the 1930s, Agricultural History 54 (January 1980): 173-184.
60 water will cause the two substances to break ap art (phase separation). They argued that the addition of alcohol, unlike lead, required the addition of a stabilizer or binder (a substance to prevent alcohol from separating with the petroleu m (sort of like oil and vinegar). This cost money and added an extra (third) step to the fu el blending process. Tetraethyl lead, meanwhile, was inexpensive and mixed easily with petroleu m; a few grams per gallon of gasoline provided better engine performance and gas mileage.21 The Ethyl Corporation and the petroleum indus try, aware that the addition of alcohol significantly reduced knock, stre ssed ethanols limitations and c onvinced the public and federal government that tetraethyl lead best reduced the problem. If ethanol replaced lead and the Ethyl Corporation dissolved, the petrol eum industry also had much to lose. A fuel blend containing ten-percent ethanol meant a tenpercent reductio n of gasoline consumption, and therefore, less profit. With leads technological benefits secure dfor the time beingthe industry now faced the task of proving its safety. The lead indus try mounted a well-execute d campaign to save its toxic technology, and as historians such as Chri stian Warren and Bill Kovarik have pointed out, orchestrated an elaborate campaign to debunk the health effects of expos ure to tetraethyl lead. Leads health hazards had been realized for centu ries, but the industry pers istently claimed that the amount of lead produced by automotive exhaus t was significantly lower than natural levels found in the human body. Corporat e representatives a nd industrial scientists acknowledged the hazards of the mishandling of lead in the production facilities but claimed th at worker negligence was to blame. The Ethyl Corporation, aided by occupational science at its disposal, dismissed 21 For instance see, Hal Bernton, William Kovarik, and Scott Sklar, The Forbidden Fuel: Power Alcohol in the Twentieth Century (New York: Boyd Griffin, 1982).
61 charges that the lead-borne auto motive exhaust posed a serious thre at to the public and stressed that the fuel diluted in gasoline tanks did not pose a health threat.22 As countless newspaper and other sources have pointed out, much of the scientific and academic community dismissed the lead industrys claims, despite pleas from prominent university scientists, including Yandell Henderson (Yale) and A lice Hamilton (Harvard), who publicly stated that lead in th e air would pose a public threat. Their concerns were widely circulated in the media and both spoke to the surgeon generals committee. 23 Henderson also stressed the danger of working on automobiles power ed by lead fuel in garages, and his ominous claims were echoed in a 1925 New York Times article: The public is not in great danger of the acu te poisoning which caused several deaths and many cases of insanity recently but the breathing day by day of fine lead dust from automobiles using the leaded gasoline will pr oduce chronic lead poisoning on a large scale in the populations of cities.24 The surgeon generals committee conducted only a very limited study and although noting the increased levels of lead in gasoline service station attendan ts, concluded, as Warren states in his comprehensive study, Brush with Death: A Comprehensive Study of Lead Poisoning in America, that the correlation between leaded gaso line and increased lead absorption was therefore not strong enough to warrant a prohibition of l ead production and distribution.25 Essentially, the committee took the industrial side of the matter and the lead stayed. As Warren mentions, through the 1960s, the lead industry em ployed arsenals of medical experts, academic 22 For an overview on the American lead industry see Warren Christian, Brush With Death: A Social History of Lead Poisoning (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univers ity Press, 2000). William Kovarik, Ethyl-Leaded Gasoline: How a Classic Occupational Disease Became an In ternational Public Health Disaster, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 11, no.4 (2005): 384-397. 23Warren, Brush with Death; Kovarik, Ethyl-Leaded Gasoline. 24 Sees Deadly Gas a Peril in Streets, New York Times, 22 April 1925. 25 Warren, Brush with Death, 127.
62 affiliations, and scientific know-how to convince any potential regulators that they better than anyone could protect the publics health.26 Economics and convenience outweighed performance and safety. Automotive technological innova tion often was first developed in motorsports and then passed down to the domestic auto industry (i. e. rear-view mirror, tire compounds). In leads case, the secret sauce was developed in auto industry-funded laboratories and once its octaneboosting properties were realize d, auto executives promoted the additive through motorsports. Thus, a major, but unheralded side of the tetraethy l lead saga was that motorsports, in at least some capacity, served to promote lead. Afte r tetraethyl lead quickly found its way into automobile racing, the growing sport certainly did its part to showcase the substances performance-boosting benefits. The transmission of tetraethyl lead from a Dayton laboratory to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was an example of reverse technology.27 This was ironic, because on the other hand, and at the same time, the racetrack served as an unutilized laboratory as far as fu el science was concerned; autom obile racing engines in Europe and the United States were ahead of the commerci al automobile industry in terms of testing and using forms of alcohol as effective anti-knock, performance-enhancing additives at the track. Motorsports was not as committed to gasoline, and doping fuel was standard. Racecar engines, in addition to ethanol, used other fuel so urces and additives such as benzol. As was the case in the laboratories, in raci ngs early days, engineers and inve ntors tinkered with mixtures to reduce the knock problem, and study of fuel additiv es developed into a science in motorsports. 26 Warren, Brush with Death, 116. 27 Consider Rule Changes for Indianapolis Race, Automotive Industries, 22 July 1933, 109; Gasoline to be Limited in Next 500 Mile Race, Automotive Industries, 2 September 1933, 291; Compression Ratio Up in Stock Cars, New York Times, 11 November 1936. Leon Durays racecar, whic h qualified third for the 1927 Indianapolis 500 was possibly powered by ethanol.
63 Racers and mechanics were amateur chemists la cking the tools and f acilities of a funded scientific laboratory, and once lead was available, it is likely that while race teams used the substance for both its anti-knock and lubricat ion qualities, mechanics and drivers also experimented with other anti-knock, performance-boosting additives (alcohol or otherwise).28 Because the engines of purpose-built champions hip racecars were quite different than the commercial automobile, and because speed secret s were kept under wraps, fuel performance tests for the benefit of competitive motorsports, transl ated little to domestic autos. Since the very first race, racers have always sought any type of an edge, whether as a fraction of a mile-perhour, longer-lasting engine protection, or a thous andth of a second quicker lap time, and as participants adopted the additive their racecar emissions spread leads toxic consequences. This technology had long-term ramificati ons. Although much of the airborne lead pollution stemmed from millions of American automobiles burning the substance on an everyday basis, drivers, mechanics, and spectators were likely and mostly unknowingly, exposed to ultra-high amounts of lead through their involvement in automobile racing.29 Ethanol never went away, and a brief synopsis of the fuels story in the 1920s and 30s is necessary here to set the stage for the fuels li nk with racing in the future. Primarily due to Prohibition and the widespread implementation of lead into the American automobile infrastructure, ethanol as both a primary fuel and gasoline additive remained out of the picture from 1920 through the early 1930s. However, un like the general American economy, which was robust in the 1920s, the agriculture sector struggle d in the 1920s. The production of alcohol fuel 28 Benzol or benzene is a crude petroleum by-product. Taylor, Indy ; A Substitute for Gasoline Described, New York Times, 5 October 1913; David Gregg, Superchargers Increase Power of Smaller Engine, Washington Post, 17 August 1924; Imports Own Fuel for Auto Classic, Washington Post, 7 May 1923. 29Concerning Motors and Motor Men, New York Times, 21 May 1933; Ethyl Gasoline in Britain, Wall Street Journal, 28 December 1927; Indianapo lis Race Fuel Allowance Cut, Automotive Industries, 18 August 1934, 185; Consider Rule Changes for Indianapolis Race.
64 was a potential means of profiting off the land. Once the Twenty-First amendment repealed Prohibition, ethanol production picked up significantly in the Midwest, and ethyl alcohol more commonly replaced lead as a performanceenhancing, octane booster in that region.30 In addition to agricultural econom ics, science also forged the rebirth of ethanol in the 1930s. Chemurgic science, devoted to the panacean idea that domestic agriculture could provide all of the needed resources for developing technology and industry, was popular during the 1930s. The chemurgy movements roots dated back to World War I; the United States and other nations dealt with petroleum-supply problems by finding additional uses fo r agriculture, and, as historian Randal Beeman notes, the industrial us e of crops and crop wast es crystallized as a concept during and after the so -called chemists war of 1914-1918, when the vulnerability of certain American supplies of raw materials became evident to i ndustrialists, polit icians, and the general public.31 In essence this was almost a pre-gr een consciousness. Beeman continues, another ideology of chemurgy was influenced by then-contemporary notions of conservation and ecology. After World War I, proponents of chemurgy challeng ed their test tube alchemy held out the chance for nationa l self-sufficiency in both common and rare raw materials.32 The development of a Midwestern-based et hanol industry to bri ng alcohol-enriched gasoline into the general marketpl ace in the late 1930s was both a visible yet disappointing result of the chemurgy movement. Sold under the brand name of Agrol, ethanol-enriched gasoline peaked in 1938 when it was sold at over 2,000 Midwestern service stat ions. However, this effort 30 Predicts Motor Fuel from Sawdust, New York Times, 25 February 1917; Jane Seaberry, Gasohol, Washington Post, 26 August 1979; Hal Bernton, William Kovarik, and Scott Sklar, The Forbidden Fuel: Power Alcohol in the Twentieth Century (New York: Boyd Griffin, 1982). 31 Randal Beeman, Chemivisions: The Forgotten Promises of the Chemurgy Movement, Agricultural History 68 (Autumn 1994), 23-45, quote on 25. 32 Beeman, Chemivisions, 35.
65 failed due to a lack of capital and, as was the case before World War I, petroleum remained much cheaper than ethanol in than ethanol. Moreover, monopolistic practices between the oil industrywhich charged wholesalers more for ra w petroleum if they ma rketed Agrolhurt the Kansas-based corporation. Then the onset of World War II and resulti ng stabilized petroleum and agricultural prices in the 1950s put ethanol (temporarily) back into remission as an American fuel source for commercial automobiles. 33 Perhaps of all the entities, the AAA-sanctioned championship division adapted best to the depression. For the 1931 season, the AAA and IM CA worked out an agreement to permit interchange, and drivers could race in both organizations without penalty. This was partially a response to the depression for it increased car coun ts in both entities. Many of the specialized racing companies went bankrupt by the early 1930s. AAA rulemakers mandated that championship racecars take a technological step backward to closer resembling a stock car. Commonly known as the junk formula, the new rules allowed major domestic American manufacturers back into champi onship racing. These mutants were a combination of Detroit body styles, Los Angeles speed, a nd Akron tire rubber and provided some of the most thrilling and closest finishes at Indianapolis Speedway.34 As the board era concluded, and the depr ession set in, the AAA greatly reduced its championship series schedule, and, with the majo r exception of Indianapolis, returned to dirt 33 David E. Wright, Alcohol Wrecks a Marriage: the Farm Chemurgic Movement and the USDA in the Alcohol Fuels Campaign in the Spring of 1933, Agricultural History 67 (Winter 1993): 36-66; Beeman, Chemvisions, 25. 34 Big cars were also called championship cars an d speedway cars during the 1930s. Taylor, Indy: 81; T.E. Myers, Pop Myers Disc usses the Illustrated Speedway News, February 1932, 23; Better Times Ahead for 1931, Illustrated Speedway News, February 1932, 23, 34; Indianapolis Expects Largest Entry List in History, May 30, Illustrated Speedway News, April 1932, 24.
66 facilities. That type of surface rema ined most popular throughout America. 35 As an Illustrated Speedway News editorial explained: Just what new developments there will be in 1932 with regard to new speedways, is extremely difficult to forecast, but one thi ng is certainthat us the amusement business has been the one to suffer the least in this ta uted [sic] depression, and with the refection in the cost of materials, availability of more and better racing talent, a nd the present low cost of real estate, it isn t going to be long before someone realizes that a speedway can be made to operate as a paying proposition.36 Although few major speedways went under construc tion, the building of many short-lived dirt facilities accommodated motorspor ts in the depression. These tracks put people to work and provided a cheap source of amusement from the tedi ous stress of a country in depression. Plus, racetrack dirt was not only cheap or free, but inexpensive to maintain.37 During this period, the green flag first waved at famous Midwestern facilities, such as Belleville, (Kansas); and Knoxville, (Iowa). State fair auto racing in Minnesota, Illinois, and Missouri also became yearly institutions. During the 1930s, the establishment of AAAsanctioned regional circuits kept drivers near their homes; Midw estern racers stayed in the Heartland and western drivers stayed on the coas t. Few outlaws and championship drivers truly barnstormed the nation. Because it was expens ive and time-consuming to haul racecars and teams across the county, especially during the de pression, only the Indianapolis 500 brought the most talented (and best funded) drivers and team s from both coasts of the United States to the same track at the same time.38 35 There were only three championship races in 1938 and 39; Harry D. Riggins, Increase Noted in Fair Attendance; Hankinson Predicts Better 1932, Illustrated Speedway News, February 1932, 20; Three A, I.M.C.A. Agreement Terminated, Illustrated Speedway News, February 1932, 20; Skinner, Br eaking into Dirt Track Racing. 36 Ted Allen, Contest Board Secretary Says, Illustrated Speedway News, January 1932, 30. 37 Dirt Track Competition, Illustrated Speedway News, January 1932, 13. 38 Granville Buster Warke, interview by author, 23 A ugust 2007, Allentown, Pennsylvania, in possession of author. Russ Catlin, The Life of Ted Horn: American Racing Champion (Los Angeles: Floyd Clymer, 1949), 21-38; Radbruch, a History of Dirt Track Auto Racing.
67 In the 1930s, the AAAs stranglehold over American motorsports was more limited. This was, in part, because the IMCA and local pr omoters controlled most fairground racing, and nationwide, additional small entities and clubs c ontinued to form during the depression. This power struggle between the AAA, promoters, dr ivers, and other sanctioning bodies grew more strained over time (which was why the intercha nge program only lasted one season). The AAA Contest Board remained most selective in it s choice of legitimate venues, and, with the exception of Indianapolis, all championship ra ces from 1935 to 1942 occurred on dirt. Although just a few American markets were blessed with an AAA championship sanction, there was plenty of other motorsports, AAA, IMCA, CSRA, or otherwise. Upstart racers formed local groups or were encouraged by promoters to compet e with larger entities, such as the IMCA or CSRA, when those series staged races in their areas. Americas racing development became more complex durin g the depression, and although distinct regional preferences began to devel op, a growing differentiation of racecars and the development of new varieties of racing best char acterized the years leading up to World War II. As was the case in general American way-oflife, Depression-era motorsports was marked by survival, adaptation, and experimentation. In th e American household or on the American farm, the depression stimulated creativity, and innovative racecar drivers optimized whatever resources they had in the garage. Racecars became more specialized and distin guishable during the depression, and as open-wheel racing (commonly referred to as big cars or speedway car s during this period) sanctioned by groups such as the AAA, IMCA, and CSRA, subsisted during the 1930s, additional forms of motorsport gained prominence across the country. A re vitalized interest in stock car racing unfolded throughout America, and midget racing be gan in California and swept
68 eastward. In the 1930s, these forms of American motorsports gained popularity at agricultural exhibitions.39 In comparison with open-wheel racing, stock car racing was inexpensive and became a preferred form of racing for amateurs. Worki ng on a passenger car in the barn or garage on evenings and weekends after daily work and c hores were completed, or tinkering, played a major role in the growth of stoc k car racing nationwide during this ti me. It is important to point out that most stock car races af ter World War I were often unsanctioned and contested at fairs. Stock car races between local competitors sometimes supported AAA championship events or IMCA big car races. Well before Atlanta, Charlotte, or any part of the southern backwoods, Los Angeles was on the national stock-car racing stage. In 1934, there was a major 200-mile stock car race between AAA championship series and other western-based drivers at Mines Field. That April, Legion Ascot Speedway and the surrounding area hoste d a unique stock-car event that combined the five-eighths dirt oval with a street circuit mark ed out in the hilly outskirts of the city. Later that year, the stockers headed north and ran a 250-mile race on Oaklands one-mile dirt oval.40 On the other side of the United States, stock car racing became more popular in the Southeast in the late 1930s. In 1936, Daytona Beach hoste d an AAA-sanctioned stock car race, and the city officially made the transition from a speed-record center to a stock-car-racing hub. Because there was no major stock-car entity at th e time, open-wheel drivers dominated the field. The racetrack was part sand and part black-top, a nd the wide shoreline offered spectators fine 39 Usually the term speedway cars was reserved for AA A championship racing. The name big cars came about to distinguish these older racecars from the midge ts that came on the scene in the 1930s. 40 Spencer L. Riggs, Louie Meye r: Baron of the Brickyard, Automobile Quarterly 33 (July 1994): 71; Midget Auto Races Furnish Lots of Th rills at Loyola Dirt Track, Coast Racing News, 1 March 1934, 5; Ted Allen, Contest Board Secretary Says, Illustrated Speedway News, January 1932, 30. Meyer Wins Auto Race, New York Times, 7 May 1934; Don Radbruch, The Forgotten 500s, Open Wheel, January 1998, 62-67.
69 beachside views along the 3.2-mile course. Fr om a competition standpoi nt, the inaugural race was a mess and the race was cancelled at approxim ately the 200-mile mark. The straightaways did not pose a problem, but on the turns, the sand softened and stirred up to the point that cars got stuck and some had to be towed out of the sandtraps. For the time being, stock car racing on the beach did not work. In the following years, the sandy turns were covered with marlstone which helped fix the problem.41 The proliferation of stock car racing further accelerated interest in motorsports in the Southeast, although the previous success of open-cockp it (big car) events in cities such as Savannah, Charlotte, and Miami proved that early automobile racing populari ty in the South had little to do with the question of how stock the vehicles were. Shreveport, Louisiana, was an IMCA stronghold. The site of the state fair, this one-mile track se rved as a major big-car, dirt track racing venue in the Deep South for decad es. The 1930s were the heyday of open-wheel racing at southern state fairs in places such as Tampa, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; and Nashville, Tennessee. The spread of IMCA -sanctioned fair racing throughout the South mirrored the development of IMCA racing in the mid-1910s in the Midwest, in that for many Southerners, this was the first time they had the opportunity to see nationally known stars.42 Without question, stock car events were scattered across the country during the Depression. However, as this form of racing pi cked-up in popularity th roughout America, some parts of the South, especially the states of Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, 41 Websters dictionary defined marlstone as a rock that consists of a mixture of clay materials and calcium carbonate. White, Lost Racetracks, 25. 42 In 1936, the track was shortened to a half mile. Throughout racing history there never was a solid South. Three cotton states, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, em braced open-wheel racing, and better grouped with the Midwest instead of the Southeast and thes e preferences began to take shape in the 1930s. Randal L. Hall, Carnival of Speed: The Auto Racing Business in the Emerging South, 1930-1950, North Carolina Historical Review 84 no. 3 (2007): 245-275.
70 Alabama, and Florida, began to embrace this form of American motorsport in the years leading up to World War II. To be sure, clues explai ning the future success of NASCAR can be found in the late 1930s. Stock car racing in the South has deep fairground roots, and these roots spread after World War II. Although stock car racing wa s gaining a following in southern markets, by 1940, the three subdivisions of stoc k car racing (pure stock, modified s, and jalopies) all gained national popularity. The South east lagged the rest of the na tion in terms of professional competition during this time; that part of the country had the fewest superspeedways, and the AAA sanctioned a small number of races in the South. The South, however, did see a growing number of unsanctioned races. Many were of the stock-car variety, and impromptu contests sometimes took place not on formal racetracks, but on farms and pastures.43 During the 1930s, stock car racing was common at fairs and so was midget racing. The first official race was on June 4, 1933, and the developm ent of midget racing increased grassroots participation in the sport during the depression. Initially developed in California, these small racecars rapidly spread eastwar d, finding suitable homes on fa irground tracks. Track lengths were often reduced to a quarteror fift h-mile to accommodate the tiny speedsters.44 Midget racing emerged almost simultaneously in the southern part of the state in Los Angeles and San Diego and in the center of California in Oakland and San Jose. Tracks in these two regions were constructed, or existing track s were shortened, to acco mmodate midget racing. Built in 1934, Gilmore Stadiumalso intended for footballbecame the Legion Ascot of midget racing, and the Los Angeles track became the western capital of that form of motorsport. 43 Hall, Carnival of Speed. 44 Fox, The Mighty Midgets.
71 Part of the reason auto racing thrived in California during th e depression was because it was home of the motion picture indus try. Without a doubt, racecars have always found a home in Hollywood circles.45 The eastward spread of midget racing was sw ift. The first races in the Midwest and Northeast were held in 1934 in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and Irvington, New Jersey, respectively. The first Wisconsin race took place on a converted dog-racing track and the Irvington race was held in the middle of an amusement park. This form of motorsport reflected the depression in that places assumed multiple uses and midge t racing found a home at several American amusement parks and dog tracks. Amusement Park s also hosted Lakeside Speedway in Denver, Colorado, and Mahoning Valley Speedway in Pennsyl vania. Seattles Playland Park was a dog track converted for midget use.46 Indoor races started in 1935, and winter races became common. Because the tracks were so short, little portable lighting was needed, a nd midget auto racing beca me predominately an evening sport. Urban stadiums and arenas were converted into auto racing venues to facilitate auto racing in the city. A temporary, quarte r-mile, 30-degree-banked board track occupied Chicagos Soldier Field in 1939, and midgets r aced at New Yorks Polo Grounds and the Los Angeles Coliseum. Indoor arenas, such as the Boston Garden, also accommodated racing.47 The depression indirectly kicked off a ne w motorsports boom. Some tracks such as Hershey Park (Pennsylvania) and the Akron R ubber Bowl (Ohio) were built as part of New Deal-era Works Progress Administ ration (WPA) projects. Midget ticket prices were low, and 45 Midget Auto Races Furnish Lots of Thrills at Loyola Dirt Track, Coast Racing News, 1 March 1934, 5. 46 James Liska, The Badger Midget Auto Racing Association, Open Wheel, August 1982, 68-71, 83. 47 Walt Woestman, Birth of the Midgets, Speed Age, July 1947, 4-5, 27; Terry Reed, A 1939 Worlds Champion? Open Wheel October 1999, 28-30; Midgets Race on Soldiers Field Tonight, Chicago Daily Tribune, 18 June 1939; Edward Prell, Mile a Minute Clip Gives Hanks Midget Feature, Chicago Daily Tribune, 19 June 1939.
72 races were just as cheap as, or cheaper to attend, than movies. Not only were the midget racecars more affordable and safer (slower) than the big cars, but races could now take place almost anywhere at anytime. Chris Economaki, editor of National Speed Sport News since 1950, covered racing on ABC television from 1960 t o1980 and was a correspondent on CBS from 1980 through the early 1990s. Economaki grew up in the middle of the booming New Jersey midget scene during the 1930s. He comments: Up until the time the midget racecar appeared, an auto race was held at a track, half-mile or larger, out someplace. That involved the man of the house having to get permission from his wife, or take the family; planning and so forth. Then when the midget cars came, all they needed was a quarter-mile track. So every sports aren a, athletic field, high school football field, et cetera, had the pot ential for becoming a midget racetrack, and many did. What the midget racing movement did, which benefited all other racing, it brought racing to the people. The people had to go find the races before. Now, a man could go to work, come home on Friday, ha ve dinner at home, go downtown and watch the midgets and come back at home at a reasonable hour, and that was a tremendous boom for the sport.48 Promoters brought midget racing to the fans, and spectators no longer had to travel to the yearly fair nor wait for the weekend to watch au tomobile races. Midget racing often took place on weeknights. The midgets also brought American motorsports back into an urban setting until the 1960s, when the midgets gradually joined ot her types of motorsports in the countryside.49 During the depression, two other forms of motorsport grew in a regional sense. Sports car or road racing developed in the Nort heast, and drag racing developed in California. Since the last major championship street-circuit events of the 1910s, European influence on American motorsports waned, and America followed a distin ct oval-track racing development. Because of 48 Chris Economaki, interview by author, 22 August 2007, Midland Park, New Jersey, in possession of author. 49 Fox, The Illustrated History of Sprint Car Racing 59-60. Dustin W. Frazer, T he Roar of the Mighty Midgets, Part I, Stock Car Racing, October 1969, 16-17; Chris Economaki, New York Citys Missing Tracks, National Speed Sport News, 30 August 2006, 4; White, Lost Racetracks, 23; Don Radbruch, Playl and-Aurora Speedway, copy, in authors possession.
73 the popularity of oval racing, and a lack of perm anent, closed-circuit, European-style, road courses after World War I and through the 1920s, that variety of racing was limited in this country. In the early 1930s, s ports car racing was rejuvenated in America by a group of New York-based gentlemen, who, in 1933, formed the American Racing Car A ssociation (ARCA) as an amateur club. The European connection re turned somewhat, and the Northeast and MidAtlantic states, more than any other part of America, developed a road racing following. Because Grand Prix-style racing disappeared fr om the AAA circuit afte r World War I, road racings growth in the late 1930s brought America back in cont act with European drivers and Italian, French, German, and English sports cars.50 Adding to the growing interest of sports car racing during the depression was a revitalization generated through the Vanderbilt Cups held on L ong Island in 1936 and 1937. For the time being, races were again held on public ru ral roads, and most of the races took place in New England and the Middle Atla ntic statesregions most closely connected to European sporting interestsbut a couple t ook place as far away as Memphi s, Tennessee. The Vanderbilt Cup occurred on private property; th e 16-turn-course was unique in the fact that spectators could view the entire race from their vantage point, th us eliminating one the major spectator drawbacks of non-oval competition. This type of racing also had aesthetic appealmost of the courses carved through the picturesque New England countryside. The race s were more about gentlemanly bragging rights, and the taking in of scenery, than intense competition.51 50 In the 1930s, road racing became somewhat synonymous with sports car racing. Howard Harrison, Americas First Sports Car Race, Speed Age, November 1957, 32-33, 71; Santa Monica Wants Grand Prix and Vanderbilt, The Automobile, 17 February 1916, 344. The Automobile Racing Club of Amer ica Official Program, Briarcliff, N. Y. 23 June 1935; Jeff Allison, The Automobile Racing Club of America, Vintage Motorsport, March/April 1992, 448. 51 A. E. Kessler, N oted Race Revived, New York Times, 11 October 1936; ARCA Annual, 1939, 3, 17.
74 In a similar vein as the Ormond/Daytona Beach c ontests earlier in the century, the popularity of point-A-to-point-B racing escalat ed during the 1930s. Daytona remained the American hub of official land-speed record attempts thr oughout the 1920s and 30s. However, the northeast Florida beach, once considered the fastest surf ace and most ideal venue available for high speeds, was no match for the environmental and ecological benefits presented by the Bonneville Salt Flats in the northwestern Utah desert, where racing began in the 1910s.52 At one time a prehistoric lake, the salt granul es at Bonneville provide d the fastest and one of the flattest spots on the planet. (Racers have reported being able to see the curve of the earth on the horizon!) The salts could be deceptive mud sometimes oozed up in sections creating possible hazardsstill the surface was safer than sand or pavement, especially if a car lost control. The occasional desert rains constantly replenished the 15-mile straightaway with a surface of smooth granules. Despite the efforts of local boosters to stop them, speed demons, preferring a smoother surface and more space, left Florida for Utah, and land-speed racing permanently relocated to the West.53 In February 1935, Sir Malcolm Campbell set a la nd-speed record at Daytona in his Blue Bird of 276.82 miles-per-hour. In September, later that year in Utah, he set an unofficial speed of 301.13 miles-per-hour with the same car. Campbe ll, by moving his world-record attempts to Utah, marked the end of one era a nd the beginning of another. The Blue Bird likely underwent 52 George Eyston and W. F. Bradley, Speed on Salt: A History of the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, U. S. A. (London: Batsford, 1936; Frank L. Huffaker, Daytona Beach: Sp eed Center of the Universe, Illustrated Speedway News, February 1932, 10; Post, High Performance. 53 Safer on the Salt, Hot Rod, May 1950, 9-10; John Bartlett and Mark Rene, More Speed on Salt! Speed Age, December 1950, 26-7. Utah Salt Flats: Once Explorers Death Trap, Illustrated Speedway News, 9 November 1954, 8; Gordon White, interview by author, Deltaville, Virginia, 1 November 2007, in authors possession.
75 technical changes during the period in between records, but the salts proved that the hard and fast Daytona sand was not as ideal.54 Although straight-line racing reta ined its appeal as a race fo r top speeds against the clock, hot rodding gained greater popularity when it was f eatured as a duel or d rag race. The headto-head and standing-start features added additi onal driving skill to straightaway racing because reaction time became critical. California took th e lead in the type of motorsport that became known as drag racing. This variety of autosport slowly became more organized at the regional level. The largest organization for the stra ight-liners was the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA); the Russetta Timing A ssociation (RTA) was a smaller entity.55 Southern California was a booming metropo lis with a budding car culture, and the availability of dry lake beds to the east of Los Angeles allowed for the pre-World War II development of legal drag raci ng. When they were not racing on the streets, this was where speed seekers from Los Angeles and Southern California legally tested their tinkered automobiles. On the Bonneville Salt Flats and California Dry Lakes nature, not tourism, amenities, and spectator appeal, nurtur ed a particular type of motorsport.56 As these opening chapters have shown, the state of California, even more than the heavily populated Northeast, played the lead in many regional and national developments in American sports, even as speedway closures were common. The first American speedways to be bulldozed tended to be those located in the Los Angeles ar ea. Californias enviro-motorsports connection 54 The early dragsters were often called road sters during this era, not to be confused with a different type of roadster racing which became popular after World War II. 55 David Freiburger, Wally, Hot Rod, February 2008, 56-64; Moorhouse, Driving Ambitions; Post, High Performance. 56 Muroc Dry Lake Races Give Cars Chance for Speed, Automotive Industries, 1 March 1934, 2; DeSoto Sets 32 A.A.A. Records on Muroc Lake, Automotive Industries, 21 July 1934, 64; Moorhouse, Driving Ambitions.
76 in the 1920s and 30s foreshadowed the future of American auto racing. Although movie stars and racecars have always mixed well, in the long er-term, the motion picture industry still had an adverse effect on Los Angles tracks. Take the Los Angeles Speedway mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. It was built in Beverly Hillsa tiny neighborhood with a 1920 population of 674. The land changed hands only four years later, reportedly at ten times the value, and the wooden speedway was dismantled af ter its final race in February 1924. By 1930, the small city had a population of nearly 17,000 pe rmanent residents, many fanning out from Los Angeless movie studios. Legion Ascot dr ew crowds of over 10,000 in the 1930s, but by 1936, real estate became too valuable and the legendary facility held its last race. The track succumbed to sprawl, and because of continuing noise complaints, the surrounding community pushed not for the preservation of the track, but for the demolition of the facility. Once used for stock car and championship car racing, Mines Field went from tiny dirt r unways in the late 1920s to eventually become Los Angele s International Airport in 1949. By 1937, only two tracks, Gilmore and Atlantic, remained in the city. Indeed, Californias pre-World War II auto racing development in the 1930s provided environmental foreshadowing.57 Since the turn of the century, if tracks wound up too close to development they were simply built somewhere else nearby. In the early days of motorsport there was little environmental or ecological concern when it came to building of a r acetrack. Americas lust for motorsport either adapted to or controlled the environment. Supe rspeedways were built cl ose to large cities, and fairground facilities were located near or within small to medium-sized cities. Midget races 57 Brock Yates, Hot Rod: Resurrection of a Legend (St Paul, Minn.: MBI, 2003), 39; Harold Osmer, Los Angeles Speedway, Speedway Illustrated, April 2007, 86-87; Plan to Legalize Bets on West Coast Racing, Illustrated Speedway News, April 1932, 21; New Race Mark Made for 12 Cu. In. Cars, Automotive Industries, 23 February 1923, 541; Catlin, The Life of Ted Horn.
77 brought motorsports back into an urban setting on existing facilities, such as amusement parks and football fields. Although the big boom in Amer ican suburbanization did not occur until after World War II, sprawl had an impact on motors ports since the earliest races. After 1945, the geographic picture of American mo torsports would be more sharply outlined by distinct regional developments, and how auto racing sustained, survived, and/or thrived remained, in countless cases, contingent on environmental factors.
78 CHAPTER 4 IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL RACE (1945-1955) Every little town had a racetrack back then. Gordon Woolley1 You have to learn the different dirt s in different parts of the country. Brian Birkhofer2 And a lot of times when I first started racing, the car that we starte d racing with wouldnt be licensed. And we would take the windshield out, take th e headlights out, gut it, and drive it to and from the racetrac k. If we wrecked it then we had to leave it there and find some way to go get it and haul it home. Jim Cadwell3 In 1942, the Office of Defense Transportation ba nned auto racing to conserve rubber, fuel, and metalthe raw materials of technology. After World War II, the public was race starved,4 and auto racing participation in creased. Americans pursued r ecreational activiti es and hobbies more than before, and people had money to spendthe robust post-war economy of the early 1950s mirrored the early 1920s. More Americans bought racecars and spent their leisure dollars to attend races. According to a 1952 Wall Street Journal article, for the 1951 season, 35 million fans, half of them female, paid a record 65 million dollars to attend races. The sport appealed across demographic lines; teenagers preferred st ock races, while adult spectators favored championship racing.5 1 Gordon Woolley, interview by author, 1 June 2007, Knoxville, Iowa, in possession of author. 2 Dan Anderson, Tacky is Good, Speedway Illustrated, October 2005, 67-69, (quote on 68). 3 Cadwell served as an IMCA field-filler in the early 1950s. Jim Cadwell, interview by author, 15 December 2006, Knoxville, Iowa, in possession of author. 4 Don Radbruch, telephone interview by author, 19 October 2006. 5 Permits Some Auto Racing, New York Times, 9 November 1944, 19; Midget Auto Racing Ban Ends, New York Times 9 November 1944, 31; Ray Vicker, Speed Sport is Roaring into its Biggest Boom, Wall Street Journal, 28 April 1952, 1, 4.
79 In the 1950s, getting involved in motorsports was never more easy, and stories of how racers began varied little from region to re gion. Young men and women went the local track, liked what saw, and with little money and tech nical know-how could compete in local races by the next week, andif they had enough money, m echanical skills, and driving abilityperhaps even be competitive. Military veterans learned to tinker while serv ing in motor pools and as aircraft mechanics in the service. After returning home, some missed military action and sought a rush similar to that provided by combat. Motorsports filled this void. This new breed of drivers had the need to produce enormous bursts of adrenaline and to be among a group, or a team, engaged in battle. The local speedway was the battlefield; the stakes were lower, but the sensation of danger and risk was there. Artillery was plentiful; a pl ethora of pre-World War II autos not necessarily desirable for roadways, and a surplus of wartim e machinery and leftover automobile parts from the depression, were the stuff of many post-World War II racecars.6 In addition to the widespread availability of older tracks, an abundance of informal courses, such as airstrips and athletic stadiu ms, provided more places to race. Some fairground facilities, which before World War II only hosted races once or twice per year, staged weekly events. This contributed to local racing deve lopment, and the summer-long availability of a county fair track fostered addi tional grassroots participation. People had money to spend, and fairs that weathered the war in th e red started making profits, due in part to the popularity of auto races.7 6 Golenbock, American Zoom; Richard Andre, Here and Gone! Midget Car Racing in West Virginia, Goldenseal (Fall 1995): 4552; Daniel, Lost Revolutions. 7 Auto racing periodicals and local an d regional newspapers provide evidence of more races taking place at fair facilities.
80 If natural conditions were righ t, one could build a local track for minimal cost and with minimal effort. The facility woul d require first a few hundred acres; the more open and flat the land meant the less excavation requi red, and if it happened to pres ent a natural bowl formation it had an especial appeal. A worn-out field leased fo r a few dollars from a farmer and located in the rural environs where the track proprietor would not have to worry about disturbing neighborhoods with dust and noise made some of the best venues. Throughout the decades, racers undertook their sport surrounded by green-g rowing cornfields in the Midwest, cotton fields in the South, and gr azing cattle in both regions. In some markets, the construction of new tracksboth dirt and pavedfilled an absence of fair tracks. A major boom in short-track (less than one mile ) construction materialized after World War II. As a result, the year 1953 marked the all-time peak in the number of American racing facilities. Most post -war tracks existed far outside of city limits and beyond the boundaries of new suburban communities, at least for the time being. In some cases, farmers sold or leased land to track operators and promoters. Privately owned speedways built specifically for weekly dirt trac k racing often offered better surface s than stateand municipally operated fairground facilities. Dusty and unkempt fair tracks, originally intended for horse racing, were often no match to better-manicured, purpos e-built dirt speedways.8 Each track offered a unique composition of dirt, clay, and other materials. This mixture determined the condition of the track and how drivers and teams would strategize for a race. In racings earlier days, so il science meant little more than a pplying oil or calcium chloride to a track to reduce dust. Track operators w ho adapted best to climate, precipitation, and 8 Allan Brown, The History of Americas Speedways: Past and Present (Comstock Park, Mich.: Slideways, 1994).
81 changing weather conditions, maintained fast, tac ky, and nearly dustless tracks. As pavement racing grew more popular, dirt track racing turn ed more scientific.9 Over the years, motorsports agronomy becam e more sophisticated, and track operators became soil experts. In some cases, the art of dirt-track preparation has come a long way over the decades. Some track owners added organic matter, such as manure and compost to track surfaces. This practice often help s bind soil and retain moisture, thus improving a tracks racing surface. Others avoided technical science and paid particularly close atte ntion to the weather and employed good old-fashioned hard work by personally wateri ng and grooming their track accordingly to the seasonal climate. One cont emporary track owner who ignored soil chemistry stated, the real key is when and how you work or water them.10 To that end, a good surface was sometimes often attributed more to maintenance than soil composition. At many Midwestern facilities, nevertheless, an indigenous co mbination of dirt and clay provided optimal track composition. Back in 1916, an Automobile article captured the appeal of this Heartland dirt described as a black gumbo th at people of this territory know to be pasty and to pack like glue. There wi ll be no holes dug in it by the tires.11 This gumbo provided superior tire traction, and the gooe y, nutrient-rich, black dirt faci litated passing, particularly in the turns. Some track owners dredged gumbo from Midwestern lakes and rivers. The 1950s marked the construction of Eldora and Skagit, famous tracks that became scaled-down versions of civic monuments. Thei r supreme dirt surfaces made them superior racing arenas. Western (Rossburg) Ohios Eldora Speedway, in Darke County (population 41,799), was built in 1954 on the site of a cornfiel d that had reportedly produced 125 bushels-an9 Tom Helfrich, telephone interview by author, 24 February 2009, in possession of author. 10 Carter, Dirty Work, 70. 11 K. C. Speedway Nears Completion, The Automobile, 6 July 1916, 43.
82 acre two years earlier. Initially a quarter-mile, Eldora served as a place where local farmers could race their tinkered racecars. In 1958, the track briefly expanded to three-eighths of a mile, and then in the following year to a half mile, which it remained. According to the United States Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rossburg exists on prime farmland. Eldoras tacky surface and steep 24-degree-bankingmeticulously maintained by long-time track owner Earl Baltesmade Eldora the fastest half-mile dirt track in the country. NASCAR champion Tony Stewart purchased the track in 2004, and it continued to live up to its legacy. Darke County remained a rural outpost, its population climbing to 55,096 in 1980, and falling to 53,309 in 2000, assuring Eldoras security from sprawl.12 Skagit Raceway first hosted auto races in 1954. Located in Burli ngton (about an hours drive north of Seattle), a famous tulip-producing region, the three-tenths-mile track remained an institution in rural Washington. Skagit is egg-sh aped; its surface, partia lly composed of grey clay common in the region, gets harder and quick er as the clay cools and solidifies during night events. The track capitalized on Northweste rn racing hunger and became the most successful motorsports facility in Washington.13 Since 1921, the natural surface challenged Northe rn and Midwestern drivers every winter at Tampa, home of Floridas most famous dirt tr ack, Plant Field at the State Fairgrounds. Unlike the red-clay-rich tracks in ne ighboring Georgia and Alabama, and hard-packed Daytona Beach, Tampa offered a looser sandy surface, likely existing on a young mari ne plain underlain by 12 1950 U.S. census population was 41,799. Lars Anderson, Dirty Work, Sports Illustrated, 102, no. 23 (2005): 75-79; Bill Holder, The One and Only, Open Wheel, October 1982, 68-69, 81-82; Bill Holder, Unrivaled: Eldora Turns 50! Stock Car Racing, September 2003, 50-52; Do c Lehman, Eldora Speedway: Earls Place at 50, Dirt Late Model, June 2004, 22-31; John Gibson, Ten Top Tracks, Stock Car Racing, June 2008, 39-42; National Resources Conservation Service, Prime Fa rmland List for Ohio, available from http://www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/soils/prime_R.html, Internet; accessed 27 April 2009. 13 Andrew Kunas, Remaking Skagit Speedway, FlatOut, June 2005, 70-71; Rob Sneddon, Silver Lining, Open Wheel, October 1997, 60-66.
83 Tertiary-age rocks, including very fine graine d shale, mudstone, and limestone beds. A sandy marine deposit of Pleistocene age occurs at the surface in most of the area.14 On warm winter days, the track quickly heated up under the strong Florida sun, and became drier, dustier, and slicker throughout the afternoon. National Spri nt Car Racing Hall of Famer Jerry Scratch Daniels said of Plant Field, tha t track, just like down here [Winter Haven, Florida], is kind of sandy. Well, if you drew an early number [qualifying order] you were in good shape to get qualified. But as time went by, and that racetrack got bad [bumps and holes], you were in bad shape because it didnt matter who you were or what car you had, that track was gone [less traction and less speed]15 National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Gordon Woolley, one of many drivers that nearly got killed at Plant Field, simply referred to the track as treacherous.16 Track conditions shifted with the time of day. Sun-baked surfaces turned into dusty, skidding surfaces that required master s of racecar control. Drivi ng on the dirt required skill and adaptation, and each dirt track had its own quirks. Drivers needed to find the fastest part of the track. Sprint Car Hall of Famer Jerry Blundy re membered the now-defunct Pittsfield (Illinois) Speedway. Well, always in sprint cars the guy th at went the best usua lly was right in the moisture. And the very outside, if theres any moisture, thats where its at. And you didnt get close to it. You got in it. And you get the right rear in that moisture to do any good.17 Drivers most familiar with certain tracks tend to have advantage against outsiders. This is one reason 14National Resources Conservation Service, Southern Florida Flatwoods, available from http://www.mo15.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/MLRAs/mlra_155.html Internet; accessed 27 April 2009. 15 Jerry Scratch Daniels, interview by author, 6 February 2007, Winter Haven, Florida, in possession of author. 16 Woolley, interview by author. 17 Jerry Blundy, interview by author, 16 December 2006, Galesburg, Illinois, in possession of author.
84 why local competitors often fare well against better-funded drivers originating from regionaland national-touring circuits.18 Most short tracks constructed during this peri od featured dirt surfaces, but asphalt racing attracted a larger following. Track owners sometim es paved over dirt; they made the shift in the 1950s, in part, because some critics viewed unpred ictable and bumpy dirt as more hazardous to driver safety than smooth pavement. The most noted example was the paving of the Wisconsin State fairgrounds track at Milwauk ee, the first state fair facility to convert to asphalt, in 1953. Asphalt, unlike dirt tracks, re quired little seasonal, weekly, or daily upkeep. Haphazard maintenance of a dirt track cost little or not hing, but properly prepari ng a dirt track was time consuming and expensive.19 As Chris Economaki points out: The maintenance of a dirt track, you had to ha ve a salaried employee on staff to condition the dirt tracks, and youre at the mercy of the weather. If it rained in the morning and the track got muddy, and [it] was a beautiful ev ening you couldnt race because the track was unraceable. What the asphalt track did was elim inate a salaried employee and kept rain outs from killing some of your races.20 In addition to convenience, as phalt was cleaner for spectators, a partic ular appeal. As Economaki comments, the women loved it; thei r dresses didnt get spattered with mud. 21 Moreover, asphalt eliminated the age-old annoying problem of dirt getting into the engine and other sensitive racecar components. As th e popularity of paved ra cing heightened; the motorsports print media revealed a distinct bias for dirt, calling for its preservation and the driving skills it tested. A 1956 Speed Age article opined: 18 Anderson, Tacky is Good. 19 Robert N. Snyder, The Pattern for Tomorrows Speedways? Speed Age, February 1948, 8, 19; Milwaukee Mile Program, 6 June 1954; Buzz Miller, Milwaukee 150 to Bettenhausen, Illustrated Speedway News, 13 July 1954, 1; Al J Krause, Speedfest W eek-ends at Milwaukee Track, Illustrated Speedway News, 3 August 1954, 9; Al Kruse, Tom Marchese Honored, Illustrated Speedway News, 13 October 1959, 9-10. 20 Economaki, interview by author. 21 Ibid
85 it is a combination of grit and determin ation possessed by the men who push their screaming mounts .where too much of a c ontrolled skid can cost a man a hard fought victory. Driving the dirt and coming away with a winning reputation is a skill not possessed by every race driver. Some never learn to handle dirt, wh ile others are out of their league once they leave the dusters.22 Pavement changed the sport and forced drivers to learn how to race on the unfamiliar surface. Dirt master Jerry Blundy contended that on dirt you usually run down the turn and back off, put the brakes on. These old, flat [d irt] tracks, you had to sl ow down to make them. On asphalt all you do is you dont even back clear off you just raise about half throttle and just let it carry the speed on by the e nd of the turn you run fast all the way around. Its just a different style of driving.23 As asphalt aged, and tire rubber worked in to the surface, side-by-side competition increased. Tire-produced rubber deposits, known as marbles, created slippery hazards on the edges of racetracks. Sunlight could slicken asphalt tracks, an d daytime cloud cover often made pavement quicker. At dusk and into the night changes in air temperat ure, moisture, and wind cause track conditions to shift. As paved tracks were built larger, all of these factors grew in importance. Dirt masters, by no means, mastered the pavement. Despite the growth of aspha lt racing, the AAA championship division contested most of its schedule on dirt in the 1940s and 50s. AAA championship races resumed in 1946 with an abbreviated six-race schedule. Annual championshi p events took place at state fair facilities such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1946 and beginning in 1947, at Springfield, Illinois. The championship series also returned to the Sunbelt for the first time since the 1927 Charlotte board track races. Arlington, Texas, and Atlanta, (Lakewood) Georgia, hosted championship events. 22 Bob Russo, Lets Save the Dirt Tracks, Speed Age, July 1956, 81, 83. 23 Blundy, interview by author.
86 Chattanooga, Tennessee; Cedartown, Georgia; Ra leigh, Charlotte, and Shelby, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia, served as AAA-sanctioned, minor-league, (non-championship) venues. Evidenced by the growth of all types of motorsports in Dixie, southerners became hungrier for racing after World War II.24 AAA-sanctioned championship racing, unlike othe r major professional sports such as Major League Baseball, for example, featured East and West Coast events throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to California in 1958 to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, but the AAA Championship schedule included Western events since its earliest days. While weather cooled off in most of the nation, the Wests arid and warm climateand passi onate motorsports scenemade California and Arizona logical championship racing sites. State fairgrounds one-mile dirt facilities at Sacramento (1949), and Phoenix (1950), became regular late-season stops for championship racing.25 Both tracks featured good racing surfaces. One spectator reminisced, the [Sacramento] track was well-prepared with few ruts and little dust. There were multiple grooves with cars running low, middle, and high grooves.26 Championship racing remained the pinnacle of American motorsports. In the late 1940s, nearly every American driver st rove to compete in the Indianapolis 500. IMCA-sanctioned dirt24 For instance, Milwaukee Mile Program, 22 September 1946; Holland Takes Season Opener, Speed Age, May 1947, 23; John Kozub, Myron Fohr takes Trenton Honors, Speed Age, September 1949, 22; J. L. Beardsley, Parsons Victor in Thrilling Milwaukee 200-Mile Classic, Speed Age, November 1949; Bob Sterling, The Championship Trail: Springfield, Illinois, Speed Age, December 1949, 23-26; Four Da ys of Races in Beer City, National Speed Sport News, 8 August 1951, 6; Christy, Walt Faulkner Winner in Milwaukee 200, National Speed Sport News 29 August 1951, 3, 18; Illinois State Fair Program, 21 August 1954; 948 AAA Automobile Racing Summary. Don Hamilton, Fair Play, Racing Milestones, July 1999, 54-55. Hall, Carnival of Speed. 25 John J. Gliebe, The Championship Trail, Sacramento, California, Speed Age, January 1950; -Mile AAA Go at Sacramento Sunday, Oct. 17th, Illustrated Speedway News, 28 September 1954, 4; Jack Fox, AAA 100Mile National Title Race Garnered by Jim Bryan, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 October 1954, 1; Third Annual National Championship Race : Phoenix, Arizona November 11 1952. 26 E-mail correspondence with Ro y C. Morris 2 July 2008.
87 track, open-wheel racing remained major draws at the nations fairgrounds after the war. The big cars, sometimes called sprint cars in the 1950s were the IMCAs most competitive division and offered as a stepping stone for drivers shooti ng for Indy. The fair circuit started every winter, usually in Tampa, Florida, and followed the seasonal changes up across the country, proceeding through the summer months in the upper Midwes t and Great Plains, until concluding in the southern half of the country in the fall.27 Tampas location and average 72-degree Fe bruary temperature explained its longstanding popularity. Scratch Daniels explaine d, Tampa was one of the toughest races on the circuit because everybody wanted to go to Florid a in the wintertime because it was warm there and cold up here. So everybody went there. Anybody who was a racer went to Florida and Tampa. It wasnt the biggest money there, by no means. But it was tough competition.28 Until the mid-1970s, the best IMCA sprint car drivers in the country raced in February every winter for the Florida State Championship. Tamp as population growth, however, threatened the annual festival of races. The proliferation of the window-unit air conditioner followed by affordable centralized systems contributed to the states boom, and Ta mpa was among Floridas quickest and heavily developing cities. It s population of 124,000 in 1950 exploded to over a quarter-million residents by 1970.29 During the 1950s and 60s, most IMCA races were geographically divided between two independently operated circuits (National Speedways and Auto Racing Incorporated). In 1941, 27 Bob Carey, What is a Supermod? Stock Car Racing, July 1969, 16-20. Racing terminology can be tricky. At about the same time big cars were called sprint cars, they were also known as modifi eds, and, in the 1960s, supermodifieds. 28 Daniels, interview by author. 29 Raymond Arsenault, The End of the Long Hot Summer: The Air Conditioner and Southern Culture, The Journal of Southern History 50, no. 4 (1984): 597-628.
88 Gaylord White founded the National Speedways circ uit. Al Sweeney later headed the entity, which competed in Florida and in the Midwest, including Iowa, Missouri, Ne braska, and Illinois. The Iowa State fair in Des Moines hosted the National Speedways marquee events. Al Cotton Farmer, Bob Slater, Bobby Grim, and Jud Larson, some of dirt track racing s biggest stars, raced with the National Speedways Circuit.30 Former motorcycle racer Frank Winkley head ed the second IMCA circuit. He formed Auto Racing Incorporated in 1947, which pr omoted IMCA races from 1948 through 1969. Winkley promoted events at most of the tracks in the upper Midwest and Great Plains of IMCA territory. Auto Racing Incorporated featured Ernie Johnson (the Flying Sunday School Teacher), Bert Helmueller (the Kentucky Colonel), Deb Sn yder, Clair Cotter, Fr ank Luptow, and Emory Spunk Collins, who raced since the mid-1920s a nd concluded his illustrious career in 1951. Winkleys marquee events were at the Minnesota State Fair on Labor Day weekend. After the war, the fair in St. Paul became the largest in the nation, and the races remained as some of the most prestigious events on the IMCA calendar. Winkleys and Sweeneys circuits participated together at St. Paul, Tampa, and other select ed venues, but separate National Speedways and Auto Racing Incorporated championships took place until 1959. The following year racers competed for a unified IMCA championship.31 30 Emmett Carpenter, Belleville Banks, Speed Age, September 1949, 22-3; Sweeney Speaks About the Futurity, Illustrated Speedway News, 28 December 1954, 15; Gaylord White, IMCA, Speed Age, July 1953, 7-12; Brad Wilson, Bob Slater Kingpin at Iowa State Fair Card, Illustrated Speedway News, 7 September 1954, 1, 16; L. Spencer Riggs, The Black Deuce, Open Wheel, March 1984, 10-11; Blundy interview by author; Sweeney-Van Winkle Run State Fair Races, Illustrated Speedway News, 28 July 1970, 8. 31 Larry Sullivan, Deb Snyder IMCA Big Car Victor at Cedar Rapids, National Speed Sport News, 6 June 1951, 2; Luptow Sails on New K.C. Mile Oval, National Speed Sport News, 6; June 1951, 2; Luptow Takes Deb Snyder at Des Moines, National Speed Sport News, 6; June 1951, 2;, 23; Frank Lunt, Belleville, Lincoln Wins to Luptow as Marks Fall, National Speed Sport News, 11 July 1951, 3, 22; David Speer, Helmueller Hot on IMCA Fair Circuit, National Speed Sport News, 8 August 1951, 14; IMCA Frank R. Winkleys Auto Racing Incorporated IMCA, National Speed Sport News, 2 January 1952, 6-7; McWithy Ou tduels Foe in Title Race at Minnesota Fair, Illustrated Speedway News, 7 September 1954, 16.
89 Winkley and Sweeney were well-respected promot ers, and most drivers remained loyal to them and seldom raced outside of the IMCA without approval. Winkley and Sweeney advertised the races, made sure the racing was competitive by ensuring full fields, and saw to it that fair goers were entertained. As in the 1910s and 20s, the races always seemed to be neck-and-neck. At the 1954 Tennessee State fair di rt track in Knoxville, 66,606 fa ns reportedly attended sprint car races sanctioned by the IMCA. The 15-mile feature featured Bobby Grim and Jud Larson alternating the lead five times be fore Grim took the checkered flag.32 Although (apparently) few races were fixe d, the show-biz element remained, and without question, promoters exploits factored into the success and popularity of the IMCA. It has been said that before a race, one of Winkl eys announcers introduced the drivers name and which championships he had won, sometimes fabricating information. Winkley also had drivers stand in front of the car with their state flag in front of them. Fans embraced their local hero, and an invader racing outside of his or her commun ity created drama. In fact, this was precisely why some early races were hippodromed, to ensure the hometown favorite or local boy prevailed and took the cash.33 Midget racing was Americas most popular form of motorsport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The little racecars were so well-r eceived in parts of the Northeast and southern California that midget races could be witnessed seven days a w eek. Midget fields were bigsometimes over 40 or 50 cars raced at the same time This sport quickly resumed af ter the conclusion of World War II, and according to Speed Age, approximately 250 tracks accommodated midget racing in 1946. 32 Grim Grabs Fourth Featur e Race at Tennessee Fair, Illustrated Speedway News, 5 October 1954, 10. 33Houston A. Lawing, South vs. Mid-West Duel at Daytona in Coming Classics, National Speed Sport News, 31 January 1951, 5; Jake Bozony, interview by author, 20 July 2000, Hastings, Minnesota, in possession of author. In countless cases no records remain of IMCA races. Many of the IMCAs s ecrets died with its promoters.
90 A 1947 study determined that midget racing ranked only behind baseball, football, basketball, and boxing in spectator attendance. The second midget racing explosion contributed to the post-war motorsports boom. The AAA sanctioned the mighty midgets, and regional entities formed during this period. Midget racing became a major-league sport with a regional network of minor-league circuits. 34 Midget events required smaller spaces than any other version of big-time American racing, making it a popular type of motorsport in ur ban locales. As in the 1930s, midget racing brought motorsports to the people, and short-term circuits were set up at facilities originally designed for other uses. Urban baseball and football stadiums s upported midget racing in Jersey City, Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles. Tracks we re dirt or paved, but the midgets also raced on a handful of wooden speedways. The Los Angeles Coliseums temporary track, for example, showcased drivers racing on ten-foot-long, horizontally nailed-together st rips of Douglas fir.35 Beginning in 1946, the Bronxs Kingsbri dge Armory hosted indoor racing.36 Drivers battled on a one-fifth-mile oval set up on the Ar morys floor, and as Gordon White reflected, the Kingsbridge Speedrome was an immediate success, unencumbered by competition from 34URA Third Annual Midget Auto Racing Yearbook, 1946. Bob Kirwan, The Mighty Mites, Speed Age, May 1947, 15; Midget Racing is Among Big Five American Sports, Speed Age, July 1947, 27; Pete Zanardi, Remembering Racings Colorful Past, Open Wheel, May 1995, 68-70. An extremely useful primary source is Elwynn Brockway, The Roar of the Mighty Midgets: Biograph ical Review of Present Day Midget Auto Race Drivers (Paterson, NJ: Rocco Press, 1948). Contemporary articles about regional midget madness include Terry Reed, The Cincinnati Race Bowl, Open Wheel, May 2000, 70-77; Andre, Here and Gone! Midget Car Racing in West Virginia. 35 For example, Bob Verlin and Walter A. Woron, The Rebirth of the Boards, Speed Age, August-September 1948, 26-28, Bud Booth, Midget Century at Soldier Field to Johnnie Parsons, National Speed Sport News, 11 July 1951, 3, 22; Midget Debut Draws 8,000 to Jersey City as Charlie Miller Cleans House, National Speed Sport News, 11 July 1951, 3.Earl Krause, Pappy Hough and the Five Little Pigs, Open Wheel, September 1991, 56-71; Layland Crump, They Spell it Lavely, but the Southwest Spells it Racing Speed Age, September 1949, 14-15; Lutkie Beats off Ruby Rally to Win at Taft Stadium, Illustrated Speedway News, 27 July 1954, 6. 36 Stock car races were also held at Kingsbridge. Chuck Ar nold Wins Kingsbridge Opener, National Speed Sport News, 24 January 1951, 4.
91 outdoor tracks in the metropolitan area. 37 indoor amphitheatres in Chicago and Oakland also accommodated the midgets. Dirt and clay formed a temporary mini speedway at the Chicago facility, where midget racers also competed before the war. The Oakland track consisted of a temporary, one-tenth-mile paved surface. Stadium space was available for races when the New York Giants traveled, and beginning in 1948, midg et events took place across the street from Yankee Stadium at the Polo Grounds.38 At its peak, post-Word War II midget racing en compassed nearly all of the country, and even reached the South. Although few southern midget (or sprint and championship) racers achieved national success, the establishment of a few short-lived midget circuits accommodated southern racers who did not follo w the stock car route. In th e late 1940s, burgeoning stock car hotspots, such as Birmingham, Alabama; Ri chmond, Roanoke, and Norfolk Virginia; WinstonSalem and Raleigh, North Carolina; and Columb ia, South Carolina, attracted midget racers.39 In 1949, car designer and engi neer, Frank Kurtis began mass producing Offenhauserpowered midget racecars out of his Glendale, California, shop. His machines were superior in speed and design than most homemade racecars. During the 1930s and 40s, the Offenhauser was the most expensive and most powerful engine in championship racing, and similar technology became available for the midgets. The mass produc tion of the Kurtis-Kraft Offy midget racer had three effects: First, the high-performance, high-priced contraption ra ised the cost of midget 37 White, Lost Racetracks, 75. 38 Shorty Fall, Three Race Schedule Set for Midgets in Chicago, National Speed Sport News, 3 January 1951, 3; Bob Garner, Oaklands Indoor Midget Inau gural to Dick Reece, National Speed Sport News, 17 January 1951, 3; Stan Disbrow Wins Bronx 50 Lapper, National Speed Sport News, 7 February 1951, 2. 39 Midget Title Race at Raleigh August 7th, Speed Age, 27 July 1954, 11; France Cancels Due to Small Field, Illustrated Speedway News, 10 August 1954, 11; Hall, Carnival of Speed, 2007; Crise and Streeter Plan Virginia Circuit, Speed Age, May 1947, 23; Midget Racing is Among Big Five American Sports, Speed Age, July 1947, 27; Russo Wins at Birmingham, Speed Age, May 1947, 14; 1949 AAA Automobile Racing Summary ; 1955 AAA Automobile Racing Summary ; 1956 USAC Automobile Racing Summary Economaki, interview by author.
92 racing at the entry-level. Sec ond, it eliminated the opportunity fo r tinkerers to be competitive with home-built cars. Third, and most importantly, it diminished competition on the track. The identically built cars were closely matched and, mo re importantly, too fast for the small tracks; the racing more often than not resemble d a parade with little to no passing.40 A disgruntled fan best capt ured the decline of midge t racing in a letter to Speed Age magazine: Then came the Offenhauser with its Kurtis-Kraft chassis to require the services of only a man with a fat pocketbook, a mechanic trained down the Offy path and a driver with a keen mind and a heavy foot buying racec ars on a wholesale basis, like a household appliance you merely plug in.41 Stock car racing drained midget ra cings popularity in the 1950s. After World War II concluded, stock car racing flourished throughout the United States. The boom persisted into the 1950s. Stock car became the nations most affordable and popular type of racing at the grassroots level. Fair tracks supported the expansi on of stock car racing into sma ller cities and towns. Sturdy stock cars, (in comparison with fragile, open-wheelers), required minimal track conditions and could race virtually anywhere where enough open space existed to carve out a dirt speedway.42 The eras drivers have similar accounts of how they became involved in motorsports. Many started in some form of stock car racing (some with disappointing results). Take Iowan Jim Cadwell, for example: 40 Roy F. Morrison, I Know Whats Wrong with Midget Racing! Speed Age, March 1948, 8, 24-25; Maurie Schmitz, The West Coast Midget Racing Scene is Reviewed, Speed Age, March 1948, 8, 25; Lee Mullin, interview by author, 20 September 2006, Titusville, Florida, in possession of author; Bill Tuthill, Midget Memories, Speed Age, November 1949, 22-23; Roger Huntington, The New Offy Midget, Speed Age, March 1950, 15; Joseph Sheibelhut, Letter to the Editor, Speed Age, November 1950, 6-7; Farewell to the Midgets, Speed Age, February 1951, 28-31; Gordon E. White, Offenhauser (Hudson, Wisc.: MBI, 2002). 41 Joseph Sheibelhut, Letter to the Editor, Speed Age, November 1950, 6-7. 42 For example, Jimmy Reece Flees Taft Stadium Pack in Stock Car Melee, National Speed Sport News, 15 August 1951, 5 Harold Robinson, Its Leo Caldwell Again in Fort Miami Stocks, National Speed Sport News, 15 August 1951, 5.
93 In 50, I was 21. Several of us bought a car to gether. There were three or four of us. And we bought it from a local restaurant fellow. And we were going to take turns running it or racing it. And it di dnt last long. The first fellow ; he wrecked the car the first night. The second night I run it I wrecked it. So I gave Bill $35 and a Dodge engine for that racecar. Stock cars was what poor people could afford. We could afford $35 for a car. We could go and race it. 43 Or Texan Gordon Woolley (1963 IMCA sprint car champion): So we built an old 34 Ford, went out there, out to the track the first time. A friend of mine; we drove out there. I turned it over, and the battery came out, hit me on the head, and knocked me out. Here we are out there just the two of us. Well, I came to, and we got the battery back in and drove the old car b ack to the garage. That was the beginning.44 As mentioned in the previous chapter, many drivers got star ted in motorsports by racing jalopies (pre-World War II passenger cars modifi ed with different parts from multiple cars).45 Whatever one chooses to call them, stock cars, modifieds, or jalopies they were built and souped-up with stock components produced at one time or another by American automobile or domestic parts manufacturers.46 Jerry Scratch Daniels, legend ary sprint car driver who got started in jalopies, maintained: The first car we ran was a 39 Ford two-door It had a roof over it and it looked like a regular car except no fenders, rollbars on the inside, and no upholstery. The guy that built me that car next year, that was a Che vy coupe. And we used to run a lot of them, those Chevys. The Ford guys would run like .Just go to a junkyard and get one, and gut it all out and fixed it all up.47 Stock car racings rapid growth made organization difficult, and at times, impossible. Track owners and small sanctioning bodies each ha d their own sets of rules and regulations, and 43 Cadwell, interview by author. 44 Woolley, interview by author. 45 These vehicles had a brief heyday from the late 1940s through the 1950s and raced in all parts of the country, independently or as a part of small sanctioning organizations. They remained popular in California until the mid1960s. 46 Bill Holder, A Ranger Aircraft Engine-Powered Sprinter, Open Wheel, February 2000, 68-69. Earl Wagner, interview by author, 15 December 2006, Kn oxville, Iowa, in possession of author. 47 Daniels, interview by author.
94 mandated different body styles, engine displacements, and types of tires. Some required roll bars and windshields, while others did not. Many sma ll stock car-racing entities, such as the National Stock Car Racing Association (NSCRA), Sout h Carolina Stock Car Association (SCSCA), National Auto Racing League (NARL), and the Ch icago Hurricane Association, formed in the late 1940s. These short-lived sanctioning bodi es provided a growing representation for the developing sport, but stoc k car racing lacked uniformity and needed a strong centralized entity.48 Stock car racings development differed in th e Southeast. Dixie, well-known for minorleague baseball and college footba ll, lacked big-time, professiona l sports. Southern racing had its roots in poverty, and a low-down combination of sport and technology blossomed in the region. The Mountain South, in general, was one of the most economically depressed areas in the country. Few in the region possessed necessary wealth to purchase or build championship or sprint racecars, but converting stock cars for racing purposes pr esented an affordable option.49 Geology also contributed to the growth of stoc k car racing. As histor ian Dan Pierce states, this cultural hearth of NASCAR-style stock car racing roughly follows the band of red clay from Richmond, Virginia culminating in the vicinity of Birmingham, Alabama.50 The Southeast had plenty of this materialits re d color derived from its high iron oxide content which for years had been horsed up by bulldozers or cheap, shovel-wieldi ng labor and loaded into the back of dirt haulers and onto railroad cars to be shipped to ballparks across the region and even the country to be spread across the infi eld of baseball diamonds. For eons the substance 48 Lin Hinty, Hoosier Stock Circuit, Speed Age, February 1948, 5; Stock Car Racing Leaders Form New National Association, Speed Age, February 1948, 10, 28-29; The Midwest Auto Raci ng News 1950 Annual ; Eddie Samples, The Rise and Fall of NSCRA, Vintage Oval Racing, May 2001, 36-37. 49 Tom Wolfe, The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Esquire, March 1965, 68-75; Daniel, Lost Revolutions; Golenbock, American Zoom 50 Dan Pierce, "Bib Overalls and Bad Teeth: The Southern Piedmont Working-Class Roots of NASCAR." Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South 46, no. 2 (2004): 26-41.
95 had weathered out of the bedrock and more wa shed down from the Appalachian Mountains. When Europeans arrived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the familiar red landscape of later centuries was hard to be seen. The clay lay beneath several feet of rich organic topsoil. Yet three hundred years of clearing forests and intense farming gradually exposed the regions underbelly as the topsoil washed away into rivers, bays, and the ocean. But where the clay stayed put it often invite d auto racing. By the 1930s, a growing number of farmers discovered they could make more money and work less by leasing an unproductive clay field to racing entreprene urs than by growing crops. Track owners found the clay easy to groom, especially after a light rain, which th ey sometimes mimicked with water hoses or watering trucks. Drivers liked it because their tires found traction in it, and spectators liked it because it stayed put and out of their eyes, although under dry conditi ons it could be as irritating as a sandstorm in the Sahara Desert. A lack of midget and sports-car racing permitted stock car racing to develop mostly unchallenged in the Southeast before World War II. Since its inception in the early part of the century, the AAA rarely sanctioned races in the Southdespite the regions longer racing season. Economical, social, topograp hical, and geographic forces mesh ed into a perfect storm. The South had found its big-ti me professional sport. It also had the nations best organizer. Born in 1909, William Henry Getty France grew up in Washington, D.C. and bit by the racing bug at a young age. He lived near the Laurel, Maryland, board track and eventually took up raci ng in the late 1920s. France moved to Daytona Beach in 1935 with his wife and son Bill Jr. a nd picked up work as a mechanic. Throughout his career, Frances timing was perfect, and the following year, the first major stock car race took place on Daytona Beach. France competed in that di sastrous race. Noting that stock car racing
96 desperately needed organization, France saw an opportunity. In the late 1930s, France started promoting stock car races in the Southeast and ra ced in some of the events he organized, faring unsuccessful in comparison with early southern stock car legends, such as Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. France was a better entrepreneur, and he eventually quit driving to become a full-time stock car racing promoter. After unsuccessfu lly convincing the AAA to sanction a stock car racing division immediately after the war, he inaugurated and operated the National Championship Stock Car Circuit (NCSCC) in 1946 and 1947, an operation he ran out of his house. France envisioned a stronger national orga nization for stock car racing and embarked on a new quest for order.51 In December 1947, members representing the sport from all over the United Stateswith the exception of the West Coastgathered in Daytona Beach and formed a new sanctioning body under the direction of Bill France. With the inception of the National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR), most American stock car racing became unified under one banner. In states such as Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, a nd the Carolinas, the mot orsports power vacuum created by the AAAs long-standi ng indifference to the region allowed NASCAR-sanctioned stock car racing to fill the void. NASCAR s oon became a national ent ity with a Southern backbone.52 The inaugural 1948 NASCAR campaign featured two divisions of modified stock-car competition. The charismatic France, who had both business savvy and a knack for good timing, brilliantly envisioned th e potential spectator appeal of races between showroom models on closed-course speedways. In 1949, the strictly stock division was create d and became known as 51 Stocks Going Up! (and Over) Speed Age, July 1947, 14; Lucky Saucer and W. D. Henderson, Red Byron Wins Jax, Speed Age, February 1948, 5. Thompson, Driving with the Devil; Golenbock and Fielden, Stock Car Racing Encyclopedia ; Howell, From Moonshine to Madison Avenue. 52 Daniel, Lost Revolutions, 97.
97 the Grand National division. France aimed to take the series out of the South, and during Grand Nationals first season, three of the eight scheduled races were held in the Northeast (all of the races took place on dirt surfaces). Langhorne, Pe nnsylvania, (just outside of Trenton, New Jersey,) was the new divisions first northern stop. Twenty-thousand spectators attended the 200-mile, strictly stock race. The following week, 11,733 fans watched northern-bred drivers dominate a NASCAR event at the Erie County Fa irgrounds in Hamburg, New York. A total of approximately 96,000 fans attended Grand National s eight-race debut. This respectable number still paled in comparison with the one-day crowd at the 1949 Indianapolis 500over 200,000 fans watched the championship cars that Sunday before Memorial Day.53 The following year, the first paved Grand Na tional race took place at the new Darlington Speedway. The biggest race of the NASCAR sc hedule from 1950 to 1958 took place at this 1.366-mile facility in rural South Carolina, locat ed not too far from present-day Interstate 95. Known as the Lady in Black, Darlington was the nations first asphalt superspeedway since Indianapolis (paved in the late 1930s) and the So uths first. The region, known for its countless minor league ballparks and massive college f ootball stadiums, now had a long-standing, majorleague motorsports facility.54 Despite the superspeedway success of Dar lington, most NASCAR Grand National events took place on smaller dirt facilities during th e 1950s. Some races occurred outside of the American South. The story of Morristown (New Jersey) Raceway paralleled that of many racetracks that sprouted up acro ss America after World War II. Joe Soranno, a local florist, owned Morristown Raceway and promoted th e events. His story was similar to other 53 Bill France to Direct 200 Mile Strictly Stock Car Race Races at Langhorne Se pt. 31, National Speed Sport News, 24 August 1949, 1; Houston A. Lawing, Racings New Era, Speed Age, January 1950, 24-25, 40. 54 Bill Holder, Coast to Coast, Stock Car Racing, September 2007, 30-39; Bill Holder, Doing it on Dirt, Stock Car Racing, January 2006, 22-30.
98 businessmen exhibiting a passion for auto raci ng and possessing the cap ital and business savvy to fund and market a speedway. Most of these men and women were not extremely wealthy but saw a financial and recreational opport unity in the thriving sport. Considered one of the fastest half-mile track s in the East, the Mo rristown Raceway was a dirt oval but not a converted horse track, although the real estate was previously associated with horses. Originally, the Whippany River Polo Club owned the land, known for its lush grass infield and imported Dutch soil.55 As the Morristown Daily Record noted, the infield is just as green and as smooth as when the cream of Ne w Yorks society was running their prize polo ponies up and down its greensward. It is a standing joke among NASCAR stock car drivers that they run on foreign soil at Morristown Raceway.56 Located approximately 30 miles west of Ne w York City, the multi-purpose track doubled as a stock car and open-wheel racing venue. Morristown Raceway was popular among Garden State drivers, and a local group of racers partic ipated in modified stock car competition every Tuesday and Friday night through the summer months.57 During the brief five-year span of NASCAR Grand National racing from 1951 to 1955 at Morristown, the great early drivers of the fledgling series competed at the track. As was the case in other areas of the nation, northern aces had the chance to compete against the traveling southern drivers when they invaded their home turf. This was no exception at Mo rristown. Widely respected New Jersey racers, such as Wally 55 The facility also served as the Morris County fairground s and doubled as a motor-vehicle-license testing ground. 56 Morristown Daily Record, 20 August 1951. The facility was actually located in Morris Township, but as is the case today, speedway names are often assigned to the larg est nearby metropolis, and the county seat of Morristown was easily within a miles reach of the track. 57 This was one of NASCARs early regional divisions.
99 Campbell and Frankie Schneider, were among th e locals who competed against top Grand National drivers.58 On Friday, August 24, 1951, NASCAR held its firs t Grand National race in New Jersey. It was a 100-mile affair, and after 200 laps Tim Flock won in his 1951 Oldsmobile, earning $1,000 for his triumph. Georgia-born Flock and hi s brothers, Bob and Fonty, billed as the Flying Flocks, were three of NASCARs biggest stars. Tick et prices ranged from $2.00 for general admission up to $3.50 for reserved seats, and the Morristown Daily Record indicated that 9,000 people were on hand for the event. As local drivers prepared for their subsequent race the following Tuesday, Grand National drivers made a long trek southward to compete the next evening in Greenville, South Ca rolina. Indeed, professional stock car drivers led demanding lives in those days.59 The track closed a few months after the fina l Grand National race at Morristown in 1955, and the Mennen Corporation purchased the property. An office building and multi-purpose iceskating facility now exists at the site (not t oo far away from countless residences). The most densely populated state in America was once one of the most de nsely populated with racetracks and during the 1930s, Paterson, New Jersey (about te n miles west of New York City), was an eastern hotbed of American motorsports. Many AAA competitors had thei r race shops in one Paterson neighborhoodknown as Gasoline Alley. Speedways in Ho-Ho-Kus, Dover, and 58 J. J. OMalley, Racings Winningest Driver Keeps Changing with the Times, National Speed Sport News, 28 September 1978, 23. Schneider won ov er 1000 races in his car eer. Campbell was an upcoming AAA star, killed during a race in Salem, Indiana, in 1954. 59 In the early days the Grand National schedule offered fort y to fifty events and it was impossible for drivers to run a full season because France sometimes scheduled two Grand National r aces on the same day hundreds of miles apart. Bob McGovern, Grand National Race to Tim Flock, Morristown Daily Record, 25 August 1951; Tim Flock 1st in Morristown Stock Century, National Speed Sport News, 29 August 1951, 3.
100 Woodbridge were less than an hours drive from Paterson.60 After the 1950s, the northern half of New Jersey ceased to be an eastern hub of auto racing due to the massive growth of that part of the state. Morris Countys population exploded after Wo rld War II, as people from slowly decaying industrialized cities such as Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson fled west to the suburbs.61 For northeastern fans, Grand Nationals five-year stint in northern New Jersey served as a vital introduction to the partic ular brand of stock car racing organized and promoted by the young NASCAR organization. NASCAR and southern-bred drivers played a substantial role in the national development of stock car racing. Northern promoters and track owners worked in conjunction with France and his traveling band of Grand National driversmost of which were from the Southeast. France coordinated with re gional promoters and track owners versed in the stock car experience and started developing regional, minor-league stock car entities in a similar manner as the regional open-wheel divisions of the AAA. By the early 1950s, most major American stock car racing was now held, operate d, and organized by a single entity under the control of one man. As stock car racings popular ity grew, older open-wheel sanctioning bodies, such as the AAA and IMCA, incorporated stock car racing as separate divisions. The AAAs initial refusal to establish a stock car division and the entity s delay in recognizing and accepting the popularity of stock car racing as a legitimate form of motorsport was opportunity of domination missed. 60 Mulford Special Stars on Track, The Automobile, 19 August 1915, 355. 61 Don Radbruch, The Nutley Velodrome, Vintage Oval Racing, February 2002, 18-19; Crocky Wright, The Nutley Velodrome, Auto Racing Memories and Memorabilia, Spring 1984, 16-19; Bruce A. Bennett, Dead or Alive? Speedway Illustrated, November 2000, 66-71; Mike Kerchner, Nutley Velodrome, National Speed Sport News, 19 January 2005, 14; Bill Randall Stars in Midget Card at Morristown Raceway, National Speed Sport News, 26 October 1955, 3, 7.
101 The AAA finally instituted its st ock car division in 1950, giving st ock car racing another viable home at the national level.62 With the establishment of its stock ca r division, the AAA hoped to compete with NASCAR for national stock car racing supremac y. The 1950 AAA yearbook stated that [the] AAA has embarked on an ambitious stock car racing program this year that promises to produce intense rivalry between NASCAR and AAA.63 On July 9, 1950, the largest crowd in history of the Wisconsin state fairgrounds witnessed the fi rst AAA-sanctioned stock car race. In its 1950 yearbook, the AAA claimed, the firs t stock car race since World Wa r II was held at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 9.64 Note that Grand National was in the midst of its second season, and Frances NASCAR events were still viewed as illegitimate by the AAA. As it had with the IMCA and CSRA in the 1920s and 30s, the AAA looked down on NASCAR. The AAAs inaugural five-race stock car season drew an impressive 115,548 fans.65 Most AAA stock car races occurred in open-wh eel-racing hotspots, and over the next few years, the AAA stockers raced at Williams Gr ove, Pennsylvania; Toledo, Ohio; Springfield, Illinois; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Pomona, California. Southern states hosted the biggest NASCAR events, and the AAA focuse d on parts of the country outsi de of the Southeast with limited NASCAR racing. During the AAA stock divi sions formative years, however, Dixie pilots, such as Marshall Teague and Frank Mundy, dominated the division.66 62 Two 500 Milers Added to NASCAR Schedule, NASCAR Newsletter, 22 March 1958, 1. 63 AAA Late Model Stock Car Circuit, Speed Age, August 1952, 25. 64 1950 AAA Championship Summary. 65 Roger Huntington, The Truth about Stock Car Racing, Speed Age, February 1950, 18-9. 66 AAA Late Model Stock Circuit, Speed Age, September 1952, 24; AAA Late Model Stock Cars, Speed Age January 1953, 30-31; Frank Mundy: He Rode the AAA and NASCAR Grand National Trail, Illustrated Speedway News, 18 October 1978, 9; Ward Wins Milwaukees Thursday Stock Grind, National Speed Sport News 29 August 1951, 3, 18; T. Taylor Warren, Auto Racing Roundup, Speed Age, July 1953, 30-31.
102 The IMCA instituted a successful stock car division and held its first event on May 30, 1949, in Topeka, Kansas (three weeks before the first NASCAR strictly stock event). NASCAR and the AAA mostly neglected the Great Plains st ates. The IMCA filled the void and sanctioned stock car events in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. With stock car racing on the rise, and fair economies fully recovered from the Depr ession, it was a grand era for the IMCA. The sanctioning body played a key role in the development of stock car racing in the Heartland. The IMCA capitalized on stock car racings boom, and its stock division brought more races to yearly fairs and packed large crowds into small venues.67 Undoubtedly, all stock car racingnot ju st NASCAR-sanctioned racingpopularized throughout America. The success of AAA and IMCA stock car racing clearly proved that. In addition, local clubs sprout up for drivers who usua lly competed on one or more home tracks. The names of some of these entitiesthe Salt Lake Stock Car Association, the North IowaSouthern Minnesota Stock Car Racing Associ ation, and Fargo-Moorhead Racing Association reflected their local flavor. The inexpensive stock car allowed that type of motorsport to grow at a much faster pace than other types of American auto racing. Cost was a major issue in many of the open-wheel divisions, particularly in the AAA. 68 Bill France himself stated in 1952, the average fellow interested in getting into racing ca nnot afford a special-built race car. But he can afford a stock car.69 67 IMCA Records Volume 7. 68 The Lost Ovals of the Middle West, FlatOut, April 2003, 38-41; Jack Hanson, Don Voge and the Crystal Speedway, Speed Age, April 1949, 23; Everett Hanson, In the Stands, National Speed Sport News, 22 August 1951, 18. 69 Vicker, Speed Sport is Roaring into its Biggest Boom.
103 Pricey sports cars occupied the opposite side of the racecar spectrum. With the establishment of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) on February 26, 1944, road-racing competitors had a permanent sanctioning body in America.70 The SCCA became the first fully nationalized American response to European-s tyle road racing. World War II also played a role in the development of sports car racing and participat ion significantly increa sed during the late 1940s and 1950s. American GIs developed an affinity fo r some of the cars they drove in Europe and a taste for racing on European road courses. They returned home and purchased sports cars; some brought cars over from Europe. In its formative years, the SCCA struggled with the definition of a sports car and degree of modification that should be permitted. Not long after the SCCAs inception, the new entity specifically updated its definition of a sports car, stating that sports cars are like yachts in many ways; theyre both used for pleasure travel, both are among their owners most cherished possessions both are the source of endless arguments over differe nt types, and except in the sunny South, both come out in the spri ng. To be sure, some sports cars were, in essence, exotic and expensive stock cars. Additional classes of competitionbased on engine displacement, componentry, and aerodynamic modifi cationsdeveloped with the SCCA. 71 As was the standard with ARCA the decade earlier, SCCA competitors raced for trophies, not cash. SCCA membershipin comparison to the exclusionary and gentlemen-dominated ARCAwas much larger. From its inception, th e SCCA quickly attracted more middle-class competitors. Also unlike ARCA, the SCCA quickly nationalizedspreading rapidly across America from East to West. The entity beca me organized by zone (or region). By early 1947, 70 The Sportswagen, March 1944, 1. 71 The Sportswagen, April 1944, 3.
104 five zonesBoston, New York, Philadelphia, Bu ffalo, and Indianapolisdivided the SCCA. Sixteen regions existed by 1949; Florida (1947), Texas (1948), and Tennessee (1949) formed the initial southern zones. Alt hough most popular in the Northeast, the club now had a national presence.72 Sports car racing venues increased in nu mbers. In 1949, the upper-class town of Bridgehampton, Long Island, hosted races on a fl at, four-mile road course. In 1950, wealthy Palm Beach, Florida, accommodated the SCCA, and these street-circuit events entertained 25,000 spectators. That same year, an abandoned airstrip in Palm Springs, California, nestled at the base Mount San Jacinto and home to luxury golf resorts, hosted the Wests first major sports car race.73 For a brief time, the European tradition of racing on public roadways returned to America. After gaining necessary approval from the New York State government, the SCCA sponsored a major road-racing event at Watkins Glen, Ne w York, in 1948. The race took place on a picturesque six-mile, hilly and wi nding street-circuit that snaked th rough the heart of the village. Aesthetics were still an impor tant component of road racing, and as the Watkins Glen race indicated, natural (and artificial) scenery remained a big part of the sports car racing spectacle. The successful inaugural event attracted appr oximately 25,000 spectators. The 1949 event was an even greater smash, and according to some reports, an estimated 100,000 spectators attended the race. This particular layout lasted only brieflythe final event on the original Watkins Glen street circuit took place in 1952. After a fatality -marred race (a spectator was killed), the New 72 The Sportswagen, March/April 1946, 1; The Sportswagen, January/February1947, 2; Sports Car, January/February 1949, 1. (By 1949, there was an SCCA branch in Canada). Sports Car, January/February 1945, 1. 73 Smith Hempstone Oliver, Road Racing Bridgehampton Style, Speed Age, September 1949, 20-21; Jack Campbell, Sunny Cals Sports Cars, Speed Age, February 1949, 22-23; Don OReilly ,The Sports Cars Big Year, Speed Age, April 1950, 12 -3; J. Thatcher Darwin, Palm Springs Road Race, Motor Trend, June 1950, 20, 28; Jack Campbell, Palm Springs Grand Prix, Speed Age, August 1950, 33.
105 York government backed from its liberal stan ce regarding racing on public roadways. In 1953, race organizers moved the circuit outside of th e town center onto surrounding rural roads. A permanent, contained road course (Watkins Glen International Raceway) opened in 1956.74 American road-course development, of cour se, was partially based on geography and the environment. During the 1950s, enthusiasts carved tr acks out of pastures, forests, and hillsides. The Road America race course at Elkhart Lake Wisconsin, meshed motorsports with natural aesthetic. As a 1956 issue of a NASCAR Newsletter maintained, Road America was nestled like a gem in its beautiful kettle moraine [state forest] setting.75 The over four-mile-long racetrack twisted and turned through a forest dominated by red oaks and sugar maples. To this day, one can venture out to secluded vantage points to witness the racing acti on, and the winding trail network within the track is a favorite of mount ain bikers and hikers. Closed road courses occupied rural, sometimes rustic, and somewhat secluded areas, which partially explained the long-term survival of circuits such as Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake.76 After World War II, sanctioned and unsancti oned motorsports became common at former military bases and active municipal airports. Beginning in 1950, the AAA added a sports car division and co-sanctioned seven events with the SCCA, and most of the races took place on converted airstrips in New York, New Jersey, Ca lifornia, and Florida. Airports offered long straightaways, smooth pavement, wide turns, and often permitted panoramic spectator views. In fact, the first NASCAR Grand National race won by a foreign car took place in 1954 at an 74 The race was co-sanctioned by th e SCCA and AAA. Don OReilly, Spor t Cars Return to the Glen, Speed Age, December 1949, 27-9; Elvin Mobl ey, Auto Racings U.N. Speed Age, October 1950, 28-9; Brown, The History of Americas Speedways, 389. 75 Road America Prepares, NASCAR Newsletter, 31 May 1956, 1. 76 William Edgar, A Riverside Reunion, Vintage Motorsport, March-April 2004, 98-100; Sandy Grady, Tim Flock Wins at Road America, Wisconsin, Speed Age, December 1956, 64 -5, 94; Elkhart Lake Road Race Planned, NASCAR Newsletter, 10 April 1956, 1; Roa d America Prepares, NASCAR Newsletter, 31 May 1956, 1
106 airport course in Linden, New Jersey. Al Kellers English Jaguar outpaced the lumbering American Hudsons and Buicks that day.77 Airports eventually supported the growth of dr ag racing. After World War II, this form of motorsport exploded in southern Calif ornia, as caravans of racers and spectators head ed to the el Mirage Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert for SCTA -supervised speed meets. As was the case of the Bonneville Salt Flats, a prehistoric lake be d provided a smooth fast surface. Space was no issue, and hot rodders had well over a mile to gain momentum and generate top speeds. However, intensive use of natures surface stirre d up the sand to the point of unsafe conditions. As hot rods became faster, they sapped the surface of its moisture and generated more dust. Spinning tires created hazards. Artificial sand storms restricted driver vision and prevented safe head-to-head racing on the lakes. Thes e limitations brought hot rodders back from the wilderness, and drag racers graduated to paveme nt. Forced to find new drag strips, hot rodders either turned to airpor ts, or with growing fre quency, municipal streets.78 Although smooth pavement mimicked hard-pac ked sand, natural geography remained best suited for land-speed records, and asphalt strips were ideal for duels. Land-speed assaults continued in the California desert, but Bonnevill e became the premier worldwide stage for speed. Suitable surfaces existed in parts of Africa and in the Australian outback, but the Utah desert 77 Charlie Vallely, The Day the Stocks Tumbled, Newark Star Ledger, 22 July 2007. The AAA was recognized and respected in Europe and its involvement increased Eu ropean awareness of American sports car racing. (The global sanctioning body, the Federation Internationale Automobile was also founded that year. 78 Clark Roberts, Expert Hot-Rodders Scorn R eckless Speeding on Cr owded City Streets, Los Angeles Times, 20 November 1949; Police Say Hot Rod Race Supervision Pays Off, Los Angeles Times, 5 November 1950; Post, High Performance ; Moorhouse, Driving Ambitions.
107 remained the fastest and most accessible na tural speed-testing venue known to humans.79 Deserts and their miles-long stra ightaways fostered the highest speeds because racers had ample space to accelerate and safely slow down. On the drag strips, the importance of properly heating up the tire rubber at the starting line, initial vehicle accelerati on, and human reaction time were of vital importance in a head-to-head drag race of a quarter-mile or less.80 The first major facility for paved drag racing was at Santa Ana, an Orange County airport that sometimes served as a drag strip. Eventu ally the growing demand for commercial aviation in southern California pushed the hot rodders out of Santa Ana in 1959 (present-day John Wayne Airport). The lease was not renewed, but by then hot rodders had additional closed-course facilities available throug hout Southern California.81 Hot rodders quickly phased out head-to-head co mpetitions on airstrips in favor of purposebuilt drag strips of asphalt to which tire rubber adhered best. Shortly after Santa Ana, strips opened at Saugus, New Jerusalem, and Salinas California, in 1950. In 1951, Los Angeles County provided necessary land needed for a permanent drag racing venue, and the granddaddy of drag strips was built at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona. The strip exists to this day. 79 Despite the fact that a highway and railroad tracks make s the potential course about five miles shorter. J.L. Beardsley, Meteors of the Measured Mile, Speed Age, December 1948. 4-7; John C. Bartlett, Challenger of Design and Speed, Speed Age, December 1949, 1617, 22; Safer on the Salt, Hot Rod, May 1950, 9-10; John Bartlett and Mark Rene, More Speed on Salt! Speed Age, December 1950, 26-27; Utah Salt Flats: Once Explorers Death Trap, Illustrated Speedway News, 9 November 1954, 8; Roger Huntington, What Price 400 MPH? Speed Age, March 1951, 23-25; Thompson Sets 4 Records, Illustrated Speedway News, 13 October 1959, 8. 80 Woron and Logue, Timing the Hot Rods, Speed Age, February 1948, 12, 25; Wally Parks, Controlled DragRaces, Hot Rod, April 1950, 8-9. 81 Jack Curnow, Cycles, Hot Rods Mix at Santa Ana, Los Angeles Times, 16 July 1950; Lou Baney, Drag Racing: Bean Fields to Big Bucks, Hot Rod, January 1973, 132; Greg Klerkx, Drag Strips to Runways, JWAs Seen it All, Orange Coast Daily Pilot, 29 January 1989.
108 Like stock car racing, drag racing was loosely organized immediately after World War II. Wally Parks formation of the National Hot R od Association (NHRA) in 1951 stabilized and legitimatized the sport in response to unfrie ndly media outlets and increased calls to law enforcement about the growing problem of hot rods. The NHRA provided memberships to competitors and started staging organized meets across southern California. Soon after, the NHRA started sanctioning events across the countr y. Eventually, the NHRA became the premier drag racing entity in the United States .82 The growth of head-to-head competition forced drag racing off the beach and onto the public roads and airstrips, and th en, finally, onto purpose-built drag strips. The sport now had legal venues on which to contest races, and head-to-head racing became better organized in the decade. Deviant youths, however, still r aced on public roads. The classic film Rebel without a Cause was released in 1955, during th e growth years of California drag racing. Its most famous scene features a chicken race between Jim St ark (James Dean) and Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen). Gunderson fell to his de ath when his stolen car plunged off of the edge of a cliff. Nineteen-fifty-five was al so a tragic year in auto racing. Over eighty spectators perished at LeMans, France, when a fiery car leaped into the crowd. At the Indianapolis 500, American racing hero Bill Vukovich died in a grisly accident. Despite American auto racings growing appeal, public and political calls to ban racing and insurance costs dramatically increased. As a result, the AAA, concerned with its public image, severed its ties with au to racing at the end of the season and turned its business solely to facil itating domestic auto travel. Later that year, the United States Auto Club (USAC) formed a nd continued the AAAs l ong-standing practices.83 82 Yates, Hot Rod 60-61. 83 Auto Racing Organizing New Group, Washington Post, 28 August 1955.
109 In the 1950s, most government and grassroots interference stemme d from issues of safety. There was some state and federal critic ism directed toward mo torsports, but legal and political challenges to ban the sport were, for the most part, unsuccessful. At the same time, scholars and scientists started to question humanitys future with the environment. The widespread problems and pollution created by autom obiles started to gain public awareness. The memorable planetarium scene from Rebel without a Cause where behind James Deans car on the edge of the cliff in the background lurks a dense smog hovering over a sprawling Los Angelespresented a foreshadowing of th e worsening ominous connection between automobiles, pollution, and suburbanization. The environmental factors suggested in celluloid fashion would directly intersect with the development and survival of auto racing. Nevertheless, the developing American environmental consciou sness, brewing in th e 1950s, initially had minimal impact on motorsport, and concerns over the connections between racing and ecological issues such as wetland protection and pollution were yet to come.84 84 Anti Racing Bills Proposed, National Speed Sport News, 24 January 1951, 1-2.
110 CHAPTER 5 SUPERHIGHWAYS, SPRAWL, AND SUPERSPEEDWAYS (1956-1969) By 1960, more Am ericans would live in suburbs than in cities. Tom Lewis1 In the case of Holmes Road Speedway, which back in the 60s was way out south and clear out in the sticks, today, its a huge housing development, so they took over and then thats the end of that. Greg Weld2 During the 1960s, technological and aerodynami c advancements produced sleeker, faster, and more expensive racecars. By late in the deca de, fins and spoilers protruded from stock cars and overhead wings appeared on sprint cars. These add-ons and modi fications provided cars more downforce, which generated faster straightaway speeds and greater grip in the turns. Speeds in some forms of motorsport appr oached, or eclipsed, 200 miles-per-hour, and encouraged the construction of la rger and higher-banked tracks to accommodate faster and more powerful racecars.3 As racecars turned more high-tech, they becam e more costly. An increasing number of drivers and car owners sought s ponsorships, and corporate logos plastered the hoods and side panels of cars. Domestic and international industries, particularly petroleum, tires, and automotive component companies, increased their support of American motorsports. In the 1 Tom Lewis, Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life (New York: Penguin, 1997), 71. 2 Greg Weld, interview by author, 31 May 2007, Kansas City, Missouri, in possession of author. 3 Dale Drake, Dont Put the Offy in the Grave Yet, Illustrated Speedway News, 8 February 1966, 4; Roger Huntington, NASCAR and the American Car, Stock Car Racing. March 1970, 24-27; Marty Little, interview by author, 26 July 2006, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in possession of author.
111 years ahead, this connection between technology and economy became critical in auto racings development.4 Cosmetic and performance changes to racecars only partially defined the development of racing during this time. Heading into the 1960s the construction, destru ction, and survival of motorsports facilities became more contingent on geographic and environmental forces. The late 1950s and 1960s saw an emergence of new short tr acks, but in comparis on with the ten-year stretch after World War II, sp eedway construction decreased. The construction of major longlasting facilities, specifically road courses and superspeedways characterized this period. The 1960s marked the proliferation of multi-purpos e facilities, which accommodated oval, road circuit, and drag racing. Permanent road courses, though existing in Europe for decades, finally emerged in the United States after World War II. In the 1950s a nd 60s, sports car racings growth kicked off a rural, road-course building boom, which facilitated that distinctive form of racing enthusiasm. This type of motorsport spread nationwide and gained middle-class fans and competitorsits largest contingent still centralized in the Northeast, Florid a, and California. Although USAC and other entities sanctioned road ra cing, much of this form of motorsport remained under the auspices of the SCCA, which continued to branch out into smaller regional and local clubs. In addition, a new national road-raci ng entity, the Intern ational Motorsports Association (IMSA), formed in 1969. Airport racing waned as the nu mber of road courses increased, and twisting, 4 Charles B. Camp, Selling with Speed, Wall Street Journal, 29 May 1967; Roger Huntington, Wings and Things, Stock Car Racing, July 1970, 18-21; Gordon Kirb y, Superspeedway Dilemma, Racer, January 1997, 96.
112 winding permanent tracks emerged in rural Ohio Minnesota, Virginia, Connecticut, and West Virginia.5 After World War II, California debuted new road courses at Willow Springs (1952), and Torrey Pines (1953), Paramount Ranch (1955), Monterey (1958), and Sears Point (1969). Riverside International Raceway, which first hosted races in 1957, became southern Californias Mecca of auto racing in the 1960s. Riverside wa s located about an hours drive east of Los Angeles in the sparsely populated wine-growing desert community of Moreno Valley. The track accommodated all forms of motorsports and attracted domestic and foreign competition.6 The Golden States moderate climate attracted all-star events. During the winter months, after the conclusion of their respective seasons the nations best driv ers towed their racecars west and competed in prestigious and financiall y lucrative special events in California. It developed many of the nations most successful dr ivers in all discipline s, including stock-car competition. Golden State drivers Dan Gurney and Indianapolis 500-champion Parnelli Jones dominated on California tracks against Dixie drivers at NASCAR Grand National events. Gurney won five Grand National events at Riverside.7 5 Sports car and road racing are synony mous. Carl Goodwin, Brynfan Tyddyn, Vintage Motorsport, Mar/Apr 2005, 54-64; Art Lauring, Sports Car Feature Won by Shelby, Los Angeles Times, 4 November 1957; Art Lauring, From the Pits, Los Angeles Times, 8 September 1957; Art Lauring, Lov ely Wins Road Race Before Record 65,000, Los Angeles Times, 11 November 1957; Frank M. Blunk, R acing is Approaching Stage Where Tracks Will Have to Pay Drivers, New York Times, 2 October 1957; D. M. Bartley, Will USAC Kill off Amateur Racing? Speed Age, October 1958, 10-11, 64-66. The SCCA finally professionalized in 1962. 6 Paramount Ranch only lasted for a year-and-a-half. Torr ey Pines was replaced by a golf course (site of the 2008 US Open). Sports Car Track Ready for First Event, Los Angeles Times, 12 August 1956; Hangsen Pilots LolaFord to Monterey Grand Prix Victory, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 October 1965, 3; John Zimmermann, Half a Century at Laguna Seca, Part I, 1957-1982, Vintage Motorsport, July/August 2007, 78-95; Lance Troy, The Last of the Torrey Pines, Speed Age, May 1956, 61-62, 86. 7 NASCAR-USAC-SCCA Clash in Riverside 500, Illustrated Speedway News, 1 January 1963, 2; Its Gurney at Riverside, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 January 1963, 1; Bob Gates, Parnelli, Open Wheel, June 1997, 65-78; Ron Lemasters Sr., USA and the Top 25, Open Wheel, January 2000, 72-73; Matt Stone, Dan Gurney Wins the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside, Motor Trend, February 2003; Bobby Unser Wins USAC Crown with Point Record, Illustrated Speedway News, 3 December 1968, 2; Shav Glick, Last Go-Round Recalls Legends of Famed Track, Los Angeles Times, 7 August 1988; Art Loya, Woolley has Field Day at Imperial, Illustrated Speedway
113 Although sports car and stock car competition th rived in California, the 1960s marked a golden era for all types of open-wh eel racing in the state. The re gions fixation with exotic cars tended to gravitate toward sleek er and faster championship racing, and as one long-time fan of California motorsports put it, at the time, stoc k car racing was not as popular as champ car racing and, in my opinion, would not have drawn the same size crowd.8 USAC sanctioned well-attended championship races at Riverside and Sacramento. In addition to USAC, the California Racing Association ( CRA) sanctioned west-coast raci ng. The highly competitive and respected CRA became a premie r regional open-wheel entity. 9 Arizonas arid climate, desert s, and mountains resembled sout hern California. Arizonas racing history, however, paralleled both Californi a and the Midwest. The one-mile dirt oval at the Arizona State fairgrounds in Phoenix served as the Southwes ts open-wheel racing hub. This track had a quirk. One former fan and compe titor remembered vividly [about] the tracks configuration was a pocket formed by the gran dstands being set back along the front stretch. The crash wall along the front stretch followed this pocket configuration and provided some extra track width. This classic facility s howcased some of the most memorable USAC championship division races.10 Built in 1964, the Phoenix International Raceway replaced championship racing at the dirt fairgrounds. Located in the suburb of Avondale, west of Phoenix (both are within Maricopa County), this one-mile, paved oval allowed view s of the racing action atop adjacent desert News, 12 March 1963, 12; C.R.A. Sprint Feature Pocketed by Woolley, Illustrated Speedway News, 9 March, 1965, 3; Joe Scalzo, Ca lifornia Stock Car Racing, Stock Car Racing October 1968, 42-45. 8 E-mail correspondence with Ro y C. Morris 2 July 2008. 9 Art Loya, CRA Okays 100-M ile Phoenix Sprint Car Race, Illustrated Speedway News, 1 January 1963, 2; Hogle Heads Field for CRA 8 Finale at Ascot Sunday, Illustrated Speedway News, 3 December 1968, 2. 10 E-mail correspondence with Ro y C. Morris 2 July 2008.
114 hilltops. With the construction of this new track, Arizona remained an open-wheel racing hot spot, and more importantly, the desert climat e permitted year-round racing. After World War II, Maricopa Countys population exploded from 331,770 (1950) to 967,522 (1970). As Phoenix became a major-league city, it also demanded a major-league racetrack. Big-time motorsports came to Phoenix well before the National Bask etball Association (NBA) Phoenix Suns in 1968 and National Football Leagues (NFL) Arizona Cardinals in 1988.11 Although the Phoenix market remained a USAC stronghold, the new track, more importantly, reflected a continuing nationwide trend toward pavement racing. In 1954, the Wisconsin state fair eliminated its horse racing root s. When Minnesota switched over in 1964, the dirt-to-asphalt transition affect ed another of Americas most popular fair tracks. With the possible exception of Iowa, the Mi nnesota state fair races occupi ed the biggest events of the IMCA calendar. The track in St. Paul was built in 1907 and hosted countless AAA, IMCA, and other auto races on its famous dirt surface th rough 1963. After World War II, races sometimes occurred on every day of the fair, up to ten da ys. Crowds occasionally surpassed 30,000, and the last dirt race attracted 25,813. The fair board deci ded in favor of the conversion, in part, because asphalt was more convenient and easier to maintain during the fair, and minimal maintenance meant reduced downtime between h eats and quicker clean up at th e end of events. Pavement eliminated the dust problem, too.12 11 The NFL franchise moved from St. Louis to Phoenix beginning with the 1988 season. Joe Scalzo, Desert Jewel, Circle Track, April 1986, 58-63. According to the U.S. census, the 2000 population of Maricopa County was 3,072,149. 12 For brief reviews of IMCA and AAA races at the Minn esota State Fair, see Ray P. Speer and Harry J. Frost Minnesota State Fair: The History and Heritage of 100 Hundred Years (Minneapolis: Argus, 1964); Ruttman Romps Roughshod over Big Cars at St. Paul, National Speed Sport News 29 August 1951, 2; Marsh Muirhead, The Last Great days of Dirt at the Minnesota State Fair, Open Wheel, May 1984, 31-33; Marsh Muirhead, Of Wings and Things and Bygone Days, Open Wheel, August 1982, 80-81.
115 Throughout most of America, enthusiasm for as phalt racing reached new heights. Dirt-toasphalt conversions sometimes produced disappointing results. The pave d Minnesota State Fair track failed to become a fan or competitor favorite. Sprint Car Hall of Famer Jerry Scratch Daniels put it bluntly, Saint Pa ul on dirt was just awesome. But when you made pavement out of it, it was run on the bottom and step on the brakes and it just wasn t a real good racetrack.13 Follow-the-leader, parade-style racing became standard at St. Paul. The growth of paved racing helped asphalt track racers but hurt dirt track specialists. It was unpopular among many IMCA competitors, most of whom cut their teeth on dirt tracks. Although drivers adapted rather quickly, many remain ed loyal to dirt and expressed a disdain for pavement. The essence and aesthetic of the s port changed with the surface. As journalist William Holder observed, the condition of the car on pavement is the key. It must be working perfectly. The driver plays a much more important role on dirt. He can make up the difference when the car isnt quite up to par.14 The growing popularity of asphalt racing, and the fact that former dirt venues on the schedule we re now paved, forced drivers to stick with one surface or become multi-disciplinary and learn to race on pavement. Though beginning in the late 1940s and 50s, the 1960s marked this major shift. Some racers and fans made the transition with reluctance.15 After the AAA ceased its motorsports involveme nt in 1955, Indianapo lis Motor Speedway president Tony Hulman founded the United States Auto Club (USAC). Essentially, USAC assumed an identical role as its predecessor, but American championshi p racings headquarters moved from Washington, D.C., to Indianapolis. This made sense, for most USAC events (all 13 Daniels, interview by author. 14 William Holder, The Dying Art of Driving on Dirt, Auto Racing Digest, November 1977, 26. 15 Blundy, interview by author; Daniels, interview by author ; Shav Glick, On Sprint Car Circuit, Dirt is Name of the Game, Los Angeles Times, 26 October 1982.
116 divisions) took place in the Heartland. USAC was open-wheel racings premier entity and consisted of a three-stage feeder system. Fr om midgets to sprint cars to championship cars formed the typical path drivers took as they aspi red to reach Indianapolis The skills developed on the shorter tracks and the smalle r cars served well for drivers that wished to move up to the technologically superior, faster, and more powerful champion ship cars. Beginning in 1956, USAC sanctioned the Indianapolis 500, and that event remained the most prestigious American race on the global stage. Absent since the 1910s, top European drivers returned to America to race in the Indianapolis 500. The event was part of the Formula One World Championship. 16 Outside of Indianapolis, the Midwest remained predominatel y dirt track racing territory but, as the St. Paul and Milwaukee fair track s indicated, with a grow ing number of major exceptions. As the 1960s progressed, fewer ch ampionship races occurred on dirt, and USAC scheduled more events on road courses and asphalt speedways. Championship racing became more interdisciplinary, and driv ers competed on three types of circuitsdirt oval, paved oval, and paved road course. By 1969, the USAC championship schedule consisted of events scattered at seven paved ovals, f our road courses, and only five dirt venues. Sprint and midget car divisions also gravitated toward asphalt, and USAC and th e IMCA featured more paved events in the 1960s.17 The 1960s was the most competitive decade of IMCA open-wheel, sprint-car racing competition. By the late 1950s USACunlike its predecessor (AAA)relaxed some of its licensing requirements and restricti ons. Outlaw IMCA drivers found it easier to jump over to 16 Don White First in Stock Classic; is Booed by Record Crowd, Illustrated Speedway News, 25 June 1968, 1; Russ Catlin, How to Save Racing in America, Speed Age, November 1955, 12-15, 83-85; Auto Racing Organizing New Group. In 1961, USAC eliminated the eastern and Midwest sprint car divisions and combined them into a single national sprint car championship. 17 Don OReilly, Racing the Stocks, Hot Rod, September 1957, 62-63; Langhorne, 1965 Souvenir Program.
117 USAC. Although they still look ed down on the IMCA as a mi nor-league fair organization, USAC owners and sponsors searched the H eartland for new talent. In the late 1950s and 1960s, young gunsA. J. Foyt, Jim Hurtubise, and Johnny Rutherfordused the IMCA as a launching pad to future stardom in USAC cham pionship racing and at Indianapolis. Late National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Greg Weld represented the point-of-view of many of his fellow enshrines and stated, my objectiv e all along was how to get to the Speedway, how to get to the Indy 500.18 Midwestern drivers shot for Indianapolis, not Daytona stardom. The fair circuit remained very popular and the IMCA sired some of its richest talent ever.19 Colorful heroes have always been a part of the Midwestern dirt tr ack racing stage. The IMCA, in the 1960s, had a memorable cast of characters in the 1960s whose racing names depicted their socioeconomic and geographic orig ins, and all of whom eventually entered the National Sprint Car Hall of Fa me. Originating from the Twin Cities (Minnesota) region was Jerry Richert and Jerry Scratch Daniels. Ea rl the Racing Plumber Wagner was from smalltown Pleasantville, Iowa, the Potato Farmer Don Mack hailed from East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Texas Tornado Gordon Woolley came from Waco, and finally, Kansas Citys Weld Brothers, (Jerry, Greg, and Kenny) known as the racing mafia, raced in and around Kansas City at different di rt tracks, namely Holmes Ro ad Speedway, Olympic Stadium, Riverside Speedway, and Lakeside Speedway (all def unct). All of these drivers fared extremely well when they ventured to Florida or California for special events.20 18 Weld, interview by author. 19 Dean Conklin, I.M.C.A. Auto Racing Round-Up, U.S. Autosports, November 1964, 47-49; Wayne Shufelt, The Golden Year of I.M.C.A, 50-Year History, U.S. Autosports, February 1965, 12-19; Racing Cars to Battle for Indy 33-Berth Field, Illustrated Speedway News, 23 April 1968, 3, 14; Woolley, interview by author. 20 Wayne Panter, IMCA to Mark 50th Anniversary, Illustrated Speedway News, 26 January 1965, 9, 11; Bob Smith, Weld Wins Anniversary 50 Illustrated Speedway News, 16 February 1965, 4; Jack Lindberg, The Wheeling Welds, Part I, Stock Car Racing, Spring 1969, 46-48; Joe Scalzo, The Wheeling Welds, Part II, Stock
118 Although the above drivers competed predom inately in open-wheel competition, some Midwestern drivers pursued stock car raci ng. Three major entitiesUSAC, IMCA, and ARCAsanctioned stock car racing in the Midwest, and the regi on produced drivers that also excelled in NASCAR Grand National competition during the 1960s. 21 Johnny Beauchamp, Ramo Stott, Dick Hutche rson, Don White, and Er nie Derr hailed from Keokuk, Iowa, in the southeast corner of the state. Known collec tively as the Keokuk Komets, they dominated IMCA stock car competition for years. The IMCA proved to be one of the top feeder series for those drivers who sought to enter the Grand National Series. Hutcherson (14 Grand National victories) and Beauchamp (two Grand National victories) brought their talents South. Stott and White also fared well in USAC stock division. Indeed, Keokuk was a championship city; no Southeastern city boosted as many successful stock car racers. Derr won eleven IMCA championships. 22 Car Racing, March 1969, 30-33; Jack Lindberg, The Wheeling Welds, Part III, Stock Car Racing, February 1969, 16-18; Greg, Ken Weld Sprint Nationals Premier Brothers, National Speed Sport News, 8 August 1979, 19. Jerry Weld has yet to be elected to the Sprint Car Hall of Fame. 21 ARCA was known as the Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC) from 1952-1962. Toledo-based ARCA served as a minor league organization that attracted mo stly Midwestern drivers. ARCA formed in 1953 and remained a strong regional stock car entity. It still exis ts today as a national minor league stock car sanctioning body that competes on superspeedways as well as paved an d dirt short tracks. Dick Gerald, A Look Back at the 1965 United States Auto Club Stock Car Division, Stock Car Racing, May 1966, 44-45; David Fall, Yankee 300, Stock Car Racing, September 1966, 52-53; ARCA News, Stock Car Racing, April 1968, 9; Gale Pifer, Racing: Corn Belt Style! Stock Car Racing, March 1968, 46-47; USAC Rebellion, Stock Car Racing, September 1968, 6-7. 22 D. A. Davidson, Keokuk: Race Town, U.S.A., Stock Car Racing, January 1971, 34-35, 58; Derr Named Stock Titlist after Six-Year Drought, Illustrated Speedway News, 24 November 1959, 12; IMCA Late Model Crown is Still up for Grabs, Illustrated Speedway News, 18 October 1966, 2; 1961 I.M.C.A. Year Book ; 1962 I.M.C.A. Yearbook ; 1963 I.M.C.A. Year Book ; Brad Wilson, Beauchamp Victor at Des Moines, Illustrated Speedway News, 24 July 1956, 1; You Can Beat Erni e Derr If Youre a Walter Mitty, Illustrated Speedway News, 23 June 1970, 24; Former NASCAR Driver Hutcherson Dies at Age 73, NASCAR Scene, 10 November 2005, 69; Larry Cothren, A Deserving Racer, Stock Car Racing, March 2006, 10; Jack Miller, The IMCA Fans Responded, Open Wheel, February 2001, 58; National Speedways to Open Heavy Fair Schedule, Illustrated Speedway News, 3 August 1965, 6.
119 The small city of Fargo, North Dakota, like Keok uk, also had a vibrant motorsports scene and a storied history of IMCA competition. Situated in the heart of the Red River Valley on the west bank of the northward flowing Red River of th e North, Fargo hosted auto races for over one hundred years. The original fairground and trac k site in north Fargoused for races beginning in 1906fell in the path of th e bulldozer. Fargo outgrew th e location, and development was planned in the area surrounding the old fairgrounds. Ramo Stott w on the last event at the Fargo fairgrounds, a 100-lap IMCA stock car race, on July 15, 1966. A new fairground project, intended to accommodate more people and traffic as the Red River Valleys population increased, was developed west of the city.23 Opened on August 18, 1967, the Red River Valley Speedway became, by far, the premier motorsports complex in the upper Midwest. The speedway marqueed IMCA racing during the fair from 1967 through 1969. Histor ically, in part, because of th e tacky soil indigenous to the area, the Red River Valley Speedway remained as one of the fastest half-mile, dirt tracks in America. In addition, the track was easily accessib le to fans and competitors flocking to the track from the west via Interstate 94, which c onnected Fargo with Bismarck to the west and Minneapolis to the east. The track, built outside of Fargo city limits in the small suburban enclave of West Fargo, initially re sted far beyond development. As suburbia crept closer to the track in the 1970s, the Red River Valley fair board purchased surroundi ng land to keep noise contained on its property. 23 Fargo and its sister city of Moorhead, Minnesota, an d Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, are the largest metropolises in the Red River Valley region. Last Valley Fair at Old Grounds Draws Total Attendance of 98,659, Fargo Forum, 16 July 1966; Phil Roberts, The Sun Sets at Sunset, Stock Car Racing, September 2000, 78-81; Olsen, Things Have Changed. As was the case nationwide, most dirt track racing, by the 1960s, took place at night, and tempor ary lights were installed for evening races at the Fargo fairgrounds. A high school, strip mall, McDonalds, and North Dakota State University apartments exist at the old site.
120 Fargo sustained another raceway in the late 1960s. Fargo Speedway Park was successful during its short tenure from 1965 until 1971 and occ upied open farmland a few miles south of downtown. However, this property also existe d at the southwestern intersection of newly constructed Interstates 94 and 29. Before th e interstates, most of Fargos population was confined northeast of the intersec tion. I-94 and I-29 stimulated ma jor commercial and residential development south and west of downtown. Af ter World War II, family farms and small communities disappeared at the expense of cor porate agriculture and unstable crop prices, and rural families resettled in cities, such as Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Fargo. North Dakotas rural population migrated toward suburban quarter s, thus bucking the national flow from the cities to suburbs. Indeed, bulldozers were busy in Fargo during the late 1960s and early 1970s and the farmer who owned the land could not pass up the financial incenti ves of investors. Housing and commerce eventually covered the form er location of Fargo Speedway Park as the city grew in a southerly dire ction. Thus, even in North Dakota, development surrounded and engulfed a once rural racing facility.24 The development of the Red River Valley Speedway and Fargo Speedway Parks demise also illustrated the vital conn ection between intersta te highways and racetracks. Many years before the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, local, state, and federal officials and the American public saw the need for massive highway improvements and the necessity of an interstate network to not only accommoda te more automobiles and trucks, but rescue an aging, overburdened, and obsolete road network. The fe deral government also foresaw the Interstate Highway System as an offensive and defensive measure of Cold War security, and President 24 Grand Opening Fargo Speedway Park, Fargo Forum, 2 July 1965; Stock Car Drivers Open Program, Fargo Forum, 17 August 1967; Don Mack Wins Feature, Fargo Forum, 19 August 1967; Stars of IMCAs A Racing Programs This Week at RRV Fair, Fargo Forum, 20 August 1967; World Record Shattered in 100-Lap Stock Car Race, Fargo Forum, 25 August 1967.
121 Dwight Eisenhower intended for the interstates to have two major strategic goals. One, the interstates would provide urban residents speedy escape routes and facil itate mass withdrawals from cities in the event of a Soviet missile at tack. Mobile defense was the other envisioned purpose of the Interstate Highway System; miss ile-strapped American trucks could roam the interstates, thus keeping Soviet surveillance continuously trying to keep up with a mobile nuclear arsenal.25 The federal government funded 90 percent of th e massive project; the states allocated the remaining 10 percent. Federal planners compile d a massive report that dictated where the new interstates would be constructe d, and the all-import ant yellow book held the destinies of countless cities and communities. It delighted ci vic boosters, particularly from smallto midsized towns, to learn that one of the proposed superhighways would proceed through or near their community. Although no one likely realized this at the time, buried within the yellow books pages were the shortand long-term fate s of countless racetracks. The report would influence where future racetracks would be constructed (and bulldozed). Today, countless speedways of all sizes and configurati ons remain visible from interstates.26 Interstates sometimes benefited tracks because once-remote venues became more easily accessible, thus generating more fans and comp etitors from farther distances. Racersbound for Red River Valley Speedway for examplewelcom ed interstates because the new four-lane expressways certainly made transportation of thei r racecars and haulers ea sier and quicker. There was a flip-side, however. Landscapes once considered the country, became towns and suburbs. With interstate construction came residential and commercial development, which 25 A thorough account of the events leading up to the Interstate Act is, Mark H. Rose, Interstate: Express Highway Politics, 1941-1956 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1979). 26 Lewis, Divided Highways, Richard O. Davies, ed. The Age of Asphalt: The Automobile, the Freeway, and the Condition of Metropolitan America (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1975).
122 led to increased land values in rural areas. Ho me ownership was a defining feature of American society in the 1950s and 60sa house in the Amer ican suburbs signified personal and national success. Housing, commerce, and industry replaced forests, farms, and speedways. As sprawl webbed across America, small racetracks such as Fargo Speedway Park disappeared.27 Expanding suburbs and existing speedways were incompatible, and automobile racing died a slow death in some parts of the United St ates. Pavements impact on racing reached beyond track surfaces to another intimate level. Heavily traveled interstates in the Northeast contributed to rapid suburban development along the I95 corridor (Boston, Providence, New Haven, New York, Trenton, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.). With the paving of tracks came the paving of landscape, and the Northeast region, as a whole, went asphalt and concrete sooner than the South or Midwest. Two long-time US AC championship tracksTrenton Speedway at the New Jersey State fairgrounds (1957), and a few miles away, the long-time venue at Langhorne, Pennsylvania (1965)were prominent ex amples. For the time being, the tracks survived as the black interstate ribbon and other highways continued to deliver fans.28 Still, rapidly suburbanizing states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and eastern Maryland tended to spawn a rapid closure of racing facilities. The Northeast region had a high number of speedway closures and paveovers. The 1960s foreshadowed the fate of racing in many parts of the country, as clashes between racing enthusiasts and the citizenry increased. For instance, Marylands Beltsville Speedwa y, a half-mile paved oval located near the 27 Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Post War Detroit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 199); Cohen, A Consumers Republic A Consumers Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Vintage, 2003); Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). 28 Skip Clayton, Trenton Speedway, Open Wheel, December 1987, 48-51; Ernie Saxt on, Langhorne 100 Miler to Jim McElreath, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 June 1965, 1, 15; Ernie Saxton, Gordon Johncock wins Langhorne 150, Illustrated Speedway News, 25 June 1968, 1; All Star Indy Field to Vie in Trenton, Illustrated Speedway News, 9 April, 1963, 5; OReilly, Racing the Stocks.
123 Baltimore-Washington Parkway (Highway 301) and Interstate 95, opened in 1965. The population of Prince Georges County jumped from 357,395 in 1960, to 661,719, ten years later. To be sure, the track was doomed before its first race. Complaints about noise, traffic, and lewdbehavior converged on the track soon after it opened.29 The fate of Marlboro Speedway, also locat ed in Prince Georges County, was more immediate. Built in the 1950s, Ma rlboro was a multi-purpose facility that featured a dirt oval, paved oval, and flat 1.7-mile, nine -turn, road course. It was the favorite of the Beltways strong sports car base. Initially, geologic factors bene fited Marlboro. The facility was safe from residential and commercial development because the track site existed on a high water table land unsuited for building construc tion. Then, in the mid-1960s, as sprawl drew near, a growing public outcry of forty-four citizens complained to the Prince Georges County Commission and forced Marlboro Speedway to limit evening racing, restrict practice runs to the daytime, and establish curfews of 11:30 p. m. Evening racing was permitted only on Fridays, Saturdays, and during special events. Still, the population crept closer to the speedway and civilian complaints increased, and by 1969, the track was no l onger used for organized motorsports.30 Automobile racing turned into a sport charact erized by survival and adaptation. Marlboros closure partially led to the construction of Su mmit Point Raceway in West Virginia. Located near the small cities of Charles Town, West Virg inia, and Winchester, Virginia, this facility was easily accessible from Washington, D. C., vi a Interstate 66. Beginning in 1969, this new facilitywhich still exists toda yserved the mid-Atlantic sports car racing contingent. In a 29 NASCAR Races Feature First Program at Baltimore-Washington Speedway, Washington Post, 20 July 1965; David Bourdon, Beltsville Prospers Despite Mounting Problems, Washington Post, 15 July 1969. 30 The site remained utilized for other non-racing events Venlo Wolfsohn, interview by author, 13 March 2007, Bethesda, Maryland, in possession of author.
124 similar vein as Watkins Glen and Elkhart La ke, Summit Pointnestled in the Appalachian foothills in the midst of apple-orchard countrymixed automobiles with aesthetics.31 Road racing spread into NASCAR country during the late 1950s and 1960s. Virginia International Raceway, opened in 1957, was one of the first southern road courses. Six years later, Augusta International R aceway, a European-style road course carved in the middle of cotton country in an area most famous for the prestigious Masters golf tournament, opened in 1963. This facility was fan-friendly; a NASCAR Newsletter mentioned that unlike other road courses, it is possible to see vi rtually every inch of the Augusta track from the major spectator area, which is located on a hill and overlooks a valley through which the racetrack winds around the golf course.32 The three-mile road course consisted of twenty-one turns. The complex also had a half-mile dirt oval (bui lt in 1960, paved in 1964), and a 4,200-foot drag strip/runway. Road racings appeal was increasing in the D eep South, and additional southern road-courses would be built in the 1970s and beyond.33 The South, as a matter of fact, was home to Americas first Formul a One race. In 1959, the worlds most prestigious raci ng series traveled to Sebring, Florida, for the inaugural United States Grand Prix. Located on the shore of La ke Jackson, Sebring lies in a remote, orangegrowing region of south-central Florida known as ridge-country. A former military airport, Sebring International Raceway beca me famous in racing circles for its insects, intense heat, and 31 Wolfsohn, interview by author. 32 The track was located in Hephzibah, Georgia, about ten miles southwest of Augusta. Johnny Hendrix, Augusta Road Course to Open 4 Season, NASCAR Newsletter, 15 October 1963, 3; Dic Fan der Veen, Inaugural at Augusta, US Motorsports, April 1964, 23-24; Eric Warner, First USRRC Race for US Motorsports, June 1964, 50-53. 33 The road circuit began holding races three years after the dirt oval.
125 lack of amenities. Many racers and their teams test at the fac ility during winter, and Sebrings longevity was due to its geography.34 Despite the growth of all type s of racing in Florida, stock car racing became, by far, the states most popular form of motorsport. In 1948, Bill France brought sanctioned racing back to Daytona Beach, and 14,000 people attended the firs t NASCAR modified-stock car race (which preceded the first Grand National race on the beach by one year). The course consisted of the beach and part of coastal highway A-1-A, a nd through 1958, it was one of the biggest events on the Grand National calendar and attracted driver s from all parts of the country. The races marked the end of one era (beach) and the begi nning of another (pavement). Aware that the citys growth threatened the event, France started investigating the possibility of constructing a permanent multi-purpose racing facility to serve as the stock car-racing equivalent to the championship car track at Indianapolis.35 A 345-acre rattlesnake-infested parcel of sc rub landadjacent to the citys municipal airport and within a mile east of the forthcoming Interstate 9 5provided the suitable location. The longstanding runways proved asphalts durab ility on the topography, and although natural beach sand was no longer raced upon, geologic fo rces made the construction of Daytona International Speedway possible. The occurrence of natural marl (clay, sand, seashell mixture) found in the soil allowed for the construction of the tracks 31-degree banking. The tri-oval section of the track was built to conform to the bend in nearby state highway 92. In 1959, the 34 The second United States Grand Prix was held at Riverside in 1960 before moving to a long-term home at Watkins Glen the following year. Bill Oursler, Years at Sebring, National Speed Sport News, 13 March 2002, 30-31; Adam Cooper, Spirit of 59, Racer, December 1999, 60-62; Shav Glick, Its Almost Like Old times once again at Sebring, Los Angeles Times, 18 March 1978. 35 The Boss of the Beach, Speed Age, April 1948, 14-15, 25; Mark Rene, Daytona Rides Again With NASCAR, Speed Age, March 1951, 30-32; Houston A. Lawing, South vs. Mid-West Duel at Daytona in Coming Classics, National Speed Sport News, 31 January 1951, 5.
126 Daytona International Speedway replaced the beachfr ont as the nerve center for American stock car racing.36 This configuration made possible the highest stock car speeds ever witnessed on a closed facility, and the 2.5-mile superspeedway provi ded yet another challenge for drivers and mechanics. The tri-oval configuration and hi gh banks allowed for faster speeds because the turns were not as tight, and a driver did not necessarily have to use his or her breaks or step off the accelerator to navigate the turn successfully. (Des pite the long straight aways of the true oval configuration at the Brickyard, smaller emba nkments and tighter turns at Indy kept corner speeds in check.) The championship cars Offenhauser engines were too powerful and ill-suited for the superspeedway. The banking of the track pr omoted blistering open-wheel speeds not seen since the board track era. In February 1959, two-time AAA stock car division champion Marshall Teague fatally crashed while testing his car at the track for a scheduled USAC championship race later that April (the first cham pionship race in Florida since Fulford-Miami in 1926). Despite the obvious danger presented by the b linding speeds, plans still went ahead for the event, won by Jim Rathmann. A second trag edy occurred, however, when George Amick crashed and died during the race. The USAC Da ytona 200 was the only championship race held at the superspeedway, illustrating that some types of racing were becoming too fast.37 The construction of Daytona International Sp eedway in 1959 kicked off the third American superspeedway boom, and paved superspeedwa ys became NASCARs most popular tracks and largest draws. The Daytona 500first he ld on February 22, 1959emerged as NASCARs biggest race of the Grand Nationa l season. The race took place in winter and permitted drivers 36 Rob Sneddon, A Flying Start with a Photo Finish, Stock Car Racing, February 2000, 28-42. 37 L. Spencer Riggs, Marshall Teague, Stock Car Racing, July 1986, 82-87; Rob Sneddon, A Flying Start with A Photo Finish, Speedway Illustrated, February 2008, 28-42.
127 from all over the country to tow their racecars an d venture southward to the speedway via I-95. The timing of this event was unique in relation to most team sports. In NASCARs case, the seasons most prestigious and lucrative event occurred at the beginning, not end, of the season. In contrast to the major speedways built nationwide in the 1910s and 20s to accommodate AAA championship racing, this track-building boom was regional and predominately benefitted Grand National stock car racing. The constructio n of these new venues usually meant one less event for northern short tracks, and with more superspeedways came fewer dirt races. In comparison with the previous decade, NASCARs Grand National division staged fewer races in the North during the 1960s, with Northeastern trips mainly limited to one mid-summer tour. Maine, New York, and New Jersey hosted Grand Na tional races. The non-southern events were usually well attended, but these smaller facilities did not have the sea ting capacity of the new southern superspeedways.38 NASCARs top division reflected the nationwide growth of asphalt racing, and the Grand National Series gradually shifted to pavement From 1949 to 1959, the annual schedule featured a majority of dirt races. An equal number of dirt and paved events occurred in 1960 and 61, but beginning with the 1962 season, asphalt races outn umbered dirt races. This trend continued throughout the decade. 39 As the rapid success of Daytona and Darlington indicated, the Southeast was becoming an ideal region for successful large au tomobile racing facilities. Daytona kicked off an era. Oneand-a-half-mile tri-ovals at Atlanta (Hampton) and Charlott e (Concord) debuted in 1960. Additional, and still surviving, Southeastern superspeedways roared to life in rural Rockingham, 38 Outlook of the Northeast, NASCAR Newsletter, 1 March 1968, 2; Rob Fisher Wall Stadium Speedway, Stock Car Racing, September 2006, 50-56. Wright, Fixin to Git! 180-203. 39 Gene Granger, Doin It in the Dirt, Grand National Illustrated, November 1984, 46-60; Andy Fusco and Pete Hollebrand, When Grand Nationals Ran Sideways, Stock Car Racing, February 1978, 60-63, 70.
128 North Carolina, (1966) and Talladega, Alabama (1969). When the Sunbelt boom came to the region in subsequent decades, th ese tracks remained safe, because they were far away from development, became national-known sporting venues, and generated enormous economic benefits to these towns and their surrounding co mmunities. Constructed on inexpensive, rural land close to interstates but easily accessible to growing southern cities, they were built to ensure longevity.40 Constructed on a former soybean farm in rural, northeastern Alabama, Talladega Superspeedway was outside major suburban developm ent but ideally located along Interstate 20. This superhighway traversed the South from Texa s to South Carolina, and connected Atlanta and Birmingham, two of the regions fastest-growing major cities with plenty of racing fans. The track had a tumultuous beginning; just as was th e case ten years earlier when Daytona was found to be ill-suited for championship cars, Talladega tested the limits of the Grand National stock cars. The track was slightly longer, higher-banked, and faster than Daytona. Many Grand National drivers feared their raci ng tires would not hold to the rigor s of the freshly paved surface for the scheduled 500-mile opener and boycotted the September 1969 event. The race took placebut absent from the field were nearly all of the top Grand National drivers. The boycott showed that even the bravest of racers, too, had their limits to how fast they were willing to go. The construction of Talladega served as a be nchmark event in motorsports technology and signaled the end of the long-stan ding trend to build longer speedw ays with steeper bankings. Large tri-oval facilities fostered such blistering speeds that sanctioning bodies were presented with the challenge of how to sl ow the cars down. No oval raceway has been built since that is 40 Charlotte Winner to Get Over $25,000, NASCAR Newsletter, 1 May 1962, 1, 3; Paving Started on New N.C. Speedway, Illustrated Speedway News, 10 August 1965, 11; American 500 North Carolina Motor Speedway Inaugural, Stock Car Racing, May 1966, 32-41; A.R.C.A. 500-Miler Scheduled for new Alabama Speedway, Illustrated Speedway News, 3 December 1968, 4; Daytona and Alabama to Operate under I.S.C. Illustrated Speedway News, 3 December 1968, 7; Shackleford, Going National while Staying Southern.
129 longer and faster than Talladegas mammoth 2.66-mile, lightning-quick track. The 33-degreebanked tri-oval remained the largest oval speedway in America.41 American auto racing became more regiona lly defined during the 1960s. With NASCARsanctioned stock car racing entrenched in the Southeast, USACs stock car and open-wheel divisions remained prominent in the Midwest. In southern Californi a, NHRA-sanctioned drag racing catapulted this type of motorsport to the rest of the nation. Sunny California also became one of the most popular road racing states The IMCA sprint and stock car divisions were most popular in the Great Pl ains states, such as Nebraska and the Dakotas, and further east in Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. A ll types of racing subsisted in the Northeast; Formula One found a home at Watkins Glen, ch ampionship racing thrived at Langhorne and Trenton, and NASCAR Grand Nationa l visited smaller northern shor t tracks. During the 1960s, stability characterized American auto racing and motorsports en tities, but those days were numbered. Heading into the 1970s and 80s, the de velopment and demise of these entities and their respective varieties of r acing became more contingent on geographic and social forces.42 As the checkered flag signaled the end of the 1960s, countless post-World War II short tracks disappeared from the countryside due to spra wl and interstate construction. In the decades ahead, environmental factors dictated which motorsports entities would strengthen, weaken, emerge, or disappear. In previous decades, with th e absence of barriers, such as noise statutes and environmental impact studies, building a racetrack and hosting automobile races required 41 Jeff Frederick, If it werent for Bad Luck Id have No Luck at all: NASCAR, Southern Boosterism, and Deep South Culture in Talladega, Alabama, Gulf South Historical Review 20 (Spring 2005): 636. Bob Carey, The Talladega Flap Goes On, Stock Car Racing, January 1970, 16-19; Bones Bourcier and Greg Fielden, Talladega : The Race That Almost Wasnt, Speedway Illustrated, November 2004, 31-39. 42 The IMCA also instituted a midget (c ompact) division from 1962-1969. John S. Radosta, U.S. Auto Racing: A Guide Through the Maze, New York Times, 4 February 1968.
130 little more than an investment and promotion skil ls. In the 1970s and 80s, those days verged on nostalgia.
131 CHAPTER 6 RESURGENCE AND INSURGENCE, (1970-1979) At that tim e, nobody paid much attention to NASCAR. It had the redneck image. It was popular in the Southeast, but for most of the Northern people, the serious racing was considered to be what ran at Indianapolis, the champ cars. Larry Mattingly1 It looks like 1979 will be the greatest year ever for Grand National stock car racing and it could be a season that will change the course of the sports history. Humpy Wheeler2 American auto racings modern era emerge d in the 1970s. USAC, NASCAR, the IMCA, the SCCA, and IMSA had the largest shares of the American racing mark et at the beginning of the decade. USAC and NASCAR remained the major oval-track national organizations. USAC controlled the eastern Heartla nd, and NASCAR dominated the S outheast. The IMCA brought stock and sprint car racing to smaller and mid-sized locales, but Americas oldest motorsports entity faded and disappeared by 1977. After a brief opening season in 1969, IMSA strengthened and challenged the SCCA as the top professional American road racing series. The decade of change was a turbulent period for sanctioning bodies and speedways. This chapter explores the influence of politics, economy, and geogr aphy on motorsports development in 1970s.3 In 1970, USAC was robust and commanding. Outside of the Southeast the Championship series reigned as the premier American auto raci ng division. That year, 84 entries vied for 33 available Indianapolis 500 starting positions. The biggest stars in American motorsports, such as 1 Sam Ross Jr., Racing Against Time, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6 August 2006. Mattingly has been associated with auto racing in wester n Pennsylvania since the 1960s 2 Stock Car Racing Headed for Greatest Season, Illustrated Speedway News, 24 January 1979, 14. Wheeler was long-time president of Charlotte Motor Speedway until 2008. 3 Shav Glick, Drag Racing 1972: Big Business, Los Angeles Times, 17 November 1972; 6a Banner Year for Racing Attendance, Auto Racing Digest May 1977, 48-9; Auto Racing Holds No 1 Rank among Non-Betting U.S. Sports Goers, National Speed Sport News, 2 April 1975, 9; Chicago Fireworks Expected as SCCA Delegates Convene, National Speed Sport News, 21 February 1979, 6.
132 A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Bobby and Al Un ser, drove in the USAC championship series and also succeeded in select ed NASACAR events (Andretti won the 1967 and Foyt won the 1972 Daytona 500s). The Indy 500 remained the worlds premier auto race and drivers from all types of American racingincluding sout hern-born NASCAR stars, such as Lee Roy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, and Bobby and Donni e Allisoncrossed over and competed in the worlds largest annual sporting event.4 Although Indy remained strong, USAC and mo torsports entities faced financial and geographical obstacles during the 1970s. Auto racings plight reflected larger socioeconomic trends. Inflation, higher gaso line prices, and a slumping Amer ican economy contributed to smaller fields and lower purses at many race tracks. American motorsports became more expensive at all levels, and rising competition costs weakened USAC-sanctioned championship racing during the decade. Despite the high prices of chassis, components, and tires, engine costs hurt teams the most. The four-cylinder Offenhaus er engines were expensive, but modern and more powerful turbocharged V-8 powerplants fro m Detroit carried much higher price tags. Ultimately, the outdated Offy faded from championship racing after nearly 60 years.5 4 Pat Santello, interview by author, 6 February 2007, Titusville, Florida, in possession of author; Entries for Indy 500, Illustrated Speedway News, 21 April 1970, 20; Record Breaking Entry List of 92 Cars for Indy 500 May 28, Illustrated Speedway News, 25 April 1978, 11; Ed Wrenn, A Closer Look at USAC Championship Car Racing, National Speed Sport News, 14 May 1970, 16; 0,000 to Watch 500 Qualifying, Washington Post, 10 May 1970; Bill Dimmich, Is Championship Racing Suffering From Nations Economy Bind? Illustrated Speedway News, 10 December 1974, 5; USAC Champ Circuit Problems: Fuel Sponsors, and AJ Foyt, Illustrated Speedway News, 2 April 1974, 8; Reynold C. MacDonald, Open Letter, 1974 USAC Yearbook; Ron Mentus, Once Upon a Time Whats Happ ening to USAC Champ Car Racing? Auto Racing Monthly, December 1974; Phil Harms, USAC Champ Circuit Problems: Fuel, Sponsors and A.J. Foyt, Illustrated Speedway News, 2 April 74, 8; Joe Casey, Firestone Wi thdrawal a Bombshell to Teams, National Speed Sport News, 14 August 1974, 8; Firestone May Spell Finis to Racing, National Speed Sport News, 14 August 1974, 3, 12; Michigan Boycott off, USAC Placates Owners, National Speed Sport News, 17 July 1974, 5. 5 Peter Thomas, Indy 500, Stock Car Racing, September 1968, 28,-35, 56; John S. Radosta, Auto Racing and the Marketplace, New York Times, 14 October 1971, 57; Spiraling Costs Offer New Challenge to Auto Racing, Illustrated Speedway News, 5 November 1974, 12; Mullin, interview by author; Jep Cadou, Is Death Knell for Offy Being Sounded? National Speed Sport News, 23 August 1978, 3, 27; Foyt Rallies to Win Texas 200; Offy Teams in Slowdown Protest, National Speed Sport News 9 August 1978, 3, 19; Len Milde, It Seems to Me,
133 Dollars equaled speed, with corporate sponsorsh ip essential to success. The high price of championship racing eventually drove small-time car owners, such as Pat Santello, out of the sport. Santello (whose rookie dr iver Lee Kunzman placed seventh in his inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1977), represented a dying breedindependen t and underfunded owners and racers, who competed for sheer enjoyment and always scraped by to participate. Yet by the end of the decade, many of these passionate small-time racers and owners with dreams bigger than pockets were deep simply could not compete with well-funded teams. Still, the high price of championship racing was only one area of contention within USAC. 6 Political in-fighting also changed champions hip racing in the 1970s. Shortly after longtime Indianapolis Motor Speed way president and USAC head Tony Hulman died in 1977, factions intensified in the ch ampionship division of USAC. Tragedy worsened an already unstable situation after a 1978 plane crash took the lives of se ven top-ranking USAC officials. Then, in 1979, came championship racings bigges t blow. In brief, numerous championship teams split from USAC and formed Championshi p Auto Racing Teams (CART), a consequence of long-standing feuds between dr ivers, owners, and officials ove r competition rules, television packages, and sanctioning fees. That year, two championship-style open-wheel racing series coexisted with separate schedules. Yet, most of the top drivers drifte d over to CART. Once championship racing splintere d, its fan base weakened.7 Illustrated Speedway News, 11 October 1977, 9; George Cunningham, The High Costs of Running a Team, Auto Racing Digest, November 1977, 52-55. 6 Santello, interview by author; Mullin, interview by author; Drake V-8 Cosworth Challenge Put off by Indianapolis Weather, National Speed Sport News, 17 May 1978, 31; Carl Hungess, USAC is a Soap Opera, National Speed Sport News, 23 August 1978, 2, 16; Derek Lewin, The End of the Offy, Open Wheel, October 1998, 94. 7 This is a very abbreviated account of the complex USAC/CART split. For additional information, see 1979 USAC Yearbook; Venlo Wolfsohn, Drivers Protest 4-Cylinder Bias, Washington Post, 13 August 1978. USAC Rejects Bid to Govern Champ Division, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 November 1978, 3; Robin Miller, USAC Championship Division Bolted by New CART Group, Illustrated Speedway News, 29 November 1978, 3; USAC
134 Nine years before the split, an optimistic US AC billed auto racing as the sport of the seventies. The media also sensed that auto racing verged on mainstream popularity in a similar vein as baseball, football, and basketball.8 As long-time Los Angeles Times motorsports writer Shav Glick put it: Auto racing nearly burst its buttons in pride when race drivers were guests of the president [In 1971, Nixon hosted racecar drivers from numerous entities at the White House]. In a manner of speaking, it came out of the closet, or the garage, into the living room of the family of sports.9 The new Ontario Speedway generated USACs ex citement, and the entity billed the track as the Indianapolis of the West for the s port of the seventies. Completed in 1970, and constructed on the site of a former vineyard 40 miles east of Los Angeles, the 2.5-mile superspeedway was the most anticipated (and hyped) project built in USACs history. California Governor Ronald Reagan attended the ina ugural event on September 6, and over 170,000 fans watched Jim McElreath prevail in the 500-mile race. The crowd showed that Ontario was USACs biggest event next to the annual Indianapolis 500.10 to Run Big ScheduleDick King, Illustrated Speedway News, 28 December 1978, 3; CART sets up Working Agreement with SCCA, Illustrated Speedway News, 28 December 1978, 3; Jep Cadou, Foyt Returns to USAC Fold, Charges CART Lied, National Speed Sport News, 7 February 1979, 3, 13; Chris Economaki and Bill Oursler, USAC is On Offense, National Speed Sport News, 14 February 1979, 5, 30; Chris Economaki and Bill Oursler, Major Obstacle to CART-USAC Peace Removed, National Speed Sport News, 28 February 1979, 3; Chris Economaki and Bill Oursler, Penske Offers Performance Bond, National Speed Sport News, 25 April 1979, 3, 29; More Fuel for Offies, USAC Owners Petition, National Speed Sport News, 17 August 1977, 3, 20; Jep Cadou, Ban a Shock to CART, National Speed Sport News, 25 April 1979, 3, 18. The primary document written in 1978 by car owner Dan Gurney, known as the white paper, which explains the genesis of CART can be found in Ned Wicker, In the Beginning, Indy Car and Championship Racing, January 1999, 33-35. 8 Johnny McDonald, Ont ario Motor Speedway, USAC 70, September 1970, 8-9; Deke Houlgate, Western World, Stock Car Racing, July 1972, 12-13. 9 Clyde Bolton, President Nixon Receives Racers, NASCAR Newsletter, 1 October 1971, 1, 4; USAC at the White House, USAC 72, May 1972, 31; Shav Glick, Motor Racing 1980: A Minus Big O, Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1980. 10 Build Giant Race Track in California, Chicago Tribune, 22 February 1970; John S. Radosta, Pollard is Loser in Last-Lap Duel, New York Times, 7 September 1970; Shav Glick, Ontario Track Racing Toward Early Grave, Los Angeles Times, 24 July 1981.
135 The facility stood in between the Haven and Mi lliken exits on I-10, and close to the I-15 interchange. Envisioned to benefit from nearby Orange County airport and boost Ontario and surrounding San Bernardino County, the track was in one Americas most rapidly growing regions. As the 1970s progressed, the Indianapo lis of the West continued to draw sizeable crowds and put on exciting races, while accumula ting massive debt. The tracks days were numbered, paralleling the USAC Championship series.11 Stalwart northeastern USAC tracks at Langhor ne and Trenton succumbed to development as sprawl, too, indirectly contri buted to the decline of championship racing. Built in 1926, and known initially as the New Ph iladelphia Speedway, Langhorne occupied 89-acres of wooded land about 30 miles north of Philadelphia and 10 miles south of Trenton. The one-mile circular track, which existed above underground springs, was the longest-lasting dirt facility built specifically for championship automobile racing, putting on USACs first championship dirt race in 1956. It was a dry and dusty facility, typica l of most northeastern tracks where the soil less resembled the red-clay-rich dirt of the South or nutrient-rich black dirt of the Heartland. Longtime National Speed Sport News correspondent Gary London commented: It was a weird place, saucer-shaped, a mile in distance and covered with oily dark clay. It had ruts sometimes as big as Cleveland. Th ere was an area called puke hollow because drivers felt they could toss their cookies when they drove over it.12 Langhornes natural surface lasted through the 1964 season. The track was paved, lengthened to 1.5 miles, and reconfigured as a D-shaped track the following year to accommodate the growth of championship racing on asphalt. In 1971, Langhorne held its last 11 Henry Manney, Move Over Indianapolis Here Comes Ontario, Los Angeles Times, 16 August 1970; Ann Frank, Ontario Motor Speedway May Rival Famed Indianapolis Track, Los Angeles Times, 10 June 1970; Bob Thomas, Auto Racing Leaders Attend On tario Track Groundbreaking, Los Angeles Times, 25 September 1968; Shav Glick, Ontario Speedway: A Change in Atmosphere, Los Angeles Times, 24 August 1971. 12 Gary London, Notorious Langhorne Worth Remembering, National Speed Sport News, 31 October 2007, 13.
136 championship race. Its northern Bucks Count y location, between Trenton and Philadelphia, stood in the way of suburban growth, and speedwa y land proved to be t oo valuable. In later years, past competitors and spectators spoke fondly of the track, which was replaced by a shopping mall.13 Sprawl also helped kill Trenton speedwa y. The loss of this second major long-time venue further weakened championship racing in the Northeast. The facility opened with races on its half-mile dirt surface in the early 1900s. In 1946, its owners expanded the course to a onemile mile oval, and in 1957 they paved it. Lengthened and reconfigured to form a peanut-shaped 1.5-mile oval, in 1969, Trenton became a one-ofkind racetrack. Its c onfigurationa unique oval and road-course combin ationcreated a demanding and challenging speedway. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Trenton was USACs major Northeastern venue (from 1962 to 1966 Trenton scheduled three champi onship races per season). Tr entons last championship car race, a CART event, was in 1980. The city of Trenton and its network of suburbs (including Langhorne) underwent rapid developm ent, with interstates 95 a nd 295 connecting commuters to Philadelphia. Although historically other forms of racing (includi ng Grand National) occurred at these facilities, the lo sses of Trenton and Langhorne hurt ch ampionship racing most severely.14 During the 1970s, many tracks were not me rely encroached upon, but engulfed by development. The fates of Langhorne and Trentontwo high-profile examplesindicated how commercial and residential land use continued to b ecome a larger factor in the development and 13 Langhorne will Open May 11th, Speed Age, May 1947, 23; Russ Catlin, The Saga of Langhorne, Speed Age, January 1951, 18-25; Milwaukee Race Program, 9 June 1971; Langhorne Race Program, 24 June 1956; Wolfsohn interview by author. 14 Venlo Wolfsohn, Trenton Speedway Length ened for Sundays Race, Washington Post, 24 April 1969; Skip Clayton, Trenton Speedway, Open Wheel, December 1987, 48-51; Trent on Future in Doubt, National Speed Sport News, 27 August 1980, 3; Judge Postpones Making Decision, National Speed Sport News, 1 October 1980, 2; Trenton Rejuvenation Plans Call for Racing, Fair, Music, National Speed Sport News, 26 January 1981, 3; USAC Dirt Track Race at Syracuse July 1st, Illustrated Speedway News, 20 June 1978, 2.
137 survival of American racetracks. In th e 1950s and 60s, sprawl shut down speedways, particularly in southern Ca lifornia, eastern Maryland, and northern New Jerseybooming areas considered most vital to interstate constructi on. In the 1970s, the rest of the nation caught up with these places and more tracks disappeared. Owners of track-occupied real estate often became well-to-do once residential and commercial de velopers made lucrative offers. This trend escalated in the 1970s, as track owners so ld out for cash. Although many were racing aficionados and worked tirelessly to protect their investment, they soon realized that the land was worth more than auto racing (o r agriculture). Residential and commercial development of speedway-occupied land almost al ways fetched a high price, and countless tracks stood directly in the path of bulldozers.15 Sprawl greatly affected moto rsports in Florida during the 1970s. The states morphing communities moved inward from the coasts, claiming both wilderness and racetracks. In the 1970s, short tracks disappeared at Fort Pierce, Eau Gallie, Vero Beach, and North Fort Myers. Tracks located near Jacksonville, Naples, and Mi ami also had little remaining time before their inevitable demise. However, the most far-reaching example of Florida sprawls adverse effect on motorsports occurred at Ta mpa. Attendance often eclipse d 8,000 fans at the popular Plant Field fair track, which welcomed IMCA and regional competition throughout the mid-1970s. Plant Field remained as the season-opening ve nue for many Midwestern and Northeastern openwheel racers. A great February IMCA tradition ceased in 1975 after the Tampa track held its last races. University of Tampa buildings now stand on th e site of the former winter capital of 15 Pocono True Value 500 Official Program, 1980.
138 American dirt track racing, a victim of collegiate sp rawl. It is hard today to fathom that one of Americas greatest dirt tracks once st ood in the middle of bustling Tampa.16 Fairground tracks survived in small town s, or on non-developed land far beyond the edges of city limits. Fair facilities were ofte n used during the summer months for motorsports, yet IMCA auto racing was slowly dying at the annual agricultural fair. Beginning in the late 1960s, and continuing into the 1970s, smaller commun ities and fair boards, more often than not, accommodated racing at the local level, which prev ented the necessity of racing being brought in by the IMCA during fair week. For instance, Fargo, North Dakota, was one of countless fair cities that phased IMCA-sanctioned motorsports out of featured acti vities at the agricultural fair. As the 1970s unfolded, the IMCA slowly went out of business. A major cause of the IMCAs decline was its failure to expand beyond its fan base. The oldest American racing entity had remained an organization dependent primarily on agricultural expositions. The growth of gra ssroots and local competition made th e fair circuit and yearly fair racing unnecessary. The essence of the agricultural fair started to change too; some state and county fairs phased auto racing out in the 1970s in favor of the broader appeal of rock and country music concerts. Americas rustic conne ction with agrarian America declined throughout the country, and the age-old tradition of racing at the annual agricultura l fair waned in the modern era. In existence for over 60 years, th e end of the IMCA concluded a major phase of American racing history.17 16 1962 I.M.C.A. Yearbook; Bob Smith, Barton-McCune & Woolley Start in Florida Fair Series, Illustrated Speedway News, 9 February 1965, 2. Official Program Florida State Fair, February 1968; Bill Daniel, Florida Sprints: IMCA Style, Stock Car Racing, June 1970, 46-47; Winter National Sprints to get Underway Wednesday, Illustrated Speedway News, 29 January 1974, 6. 17 For a good overview on the differences between racing on dirt and paved surfaces, see Jeff Huneycutt, Dirt vs. Asphalt, Stock Car Racing, April 2006, 18-26. Jeff Olson, Rural Legend Revival, Racer, April 2000, 82; Jim Myers, Dirt Tracks Pave Way For Racing Life, USA Today, 13 March 1989; Holder, Doing it on Dirt, David Thompson, Kickin up Dirt and Puttin Down Roots: Keith Simmons and NASCARs Dodge Weekly Racing
139 As mentioned earlier, USAC underwent internal and external strife throughout the 1970s. In the late 1960s, the USAC administrative hierarchy became increasingly composed of European-style, road-racing proponents. This, in part, led to the decision to cease championship dirt races after the 1970 season.18 Open-wheel dirt and asphalt racing no longer co-existed at the championship level. Most top USAC drivers deve loped specializations in one or the other, and racers picked either dirt or blacktopunless they had enough s ponsorship dollars or personal fortunes to choose bothto be competitive. In 1971, these distinctions became permanent; the top USAC dirt series became the Silver Crown division. Still, many drivers started in this series and worked their way up to Indianapolis. T hus, USAC had two premier open-wheel divisions major-league dirt and major-league pavement.19 As was the case in championship racing, USAC Silver Crown dirt track racing also had conflicts. In the mid-1970s, outlaws and drivers who raced where the money was challenged USACs dirt-track racing supe riority. Track owners and prom oters organized more big-money all-star events intended to draw top national dr ivers, regardless of sanctioning body affiliation. Drivers earned big purses and bragging rights by beating the best drivers at non-sanctioned, allstar events. USACs in fluence waned on dirt too.20 Series in Eastern Iowa, in Horsehide, Pigskin, Oval Tracks, and Apple Pie, James A. Vlasich ed., (Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2006), 153165; Fair Alters Race Lineup, Stays in Tune with Times, National Speed Sport News, 13 July 1977, 11; Utz Again Champion in IMCA Sprint Cars, National Speed Sport News, 28 September 1978, 2, 21. A new organization assumed the IMCA name and began operations in 1978. It remains one of the biggest dirt track racing sanctioning bodies in the Midwest. 18 The Dirt Champ Cars, Open Wheel, June 1983, 40-50, 85. 19 Shav Glick, Sears Point: Auto Racing in a Picnic Setting, Los Angeles Times, 22 March 1970; Stan Kadwasinski, Leffler and Kinser win in Sprints, National Speed Sport News, 2 August 1978, 3, 24; Bettenhausen Wins Illinois Dirt Feature, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 August 1978, 18; Ron LeMasters Sr., A Vintage Fans Look to the Future, Open Wheel, March 2000, 76-77. 20 Tom Kennedy, Iowa Ace Wagner Ou truns Standout Field at Phoenix, National Speed Sport News, 17 October 1973, 1; Minnesota State Fair to Open Saturday, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 August 1978, 18; Dave Argabright, The Race Th at Changed the World, Open Wheel, October 2000, 64-71. Jan Oppermans victory at the 1975 Hoosier Hundred changed dirt track racing and the status of outlaws forever.
140 The increasing popularity of overhead sprint -car wings further segmented open-wheel dirt-track competitors and fans in the 1970s. Wings, which initially appeared in the 1960s primarily as a safety measure, encased a driv er and prevented the gr owing problem of out-ofcontrol racecars flying through the air. Wings also changed the technique of racing a sprint car because the contraptions create significant downforce. Wings elim inated to a degree the drivers need to adapt to his or her driving environment. Changing surface conditions affected nonwinged cars to a far greater degree than the winged ones. 21 As retired ace Jerry Blundy said, that damn thing could give you all kind of traction. Bolt it on and youll win a race. It took a lot of the individua l racing skill out of it. Anybody could drive when you put on a wing, almost.22 In 1971, the United Racing Club (URC), a northeastern sprint car group, became the first major entity to make wings mandatory.23 Sprint car racing became (and remained) divi ded by the wing issue. Marty Little, longtime National Speed Sport News writer, perhaps best describe d the differences between winged and non-winged sprint car racing from a fans point-of-view: Really something that I enjoy but seldom get a chance to see is dirt sprint cars without a wing. Its a totally different de al than with a wing. Youve got to drive it. The wing gives you a tremendous amount of downforce, and theref ore, you point it. A sprint car without a wing on it its just a whole different game. Its not necessarily follow the leader, but with a wing you can drive a car dow n in the corner so far and that wing will plant it on the ground and you just hang on from there. With a non-winged car, you have to crank it sideways and work your way through the corner. Of course, if the track surface, if its wet and heavy or dry, slick, whatever youve got to compensate fo r that, but its a much more exciting show.24 21 Ron LeMasters, Johnny and Bobby Each Win Twice! National Speed Sport News, 27 July 1977, 3, 19. 22 Blundy, interview by author. 23 Ernie Saxton, URC to Use Wings in 71, Illustrated Speedway News, 1 December 1970, 10. 24 Little, interview by author.
141 USACs lack of national strength, disagreem ents regarding the ru les and governance of sprint car racing, rising costs, emergence of winged-sprint car ra cing, and the death of the IMCA in 1977 created a national power vacuum for dirt tr ack racing. The World of Outlaws formed the following year. As its name indicates, the series consisted of a traveli ng band of drivers, who raced from March through October a few days a week. The first Outlaw event took place at Devils Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas, on March 18, 1978. Unlike the USAC Silver Crown sprint cars, the World of Ou tlaws sprinters had overhead wings.25 In its formative years, the World of Outlaws competed extensively in the Northeast, Midwest, and California. The only southeastern races were the February season openers in Floridaalthough the series worked its way into southern states in later years. The World of Outlaws nationalized sprint car dirt-track racing in the United States and brought major-league dirt track racing to minor-league metropolises, su ch as Fargo, North Dakota, (Red River Valley Speedway) and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Williams Grove Speedway). In time, the World of Outlaws became, in some markets, a bigger draw than USAC sprint car racing. USAC failed to fill the national dirt track racing power vacuum developed in the latter 1970s. The World of Outlaws rivaled USACs Silver Crown division as the top American sprint car series, but nonwinged sprint cars remained popular in regional poc kets. This type of racing remained in the USAC states of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. California and Ariz ona also served as hotbeds for 25 Jerry Clum, The Birth of the World of Outlaws, Illustrated Speedway News, 10 January 1979, 9; Jerry Clum, Earl Baltes to Run Sprints Without USAC Sanction, Illustrated Speedway News, 11 April 1978, 12; Linda Mansfield, High Tire Costs, World of Ou tlaws Haunts USAC Sprint Car Division, National Speed Sport News, 24 January 1979, 5, 16; Bill Hill, -Race, $800,000 Season for Outlaw Sprint Cars, National Speed Sport News, 13 December 1978, 45; Dave Arga bright, Devils First Born, National Speed Sport News, February 2002, E-6, E7.
142 non-winged sprinters. The pref erences and divisions develope d during the 1970s, for the most part, exist today. 26 This splintering, rivaling, and evolution of r acing entities benefited NAS CAR in the long run. Unlike USAC, vibrant in 1970, the NASCAR Grand National series fell on hard times. Tracks such as Charlotte and Atlantaalthough attend ance was steadystruggled financially, primarily due to poor management. In the early 1970s, corporate sponsorships declined, and NASCAR lost factory support from major auto companies. However, by the end of the 1979 season, NASCAR emerged unquestionably as the only st able and dominant American sanctioning bodyits premier division verging on a majo r national breakout. Throughout the 1970s, NASCAR gained strength and stability, a nd by the mid-1970s, NASCAR-sanctioned racing became the most attended spectator form of motorsport in the world.27 At the time, the nation was developing a popular identification and appreciation for southern culture and entertainment. The same South presented on television with civil rights marches, widespread violence, and racial hatred in the 1960s was cast in a different light the following decade. The movie Smokey and the Bandit rock-band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and television show the Dukes of Hazzard brought Dixie into mainstream popular culture. This 26 IMCA: Where is it Today? National Speed Sport News, 5 July 1978, 12; Larry Warren, Thunder in California: The CRA, Open Wheel, December 1986, 34-39; Doug Auld, Ted and David, Open Wheel, June 2000, 40-45; Paul Dean, The Sprint Car Connection, Road and Track, December 1998, 186. 27 Atlanta Speedway filed for Bankruptcy in Ja nuary 1971. Bob Myers, Southern Strategy, Stock Car Racing, November 1970, 7, 55; Bob Myers, Southern Strategy, Stock Car Racing, December 1970, 7, 57; Charles B. Camp, Auto Makers Cutback in Big-Time Raci ng Seen Jolting Ancillary Business Hardest, Wall Street Journal, 24 November 1970; Shav Glick, Falstaff 400 Lures Kingdom of NASCAR West, Los Angeles Times, 14 June 1970; Ford Quits Racing, Illustrated Speedway News, 24 November 1970, 3; Allison, Charging Cover-Up by NASCAR, Threatens Suit, National Speed Sport News, 17 October 1973, 1, 10; New Group Takes Over at Atlanta, National Speed Sport News, 20 February 1974, 3; NASCAR Biggest Spectator Draw in World, National Speed Sport News, 5 January 1977, 3; John B. Heimann, The Last Great American Road Racing Series, Part 1, Vintage Motorsport, November/December 2003, 48-62.
143 southernization of America wa s also manifested by a growing national interest in NASCARs brand of stock racing.28 Sunbelt politics and NASCAR developed close ti es in the decade of change. When Richard Nixon ran for president in 1968, and agai n in 1972, his political strategists ensured that the GOP candidate courted the South and its st ock car-racing fan base (Although Bill France Sr. campaigned on the behalf of George Wallace). In the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Republican strategists worked with stock-car icon and staunch conservative Richard The King Petty to garner GOP votes for Reagans presidential campaign. Earlier in the decade, Democrat Jimmy Carter also employed th e southern strategy. In 1971, he entertained NASCAR drivers at the Georgia governors mansi on, and as president invited drivers to the White House in 1978.29 A southern staple crop also had national implications fo r NASCAR. Corporate tobacco and motorsports consummated a marriage on the heels of the 1969 Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned cigarette advertising on television and radio. Big Tobacco secured a powerful stake in auto racing when tobacco companies began sponsoring American motorsports in response to the ban. Winston-Sa lem, North Carolina-based RJ Reynolds (RJR) Tobacco Corporation entered the motorsports winne r circle in 1971. The growth of the Marlboro brand and Phillip Morris Inte rnational threatened RJRs Winston brand, once the dominant cigarette brand in the country. The company seeking a new advertising medium, RJ Reynolds 28 Paris Cancels U.S. GP at Watkins Glen, National Speed Sport News, 21 November 1979, 3, 6. 29 Thomas Edsall and Mary Edsall. Chain Reaction: The Impact of Rights, Race, and Taxes on American Politics (New York: Norton, 1991); Bruce J. Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (New York: Free Press, 2001); A Graceful Evening at the Mansion, NASCAR Newsletter, 15 April 1971; Venlo Wolfsohn, Stock Stars: Men Who Came to Dinner. Washington Post, 14 November 1976; Joseph McLellan, Lynn Darling, and Nancy Collins, Revving and Racing into the Promised Lawn, Washington Post, 14 September 1978; Racers Enjo y White House Reception, National Speed Sport News, 20 September 1978, 2, 30; Bill Morris and Joseph P. Duggan, Bumper to Bumper, Washington Post Magazine, 22 April 1979, 1-10; Daniel, Lost Revolutions, 97.
144 sponsored a Grand National race at Talladega, ma rking the beginning of a 33-year association that greatly benefited both entities.30 Tobacco drove racing in the 1970s. The lo ss of cigarette advertising on television became auto racings gain; NASCAR benefited th e most, and the addition of RJ Reynolds was a major step in NASCARs recovery and ensui ng ascendancy in the 1970s Phillip Morris and USAC launched the Marlboro Championship Cup in 1971. RJ Reynolds followed suit in 1972 and assumed sponsorship of the Grand National series under a new moniker, Winston Cup.31 During the 1970s, NASCAR attracted larg er non-Southern audiences, and Grand National (Winston Cup) superspeedway events also started to take place outside of Dixie. As mentioned earlier, NASCARs top division, with fe w exceptions, steered away from the Midwest in the 1960s. However, the construction of Mich igan International Speedway (in the Irish Hills region of southern Michigan ) in 1968 opened to NASCAR a superspeedway venue in the Detroit/Toledo market. Used also for champi onship racing, the track became a major NASCAR venue. With the addition of Michigan, NASCA Rs top division began filling northern and Midwestern markets. As of 2009, two annual Cup races occurred at Mich igan; four years after championship racing ceased at the facility.32 30 Linn Hendershot, A New Name in Racing: Marlboro, USAC 70, September 1970, 5; Marlboro to Sponsor a 21-Race Series, New York Times, 8 March 1970; Gordon Kirby, Electric Year, Racer, May 2001, 73-74; Gordon Kirby, Unser: an American Family Portrait (Dallas: Anlon, 1988); $300,000 for Marlboro Race Trail, Illustrated Speedway News, 17 November 1970, 11; John S. Radosta, New Sponsor on Tobacco Road, New York Times, 15 December 1971. 31 The NHRA-sanctioned drag racing series was sponsore d by the Winston Brand until 2004. Cigarette Sponsors Now Turning to Auto Racing, Illustrated Speedway News, 5 January 1971, 3. Liggett and Myers (L & M)(Durham, North Carolina,) sponsored some sports car events, and Philip Morris (Richmond, Virginia,) and Brown & Williamson (Louisville, Kentucky,) vested heavily in Championship and Formula One racing. Brown and Williamsons Viceroy brand began sponsoring championship cars in 1972. This set in motion a tobacco war in victory lane, where Viceroy-sponsored cars could and did win races in the chase for the Marlboro Cup. 32 Michigan Plant Signs 10-Yr. NASCAR Pact, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 October 1968, 3; Shav Glick, USAC Titlist Wants no Part of NASCAR, Los Angeles Times, 11 November 1980.
145 The Mid-Atlantic region lacked a superspeedway, and the following year, a one-mile pure oval opened at Dover, Delaware. The M onster-Mile attracted southern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore-area fans who previously watched Grand National races at small facilities, such as Marylands 8000-seat Beltsville Speedway. Dovers first Grand National event took place in 1969, and beginning in 1971, NASCAR scheduled two annual races at the facility.33 Although not a fair facility, this multi -purpose complex reintroduced the auto racing/horse racing connection. Dover maintained a half-mile horse track (Dover Downs) within the mile-long concrete racetrack. These tracks were built within th e small city and situated in a similar geographic relationship as urban fair facil ities at state capitols, such as Des Moines and St Paul. In a similar manner as the older state fair tracks, Dovers speedway sustained community and facility coexiste nce, while stimulating the lo cal and state economy. The biannual NASCAR races easily became Delawares largest sporting events of the year.34 The configuration of Dover Speedway provide d yet another reminder of how superior motorsports technology could trum p a constructed racing environm ent. In 1969, the green flag went up for a USAC championship car race at th e new facility. This crash-filled race was a disaster. USAC officials failed to note that the powerf ul cars were simply too light and quick for the 24-degree banked track. USAC missed the opportuni ty to spread that form of racing into the 33 Indy Stars Set for Delaware 200-Miler, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 August 1969, 13; Ron Mentus, The Incredible Mile, Auto Racing Monthly, March 1975; J. J. OMalley, Fast Pit Crew, Fast Drive Bags Dover for Yarborough, National Speed Sport News, 18 May 1977, 2, 27. 34 Dover Downs Goes Aug. 3, USAC News, 25 July 1969, 1.
146 Mid-Atlantic region of the count ry. USAC championship cars ne ver returned to Dover, but NASCAR did.35 The third superspeedway boom concluded in 1971 with the construction of Pocono International Raceway. Located in Long Pond on a former spinach farm in rural, northeastern Pennsylvania, a little over 100 miles north of Langhorne, the 2.5-mile, low-banked, tri-oval had a one-of-a-kind, scalene-triangle-sh aped configuration. Situated on a 1,024 acre parcel of land, Pocono boasted the longest straightaway (3,740 feet) of any American racetrack and hosted USAC and NASCAR (Championship and Winston Cup) events during the 1970s. The track was only a few miles from I-80 and became NASCARs long-lasting venue for fans from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Attendance at no rthern Grand National r aces grew steadily over the years, and over 50,000 fans attended the Mi chigan and Pocono Grand National races in 1978. NASCAR was clearly capturing ne w markets, and although Pocono served as a major venue for championship racing, this relationship soured in the 1980s. After a falling out between CART and Pocono (Pennsylvania) Raceway owner Joseph Ma ttioli, that series stopped competing at the track in 1989. A major championship racing market became a major stock car racing market. The track eventually had lasting bene fits for NASCAR, not USAC or CART.36 The broadcast media contributed to NASCARs growth during the la st decades of the twentieth century, and increased NASCAR television coverage attracted additional non-southern 35 Indy Stars Set for Delaware 200-Miler, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 August 1969, 13; Vince Slaven, The Mid-Atlantic 300, Stock Car Racing, November 1969, 20-22. USAC-sanctioned stock car racing continued at Dover into the 1970s. 36 Cale records Victory No. 7 at Bumpy MIS, National Speed Sport News, 22 June 1977, 3, 14; Cale Fights Back to Win at MIS, National Speed Sport News, 21 June 1978, 2, 26; Linda Mansfield, Waltrip Edges Pearson in Pocono 500 Thriller, National Speed Sport News, 2 August 1978, 3, 21; Bob Kopplin, Al Unser Wins Schaefer 500 before 125,000, Illustrated Speedway News, 27 June 1978, 3 (Pocono); Bruce A. Bennett Just What the Doctors Ordered, Speedway Illustrated, July 2007, 102-105; J. J. OMalley, Coke 500 Earns Great Race Tag as Parsons Wins, National Speed Sport News, 3 August 1977, 3, 20; Schaefer 500 at Pocono Official Program, 3 July 1971.
147 fans. The same year Daisy Duke debuted on CBS and became a household name, network executives elected to broadcast the Daytona 500 live in 1979. It was the first NASCAR event aired nationwide in its entirety and featured a last-lap crash on the backstretch between the firstand second-place cars of Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough, producing one of the most dramatic finishes in history. The environmen t clearly played a pivotal rolea snowstorm blanketed much of the Northeast and millions of living-room bound channel surfers tuned in to the Sunday afternoon race. This memorable ev ent marked the beginning of NASCARs climb on television.37 The 1970s closed with a bang and the year 1979 b ecame a benchmark in American motorsports. The year NASCAR broke out, American championship racing splintered. Throughout racing history, many of the greatest bat tles took place off the racetrack between or within sanctioning bodies. NASCAR, however, was solid. When Bill France, Sr. formed NASCAR in 1947 he said, our first aim is sanctioned races on a nati onal scale, under a national formula, namely stock car races. .38 In 1972, Bill France Sr. turned NASCARs control over to his son. Although slightly less imposing in stature than his father, the younger France grew up with NASCAR. By 1980, under the strong guidance of Bill Jr.who continued his fathers strict 37 There were 46 races on the schedule in 1971, 31 in 1972. Robert Lipsyte, Tennis Tastes Good Like a ., New York Times, 14 January 1971; Jim McLaurin, A Personal Loss: Winston a Reminder of Robertson, The (Columbia, SC) State 21 May 1999; Tobacco Firm Sponsoring Race, Southern Motorsports Journal, January 1971, 1; ABC and Daytona Ink Three-Year TV Contract, National Speed Sport News, 3 December 1975, 2. Stock Car Racing Gaining Fans through TV Exposure, Illustrated Speedway News, 31 January 1978, 11; Tom Gillespie, Johnsons Sponsor S earch Brings RJR to NASCAR, NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, 3 December 2003, 54-60; Steve Waid, R. J. Reynolds Wrap, NASCAR Winston Cup Illustrated, December 2003, 10; Kenny Bruce, Thanks for the Memories, NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, 20 November 2003, 12.Daytona 500 to be Broadcast Live by CBS-TV, Illustrated Speedway News, 14 February 1978, 8; All Live Daytona 500 as CBS-TV Moves in, National Speed Sport News, 17 May 1978, 5; Bob Kopplin, Fist Fight, Accident and Excitement Add to Pettys Daytona 500 Win, Illustrated Speedway News, 21 February 1979, 3. Richard Petty won the race and a fight erupted on the track infield between Yarborough and Bobby Allison. 38 Stock Car Racing Leaders Form New National Association, Speed Age, February 1948, 28.
148 policies and maintained a family stranglehol d on the entitythis goal had nearly reached fruition. NASCAR became the most consistent sanctioning body in American motorsports. Armed with strong leadership and tobacco money, NASCAR grew at its own pace little affected by negative developments within or outside of the organization. Beginning in the 1970s, and throughout the modern era, NASCAR slowly us urped championship racings regional and national clout.39 Sprawl and a loss of venues was, in the meantime, championship racings cancer. Ontario Speedway, for example, can be equated to a weakening USAC. Mismanagement plagued both. The track drew decent championship crowds, but never became the Indianapolis of the West as hoped. Ontario defaulted on bonds in 1972. By October 1980, the track was in foreclosure and $25.5 million in debt. The fo llowing year the Chevron Land and Development Company purchased the pr operty. As long-time Los Angeles Times motorsports correspondent Shav Glick stated, when Ontario Motor Speedwa y closed it was a major blow to auto racings ego. 40 But in truth, the pride that sustaine d USAC for so many years was destroyed. The same year that Ontario held its last race in 1981, the USAC championship division ceased, and CART alone assumed control of championshi p racing in America. USAC clearly was not the sport of the seventies, and by 1979, it was apparent that NASCAR earned that distinction more than any sanctioning body.41 39 For example, Bank Disenchanted, Can-Am Series Shaky, National Speed Sport News, 2 March 1977, 3, 16; Bill Oursler, Group 5 Wings, Noses to Tighten Camel GT Racing, National Speed Sport News, 16 February 1977, 6, 28; USAC Series Sponsor Hot over Phoenix Brawl, National Speed Sport News, 30 March 1977, 3, 16; Winston Loves Racing Like You, And Tells Everyone How Good it Is, National Speed Sport News, 16 February 1977, 22. 40 Shav Glick, Racing is Running out of Gas as the 80s Begin, Los Angeles Times, 3 January 1980. 41 Foreclosure Action May End OMS Racing, National Speed Sport News, 21 November, 1979, 3, 15; Ronnie Allyn, Foyt Easy Ontario Victor as USAC Fields 21 Cars, National Speed Sport News, 28 March 1979, 3, 16. USAC, did however, retain the Indianapolis 500 sanction and allowed CART teams to compete at Indy through the mid-1990s. In 1980, USAC and CART co-sanctioned five championship races.
149 Unlike USAC, which within ten years lost three of its biggest venues (Langhorne, Trenton, and Ontario) NASCARs major facilities recove red from the shaky period in the early 1970s. Tracks built during the superspeedway boo m drew massive crowds and remained safe from suburban encroachment. NASCAR had the Daytona 500 in February (a few weeks after the Super Bowl), the World 600 at Charlotte (M emorial Day weekend), Firecracker 400 (Fourth of July weekend), and Southern 500 at Da rlington (Labor Day weekend). As NASCAR expanded beyond the Southeast, it parlayed geogr aphy into long-term success and stability, its schedule remaining strategically consistent and memorable. The Grand National series contested its last dirt events in 1970, and beginning in 1972, NASCAR dropped sm aller venues from its schedule, resulting in a significan t reduction of races in its top division. Thereafter, NASCARs schedule strongly resembled the one of the present, with bi-annual ra ces held at Daytona, Charlotte, Talladega, Atlanta, Michigan, and Dover, and varying little season-by-season. Only a portion of the decade of changes stor y has been told thus far. Along with the infighting, NASCAR insurgency, growing costs, professionalization, and corporatization, and continuing bouts with population sprawl, motorsports faced a new set of environmental challenges in the 1970s and beyond.
150 CHAPTER 7 PETROLEUM AND POLLUTANTS, (1970-1979) Auto racings biggest proble m is that its conspicuous. Bob Stanley1 There is no doubt that strict environmentalists are in a formidable position to use unjust noise pollution standards in an effort to abolish auto racing in the United States. Al Stilley2 According to New York Times reporter John Radosta, on the morning of September 6, 1970, eye-biting smog blanketed Californias On tario Motor Speedway, completely obscuring the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. 3 In fact, smog plagued the whole weekend, and terrible visibility threatened th e California 500. Howeve r, later that morning, Santa Ana winds cleared the skies enough to allow Ontario s inaugural event. Yet, natu ral forces still affected the outcome. Strong gusts blew swirling sand on th e track, destroying the mechanical systems of countless racecars. Only six out of thirty-three cars finished the race.4 Six years later, NASCAR driv er Dick Brooks drove a Truxm ore Industries-sponsored car in the Winston Cup series. The Richmond, Virginia, company manufactured solid waste management equipment. In the Official 1976 Daytona 500 program, a Truxmore advertisement stated, Race driver Dick Brooks speaks on the big race: the Energy, Environment, Ecology, and Economy race. What kind of equipment is yo ur town driving in the big environment race?5 The full-page advertisement was an early exampl e of an environmental consciousness in auto 1 Bob Stanley of San Diego, California, Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times, 14 March 1974. 2 Al Stilley, Noise and the Illinois Race Track, Stock Car Racing, January 1974, 24-27. quote on 27. 3 John S. Radosta, 2 Cars Warm Up for 500 on Coast, New York Times, 4 September 1970. 4 Shav Glick, Retrospective on a Track that Went Downhill, Los Angeles Times, 18 December 1980. 5 Daytona 500 1976 Official Program, 3.
151 racing and illustrated the growing intersec tion between economy, the environment, and motorsports. Technically, the big race, as appl ied to motorsports and the environment, began in Paris in 1894 the day of the worlds first au to race. But until the 1970s, motorsports entities raced on the track not with the earth. Previous chapters illustrated that environmen tal forces constantly shaped the course of American racing, and each decade connections betw een nature and motorsports intensified. In the 1970s, as in previous decades, sprawli ng neighborhoods appeared where racetracks disappeared. However, other emerging environmen tal factors threatened the development of the sport at all levels. Oil demand increased sh arply after World War II. More Americans purchased cars and trucks, and increasingly pu rchased products made from petroleum-based products, such as plastics and synthetic cloth. The United States, in the 1950s, was the worlds number one exporter of oil, but by the 1970s, beca me the leading importer of oil. With this excess came more pollution, fuel consumption, traffic, interstates, speed, and highway fatalities. In 1960, a coalition of predominately Middle East ern, oil-rich Arab states formed the Oil Producing Exporting Countries (OPEC). This c onsortium quickly amassed and exerted a strong influence on the global oil market. Eventually, OP EC strategically utilized oil as a geopolitical weapon. Reacting in part to the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, on October 19 of that year OPEC instituted an oil embargo on the United States and other non-friendly nations that supported Israel. Within a few months, the price of oil sh ot up from about three dollars in October 1973 to eleven dollars per barrel in January 1974. The decision of OPEC to halt the export of oil to the United States in late 1973 became a watershed period in American economic, strategic, and energy policy.6 6 Karen R. Merrill, The Oil Crisis of 1973-74 (Boston: Bedford-St.Martins Press, 2007).
152 In an effort to conserve dwindling oil supp lies, the federal government extended daylight savings time into the winter and imposed a na tionwide 55-mile-per-hour speed-limit maximum. Gas stations closed once their pum ps went dry. Where gasoline was available, lines of fuelthirsty vehicles snaked from se rvice stations and down the highway, sometimes extending longer than a football field. Dealers often instituted a gallon limit per vehicle. Some states and communities enforced minimum-gallon purc hasing and/or mandated odd-even rationing, permitting only drivers with li cense-plate numbers ending with odd numbers to purchase on oddnumbered days. High diesel prices led to truc ker blockades on interstate highways. National gasoline prices, which averaged approximately 25 cents-per-gallon in January 1973, climbed to nearly 50 cents-per-g allon by early 1974.7 The embargo ended in March 1974, but crude oil and gasoline prices remained unstable and high thro ughout the decade, and as historian Karen Merrill maintained, the oil crisis served as evidence for environmentalists that the United States needed to dramatically change course and enac t policies that would en courage, even force, Americans to conserve oil and ex plore other sources of energy.8 Of course, it was no surprise that fuel concerns alarmed the motorsports indu stry. In addition to th e tobacco crop, petroleum became the other major natural commodity to influence American auto racing in the 1970s.9 The crisis was a wake-up call; Americans (and racers) realized that the energy was finite, no longer to be taken for granted. Despite the fact that thousands of people made a living in the motorsports industry, racings critics clai med that the sport was economically and 7 Paul Hodge and Edward Walsh, Purchase Fuel Every Other Day, Washington Post, 7 February 1974; Harry Bernstein and Dick Main, Preparing for Truck Tieup, Washington Post, 6 January 1974; Gerald Gold, Rise in Costs here is Double Nations, New York Times, 23 January 1974; Ronald Sullivan, Byrne Announces Mandatory Plan of Gas Rationing, New York Times, 9 February 1974. 8 Merril, The Oil Crisis of 1973-74, 2. 9 Franklin Tugwell, The Energy Crisis and the American Political Economy (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1988), 97-136; Michael C. Jens en, Removal of Dealer Allowances ha s Raised Gas Prices up to 20%, New York Times, 24 February 1973.
153 environmentally wasteful and a non-justified, non -essential use of fuel. The print media and numerous letters to editors reflected this sentiment.10 When fuel was rationed and motorsports was banned in 1942, racers abided patriotically during World War IIwith little to no resistance. As fuel-availability concerns ambushed the globe, racing entities in 1973 prepared to fight governmental regulation against their sport. Instead of adopting a wait-and-s ee attitude, the motorsports comm unity united in the face of the crisis. The Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS)11 formed the National Motorsports Congress (NMC ) to give American auto racing industry a head start on possible federal legislation to ban the sport. Bill France Sr. (a year after he handed the keys to NASCARs kingdom to his son) headed the NMC, and the new group set up offices in Washington, D.C. In autumn 1973, the NMC began working in conjunction with the Federal Energy Office (FEO), formulated a plan to deal with the crisis, and commissioned a motorsports energy consumption report. 12 Part of the NMCs goal was to en sure auto racings fair treatment with other entertainment mediums. Bill France Jr. stated the NMCs position in an open letter to NASCAR members in a 1973 NASCAR Newsletter : We in automobile racing do not want and do not ask for any spec ial privileges. We understand the problem the nation is facing and want to do our share in saving the consumption of energy for the total good. But we do want to be treated equally and fairly by the energy consuming public and spor ts fans and by the federal and state governments.13 10 For instance, William C. Fisher, Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times, 16 March 1974; Bob Stanley, Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times, 14 March 1974; Shav Glick, Auto Ra cing: Its Stars are Gas Guzzlers, Los Angeles Times, 22 December 1973; Clint Johnson Racings Use of Fuel, Stock Car Racing, June 1978, 54-55. 11 ACCUS was comprised of NASCAR, USAC, SCCA, IMSA, and NHRA. 12 Racing Tells Own Story in Fuel Crisis, NASCAR Newsletter, 15 December 1973, 2; Natl Group is Formed, National Speed Sport News, 28 November 1973. 13 Bill France Jr., The Presidents Corner, NASCAR Newsletter, 15 December 1973, 2.
154 Although initially compiled in an effort to sa ve motorsports, this report illustrated how much energy, or more specifically gasoline, differe nt forms of sports and leisure consumed in the United States. In December 1973, representatives from 23 sports attended a meeting with the FEO in Washington, D.C., and Bill France Sr.s presentation followed Bowie Kuhn, the then commissioner of Major League Baseball. A ccording to the NMC study, a 500-mile stock car race consumed less fuel than a ch artered flight transporting a pro football team from the East to West Coast. In addition, auto racing, with its total annual fuel consumption of 93.6 million gallons, ranked seventh behind vacation travel non-scheduled aviati on, movies, football, basketball, and horse racing, and barely ahead of the eighth-place sport, rodeo. 14 NMC representative John Cooper of US AC stressed that f uel consumption by all mass entertainment sports represents only a drop in the bucket when compared to leisure time usage in general.15 On January 3, 1974, FEO deputy administrator J ohn Sawhill met with representatives from sports and leisure time activitie s for another meeting. Bill France Sr. represented the NMC. The FEO recommended that all sports cut energy consumption voluntarily by 20-25 percent. The FEO granted the motorsports industry an opportunity for voluntary compliance, permitting the racing community to develop and ad opt its own conservation measures.16 In addition to its social and recreational role as a leisure activity, the United States government apparently recognized the importan ce of racing to the American economy. The American auto racing industry reportedly generate d two-billion dollars in 1973. Federal officials 14 Racing Claims Its No t Big Fuel Consumer, Los Angeles Times, 21 November 1973; Auto Racing Could Be Unfair Target in Energy Crisis, Illustrated Speedway News, 1 January 1974, 6; Clint Johnson, Racings Use of Fuel, Stock Car Racing, June 1978, 54-55; George Bishop, Must We Now Kill Motorsport? Sport and Recreation 20 (1979): 50-51. 15 Football Leads Sports in Burning Fuel, New York Times, 21 November 1973; Racing s Fuel Use Small in Sports, National Speed Sport News, 28 November 1973, 3. 16 Racings Fuel Use Small in Sports, 3; Compliance on Cutback by ACCUS, National Speed Sport News, 16 January 1974, 3.
155 saw how vital the Indianapolis 500 was to the local economy of cen tral Indiana. In the early 1970s, the annual race generated about 10 to 12 million dollars-a-year to the city.17 Sawhill stated that the FEO wants people to attend and enjoy auto racing, but also to do so in a more conservative way as regards to energy usage.18 Sawhill maintained that the Nixon administration noted the importance of sports as a very important part of our economy.19 Although in hindsight, paranoia may have been partially res ponsible for auto racings efforts to unite and take colle ctive, defensive action, this was a challenging time for the motorsports industry. Grassroots racing had the most to lose, a nd although cutbacks could result in the loss of revenue, a complete ban would put so me track owners permanen tly out of business. As representatives from the largest American en tities lobbied in Washi ngton, D.C., smaller clubs worked with ACCUS and the NMC with the common goals of preserving the 1974 season, ensuring that small track owners, at the very least, broke even. The NMC asked that all American track operators and sanctioning body officials prepare and submit energy-saving reports by January 25. Racing groups embraced voluntary compliance, and track operators and racing officials presented energy-sa ving plans as a first strike. Reportedly, over half of the nations 1,800 tracks submitted their plans.20 17 Chris Economaki, From the Editors Notebook, National Speed Sport News, 9 January 1974, 4; Rich Dobson, The Indy 500: An American Institution Under Fire (Newport Beach, CA: Bond/Parkhurst, 1974). 18 Govt. Encourages Going to the Races, National Speed Sport News, 30 January 1974, 3. 19 Note the Sunbelt connection between racing and politics. Racing on Honor to Save Energy, National Speed Sport News, 9 January 1974, 3. 20 NASCAR Preparing Energy Sa ving Plans for 4 Season, Illustrated Speedway News, 8 January 1974, 3; Chris Economaki, From the Editors Notebook, National Speed Sport News, 30 January 1974, 4; Al Stilley, The Gasman Goeth, Stock Car Racing, March 1974, 50-51; Tracks Urged to Forward Energy Conservation Plans to NMC, Illustrated Speedway News, 8 January 1974, 12; Set Jan. 25 Deadline for Tracks to Comply, National Speed Sport News, 9 January 1974, 4; Bad Year Foreseen at Glen, National Speed Sport News, 19 December 1973, 3.
156 Racing stepped up to the FEOs challengecurta iling events the most visible response. NASCAR cut the starting field from 40 to 35 car s and reduced practice time for the seasonopening Winston Cup race in January at Riverside, Californiathe first major event shortened. The types of measures implemented at Rive rside became standard for most American sanctioning bodies and track operato rs, who despite concerns conti nued to pull in spectators. During the height of the crisis in late January of 1974, 32,500 fans thronged the first race of the Winston Cup season.21 Significant cutbacks continued. Most signifi cantly, Bill France Jr. postponed the popular 24-hour sports-car race at Daytona In addition to shortened tw in-Daytona qualifying races, the marquee race that February was the Daytona 450. Practice for stock car events during Speedweeks saw an eight to five-day reduction. According to a Speedway representative, the amount of fuel used at the abbreviated 1974 Speedw eeks was at an all-time low, totaling about a 30 percent reduction.22 Later in the season, other NASCAR supersp eedways contributed to fuel rationing measures. The 500-mile Winston Cup races in Atla nta and Darlington were cut to 450 miles. In addition to shortening the schedul ed 500-mile race to 450 miles (170 as opposed to 188 laps), Talladega officials imposed a 55mile-per-hour speed limit on speedway safety vehicles and pace cars. Talladega and other faciliti es regulated thermostats in speed way buildings and kept electric 21 Less available spots and prize money, eventually hurt some teamsmost of which were based in the Eastthat still had to invest in fuel to cross the country in th eir race haulers. NMC, NA SCAR Agrees to Meet FEO Guidelines, NASCAR Newsletter, 14 January 1974, 1; Ronnie Allyn, Cale (Energy Crisis) Yarborough Runs Chevy Dry Winning RIR 500, National Speed Sport News, 30 January 1974, 3, 12. Th e race was partially run on January 22, but was halted by rain. The 32,500 spectators came for the conclusion on January 30. 22 Speedweeks will Conserve Fuel, NASCAR Newsletter, 15 January 1974, 1; Daytona Postpones 24 Hours, National Speed Sport News, 5 December 1973, 2, 9; King Richard Crawls to 5th Daytona 500 Win, National Speed Sport News, 20 February 1974, 3; Gas Usage at Daytona off 30%, National Speed Sport News, 27 February 1974, 3; Shav Glick, A Fuel Problem? 100,000 See Petty Win Daytona 500, Los Angeles Times, 18 February 1974.
157 signs off in the evening.23 Pocono Raceways seven-race schedule was reduced to four major events. Joseph Mattioli, owner of Pocono R aceway, initiated a loca l program in which spectators organized carpools. He claimed, we are Americans first and race fans second.24 Smaller entities and s hort track owners volunt arily took measures to reduce fuel use and save energy at their respective facilities. They cut or eliminated practi ce time, and frequently shortened race distances. Night races became day (dustier) races. Some entities such as the Northeastern ARDC series sponsored carpooling plans for the 1974 season. Small tracks, such as Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina, replaced caution flags with red flags, meaning that after an accident or incide nt cars would stop on the track instead of proceeding at a slow speed. Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania cut practice time by 50 percent, started races earlier at night, and shortened the length of cautio n flags. Fans all over watched fewer races in 1974. Similar to other tracks, I-70 Speedway in Od essa, Missouri, trimmed its schedule from 29 to 23 races (fans and racecar haulers commuting to fewer races saved more fuel than the racecars), and New Smyrna Speedway in Florid a trimmed its Winter Speedweeks down from four to two nights of racing. For the 1974 season, the IMCA fair circuit conserved by reducing practice and qualifying time and abbr eviating race distances for stock cars. At Tampas seasonopening Winternationals, bus routes set up in conjunction with the state fair promoted spectator conservation, saving about 1,000 gallons of fuel.25 23 New Smyrna Speedway Reducing Racing Distance, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 January 1974, 10; Atlanta 500 Trimmed in the Middle by 50-Miles, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 March 1974, 9; Fuel Reductions at Hickory Announced by Ned Jarrett, Illustrated Speedway News, 29 January 1974, 9; I-70 Speedway to Conserve Energy, Illustrated Speedway News, 29 January 1974, 6; I-70 Speedway to Conserve Energy, Illustrated Speedway News, 29 January 1974, 6; Winston 500 Energy Cut, National Speed Sport News, 13 February 1974, 8; Opportunity for Pocono Race Fans, National Speed Sport News, 6 February 1974, 3. 24 Pocono Raceway Doing Part in Conservation, Illustrated Speedway News, 29 January 1974, 8. 25 ARDC Car Pool Plans Being Formulated for Coming Season, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 March 1974, 9; Voluntary Energy Cuts Announced by National Speedways, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 January 1974, 5; Plenty of Racing Fuel for Tampa Sprint Meet, National Speed Sport News, 8 July 1975, 14; Short-Track Racing
158 Despite these actions, the fuel crisis took a toll on lower-level forms of racing. High fuel costs hurt competitors who needed race fuel for the track and gasoline or diesel to fill up their haulers to get to and from the speedway. No t only did fans deal with rationing, and long, irritating lines at the pump, they felt the pinch of the oil embargo in their disposable incomes and enjoyed fewer outings at the races. The crisis brought the checkered flag for some speedways. A combination of environmental, geographical, and economical factors forced Devils Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vermont, to permanently lo ck its gates. Altho ugh the tracks isolated location ensured survivability from suburban sprawl gas prices prevented fans from driving the 90 once-carefree miles out from Albany, New Yo rk, and Burlington, Vermont. Devils Bowl never recovered and closed in 1977.26 The Oil Embargo concluded in March 1974, a nd once fuel concerns stabilized, racing recovered in 1975 with higher atte ndance figures. Nearly all ma jor sanctioning bodies reflected this gain.27 Still, the crisis contributed to the end of some entities. The embargo and permanently higher gasoline prices (which climbed to over 60 cents in some places during 1975, and well over one-dollar per gallon by late 1979) directly affected regional, weekly traveling series. For instance, inaugurated in 1970, the Al l-Star Circuit of Champions was a short-lived, but successful, regional touring sprint car entity. However, the oil crisis crippled the touring aspect, and the series shut down after the 1974 season. Moreover, the embargo also hurt Northeastern-style supermodified racing, which at that time was relatively young and confined to tracks in New England and New York State. The supermodified hub of Oswego, New York Adds Little to Fuel Shortage, National Speed Sport News, 19 December 1973, 28; Gra ndview Establishes Energy Program, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 January 1974, 5; Sel-Wil Op Urges Carpools, Buses Planned, National Speed Sport News, 9 January 1974, 3, 10. 26 Devils Bowl Rings Down the Curtain, Illustrated Speedway News, 8 August 1978, 5. 27 Daytona 500 1976 Official Program, 86.
159 (near Lake Ontario), which attracted drivers fr om all across the Northeast, became more of a local venue through the rest of the decade.28 NASCAR, which resumed full race distances in July of 1974, emerged from the crisis as the Phoenix of motorsports. The Frances, both fath er and son, patriotic-like initiatives during an American crisis won NASCAR respect in the political community and among Americans who were not necessarily fans of motorsports.29 The younger France stated, we feel it is important to cooperate with the Governments request and to exceed the 25 percent overall cut if possible.30 The reduction of races, although mostly symbolic, resonated well with NASCARs generally conservative fan base (the same fan base targeted by GOP strategists). The actions taken by the motorsports commun ity represented not only a pa triotic stance but also the embryonic stages of an environmental consciousness in racingand good publicity. As retired NASCAR star Benny Pa rsons reflected in 2006: I think that was basically a PR move back then because they cut back the length of the races only 10 percent. So instead of a 500-m ile race, it would be a 450-mile race. What we are talking about saving is a few gallons, probably no more than a 100 or 200 gallons. Thats just simply a drop in the ocean as to what we need to really conserve in this country.31 The green measures taken by the auto racing community outside of th e actual races were more apparent and proactive in stemming demurrals from the sports critics. Still, despite the willingness of auto racing competitors, track owners, and executives to curtail energy use, American motorsports as a whole was more hesita nt than it could have been to embrace a golden 28 Lou Modestino, The 1969 Oswego Classic, Stock Car Racing, December 1969, 46-49; Bruce Ellis, The All Star League, Open Wheel, August 1982, 76-78; Rob Sneddon, Bert Amick, Open Wheel, March 1996, 64-70; Dick Berggren, Supermodifieds: A Dead Class at Oswego, Open Wheel, February 1982, 32-33, 82. 29 % Race Distance Cut Rescinded by NASCAR, National Speed Sport News, 26 June 1974, 2. 30 Daytona Speed Weeks Events Cutback in Energy Conservation Measure, Illustrated Speedway News, 8 January 1974, 5. 31 Jeff Hood, Nobodys Fuel, Cherokee (North Carolina) Sentinel, 11 January 2006.
160 opportunity to voluntarily eliminate leaded fuel or silence cars. Fans did not complainsmells and sounds were essential components of the aest hetic of racing. Non-fans, however, started to criticize these elementssome aime d to eliminate them altogether. After World War II, influential books, such as William Vogts Road to Survival (1947) and Fairfield Osborns Our Plundered Planet (1948), enlarged the publics awareness of the human relationship with the Earth. Other works such as Lewis Herbers dull but informative 1962 Our Synthetic Environment contributed to a growing American environmental consciousness, and that same year, the publication of Rachel Carsons massively popular Silent Spring woke up a large segment of the general population to the ha rmful effects of pesticides on the ecosystem, and the realities of a worsening toxic environm ent for humans and non-humans alike. In 1969, a major oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, Cali fornia, brought pictures of oil-soaked birds to televisions. That same year, in Cleveland, Ohio, the polluted waters of the Cuyahoga River literally caught fire. At the e nd of 1969, grassroots activism, a bi-partisan coalition of state and local government officials, aided by the print media stopped the bull dozers at a massive 39square-mile jetport proposal in the Big Cypress region of south Florida. During this time, the mainstream media stepped up its coverage of environmental developments. This was significant. As eco-writer Phillip Shabecoff points out, the New York Times still lacked a full-time environmental reporter in 1970; the combined impact of an aroused media and public was consequential.32 32 Shabecoff, A Fierce Green Fire, xiv. For more details of post-World II emerging environmental awareness also see, Kirkpatrick Sale, Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962-1992 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993) and Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring For more thorough discussions of the jetport battle, see John E. Laird, The Politics of Arrogance: A Case Study of the Controversy over the Proposed Everglades Jetport, 19671970, (1972); Luther Carter, The Florida Experience: Land and Water Policy in a Growth State (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1974); Jack E. Davis, An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009).
161 In 1970, the federal government enacted sw eeping environmental legislation and regulation. From 1970 through 1974, what became known as President Richard M. Nixon administrations green wave ste mmed primarily from the efforts to outdo an environmentally mindful Congress, (most notable senators Henr y Jackson (D) Washington, Edmund Muskie (R) Maine, and Gaylord Nelson (D) Wisconsin). Passed on January 1, 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 aimed to d eclare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man a nd his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environm ent and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to en rich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Counc il on Environmental Quality. Responding with an executive order, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which began operations on December 2, 1970, and became the w atchdog of the federal governments new environmental policy.33 By the 1970s, the environmental movement had blossomed into a large-scale popular movement. As more people became environmen tally minded, grassroots campaigns multiplied. New environmental groups formed and existing older groups gained new members. Together, they and the American public organized an unpr ecedented event, the fi rst Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970. Coast to coast, over 20 million pe ople participated in the successful event, illustrating a vibrant and growing environmenta l consciousness throughout the nation. Jack Gould of the New York Times observed: Earth day dominated much of television yest erday and covered almost every aspect of mankinds health and environmentpollution from automotive exhaust, litter on the 33 Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring, 126-146; Shabecoff, A Fierce Green Fire, 103-139. J. Brooks Flippen, Nixon and the Environment (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000); Nixon Signs Bill to Prevent Sea Oil Spills, Urges Action on 20 Other Ecology Measures, Wall Street Journal, 11 July 1972, 9.
162 highways and streets, venereal disease, the foul ing of rivers with i ndustrial waste, and the ruination of homes and pasturel ands by avaricious strip coal miners. On the political scene there were expressions of hope th at the nations youth, represented by 22,000 colleges and school systems, would sustain the campaign for the preservation of an unspoiled environment.34 Environmental concerns resonated through American politics. Politicians added environmental issues to their planks, and votes of environmentally mindful citizens affected elections, particularly at the state level. The automobiles contributions to the toxic environmentsmog, lead-borne exhaust, and no isemotivated Earth Day organizers, hundreds of whom demonstrated clad in gas masks or by taking sledgehammers to an automobile, symbol of American indulgence, ex cess, and the ailing earth.35 A few years earlier, Ralph Nader addressed such issues in his groundbreaking expos Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile (1965). Nader was especially compelling in his thor oughly researched critique of th e automobile industrys safety recordpointing out the dangers of inadequate seatbelts, mirrors, windshields, and exhaust systems. As historian Robert Gottlieb observes, Nader identified a public interest rather than a conservationist perspective, [and] combined inte nse research efforts with direct advocy work.36 Nader set up a foundation in Washington, D.C ., and rallied graduate students and young professionals to fight pollution, promote responsible development, and generate consumer awareness. Naders Raiders combined science with grassr oots activism and embodied the emerging environmental consciousness. They join ed countless environmen talists, ecologists, 34 Jack Gould, TV: The Campaign for an Unspoiled Environment, New York Times, 23 April 1970. 35 Burt Schorr, New Campus Cause, Wall Street Journal, 17 February 1970; Richard Harwood, Earth Day Stirs Nation, Washington Post, 23 April 1970; Gladwin Hill, Earth Day Theme Continues in U.S. New York Times, 24 April 1970; John Kifner, Earth Day Group Zeros in on Autos, New York Times, 20 July 1970; Gladwin Hill, Ecology Emerges as Issue in Many of Nations Races, New York Times, 27 September 1970; Edward P. Morgan, the Year Privat e Citizens Got Mad, Washington Post, 26 December 1970; Gaylord Nelson, Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002); Sale, The Green Revolution. 36 Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring, 127.
163 and economists in the early 1970s, who inevitably directed much of their focus and criticism directly toward automobiles.37 Congress noticed as well. The Clean Air Act, signed into law in December of 1970, mandated a sweeping set of stricter federal guidelines regarding airborne waste discharges. This act replaced weaker legislation from the 1960s and its successful passing, in part, stemmed from the efforts of regional and local groups who pres sed for better air quality in their respective communities. Automotive exhaust was a hot topi c during congressional hearings leading up to the Clean Air Act. Tetraethyl lead, the king gasoline additive for over 50 years, was one of the earliest casualties of the landmark legislation.38 Tetraethyl leads staying power was attributed to the lead i ndustrys firm stranglehold on occupational science. Since the 1920s, Christ ian Warren notes, industry-owned or financed centers conducted the most influential public health studies related to lead.39 Throughout the 1960s, concerned Americanssecond-generation victims of tetraethyl lead-poisoningtook notice of lead-based paints horrible health effects on young children, and more aggressively criticized the substance. Th e lead industry fought back. M anufacturers coul d argue, Warren points out, that unlike the now discredited lead paint, tetraethyl lead was a strategic product whose loss would have serious repercussions in the petroleu m and automotive industries.40 37 Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile (New York: Pocket Books, 1965); Nader, Power and Land in California ; Art Seidenbaum, And Waitll what You Hear what Ralph Nader and His Boys have to Say about California Land Development, Los Angeles Times, 4 October 1970; Gladwin Hill, . .as the Environmentalists Put on the Pressure, New York Times, 4 April 1971. 38 For example, Scott Hamilton Dewey, "Is This What We Came to Florida For?" Fl orida Women and the Fight Against Air Pollution in the 1960s, in Making Waves: Female Activists in Twentieth-Century Florida, eds. Jack E. Davis and Kari Frederickson, 197-228. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003). Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring, 126-146; Clean Air and Automobility, Washington Post, 5 August 1970. 39 Warren, Brush with Death, 129. 40 Warren, Brush with Death, 208.
164 Nearly every gas pump in America, except for Am ocos premium grade, the so-called white gas, delivered leaded fuel into domestic automob iles, and over 70 percent of the lead in the environment. Even in September 1970, John Kimberley executive director of the Lead Industries Association omnipotently declared that there is no evidence that lead in the atmosphere from autos or any other source, poses a health hazard.41 The lead industry aggressively defended its poisonous productclaimi ng that newer additives would cause greater atmospheric and health problems.42 However, by 1970 tetraethyl l eads death knell finally arri ved in the United States. Reducing toxic auto emissions was a major early EPA objective, and at that time, catalytic converters became standard components of an automobiles exhaust system. The converters minimized toxicity of emissions, but more im portantly, this new gadgetincompatible with tetraethyl leadfor ced out old technology.43 The Clean Air Acts phase out of leaded fuel began in 1970, and in February 1972, the EPA mandated a set of guidelines for the gradual reduction of the amount of lead in gasoline begi nning on January 1, 1974. Unleaded fuel rapidly appeared at more gas stations, and the automotive infrastructure shifted permanently to unleaded technology the following year. Federal and stat e guidelines such as the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (1975) called for Corporate Av erage Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, aiming 41 David Bird, Industry Defends Lead in Gasoline, New York Times, 25 September 1970. 42 Warren, Brush with Death, 205-6; Joshua Lederberg, Ample Evidence for Taking the Lead Out of Gasoline, Washington Post, 17 January 1970. 43 Elsie Carter, Reduced Lead Content in Gasoline Ordered by EPA for Public Health, Washington Post, 23 February 1972; Sharon Silke Carty, A Great Moment for Cleaner CarsCatalytic Converters Honored, USA Today, 21 October 2008.
165 to make engines both cleaner and more efficient. Catalytic converters became mandatory on all automobiles produced after 1975.44 The lead industry put up one last stand, keep ing leads inevitable phase out a long, drawn out process tied up in federal courts during the 1970s. The nail in the coffina 1976 five to four Court of Appeals decision decl ared that the EPA had the au thority to phase out lead.45 As Circuit Judge J. Skelly Wright stated for the majority: Lead from gasoline engines accounts for about 90 percent of the lead in the air. Watchdog agencies such as the EPA have a duty to warn us, and protect us, when technological advances present danger s unappreciatedor un revealedby their supporters.46 For the next ten years, the maximum allowabl e amount of lead per gallon was reduced to 1.1 grams. As of January 1, 1986, the amount declined to .05, and by 1988 to .01 grams. The ban of the sale of leaded fuel for highw ay use became official on January 1, 1996.47 The phaseout, by no means, was smooth and swift. Many consumers balked; leaded fuel (known as regular) often was cheaper than un leaded fuel at commercial gas pumps in the 1980s and to save money, consumers tended to use the dated fuel to power their olde r automobiles. Nevertheless, leaded fuel eventually disappeared from commerci al automobiles, remaining legal in two notable areas, airplanes and racecars. Motorsports gained an exemption from the Clean Air Acts 44 Dan Fisher, Detroit Shifts to Fuel Injectors to Cut Smog, Los Angeles Times, 11 January 1970; Bob Irvin, EPAs Ruling Pleases No One, Competition Press and Autoweek, 5 May 1973, 8; UAW Asks Cleaner Car Engine, Washington Post, 22 April 1970. 45 The Ruling on Leaded Gasoline, Washington Post, 8 February 1975. 46 Timothy S. Robinson, Court Backs EPA Curb on Lead in Gas, Washington Post, 20 March 1976. 47 Cass Peterson, EPA is Considering Ban on Leaded Gasoline, Ruckelshaus Says, Washington Post, 29 February 1984; Andy Pasztor, EPA Plans Rules to Speed the Phase-Out of Leaded Gasolin e; Some Firms Opposed, Wall Street Journal, 1 March 1984; Warren Brown, End Nears for Le aded Gasolineand for Bargain Fuel Prices, Washington Post, 29 December 1985; Philip Shabecoff, New Limits on Lead in Gasoline are Planned, E.P.A. Officials Say, New York Times, 21 July 1984.
166 tetraethyl lead ban, and some entities, such as NASCAR, permitted leaded fuel well into the next century.48 Racing technology could be contradictory. On one hand, better racecar design and more effective helmets and equipment enhanced safety. On the other hand, racecars generated earsplitting noise and some burned leaded fuel. In 1952, Pure Oil Company of Illinois became the sole fuel provider to NASCAR and commerciall y developed and distributed a specific blend of racing fuel, free of charge (and mandatory), to participants. Chemists continually changed and experimented with gasoline blends as engines became more powerful, necessitating additional octane. Throughout the 1970s and be yond, lead remained in some types of racing gasoline to increase octane a nd lubricate engine components.49 Nevertheless, some forms of motorsports, long ago, moved past ga soline, switching to higher-octane methanol fuel. This non-potable version of alcohol is derived from natural gas, coal, or wood (sometimes known as wood alcohol), and became the fuel of choice for many open-wheel racecars after World Wa r II. USAC made methanol mandatory because of safety. After a grisly gasoline fire during the 1964 Indian apolis 500 killed two dr ivers (Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald), the sanctioning body permanen tly switched all open-wheel racecars to alcohol fuel. Methanol does not ignite as easily as gasoline, and the alcohol fire can be extinguished with water without inflating the conflagration. Wood-derived methanol is renewable; coaland natural gas-produced methanol is not. The major drawbacksmethanol burns invisibly and produces a poisonous exhaust. Drivers cannot withstand the fumes if the 48 Peter Bohr, Ruling Curbs EP A Action on Leaded-Gas Use, Washington Post, 1 March 1982. 49 Pure and Standard merged in 1965 creating Unocal. Tim Wusz, Gasoline for NASCAR Stock Car Racing: 19511994, Motor Sports Engineering Conference and Exposition Conference Proceedings, 1994, 265-278; Deb Williams, Farewell to a Friend, NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, 20 February 2003, 36-37.
167 racecar is stationary or movi ng slowly, and formaldehyde accumulation is a toxic by-product of burned methanol deposits.50 In the 1970s, alcohol fuel made a tentative co meback in the domestic arena. Ethanols long-time role as a performance booster in rac ecars transferred over to commercial automobiles in the late 1970s. Low fuel prices after World War II brought the promotion and production of ethanol in the United States to a virtual standstill. However, 1970s energy concerns and Middle Eastern instability generated a re newed attentiveness for fossil fuel alternatives. And as cleaner air became a national priority, et hanol and methanol advocates t outed alcohols cleaner-burning properties. Most alcohol pr oponents acknowledged that ethano l-enriched gasoline was not a silver bullet, but a means of stretching Am ericas fuel supply, decrease knock, and reduce harmful exhaust emissions. As in the late 1930s, Gasohol first appeared at Midwestern service stations. This concocti onwhich eliminated the need fo r tetraethyl leadwas gasoline enriched with ethanol, in the neighborhood of ten percent. Energy costs crushed farmers in the 1970s, and as in the 1930s, the use of corn for fuel helped improve their plight. As energy hist orians Hal Bernton, Scott Skylar, and William Kovarik contended, by the end of the decade, the movement for small-scale alcohol fuels production had spread across rural America with the speed of a wind-whipped prairie fire, sparking a rebirth in the anci ent art of moonshining unequale d since the prohibition era.51 Although the permanent problem of ethanols po tential for human consumption remained, the federal government decreased regulations on the production of ethyl alcohol for fuel, enforcing the use of denaturants to keep the fluid out of liquor cabinets. The ethanol lobby slowly amassed 50 Gasoline Out of Favor in Indy, Illustrated Speedway News, 2 June 1970, 4. 51 Bernton, Kovarik, and Sklar, Forbidden Fuel, 36.
168 influence within the Beltway and Midwestern polit icians began seeking subsides and tax breaks to produce ethanol, thus remedyi ng their states agricultural and economical woes. Federal alcohol subsidies began in 1978 a nd continued into the twenty-fir st century. As the demand for alternative fuels spiked up agai n the following year due to the Iranian Oil Embargo, ethanol plants sprouted up in the Midwest. A problem facing the current ethano l market, critics have always argued that ethanol was not worth the price of its production, regardless of federal subsidies and tax incentives. Ethanol remained largely absent from American motorsports during the 1980s and 90s, but, as a cleaner-burning octane booster, infilt rated the Midwestern market as one of tetraethyl leads main replacements.52 Since the earliest days of automobile, noise, the other pollution, fueled critics. Complaints never ceased and the automobile thrived as roads gr ew more crowded and turned into unofficial speedways. Organized motors ports, featuring high-powered, un-muffled engines were among the earliest producers of noise pollution. In fact, excessive noise created by high-powered racecars contributed to the demise of racing on municipal streets before World War I. Midget racing, a high-pitched motorsport that initially thrived in urba n areas eventually disappeared from the cities. Ovals kept racecar noise confined to a much smaller area than street courses, but inhabitants who happened to reside near a motors ports facility complained about noise. With sprawl came noise and new suburban homeow ners were unaccommodating when eardrumsmashing roars emanated from racetracks on nights when many suburbanites preferred to relax in 52 Bernton, Kovarik, and Sklar, Forbidden Fuel, Alcohol-Gas Mixture Called Ke y to Energy Independence, Los Angeles Times, 18 November 1974; Ward Sinclair, Gasohol: Moral Equivalent of Moonshine, Washington Post, 4 August 1979; Phil McCombs, Gasohol Proves Popular in Area and Nationwide, Washington Post, 6 June 1980; Ward Sinclair, Fuel for the Future, Washington Post, 12 June 1981.
169 the quiet of their homes in front of a Saturday -night televised variety show or with friends around the backyard barbecue.53 Congresss passage of the Federal Noise Ab atement Act of 1972 was a major, yet less publicized, environmental initia tive during the Nixon era. This legislation, sponsored by Democrat Congressman Paul Rogers of Florida, passed in the same year as the more famous Clean Water Act and provided federal oversight to address the fact that inadequately controlled noise presents a growing danger to the heal th and welfare of the nations population.54 During Congressional hearings, motorsports-generated noise came up on a few occasions, and the sport earned yet another environmental ex emption. Among the Acts provision s, . it is the intent of the Committee that the administrator will not de signate as a major source of noise vehicles or engines which are manufact ured or modified for, or uti lized exclusively in organized competitive off-highway motorsports events.55 As Robert Alex Barron stated in a McCalls article in 1968, air pollution kills us slowly but silently; noise makes each day a torment.56 Noise, although mere ly an inconvenience to some, is unhealthy. The cardiovascular system, for example, thrives in quiet. Theodore Bertrand authored a pioneering no ise pollution study in 1970. In The Fight for Quiet, he explained that noise can affect the hear t directly through some nervous system stimulation, 53 Literature on noise pollution is sparse until the early 1970s. David M. Lipscomb, Noise: the Unwanted Sounds (Chicago, Nelson-Hall, 1974); Fan Action Ur ged to Combat Noise Threat to Racing, National Speed Sport News, 26 May 1976, 2. 54 Noise Control Powers for EPA Voted by House, Wall Street Journal, 1 March 1972, 2; Noise Control Act of 1972, 27 October 1972, P.L. 92-574, 86 Stat. 1234 2328. Noise st udies lack in academia. Peter A. Coates, The Strange Stillness of the Past: Toward an Environmental History of Sound and Noise, Environmental History 10 (October 2005): 635-664. 55 Noise Control Act of 1972, 27 October 1972, P.L. 92-574, 86 Stat. 1234 2388. 56 Bertrand, The Fight for Quiet, 149.
170 and indirectly by changing the dyna mics of the vascular system. 57 Extreme or sudden noise can affect blood vessels and capillaries in the head a nd eyes, bringing on headaches. Despite the fact that homeown ers often knowingly bought property in close proximity to motorsports venues, these new residents moved away from the city expecting all of the amenities of suburban life, which included quiet. Rarely di d real-estate agents show homes near racetracks to prospective buyers on Friday or Saturday ev enings when grassroots racing took place. The closure of a racetrack had short-term ne gative economic aspects for a community and surrounding locales. Concession stand workers, for example, might lose th eir source of summer employment. But, a shut-down speedway often re sulted in property-value escalations and the growth of a community.58 During the 1970s, noise pollution united an incr easing number of Americans in a quest for quiet. Citizens mobilized and mounted political and legal action with greater frequency and growing effectiveness, and vict ories over noise pollution often came at the expense of a local speedway. Despite the federal exemption, states and municipalities targ eted racetracks and circumvented the national act. New suburbanite s, vitalized by the environmental movement and the Noise Abatement Act, went after their unwel come neighbors and aided in the closures of short tracks in places such as Pine Brook, New Jersey; Islip, New York; Reading, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Salt Lake City, Ut ah. Noise killed tracks before sprawl engulfed the facilities. Noise, in essence, hastened the inevitable demise of tracks in these and countless other markets. The proliferation of noise statutes also motivated track owners, to an even larger to degree, to sell their property, thus opening the land for quiet commercial and 57 Bertrand, The Fight for Quiet, 101. 58 NY Court Prevents Onteora Reopening, National Speed Sport News, 17 August 1977, 5.
171 residential development. Battles had mixed results; usually, but not always, the racetrack fell on the losing end.59 Sprawl and noise constituted a formidab le one-two punch. As touched on earlier, Marylands Beltsville Speedway wa s a poor racetrack loca tion. Since the fac ilitys inception in 1965, local citizens complained about noise, traffi c, and boisterous race fan behavior. In 1971, an 11 p. m. curfew was instituted. Track owners, forced to comply, oversaw the construction of a 20-foot high sound-retaining wall constructed of unsightly plywood a nd telephone poles (at a reported cost of $10,000). The contraptionmarginally effectiveresulted in a mere fivedecibel reduction. Complaints continued.60 In 1972, Beltsville implemented a muffler re quirement. The required muffling of loud engines decreased the spectacle appeal of a ttending races in person. Mufflers made racers quieter, but not silent. Mufflers are the antithesis of maxi mum horsepower and slowed the cars to a degree. Missing the full aesth etic of racing, fans initially dr ifted away from the quieter speedway, but the rule was experimented withd ifferent types of mufflers with different placement on the cars. Races remained comp etitive since muffled cars affected engine performance indiscriminately, but with less noise and less horsepower. But, mufflers did change the sport. Racers always adopted to rule changes, and mufflers simply added another element to the timeless tinker. Instead of tinkering sole ly for speed, racers and mechanics tinkered for 59 Ohio Speedways Organize to Protect Interests, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 March 1974, 8; Muffled Stocks Sunday at Tri-County Track, National Speed Sport News, 27 February 1974, 3; Noise May Shutter Track, National Speed Sport News, 26 April 1978, 2; Neighbors May Close Famed Islip Speedway, National Speed Sport News, 13 August 19 80, 3, 22; Last-Ever Reading Race Friday, National Speed Sport News, 27 June 1979, 8; Mike Kerchner, Reading, Part I, National Speed Sport News, 10 August 2005, 14. 60 The track received oneyear permits since its opening in 1965. Permit Given to Beltsville, Washington Post, 19 March 1970; David Bourdon, Beltsville Prospers Despite Mounting Problems, Washington Post, 15 July 1969; Speedway Permit Renewal Argues in Prince Georges, Washington Post, 7 March 1970; Venlo Wolfsohn, Commission Threatens Start of Beltsville Meet, Washington Post, 13 March 1970; Shelby Coffey, Alls Quieter on the Beltsville Speedway Front, Washington Post, 2 April 1972; Venlo Wolfsohn, Costs Force Belleville Track to Cut Short Stock Car Season, Washington Post, 28 August 1977.
172 silence while trying to preserve speed. Although cr owds initially shrank, fans returned to watch the muffled racecars, and the wall, curfew, a nd mufflers extended the life of the Beltsville Speedway until 1978. The Maryland example indicated the trend. Eventually fans and competitors accepted mufflers and curfews either by force or out of necessity. Despite the track owners tireless efforts to accommodate community noise concerns, by the late 1970s, Beltway sprawl (and a slumping American econo my) put Beltsville out of business.61 The dirt-track state of Il linois was one of the most co mplex motorsports and noise pollution battlegrounds. This predominately rura l state took the strongest action at the state level, and many in the racing community feared th at the state where American auto racing got its start might become 80 years later the first to lose th e sport. In the same year of the Federal Noise Abatement Act in 1972, the Illinois Environmenta l Protection Agency (IEPA) authored a new statewide noise pollution law and forwarded the proposal to the Illinois Pollution Control Boards (IPCB) for consideration. The crux of the law mandated a 61-decibel lim it at the property line of the receiver. The measur e was well below racecar-generated noise and 61 Venlo Wolfsohn, NASCAR Races Feature Firs t Program at Baltimore-Washington Speedway, Washington Post, 20 July 1965, D-3; Venlo Wolfsohn, Belts ville Track Offers NA SCAR Race Wednesday, Washington Post, 24 August 1965, C-2; Costs Force Beltsville Track to Cut Short Stock Season, Washington Post, 28 August 1978, 41; Venlo Wolfsohn, Rabold Drives Porsche to Victory at Marlboro, Washington Post, 22 September 1968, C10; A Guide to all of those Noisy Cars and Where They Race, Washington Post, 4 May 1969, 274; e-mail correspondence with Al Stilley, 20 October 2008; Wolfs ohn interview by author; US AC Orders Mufflers on all Stock Cars Starting at Milwaukee July 10, National Speed Sport News, 22 June 1977, 3; Shelby Coffey, Alls Quieter on the Beltsville Speedway front, Washington Post, 2 April 1972, F-8; Mufflers Mandatory, National Speed Sport News, 17 April 1974, 13; Mufflers Mandatory at Grandview, Illustrated Speedway News, 10 January 1978, 17; Polly Roat, Mufflers get OK from Golden Gate Fans, Illustrated Speedway News, 7 May 1974, 4; Mufflers required for Florida sprints, Illustrated Speedway News, 13 December 1977, 2; ARDC Board of Directors Announce New Specs for Competitors, Illustrated Speedway News, 10 January 1978, 12. Dennis Thompson, Mufflers, Physicals a Mu st for Busy Badger Midgeteers, National Speed Sport News, 12 April 1978, 11; Jim Donnelly, The Silent Treatment, Stock Car Racing, June 1986, 84-89; A good commentary on the effects of racecar noise on hearing is Paul Van Valkenburgh, Real Racer s Wear Protection, Racer, April 1995, 86. In 1977, USAC muffled their stock cars.
173 according to one racing publication, the 61-decibe l limit equaled what one might hear in a business office in which adding mach ines and typewriters are used.62 It initially appeared, according to newspa per and racing publication accounts in 1972, that as in the federal law, the state (IPCB) would grant Illinois motorsports immunity from the statutes. Apparently, when the IEPA forwarded the bill that agency recommended a motorsports exemption. On June 15, 1973, however, the ICPB denied its sister agencys recommendation.63 The original regulation (R742), adopted by the ICPB in July 26, 1973, stated that noise levels may not exceed 61 decibels at the property line of the receiver a nearly impossible requirement for track owners.64 This statewide regulation threat ened all trackseven innocent tracks located in isolated pockets of Illinois, where miles of corn extended to the property line of the receiver. Despite existing on municipaland state-owned land, co unty and state fairs received no preferential treatment over the privately held facilities. The ICPB granted motorsports facilities a two-year grace period to comply with this nearly impossi ble requirement (which the addition of mufflers and sound retaining walls would not accomplish) a nd during this time develop a counterproposal and work toward improving their current ineffective noise-abatement measures.65 Mobilizing promoters, racing en tities, drivers, and fans formed the Association for Motorsports (AMS) in 1973 to fight the statewide noise law. Con cerned with the possibility of 62 Board Ignores Plea, Illini Racing Again in Sound Jeopardy, National Speed Sport News, 4 July 1973, 2; Iowa Busiest U.S. Racing State, National Speed Sport News, 4 July 1973, 2. 63 ICPB officials were appointed by the governor. The IEPA is the enforcement arm of the IPCB. Phil Pash, Bid by Illinois to Muffle Tracks Stirs a Storm, New York Times, 3 August 1975. 64 According to Martin Wyant, Boa rd Mulls Effect of Noise Curbs, Chicago Tribune, 23 July 1973, consideration for an exemption was still being made by Sam Lawton and the ICPB a few days before R74-2s passing on July 26. Stilley, Noise and th e Illinois Racetrack. 65 This was a conflict of state agencies (the Illinois Fair Board and ICPB). Casey Bukro, Noise, Gas Crisis Cited for Auto Racing Curbs, Chicago Tribune, 14 June 1974.
174 losing sprint, midget, and stock car events in Illinois, USAC president Reynold MacDonald helped organize the AMS (Illinois was a USAC stronghold). As was the case in the fuel crisis, environmental concerns created new alliances, and track owners, racers, and fans united in an effort to protect their sport. As was the cas e with oil embargo, the Illinois noise issue bound together all varieties of motorsports interests.66 The national racing community watched this statewide battle clos elyonly California and Pennsylvania had more speedways than Illinois. At that time, the IEPA (t he initial sponsor of R74-2) and AMS formed a peculiar recreat ional/economical/environmental/governmental connection, and as National Speed Sport News stated, an enemy became an ally. The AMS and IEPA attempted to modify to R74-2. In Fe bruary 1974, the two groups proposed (R74-4) to exempt racing from the 61-decibel regulation if races concluded by 10:30 PM. Part of this counterproposal required facilities to monitor and submit their decibel measures to the state. As R74-4 awaited a decision, the Ju ly 1975 deadline came and passed, but apparently with no fines handed down by the ICPB. Eventually, the IC PB dismissed the counterproposal (R74-4) on August 28, 1975, but granted the AMS and IEPA a February 10, 1976 extension, while requesting yet another counterproposal.67 The 1975 season continued as the IEPA, ICPB, and AMS searched for an amicable solution. A protest march sponsored by the AM S, and organized by Dr. Thomas Cronin, took place on December 2, 1975, which National Speed Sport News reporter John McKarns described 66 AMS Target is Unfair Legislation on Noise, National Speed Sport News, 17 October 1973, 2; New Proposal would Exempt Illinois from Noise Regulations, Illustrated Speedway News, 12 February 1974, 12. 67 Casey Bukro, Noise, Gas Crisis Cited for Auto Racing Curbs, Chicago Tribune, 14 June 1973; Noise Remains an Illini Issue, National Speed Sport News, 23 April, 1975, 3, 13; Auto Racing Exempt from Pollution Laws, National Speed Sport News, 20 June 1975, 2, 21.
175 as a demonstration that was perhaps a first in auto racing.68 This example of motorsportsbased grassroots activism unfolded at the University of Illinois at Chicago on the same day ICPB-sponsored public hearings took place over motorsports noise issues. The protest march and debates captured Chicago-area television co verage. According to McKarns, the IEPA continued to be contacted by other states re questing information on the proposed regulations and current status of th is issue in Illinois.69 For the 1976 season, the AMS continued working with state officials under the supervision of yet another entity, the Illi nois Institute for Environmental Quality (IIEQ). This statesponsored group (which operated in conjunction with Northweste rn University) was comprised of motorsports personalities, academicians, and government officials. The committee studied auto racings economic impact on Illinois, investigated how other states addressed auto racing noise issues, and examined how different types of race cars and mufflers produced and abated sound, respectively.70 Today, environmental and economical impact stud ies are required to bu ild racetracks. The detailed, state-sponsored IIEQ reportperhaps the first of its kindconcluded that 3.2 million people attended auto races in Illinois in 1974. The study pointed out that the end of racing in Illinois would result in lost revenues, affecting the motorspor ts sector and the hotel and restaurant industry as well. The AMS, IEPA, and other racing proponents rightfully argued that these environmental regulations (or more specifica lly the elimination of motorsports) would have significant economic affects on local communities. This report did not necessarily save racing 68 Protest March is Scheduled, National Speed Sport News, 26 November 1975, 3. 69 John R. McKarns, Illinois Racing Noise Problem s Persist Following Protest March and Hearing, National Speed Sport News, 10 December 197 5, 3, 11. 70 Illinois Institute for Environmental Quality, Economi c Analysis of Environmental Regulation in the Racing Industry, October 1976.
176 from extinction in the state, but clearly provided v ital economic and environmental information favoring motorsports. The Illinois battle over mo torsports and noise intertwined environmental cost with economics, and here again was a conn ection that characterized motorsports in the 1970s. As in the fuel crisis, auto racing en tities armed with ammunition pointing toward favorable economic and social impact with minimal environmental impact. 71 The latest proposal (R75-11) also introduced the previous year in summer of 1975, combined most of the aspects of the previous pr oposal (R74-4), but also broke racing down into four categories: drag, oval, sports, and moto rcycle, each with different decibel-reduction requirements. Some cars sprints, midgets, and types of drags would have no muffler rule, but statewide, all forms of moto rsports required to cease raci ng by 10:30. Essentially, R75-11 (again) exempted auto racing from the statew ide 61-decibel requirement but with stricter requirements and restrictions. The ICPB fi nally accepted R75-11 in summer of 1978 and motorsports in Illinois continued exempt of the 61-decibel limit, but with stipulations. Also included in this measure was a three-year grace period to experiment with muffler and other forms of sound-reducing technology, aiming for an eventual overall decrease of sixteen decibels in stock-type racecars (sprints, midgets and some types of drag racers remained exempt). In addition, the AMS and its member tracks had to m onitor and report its noise levels and install sound measuring devices. If tracks did not meet requirements they were fined.72 Illinois motorsports remained under constant surveillance, and heading into 1980, racecars were a bit quieter and events c oncluded earlier in the evening. These measures became standard 71 Ibid. Racetrack closings also threatened intrastate commerce because competitors and fans often came from bordering states. 72 Illini Noise Rules Eased, National Speed Sport News, 2 February 1977, 3; Ill. Environmental Board Proposes Sound Reduction, National Speed Sport News, 20 April 1977, 10; Jack Schw artz, Speedway Confidential, Illustrated Speedway News, 20 September 1978, 12; John C. White, Speedway, Neighbors Renew Noisy Feud, Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1980.
177 nationwide in coming years. States and communitie s kept a much closer tab on auto racing noise than in the past. It appeared (with the bene fit of hindsight) that the ICPBs tough stance represented that entitys desire to preserve a form of recrea tion, but also reflected the state governments dedication to make a change to the status quo, while improving the sports relationship with the environmen t and the citizenry. Because th e ICPB expressed willingness to allow the AMS and the IEPA to develop counterpr oposals, it appeared th at the ICPBs main initiative was to permit motorsports to proceed Illinois, but with an enforced environmental consciousness. The ICPB even conceded in 197 4 that the 61-decibel is not economically or technically feasible for motorsports.73 The timing of these events, in the mid-1970s, came as no surprise.74 These brief summaries of the complicated au to racing/noise pollution battles in Maryland, and Illinois showed how environm ental issues affected the surv ival and sustainability of American motorsports.75 Nearly every week, National Speed Sport News and Illustrated Speedway News included at least one article updating th e status of a battle between a racetrack operator and his or her neighbors. Forced to address civilian noise complaints, promoters attended workshops to gather tips regarding noise abatement and to develop public-friendly policies. Basically, the survival of a racetrack depended on an owners willingness to cooperate with citizens and government offi cials, not drivers and fans. Regardless of a track operators vain attempt to silence the cars and work with the surrounding comm unity, sprawl, and a growing demand for quiet still killed countless speedways. 73 New Proposal would Exempt Illinois from Noise Regulations, Illustrated Speedway News, 12 February 1974, 12; Opening Noise Battle is Won by Racing Group in Illinois, National Speed Sport News, 6 February 1974, 3. 74 Illinois Noise Rule Now Law; New Proposal Made, National Speed Sport News, 13 August 1975, 2, 16. 75 Only 3 Race Bodies May Sanction in Ill. National Speed Sport News, 2 May 1979, 5.
178 Racing with the environment accelerated in the 1970s. The story of Pittsburghs famed Heidelberg Raceway typified an enviro-motorsports chain reacti on. Emerging in the Iron City in 1948 as part of the great post-war track buildi ng boom, the original di rt facility switched to pavement in the mid-1960s and was gone by 1974. The track owner opted to not renew his lease of the property due to th e uncertainty of the energy crisis. Real estate developers quickly scooped up the land. Heidelberg followed a common patterndirt tr ack, paved track, demolished track, shopping center plaza. Various e nvironmental factors played out in the birth and death of a track and adjusting to the natural and artificial environmen t often only delayed the inevitable demise of a speedway.76 In the summer of 1980, Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Murray reflected that in 1970, no one foresaw $1.49 gasoline, oil embargoes, 55-mile speed limits. In Dans [Gurney] heyday, racing machine decals were used to sell oil additiv es, oil itself, gasoline, and gasoline products in a hotly competitive market.77 This quote addressed the environmental and economic challenges motorsports faced in the 1970s, but despite hurdles created by fuel, noise, politics, economics, or sprawl, NASCAR distinguished itself by overcoming these obstacles. As these last two chapters illustrated, by 1980, most types of American auto racing underwent change and weakened. NASCAR, however, surged forward unilaterally. By the start of a new decade, the Winston Cup Series was on the verge of a major breakout and well-positioned (for the time being) to weather any economic, political, or environmental challenges on the horizon.78 76 Seeks P.R.A. Crown at Heidelberg, Illustrated Speedway News, 19 October 1965,4; Heidelberg 200 to Wayne Bennett, Illustrated Speedway News 19 October, 1965, 3 ; Colella to Operate Heidelberg Track, National Speed Sport News, 17 January 1973, 2; Farewell Heidelberg, Auto Racing Monthly Magazine, June 1975; Kristy Graver, Memories of Heidelbergs Life in the Fast Lane, Bridgeville (PA) Area News, 2 November 2005; Ross Jr., Racing Against Time. 77 Jim Murray, Economic Crunch Slows Dan Gurney to a Walk, Los Angeles Times, 22 August 1980. 78 Shav Glick, Racing is Running Out of Gas as the 80s Begin, Los Angeles Times, 3 January 1980.
179 CHAPTER 8 PLACES, SPACES, AND RA CES: REDUX, (1980-2005) We cant stick our heads in the sand and pret end this kind of political and environm ental pressure wont happen, because it will. Its not a question of being an environmentalist its a reality that I believe the sport will have to face. Kyle Petty1 You can have NASCAR, or you can have the panther, but you cant have both. Dennis Olle2 Most racecars do not look markedly different to day than they did in 1980. The status of championship racing, however, is vastly differe nt. After CARTs messy split with USAC, the new entity achieved championship racing suprem acy. NASCAR-sanctioned stock car racing, in the meantime, was on its way in becoming a national phenomenon. Winston Cup stock car racing found new markets outside the Southeas t in the 1980s. Big NASCAR names, such as Darrell Waltrip (three championships) and Dale Earnhardt (seven championships), became more widely recognizable American motorsports figures than CART champions, such as Rick Mears and Tom Sneva. Although the Daytona 500 steadily drew a larger American television audience, the Indianapolis 500 remained the worlds premier motorsports event. In factunlike USAC in previous decadesa growing number of foreign drivers, particularly from Europe, Brazil, Mexico, and Japan, competed in CART. Ch ampionship racing drifted from its once-strong American identity. The declin e in domestic drivers alienated long-time American fans. Throughout the 1980s, championship racing, its schedule consistent somewhat recovered from 1 Gordon Kirby, Forging the Future, Racer, December 1993, 18. 2 Dennis Olle, telephone interview by author, 30 January 2009, in possession of author.
180 late 1970s chaos, but even stormier clouds loomed on the horizon in the early 1990s.3 In 1994, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George (USAC founder Tony Hulmans grandson) created the Indy Racing League (IR L) as a second major open-wheel racing se ries. He designed the IRL to appeal to American drivers who would climb to Indy vi a the traditional ladder-system (midgets, sprints, and championship cars). Li stening to the open-wheel racing communitys complaints about CARTs astronomical compe tition costs, George introduced a unique rules package, reducing engine and chassis prices for his new entity. The committed George made a bona-fide attempt to return championship racingsans dirt eventsback to a more successful era, featuring American drivers racing wick ed-fast open-wheel machines exclusively on oval speedways. The inaugural Indy Racing Leagues season took place in 1996.4 Georges deep pockets and the Indianapo lis 500, which annually attracted over 400,000 fans, kept the IRL afloat during its formative y ears. Beginning in 1996, the Indianapolis 500 was run under IRL sanction, and CART teams refused to compete at the Brickyard because George guaranteed starting sports to the top 25 highest-r anking drivers in the IRL series. That same Sunday, CART scheduled a much-hyped competition racethe U. S. 500at Michigan International Speedway, about 250 miles north of Indianapolis. Over 100,000 attended CARTs 3 USAC tried to being back a combination asphalt and dirt championship in 1981, but failed. In the late 1980s, the entity inaugurated a short-lived Indy car stock block seri es. The fallout from the open wheel split in 1979 hurt USAC stock car racing and eventually eliminated USAC from NASCARs competition. Now championship drivers, because they were competing in CART, could not race US AC stock cars without jumping sanctioning body. The stock division lacked star appeal in that it depended on cross-over drivers such as A. J. Foyt and Johnny Rutherford from its championship division in which to attract a crowd, instead of nurturing heroes like NASCAR did in its Winston Cup Stock division. USAC implemented a failed reorganization program of its stock division in 1981. The sanctioning body disbanded the division by 1984. 4 The Indy Racing Leagues New Formula, Indy 500 Official Program 1997, 95-98. In 1996 CART and the IRL used similar engines, components, and chassis. Beginning in 1997, the IRL used their own engine and chassis package. In Europe, Asia, and South America, open-coc kpit car competition was the preferred ladder system to Formula One-style racing. In comparis on with other forms of American racing, Indy car racing has a much smaller minor-league network. Two major minor-league versions of Indy cars, Indy Lights and Formula Atlantics, were smaller and slower versions of championship cars that comp ete exclusively on pavement. The cost of these cars is quite high in comparison to most forms of American racing.
181 rebellion. For sure, it was a most memorabl e day in the history of American motorsports never had over half-a million-people witnesse d major-league paved openwheel racing in person at one time. Ironically, (by combining the attendance of both races ) the split produced championship racings biggest one-d ay spectator turnout. As it tu rned out for CART, the U. S. 500 was a disaster. On the warm-up lap, almost half of the 27-car starting field crashed behind the pace car!5 Over time the split frustrated long-time fans and confused potential new fans. With the exception of the Indianapolis 500, the new entity attracted ab ysmal crowdsa mere 2,000 fans supported one event. Because only a handf ul of racing teams abandoned CART, the IRL featured few known names. Top CART team owners (Roger Penske, Barry Green, Chip Ganassi, Bobby Rahal, and U. E. Patrick) stay ed put, and most of th e top open-wheel racing sponsors and fans stuck with CART as well. In its early years, the IRL struggled, but, under Georges strong financial commit ment, survived its early years.6 CART imploded. Plagued by awful management and poor scheduling, the series declined in the late 1990s. The purse and prestige of In dianapolis 500 slowly enticed CART teams and their sponsors to the IRL. The IRL grew robust in the early 2000s as major teams, one-by-one, left the then-struggling CART series. By th e 2002, most of the money, sponsorship, television ratings (and American open-wheel fan base) tipped in the IRLs favor. Yet, similar to CART, the number of American drivers in the Indy Racing League declined. Althoug h American drivers dominated the IRL, during the 1990s, Brazilian s and Europeans (most of whom brought sponsorship dollars with them) became the new stars. Both CART and IRL owners experienced 5 Rob Sneddon, The U.S. 500, Open Wheel, September 1996, 66-75. 6 Ed Hinton, Whatever Happened to Indy? Sports Illustrated 2 June 1997, 26-33; Jonathan Ingram, Both Sides Winners in War of Wheels, Street and Smiths Sports Business Journal, 18-24 May 1998, 32.
182 more difficulty in securing corporate assistance, a nd it became integral that drivers seeking a ride first obtain their own sponsorship and bring corporate do llars to car owners. To make matters worse, both entities lost the support of big busin ess, as many American companies funneled their sponsorship dollars to NASCAR.7 A group of investors headed by Gerald Forsythe, Kevin Kalkhoven, and Paul Gentilozzi purchased CARTs assets in 2003-2004. This mo dern organization, given the forgettable name the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car Worl d Series (CCWS) powered by Ford, primarily contested road-course and street-circuit races. By the mid-2000s, Georges vision for the IRL looked remarkably similar to CART in the early 1990s. The IRL added temporary street circuits and permanent road courses to the schedule. In 2007 and 2008, none of the top five finishers in the championship were from the United States. The Champ Car World Series, meanwhile, folded after the 2007 season. Most of the former CCWS teams and drivers jo ined the IRL in 2008.8 This story is briefly recounted here because political in-fighting created another power vacuum in American motorsports, which NASCAR filled again. NASCAR had little drama and no identity crisis. Problems in championshi p racing resulted in the loss of a generation of fans that took to NASCAR. Up-and-coming Am erican open-wheel drivers, instead of shooting for the Indianapolis 500, drifted to stock car s, lured by sponsorship opportunities and NACSAR stardom. Unlike open-wheel racing, NASCAR brought its brand of racing lit erally nationwide. 7 Gordon Kirby, The Right Man, Racer, November 1993, 18; David Phillips, Alien Nation, Champ Car, June/July 2000, 30-35; David Phillips, Brain Drain, Racer November 2000, 34-40. 8 Ned Wicker, So Close So Far Away, 8; Ed Hinton, Whatever Happened to Indy? Sports Illustrated 2 June 1997, 26-33; Jonathan Ingram, Both Sides Winners in War of Wheels, Street and Smiths Sports Business Journal, 18-24 May 1998, 32; Ben Blake, Culture Clash, Racer, November 2000 48-53; Wicker, Twenty Years of CART, Indy Car & Championship Racing, January 1999, 22-31, Rick Schaffer, CART: The First Twenty Years, 1979-1998 (Osceola Wisc.: MBI, 1999), 15-38; J.M. Fenster, Indy, American Heritage 43 (May-June 1992): 6681; Leadership Urgently Required, Champ Car, December/January 2000, 12; Davi d Phillips, Best Laid Plans, Racer, May 2007, 31.
183 The IRL became primarily a Midwestern series, sport dominated by foreigners racing ironically before fans of the American heartland.9 Unlike the CART and IRL schedules, whic h greatly varied from year-to-year, NASCARs schedule remained consistent and the entity further developed long-standing strength in markets. Superspeedways constructed in the 1960s and early 70sunlike major baseball /football stadiums, such as Cincinnatis Riverf ront Stadium (1970), Pittsburghs Three Rivers Stadium and Philadelphias Veterans Stadium (1971), relics by the early 2000swithstood the test of time. NASCAR continue d scheduling biannual races on classic superspeedways, such as Talladega, Atlanta, Dover, and Charlotte. Since 1960, NASCARs top division bumped and banged on short tracks at Martinsville and Richm ond, Virginia, and Bristol, Tennessee. In the 1980s, track owners remodeled and upgraded existing speedways with more bleachers, amenities, corporate suites, and media facilities to accommodate the surge in Winston Cup racing. NASCAR grew so popular that from mid-February thr ough mid-November nearly every weekend featured a race. Today, the Daytona 500 earns more television coverage and pre-race hype than the Indianapolis 500. NASCARs marquee also scored significantly higher television ratings ove r the past decade.10 The proliferation of comprehensive cable and network coverage of all NASCAR races enhanced the sports outreach, a nd television audiences and crowds expanded In the 1980s and 90s. NASCAR annexed new markets in the Nort heast, Midwest, and West and brought the Winston Cup Series to parts of the country once famous fo r USAC Championship racing. 9 Ben Blake, Dirty Minds, Racer, January 2004, 66-69. 10 Bruce Martin, NASCA R Speedway Expansion, Stock Car Racing, March 1988, 94-104.
184 Beginning in 1982, a second Winston Cup race at Po cono was added to the schedule. Bi-annual Winston Cup races were within a three-hour drive from New York City, via I-80.11 Watkins Glen (New York), the premier American open-wheel and road racing venue during the 1960s and 70s, closed in 1981 due to financial difficulties. The Glen returned in 1986, with NASCAR Winston Cup racing. The fame d track was back, but the European-style road-course became most famous for its annual August NASCAR Winston Cup race. The track had limited reserved seating but ample space to accommodate tens of thousands of fans who roamed the facility, viewing the action from diff erent vantage points. The atmosphere somewhat resembled Woodstock, which rock-and-rolled about a three-hour drive east of the Glen in 1969. NASCAR acquired another market formerly an open-wheel stronghold. Although Indy (championship) cars returned in 2005, the once-mammoth popularity of open-wheel racing at the famed facility faded to a distant memory. Winston Cup remained the big draw in Formula Ones former American home.12 Winston Cup racing also webbed toward the other side of the country and cracked another of Americas fastest growing markets. In 1988, NASCARs top division retu rned to the Arizona desert for the first time since it s visit to the half-mile Phoenix dirt track in 1963. Phoenix once had a long-standing, rich tradition of champi onship racing dating back to 1950, but CART ceased racing at Phoenix in 1995. After the CART/IRL split, the subsequent IRL races at the 11 $8 Million NASCAR Year? National Speed Sport News, 10 December 1981, 3; Mattio li stated, I had been subsidizing CART with profits from NAS CAR races. A CART race cost us twic e as much to put on as a NASCAR event and drew half as many people. Bob Myers, Stock Report, Circle Track, June 1994, 18-21; Bruce A. Bennett Just What the Doctors Ordered, Speedway Illustrated, July 2007, 102-105. 12 CART Cars to the Glen; USAC Seeks Date, National Speed Sport News, 11 July 1979, 3, 32; N.Y. Times Examines Watkins Glen Issue, National Speed Sport News, 22 July 1981, 6, 19; Herb Dodge, Commentary, Stock Car Racing, December 1986, 16.
185 flat, mile-long facility drew miserable attenda nce. Top open-wheel racing has not been around since 2004. Meanwhile, a second Cup date was added in 2005.13 In the 1990s, NASCARs Manifest Destiny transp ired in the Heartla nd. As a long-held tradition, USAC and Indianapolis Speedway management used the Brickyard once a yearand only once a yearfor the Indianapolis 500. However in 1994, Tony George welcomed Bill France Jr. and company to the Brickyard. Th e race provided NASCARs second-richest payout for the year and the Brickyard 400 spectacle rivaled that of the Indy 500. Proving that NASCARs popularity had little to do with compet itive and/or side-by-side racing action, this race failed to generate much close and exciting racing due to its rectangular configuration and minor embankments. Still, the race draws NASCARs largest crowd of the season. The success of the Brickyard 400 confirmed the nationalization of NASCAR. During the 1970s, most Grand National tracks remained in Dixie, and the f our winningest drivers of the 1970s, Richard Petty (North Carolina), David Pearson and Cale Yarborough (South Carolina), and Bobby Allison (Alabama), were Southerners. New tracks a nd championship winning non-southern drivers such as Tony Stewart (Indiana), Jimmie Johnson (Calif ornia), Matt Kenseth (Wisconsin), and Kurt Busch (Nevada), and a massive national fan ba se had changed the character of Americas number-one form of motorsport by the end of the tw entieth century.14 The construction of new facilities and emerge nce of a final superspeedway boom greatly contributed to the entitys nationalization. By 2001, Boston, Fort Worth, Miami, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas had new state-of-the-art superspeedways. Heartland superspeedways opened at 13 The Sunbelt City staged a Gr and Prix race in city street s from 1989-1991. It was a financial failure. However, Arizona has remained a sprint and midget car hub. Those two forms of motorsports still draw extremely well. Just outside of Phoenix, Manzanita Raceway became one of th e nations premier dirt tracks. Phoenix International Raceway, Vintage Oval racing, December 2005, 40. 14 Clyde Bolton, From Hi aleah to Hueytown, Stock Car Racing, November 1969, 30-33. Allison was originally from Miami, Florida, but early in his racing career moved his operations out of Hueytown, Alabama.
186 Chicago in 2000 and Kansas City the following yearboth immediately so ld out their Winston Cup races.15 Similar to the long-running consistency developed in the 1960s at southeastern venues, these newer facilities hoste d races that became institutions.16 New England represented one of the biggest un tapped markets. Built on the property of an existing small speedway, Loudon (New Hampshire) hosted its first Winston Cup race in 1993. The Boston, Providence, and Portland markets now had two major NASCAR events a year. CART featured moderately successful race s from 1992 to 1995. The track switched to IRL sanction from 1996 to1998and ranked among the IRLs most dismally attended events. Meanwhile, the NASCAR schedule stretched along th e eastern seaboard from New Hampshire to Florida.17 Westernization continued too. Once a year stock cars invade the Nevada desert just outside of Las Vegas. Every June, NASCARs top divi sion visits California wine country at the beautiful road course at Sears Point (just outside of Monterey). NASCARs previous success at Ontario and Riverside (which held its last race in 1987), that entitys expansion in the 1990s, and a population base of well over 15 million people dict ated the need for a faci lity in the southern California market. Located just east of Los Ange les (ironically just two miles from Ontarios location), Fontana seats over 200,000 fans. Its wide, two-mile long, D-shaped configuration strongly resembled Michigan International Sp eedway. Unlike Ontario, built primarily as a 15 There were also major speedways bu ilt outside of Denver, St. Louis, and Nashville. These tracks do not host Sprint Cup events, but serve for other series and other minor league divisions of NACSAR. Sparta, Kentucky, is a major exception. The track has been in th e works for a Cup date for a long time. 16 Dick Berggren, Winston Cup is Coming to Town, Stock Car Racing, September 1996, 16-33; Tom Jensen, Racetrack of Dreams? Just Build It. . Street and Smiths Sport Business Journal, 18-24 May 1998, 24; Lee Walczak and Stephanie A. Forest, Speed Sells, Business Week, 11 August 1997, 86-90; Roy S. Johnson, Speed Sells, Fortune, 12 April 1999, 58-70. Larry Jewett, Tracks of Tomorrow, Stock Car Racing, August 2000, 24-31. 17 The International Speedway Corporation (ISC) (NASCARs Daytona Beach -based sister company) or Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) owne d these tracks. Some consider th e NASCAR and ISC a monopoly, a 2008 federal court decision decided otherwise.
187 championship racing venue, Fontana became predom inately a stock car track and featured the big Labor Day weekend race, (previously held at Darlington from 1950 through 2004). CART competed at Fontana from 1997 to 2003 and IRL car s raced at the southern California oval from 2002 to 2005, but since that last event, t op open-wheel racing ceased at Fontana.18 As big as NASCAR became, grassroots racing pe rsisted despite challenges of rising costs, closing speedways, and Saturday-evening televise d Winston Cup events. Would-be fans, instead of heading to their local short track, watched prime-time autom obile racing in the comfort of their own homes. Unlike the 1950s, racing no longer so ld itself. In an effort to generate fan interest, track owners and operators became mo re creative and innovative. Evening programs featured shorter schedules and less down time in between heats, thus getting the fans home earlier. Some owners upgraded their restr ooms and concession stands. In many cases, promotional events were added; sometimes a littl e bit of show biz was all that many facilities needed, whether in the form of demolition de rbies or figure-8 school bus racing; gimmicks brought fans out to the track and supplemented pr ize money to racers. Nationwide, this was the wave of the future for many of Americas sma ll track operators, persis ting to this day. Shopping malls, home movie channels, miniatur e golf courses, recreation softball, and evening high-school football sapped grassroots track fan bases. Not surprisingly during the 1980s and beyond, suburban sprawl and noise comp laints claimed more tracks. The trend continued as interstates brought rural communities within the reach of sprawling cities and suburbs. Bulldozers rumbled where racecar engine s once screamed at Flemington (New Jersey) 18 Sears Point provides the San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento markets with NASCAR and IRL racing. In 2007, NASCAR added a second Winston Cup date to the speedway. Kay Presto, Perfect Speedway Now Just a Memory, Grand National Scene, 1 July 1982, 8-9; Shav Glick, Greenwood Denies that Riverside will Close, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 1985.
188 Speedway, Ascot (California) Park, and Silver Spring (Pennsylvania) Speedway, famous facilities revered by generations past. Land was more profitable than nostalgia.19 Short tracks that survived did so, in part, because communities, regardless of racetrack noise and traffic, embraced the local economic value of the facility. Well-a ttended dirt tracks at Hagerstown, Maryland; Arlington, Minnesota; and Belleville, Kansas, for example, brought big dollars to small communities throughout summ er months. These speedway towns offered limited amenities, which in turn, boosted restau rants and hotels of near by locales (beyond the race-day noise and traffic). Plus, short track s (both dirt and paved) put minor league communities in the center of the major leagu e racing spotlight once or more times a year.20 Although paved short tracks existe d nationwide, a dirt re-evolu tion also characterized the modern era of American motors ports. Racing on natural surfa ces remained truest to its fairground dirt oval roots and to the Midwest. Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, and the Dakotas have dozens of dirt tracks, while offering few paved facilities. Geography, natural surface quality, and an undying and persistent demand for half-mile dirt track racing contributed to the success of Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania,) and Knoxville Speedway (Knoxville, Iowa). In 1982, Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times described in aesthetic terms the enduri ng popularity of dirt racing: 19 Shav Glick, End of an Era: Ascot to Join Southland Tracks that have Passed into History, Los Angeles Times, 17 November 1990, 1; Silver Spring, Open Wheel, December 1992, 11-20; Rob Sneddon, 1 Predictions for the 21st Century: The Long View from Americas Short Track Operators, Speedway Illustrated July 2000, 80-88; Ronnie Allyn, CRA Gran d Prix at Ascot Oval, Illustrated Speedway News, 13 October 1959, 9; John Sawyer, Ascot! The Defender of Tradition, Open Wheel, July 1984, 60-62; Dick Berggren, The Death of Ascot, Open Wheel, July 1991, 44-45. Bruce Bennett, Raci ngs Answer to Diamond Jim Brady, Open Wheel, August 1991, 6; Kyle Hardner, Stock Cars Wo nt Race at Flemington Again, Newark Star-Ledger 26 September 2000; Jean Mansur, Racers Sad to See Track Lose Race With Time, Newark Star-Ledger, 1 October 2000; Jeanette Rundquist, Growth Extends Commuters Circle of Pain, Newark Star-Ledger 14 March 2004. 20 Robert Eckhardt, Quiet Performance, Stock Car Racing, April 2000, 62-66; John Gibson, Ten Top Tracks, Stock Car Racing, June 2008, 39-42.
189 They run on dirt, as in the days before race tracks were paved. Th e sight of broadslinging sprint cars under full throttletheir rear ends thrust up in the cushion of dirt along the outside wall, sending clods flying in all directionsis a refres hing sight to old-timers who cant get used to seeing todays aerodynamic machines whizzing around paved ovals as if they were computerized slot cars.21 Despite Pocono Raceways success, Pennsylvania has the nations most dirt tracks. Built in 1939, Williams Grove Speedway, known as Ascot of the East, hosted AAA regional sprint car and midget races throughout its early years. The half-miler served as a major World of Outlaws hub, and still puts on regional events every Friday evening throughout the summer, arguably the most competitive weekly schedule in American sprint car racing. Nevertheless, nearby Harrisburg has been slowly suburbanizing and houses have crept closer to the track.22 In some places, dirt-track raci ng is as popular as always. In 1961, an Iowa town of under 10,000 lent its name to the Knoxville Nationals, now the Super Bowl of sprint car racing, which raised the dust at the Marion County Fair grounds. Directly across the street from the track, a residential neighborhood has co-existed with racecars for de cades. Some in the local minority complained about noise, but, the tow n, as a whole, embraced the facility, which remained far from the southeastern reaches of Des Moines sprawl. Weekly summer races were well-attended, and hotels, restau rants, shops, and gas stations in the nearby agricultural communities of Pleasantville and Pella also capitaliz ed on the economic benefits of the racetrack. After a night of racing, competitors and fans typically crammed the otherwise sleepy Dingus Lounge across from the track and sh ared tales of dirt racing lore. 21 Shav Glick, On Sprint Car Circuit, Dirt is Name of the Game, Los Angeles Times, 26 October 1982. 22 Bruce Ellis, Paxtons Record, Open Wheel, June 1997, 8; Lynn Paxton, interview by author, Knoxville, Iowa, 1 June 2006, in possession of author; John Kozub, The Ascot of the East, Speed Age, November 1950, 1215; Bruce Ellis, In Defense of the Posse, Open Wheel, January 1997, 8.
190 Natural surfaces for over one hundred years remain ed a vital component of the aesthetic of racing in the Heartland. When as ked about what made Knoxville so special, National Sprint Car Hall of Famer, Ray Lee Goodwin replied: Just good earth. This track [Knoxville], we call it a black gumbo you know. This track has more traction at the end of the day than mo st race tracks have before they even race on it this track would pull your shoes off. After the show, when the fans are coming out of the grandstand, you would see with the flip-f lops they will be going back and getting them because they would stick to the ground.23 The Nationals occur over a four-day span ev ery August and attract over 30,000 spectators. Of the states forty-four tracks, pavement cap tured only two. Despite NASCARs popularity and the growth of paved track racing, states such as Pennsylvania and Iowa retained racings agricultural heritage. In places where dirt tr acks are grandfathered in, such as the state fairground facilities in Missouri, New York, and Iowa, institutional importance outweighed noise, traffic, and real estate value. Local dirt tracks were places where small communities bonded and the people raced across generations.24 Temporary urban street circuits came to embody a completely differe nt aesthetic than rural dirt tracksyet both were among racings earliest ve nues. American motorsports competition on public streets dates back to the 1890s. In 1975, race-promoter, Christopher Pook, brought openwheeled racecars back to American streets, m odeling the F-5000 Long Beach (California) Grand Prix after the short-lived Formula One street -circuit in the streets of Montreal, Quebec.25 23 Ray Lee Goodwin, interview by author, 1 June 2007, Knoxville, Iowa, in possession of author. 24 Joe Scalzo, Knoxville, Circle Track, August 1984, 54-59; Bryce Miller, I owas Best Kept Secret: Knoxville Nationals, Des Moines Register, 17 August 1991; John Phillips, The Other Knoxville, Car and Driver, January 2007, 114-120. 25 Bob Cutter, Montreal Streets Proposed for GP, National Speed Sport News, 16 February 1977, 6; Bill Oursler, New Island Home for Canadian GP? National Speed Sport News, 5 April 1978, 3; The inaugural Long Beach
191 These temporary tracks, organized radically diffe rently from pre-World War I street events with a pastoral character, snaked their way th rough some of Americas most densely populated cities. These new venues were also much safe r for competitors and fans. Organizers set up barriers enclosing the entire temporary racetr ack, virtually assuring th at no one can stray anywhere near the course. If a car flew through the air, violently out of control, towering chain link fences (almost) ensured that twisted wreckag e remained out of the grandstands and confined to the racetrack. The new street circuits pr esented challenges for hosting communities. Road and surface conditions required the extra attention of race organizers and communities before the race. Extensive planning, hard work, and ma npower were required to produce these invisible racetracks. At Long Beach, 8,000 cement blocks tire barriers, sand-filled barrels, and a 12foot-high retaining fence separated the race cars from street-side fans. In 1976, Pook brought Formula One to his event, and the globes fastes t, high-tech racing machines invaded the Left Coast from 1976 until 1983 (since 1984, Long Beach has featured some type of open-wheel racing through 2008).26 The Long Beach event indicated that the Euro pean tradition of street-circuit racing of Monte Carlo and Montreal could work in the Un ited States. Reminiscent of the old Vanderbilt Cups and Grand Prize events of the early 1900s, the annual spring-time event in Long Beach (now sanctioned by the Indy Racing League) was a true spectacle offering the glamour and glitz of a Hollywood gathering. The race itself was s econdary. From portable aluminum bleachers, Grand Prix featured a minor league version of championship cars (now defunct) division known as F-5000. The Canadian Grand prix relocated to Ile Notre-Dame in 1978 and remained until 2007. 26 From 1976-1980, there were two American races on the Formula One World Championship schedule. CART raced at the event from 1984 th rough 2003, CCWS from 2004 through 2007. Shav Glick, Long Beach Congratulates Itself, Los Angeles Times, 30 September 1975; Ronnie Allyn, Mario Waitsand Wins Street GP in Long Beach, National Speed Sport News, 6 April 1977, 6, 19; Ronnie Allyn and Bill Oursler, Reutemanns Ferrari Cops Long Beach GP, National Speed Sport News, 5 April 1978, 3; Gordon Kirby, Proof of Concept, Racer, April 1997, 68-71; Christopher Pook, Grand Prix Racing Proof of Benefits? Ask Long Beach, Los Angeles Times, 30 March 1986; Maurice Hamilton, Globe Theater, Racer, September 2000, 30-43.
192 spectators saw the cars zip by only for a mere few s econds, but the atmosphere drew fans back to the city.27 In the years ahead, other cities (Las Vega s, Houston, Phoenix, and Denver) followed the Long Beach example and temporary street circ uits became common in American auto racing. Strong coordination between racing entities, promoters, and munici pal governments resulted in the most successful events. Temporary street circuits bolstered local economies, while showcasing metropolitan areas on the national and gl obal racing stage. In some cities, these events proved to be an economically viable us e of public space. Cons tructed near neighborhoods, street circuits, like early midge t racing, brought motorsports to the people and generated new fans. Temporary circuits confronted drivers with a unique set of ch allenges because the condition and characteristics of pavement varied by sections of the course. In addition, because engineers, mechanics, and drivers could not te st during the off-season on public streets, they learned technical track data in a mere threeto four-day stretch.28 Beginning in 1985, St. Petersburg, Florida, developed a long-s tanding annual street-circuit event. Americas city of green benches and northern retirees was in the midst of a major demographic shift. In 2000, St. Petersburg ha d nearly 250,000 residents, and its median age declined from 48.1 in 1970, to 39.3 by 2000. Starting in 2005, the Indy cars took over the citys 27 The race was also known as th e United States Grand Prix West. Grand Prix Dates Ok, Illustrated Speedway News, 22 November 1978, 6; LBGPs Street Circuit Now Sports Standard, National Speed Sport News, 4 April 1979, 23; Long Beach Grand Prix April 6-7-8, Illustrated Speedway News, 15 November 1978, 8. 28 One of the important benefits of road courses and street circuits is that sports car entities and CART shared venues and raced on the same weekends. Bill King, Mr. Pragmatic, Racer, August 1997, 105.
193 streets the first weekend every Ap riljust after Major League Ba seballs Tampa Bay Devil Rays concluded spring training.29 Solid promotion and a good relationship betw een the IRL and municipal government led to the 2008 signing of a long-term contract between the IRL, Andretti-Green Promotions, and the City of St. Petersburg. The city picked-up part of the tab by repairing and preparing the street surfaces and providing police and emergency personnel.30 One most recent version of the course was 1.8-miles long and enclosed by over eight miles of fencing. Racing tires, stacked 30to 36feet high, neutralized energy in the event of a crash, and protected drivers from more serious impact. City employees welded down manhol e covers and repaired surface bumps and depressions with fiberized stee l concrete, the same material used on airport runways, in preparation for the spring race.31 The city has since become the second-most su ccessful American loca le for street-circuit racing. According to the St Petersburg/Clear water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the race extended the winter tourist season and in 2005 generated over 5 million dollars. One year, Gene Simmons of the rock-band Kiss attended the event. Air shows and rock concerts 29 In the 1980s the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals trained at St. Petersburg. The Devil Rays started play in the mid 1990s. The event was known as the St Petersburg Grand Prix from 1985-1990, and the Florida Grand Prix of St Petersburg from 1996-97. In 2003 CART staged a race at St Pete. There was no event in 2004. Tom Scherberger, Race is On to Alter Citys Age-Old Image, Orlando Sentinel, 20 October 1985. 30 This was the first non-oval IRL event. Sixty-five thousand tickets were sold in 2005. Depending on the stipulations of the contract some citie s receive portions of the ticket sales. Janel Stephens, Streets Becoming RaceReady, St Petersburg Times, 15 January 2003; Tom Zucco, Going Full Throttle, St Petersburg Times, 23 February 2003; Tony Fabrizio, A Wa tershed Car Race, 4 April 2005; Carri e Weimar, The Grand Prix of St PetersburgCountdown to Green, St Petersburg Times, 29 March 2006; Brant Jame s, IRL Race Agrees to Remain Here Through 2013, St Petersburg Times, 7 April 2008. 31 Carrie Johnson and Brant James, City Likely to See Grand Prix Race, St. Petersburg Times, 3 September 2004. Dana Oppenheim, Building the Course, St Petersburg Times, 30 March 2007.
194 comprised part of the race weekends activities. Reasonable general admission prices (20 to 25 dollars) made St. Petersburgs race a family-friendly affair.32 The latest layout of the course combined downtown streets with the Albert Whitted Airport, a general-aviation facility. The circuit had natural and arti ficial aesthetic appeal; from the grandstands spectators could view the citys skyline, look out over Tampa Bay, watch smallengine airplanes take off, and check out the countless yachts floating along a temporary dock constructed along the track. Fans departed and reentered the event at their leisure to wander and walk the streets of downtown St. Petersburg to shop, dine, drink, or vi sit the Salvador Dali museum. This was an exciting invisible race track with fast straightaways, ample passing opportunities, and many ideal spectator vantage points. Some racegoers watch from atop downtown condominium towers. But not all was racing fun in the Sunshine City. Barricades and blockades surround the temporary track and police presence increased over the years. The race brought downtown traffic jams, unusual any other time of the year. A ngry letters began filling the editorial pages of the St. Petersburg Times. One resident complained, for three days of noise and mess the Beautiful Bayfront area near downtown is loused up for about two monthsthe Bayfront parks are fenced off like concentration camps and th e streets are blocked off with high cement and wires like a federal penitentiary.33 Some St. Petersburg resident s flee the noisy racecars and race-day traffic, heading elsewhere for the weekend.34 32 Looking Back: St. Petersburgs Racing History, St Petersburg Times, 1 April 2005; Carrie Weimar, Who Won the Race? The City, Mayor Says, St Petersburg Times, 3 April 2006; Carrie Weimar, For Some, Race is a Grand Pain, St Petersburg Times, 12 March 2006. 33 Grand Prix is Less Than Grand for Some, Readers Series: Letters, St. Petersburg Times, 9 November 1989. 34 Grand Prix Organizers Sign Three-Year Pact with SCCA Series, St. Petersburg Times, 9 May 1990; Weimar, For Some, Race is a Grand Pain.
195 Sprawl, noise, and fuel connections with auto ra cing had well been established by the time racing arrived in St. Petersburg, but environmental critic ism directed at motorsports escalated as a new set of ecological issues, namely wetlands pres ervation and habitat pr otection of endangered species emerged. In the mid-1990s, environmen talists opposed the construction of HomesteadMiami speedwaythe first major racing facility built in the face of significant ecological resistance. Throughout r acing history, geography was vital to the success and long-term survival of a speedway. A location far from population centers and neighborhoods, yet easily accessible by automobile was most ideal. The Homestead track presented a quirk in this long-standing relationship. In the view of many track opponents, the facility was too isolated.35 In the 1980s, South Floridas population explos ion and large South American immigrant community created a favorable market for street -circuit racing (open-wheel and road racing are extremely popular in Brazil, for example). South Florida developer Ralph Sanchez, who emigrated from Cuba at the age of six, was the driving force responsible for bringing top-level auto racing to Miami. In conjunction with Sanchezs promotion company, Miami Motorsports Inc., the city hosted road races on city streets nearly every year from 1983 through 1995. Once a year, Miami became Long Beach of the East, as exotic sports car s and movie stars invaded the city. The races took place duri ng February, April, and November and ranked among the best attended street-circuit events in the United States No particular surprise, the most successful events tended to take place in Februa ry at the height of tourist season.36 35 Gordon Kirby, Movers, Racer, June 1993, 18. 36 Usually IMSA or CART raced at the Miami street events. Gary Long, Major Races Appear Headed for Miami, Miami Herald, 7 July 1983; Bob Rubin, Weathers Gloomy, but Sanchez Isnt, Miami Herald, 12 November 1987; Gary Long, Miamis Car Put on a Spirited Show, Miami Herald, 24 February 1989; Gary Long, Miami Prix Shifting to April Move Gets Race on Network TV, Miami Herald, 26 June 1990; Gary Long, Homestead Racing Site Takes Shape, Miami Herald, 7 November 1992; Bob Knotts, Big Dreamer Ralph Sanchez Built a World-Class Track Near Miami, Sports Illustrated, 28 October 1996; Darrel Fry, South Florida Embracing Racing as IndyCar Hits Streets of Miami, St. Petersburg Times, 26 February 1995; Gordon Kirby, Proof of Concept,
196 The street-circuit race, jeopardized by the ci tys plans to expand the area around the Port of Miami, along Biscayne Boulevard and Bicentennia l Park near I-395 in the early 1990s, forced Sanchez to seek an alternate location for his annual event. Realizing the bleak long-term prospects for a street race (municipal insura nce and construction/deco nstruction costs also mounted), Sanchez pursued building a permanent road course facility in north Miami on the site of Munisport, an EPA-designated superfund site scheduled to close in late 1992 (at one time considered among the most toxic landfill sites in the country). Sanchez reportedly offered the city one to two million dollars for development right s (the city would own the facility and collect at least $200,000 annual shares of the profit). Residents, strong ly opposed to the threats of racecar noise and race-day traffic, loudly cried NIMBY (not in my backyard). Seeking a path offering easier resistance, Sanchez scrapped the pl an, and set his sights on developing a racing facility in a less populated but more environmen tally sensitive region farther south. NASCARs superspeedway boom emerged at about the same time. Hoping to draw stock cars (and NASCAR) to south Florida, Sanchez revised his plan and embarked on developing a multipurpose facility (including an oval).37 The land was five miles west of Biscayne Ba y at the southern edge of Homestead in southernmost Miami-Dade County, the last major mainland settlement before the Florida Keys. Once a small agricultural outpost, Homestead devel oped into a small city connected to the north by Miami sprawl communities, Cutler and Kendall. Tourist dollars benefited the region; Racer, April 1997; Bill King, Caribbean Connection, Racer, December 1999, 100. The November races (sanctioned by CART) took place from 1985-1988, did not draw as well as the February events. 37 Harold Mass, Grand Prix Exit Leaves Mixed Reviews, Miami Herald, 18 October 1992; Carl Hiaasen, Track Developer Now Charity Case for Homestead, Miami Herald, 1 August 1993; Gary Long, Race Changes its Look, Miami Herald, 12 January 1994.
197 Homestead bordered Biscayne Nationa l Park to its west and Everglad es National Park to its east. NASCAR, however, also stimulates tourism.38 An environmental occurrence, a once-in-a-life time storm, set the stage for the first major auto racing facility in south Fl orida since the Fulford-Miami board track (which hosted one race before the Hurricane of 1926 reduced it to r ubble). In 1992, categoryfour Hurricane Andrew nearly wiped out the Miami area. Massive de struction to Homestead Air Force Base alone accounted for 8,000 lost jobs. The base, once a major installation for warplanes, opened in 1942. After Andrew leveled the installa tion, it reopened as an Air Force Re serve base two years later in 1994.39 Ninety percent of Homesteads homes we re either damaged or had disappeared, and $540 million in crop losses devastated the agricultu ral sector. Most affected crops included tree fruits, such as avocadoes, limes, and mangoe s. Homesteads population dipped from 30,000 to 16,000.40 Sanchez and track boosters argued that by m oving the Miami Grand Prix to Homestead, jobs and dollars would stimulate the struggli ng post-Hurricane Andrew local economy. This economic argument was essential in securing pol itical support, and after the tracks completion, Sanchez admitted, definitely, the hurricane helped us. He also had help from local officials, despite hurdles presented to him in the era of environmental-impact statements. Internal documents revealed that some environmenta l and engineering permits were expedited.41 For 38 Curtis Morgan, Miracle Park Sa ved the Beauty of Biscayne Bay, Miami Herald, 18 October 2008. 39 Jacob Bernstein, The Feds Want to Know: Is a Proposed Airport too Close to Turkey Point?, Miami New-Times, 4 June 1998; Court Blocks New Miami Airport at Old Air Base, Washington Post, 19 December 1998; Katurah Mackay, Airport Imperils Floridas Parks, National Parks, January/February 1998, 13-14. 40 By 1995, Homesteads population recovered to 25,000. Mike Clary, Homestead Fights Hurricane Andrew, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 1995; Greg Cote, For Sanchez: A Dream, a Homestead, Miami Herald, 2 March 1995; New Track Revitalizes Community the Complex Prov ides a Rainbow for the Hurricane-ravaged town, Orlando Sentinel, 3 November 1995. 41 Joseph Siano, Speedway Helps Aid a Towns Recovery, New York Times, 5 November 1995.
198 example, a municipal report stated that this project is part of Homesteads efforts to repair the economic damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew [through] the use of sports as an economic development tool.42 One engineer wrote that because this facility is a cri tical element of the post-hurricane economic recovery effort in Home stead, it is urgent that the environmental permits be issued as expeditiously as possible.43 Homestead city officials welcomed Sanchez wi th open arms. Local political forces led by Homestead city manger, Alex Muxo, created a coalition that generated $20 million of public funding from the Homestead Metr o Commission. The Florida Spor ts Development Hotel Room Tax, a recently state-enacted revenue that la unched a boom in spring-training complexes around the peninsula, kicked in an additional 11 million.44 Miami-based engineering firm Bermello, Ajamil, and Partners designed plans for th e track, and groundbreaki ng commenced on August 24, 1993one year after Hurricane Andrew. 45 Environmentalists and track opponents temporarily halted the heavy machinery two weeks after groundbreaking. The incident smacked of other environmental battles of the era when construction began before opposition had an opport unity to mobilize. For example, in 1968, in the first stage of a massive jetport project, the Mi ami-Dade Port Authority constructed a six-mile runway in the Big Cypr ess under the public radar. Once politicians, residents, and media got 42 Edward A. Swakon letter to Col. John Hall 16 September 1993, Department of Environmental Management (DERM), Miami, Florida. 43 Edward A. Swakon letter to Janet Llewellyn 16 September 1993, Department of Environmental Management (DERM), Miami, Florida. 44 Dick Kelley, Homestead Welcomes Winston Cup, Stock Car Racing, November 1999, 32-37. Homestead Racing Toward Recovery, Sun-Sentinel, 9 November 1995. 45 Dexter Filkins and Fran Brennan, On the Fast Track to Recovery; Homestead May Get Auto Race, Miami Herald 16 October 1992; Todd Hartman, Roaring Out of Town: Grand Prix Unlikely to Burn Rubber in Miami after 4, Miami Herald 21 February 1993; Hurricane-Ravaged Homestead Rejuvenated by Track, Tampa Tribune, 2 November 1995; Mike Clary, H omestead Fights Hurricane Andrew, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 1995.
199 wind of the jetport project, an able, grassroots opposition mounted a successful counteroffensive. In Homestead, environmentalists pointed out that speedway construction began without necessary environmental permitting from government agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources (DERM), and the South Florida Water Management District.46 Caught off guard, Sanchez and track propone nts assumed they had already obtained necessary permitting for the project. As then-Homestead Mayor Tad Demilly stated, there wasnt any reason to check. We had been bu ilding houses and stadiums out there since 1974 with no problem. Indeed, DERM and South Fl orida Water Management District documents circa the 1970s and 80ssupport DeMillys cont entions. However, the permits (which encompassed 3,200 acres) allowed residential, no t commercial or industrial construction. Nowhere within the extensively modified perm itting history was there a motorsports complex provision for 343 of those 3,200 acres. The delay forced Sanchez to cancel the debut race, originally slated for November 1994.47 The first major enviro-motorsports batt leground was setecology, groundwater, wetlands, endangered species, bureaucracies, and a passionate local environm ental community were all in the mix. The powerful environmental movement in south Florida had worked hard for so long to protect the region against powerful corporate and political interests. One major south Florida environmental group, the Tropical Audubon Society, was the most visible opponent of the track 46 Todd Hartman, Funds Okd for Speedway Plan, Miami Herald, 7 February 1993; Siano, Speedway Helps Aid a Towns Recovery. 47 Lisa Arthur, EPA, Wildlife Serv ice Postpone Grand Prix Dreams, Miami Herald, 24 March 1994, 3. The original permit (75-11-69) was dated in 1972. Accordin g to South Florida Water Management documents, the first modification (75-11-70) was dated 3 December 1975. It wa s modified in 1979, 1981, 1984, 1985, and 1987. South Florida Water Management District Modification of Surface Water Management Permit # 13-00044-5, 14 February 1985.
200 proposal. Formed in 1947the same year a sma ll parcel of the orig inal Everglades was established as a National Park and Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades manifesto, The Everglades: River of Grass was publishedthis entity helped protect Biscayne Bay from industrial development in the 1960s, culminating with the establishment of Biscayne National Monument in 1968. The group played an essential ro le in Nixon Administrations halting of the massive Everglades jetport proj ect in 1969-70 and participated in the effort leading to the designation of the Big Cypress National Preserve (nor thwest of Everglades National Park) in 1974.48 Earlier members of Tropical Audubons front lines, such as Alice Wainright, Charles Lee, and Joe Browder, were among Floridas most energetic protectors of the Sunshine States fragile ecosystem. Tropical Audubon Society president Dennis Olle represented the next generation.49 As Olle pointed out, buffer land is crucial for habitat protection, and track opponents hoped to protect a semi-wild, bu ffer regionwhere less disturbe d, or better environmental areas existed immediately to the south and east of the track. 50 Wildlife defenders argued that the speedway would create inevitable habitat disruption of endangered species, such as the Florida panther, Cape Sable seaside sparrow, and East ern indigo snake. Moreover, opponents expressed concern about possible groundwater contaminati on. Finally, environmentalists argued that wetlands occupied part of the track site. Building on wetlands necessitated an Army Corp of 48 Most of Biscayne National Park exists underwater. Gordon Harvey, We Must Fr ee Ourselves From the Tattered Feathers of the Booster Mentality: Big Cypres s Swamp and the Politics of Environmental Protection in 1970s Florida, in Paradise Lost? An Environmental History of Florida Jack E. Davis and Raymond Arsenault, ed. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005), 350-374. 49 Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades: River of Grass, (New York: Rinehart Books, 1947). ConservationJets vs. Everglades, Time, 22 August 1969, 42-43. Jetport and the EvergladesLife or Runway? Living Wilderness (Spring 1969): 13-20; Everglades Jetport Ban Reported Near Approval, New York Times, 31 December 1969; Cyril T. Zanesk i Audubon Group Born in '47, Miami Herald, 26 October 1997. 50 Olle, telephone interview by author.
201 Engineers dredge-and-fill permit and a plan for wetlands mitigation. Sanchez and the city had neither. 51 American racing entered a more critically a ddressed relationship with wetlands, a most sensitive geological and geographi cal occurrence. Once described as to thin to walk on, yet to thick to drink, wetlands perform valuable, essent ial functions within an ecosystem. Nowhere was this more evident than in south Florida. Wetlands helped charge the Biscayne Aquifer, an essential groundwater link between the south Fl orida mainland and Biscayne Bay, and the major source of drinking water for Miami-Dade Count y. Wetlands provide natural flood control and purify ecosystems, particularly in south Florida where incidences of salt-water intrusion were commonnot to mention the proliferation of pesticides and fertilizers used for decades to support the states agricultu ral sector and St. Augustine-covered residential lawns. As historian Ann Vileisis aptly puts it, clearing, draining, and developm ent have compromised these services, resulting in the need for costly dams, levees, and water treatment plants.52 South Florida, and its elaborate networ k of human-made canals, lakes, streams, and ponds, told the tale best. Wetlands destruction went hand-and-hand with the post-World War II boom in American suburbanization. Scientists estimated that 53 per cent of Americas disappeared at the expense of reclamation. Florida drained and filled 49 percen t of its wetlands, much of it a result of the 51 Olle, interview by author; Mark Yanno, telephone intervie w by author, 6 February 2009, in possession of author. Status of Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, Tropical Audubon Bulletin, March/April 2007, 1, 3. First Environmental Permit for Racetrack Clears Hurdle, Miami Herald 16 January 1994; Jeff Snook, Work on Track Might Resume Soon, Palm Beach Post, 24 February 1994. 52 Ann Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of Americas Wetlands (Washington D. C.: Island Press, 1997), 4.
202 massive draining and ditching of the Everglades, u ltimately reduced to 52 percent of its original 6,200-square-mile expanse.53 After decades of Everglades destruction, the tid e in the 1980s slowly shifted to restoration. People wanted to save what remained of the Everglades, and the fede ral and state government took notice. The groundbreaking Comprehensive Ev erglades Restoration Plan in 2000 was one of the last major acts of the Clinton administration and enacted to stymie additional development of South Floridas ecosystems with the federal assistance of 7.8 billion dollars. The construction of a motorsports facili tyalbeit on poor wetlandswent agai nst the materializing restoration trend.54 An important element factored into the e nviro-motorsports equation, Section 404 of the 1972 Clean Water Act. In the briefest of terms, Section 404 (A) of the Clean Water Act provides the EPA jurisdiction for setting national environm ental policy in regards to water. Section 404 (B) designates the Army Corp of Engineers as the entity responsib le for enforcing EPA wetlands policies and issuing permits for the dr edging and filling of we tlands, and gives the EPA veto power over an Army Corp permit. 55 However, the latter rare ly occurred. According to the Miami Herald, out of thousands of permits applied fo r in eight southeastern states, only on six occasions did the EPA exercise a veto during the 1980s.56 53 For example, David McCally, The Everglades: An Environmental History (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000); Davis, an Everglades Providence; Grunwald, The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); Jeffrey P. Cohn, Restoring the Everglades, Bioscience, 44 (October 1994): 579-583. 54 Craig Pittman and Bill Adair, Graham Lands in the Middle on Airport Issue, St. Petersburg Times, 14 January 2001; Mark Silva and Curtis Morgan, Air Forces Rejection of Proposed Florida Airport Looks Firm, Miami Herald, 18 January 2001; Curtis Morgan, Airport Plan Scaled down, Miami Herald, 10 June 2001. This Idea Isnt Flying, Palm Beach Post, 28 April 2000. Cyril T. Zaneski, Plans for Airport at Former Homestead, Fla., Air Force Base Grounded, Miami Herald, 8 January 2000. 55 Protecting the Environment, Miami Herald, 12 September 1989. 56 Ibid
203 Superspeedway construction required a dredge-and-fill permit from the Corps.57 According to the State of Florida Department of Environmental Prot ection, dredging means excavation in wetlands or other surface waters or excavation in uplands th at creates wetlands or other surface waters. Filling mean s deposition of any material (such as sand, dock pilings, or seawalls) in wetlands or other surface waters.58 Few places on earth have been carved, ditched, and drained more than south Florida. Despite Section 404s federal protection fo r wetlands, it was George H. W. Bushs mandated no net loss of wetlands in 1989 that clearly identified the federal governments stance on wetlands depletion. According to Vi leisis, Bushs proclamation marked a clear landmark in the countrys thinking about wetlands. With no other landscape type had we counted our remaining stock and decided it should be saved up.59 Essentially, this provision stated that where wetlands were eliminated, wetla nds must be replaced. For the green flag to wave at Homestead-Miami speedway, wetlands needed to be replacedor in Homesteads caseimproved. Five years before Bushs proclamation, Floridas Warren S. Henderson Wetlands Protection Act of 1984 had its own unique loophole regardi ng no net loss. St Petersburg Times eco-journalists Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite put it bluntly, it was okay to wipe out a wetland as long as you made up for the damage somehow.60 South Florida Water Management District studies determined that, in fact, part of the Homestead speedway property would claim land cons idered wetlands. According to a District 57 State of Florida regulations require Department of Environmental protection (DEP) and/or Water Management District approval. 58 Environmental Resource Permitting Program, Dredge an d Fill Fact Sheet, 19 January 2007; available from http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/erp/dffact.htm ; Internet; cited 3 March 2009. 59 Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape, 318-319. 60 Pittman and Waite, Paving Paradise, 84.
204 Report, the speedway site was located on a mi x of abandoned farmlands, active and abandoned tree nurseries, and several wetland areas. De signating the property as disturbed lands, the agencys studies, however, claimed that endangered or threatened species were not found on site.61 The trade-off was 174.27 acres of marginal to fair quality exo tic-infested wetlands (racetrack site) in exchange for the improvement of a 160-acre parcel located offsite (just south of the track) also dominated by invasive speci es, such as Brazilian Pepper and cattails. Introduced to Florida from South America so metime in the earlyto mid-1800s, Brazilian peppers ornamental appearance a nd bright red berries, similar to the holly bush, made the tree a popular Christmastime replacement in Florida (where the holly does not grow). Brazilian pepper can cause itching and/or allergies to humans and its poisonous berries, if mistakenly consumed by horses, cattle, and birds, can be deadly. The pl ant can be eradicated by herbicides or manual removal, but has proved to be a worthy survivort he plant grows easily and rapidly in wet, subtropical Florida.62 Cattails, the other major invasive culprit in the 160-acre mitigation area, are the most visible symbol of the Everglades' demise, crowdi ng out saw grass and the native wetland wildlife that goes with it. 63 This species, fueled by phosphorus runoff from farms and ranches, had spread rapidly throughout the Everglades after World War II. Cattails can grow over 12 feet high. 61 South Florida Water Management District, Surface Water Management Staff Review Summary (Draft). 62 168 acres were considered upland acreage, the missing 1.70 acres, roadways. South Florida Water Management District Surface Water Management Staff Review Su mmary (Draft); Amy Ferrite r, ed. Brazilian Pepper Management Plan for Florida: Recommendations from the Brazilian Pepper Task Force Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, July 1997; available from http://www.fleppc.org/Manage_Plans/schinus.pdf ; Internet; cited 3 March 2009. 63 Reduced Runoff from Farms, Yards Sl ows Spread of Cattails in Everglades, Sun Sentinel, 26 August 2003.
205 According to South Florida Water Management District documents, the plan of attack for 112 acres was manual removal of all vegeta tion with bulldozers, rakes, and front-end loaders.64 The small amount of indigenous vegetation would remain (but tagged and monitored). The remaining 58 acres underwent sel ective clearing. Indivi dual trees and shrubs, predominately Brazilian pepper, would be sprayed with herbicides at the base of the plants. Despite Section 404 and Bushs no net loss goal, the United St ates still lost 58, 000 acres of original wetlands annually in the 1990s. 65 The south Florida motorsports mitigation was miniscule, an attempt to restore 160 acres, serv ing as a buffer to hi gher-quality wetlands. Environmentalists argue, however, that mitigation in this case, much like so many others in Florida, amounted to a net loss of 160 acres of natural wetlands.66 In addition to the mitigation and dredge-andfill issues, Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management (D ERM) and South Florida Water Management District studies indicated the track would have minimal impact on endangered species. The District also determined that the track site did not pose a threat to the Bi scayne Aquifer and exist in a critical wellfield zone.67 But Sanchez obtained approval including the essential dredgeand-fill permit from the Army Corp of Engineersfrom other agencies and construction resumed in the spring of 1994, after an eight-month delay. In addition to mitigation, the city Homest ead gave up development rights for additional 320 acres, putting them under a conservation easem ent, meaning the land was ineligible for 64 South Florida Water Management District Surface Water Management Staff Re view Summary (Draft). 65 Paul Scoderi and Leonard Shabman, Rethinking Compensatory Mitigation Strategy, National wetlands Newsletter 23 no. 1 (2001): 5-6, 12-13. 66 Choking the Glades, St Petersburg Times, 1 December 2002. 67 South Florida Water Management District Report, 15 April 1994.
206 agricultural, residential, commer cial development or hunting. R ecreational use of the land, such as hiking was permitted. 68 This acreage represented a minor victory for those seeking to protect a small piece of Florida. Granted, these were minor ecological concessions, still better than countless compensatory mitigation cases in Florida, where created wetlands were often no more than a water hazard in the middle of a golf course.69 In sum, economics (and recreation) trum ped ecology. Olle maintained that the environmental community knew the track was a fait accompli and activists had to do the best they could with the cards dealt, fight the good fight, and prepare to wage a different battle on a different day.70 As it turned out, environmentalists won a much bigge r battle in the region, and proved victorious after the January 2001 nixi ng of the proposed Homestead Jetport on the property of the Homestead Air Force Base (als o on the edge of Everglades and Biscayne National Parks).71 Similar to the jetport battle of the late 1960s, environmental groups, concerned citizens, and a bipartisan political e ffort prevailed. But unlike the superspeedway six 68 Lisa Arthur, Nature Group Walks Fine Line in Negotiations Over Racetrack, Miami Herald (neighbors suppl.) 9 January 1994; Todd Hartman, First Environm ental Permit for Racetrack Clears Hurdle, Miami Herald (neighbors suppl.), 16 January 1994; Todd Hartman, Wetlands Concern Halts Racetrack, Miami Herald, 3 September 1993; Lisa Arthur, Rough Road Ah ead for Homestead Racetrack, Miami Herald, 20 July 1994; Oscar Musibay, The Long Road to Homestead, Miami Herald, 2 November 1995; Lisa Arthur, Road Finally Clears For Motorsports Construction, Miami Herald, 12 May 1994. 69 Ronald Peekstok, interview by author 6 March 2009, West Palm Beach, Florida, in possession of the author; Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape; Pittman and Waite, Paving Paradise. 70 Joseph Tanfani, Todd Hartman, and Dexter Filkin s, Racetrack Deal Could Hu rt Bid to Keep Heat, Miami Herald, 29 July 1993; Todd Hartman, Citys Future on Track, Miami Herald 2 August 1993; Lyda Longa, Homestead Bets on Auto Racing to Set It on the Road from Ruin, Wall Street Journal, 5 April 1995. 71 Dana Casady, U. S. Bars Airport Near the Everglades, New York Times 17 January 2001; Bill Maxwell, Homestead was a Sweet Win but Just the Beginning, St. Petersburg Times, 21 January 2001; Grunwald, The Swamp.
207 years earlier, time was on the side of envir onmentalists. The proposed Homestead jetport directly contradicted the Everglades Restoration Plan, instituted in 2000.72 The 1.5-mile speedway opened in 1995 and gave a southernmost home to CART, IRL, and minor-league NASCAR racing. But, In part beca use he was unable to secure a Winston Cup race, Sanchez sold the Homestead-Miami Speed way outright to the International Speedway Corporation and Roger Penske in 1997. Once the track was out of Sanchezs hands and fully under ISC control, NASCAR granted Homestead a Winston Cup race. The first event took place in 1999. Homestead became the center of a media blitz every November, entertaining the last NASCAR race of the season when the entity crowns its new champion.73 While entering the facility, a racegoer can obs erve two large plaques on display, one of which lists Homestead and Miami-Dade County officials who participated in the effort to construct the facility. Inscri bed on the other plaque is reco gnition that the Homestead-Miami Speedway was a major economic revitalizing force for Homestead in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. As Miami Herald columnist Oscar Musibay reflecte d, the jewel of South Dades post-Hurricane Andrew Crown is a multicolored $59 million auto racing facility built on land once use to produce potatoes.74 Without question, hotel operato rs who jack-up regular rates 72 Evan Perez, Air Force Set to Approve Plan for Base, Wall Street Journal 31 March 1999; Curtis Morgan, Miami-Area Officials Plans fo r Air Force May be Disrupted, Miami Herald, 6 January 2001; Rafer Guzman, Land Purchases to Preserve Everglades Lack Coordination, GAO Report Says, Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2000; Lizette Alvarez, Senate Approves $7.8 Billion Plan to Aid Everglades, New York Times, 26 September 2000. 73 Lisa Arthur, City Drafting Bond sale for Track, Miami Herald, 8 December 1994; Gary Long, Two Area Races in Draw Huge Response, Miami Herald, 1 October 1994; New Track Revitalizes Communitythe Complex Provides a Rainbow for the Hurricane-Ravaged Town, Orlando Sentinel, 3 November 1995. 74 Oscar Musibay, The Long Road to Homestead, Miami Herald, 2 November 1995. The track was not only an ecological liability for Homestead, but it also presented a larger than anticipated economic burden for Homestead taxpayers. The track wound up costing more during constr uction. An additional 18 million in revenue bonds for promised amenities and equipment that Sanchez and DeM illy said were necessary to win track approval from racings sanctioning bodies.
208 twoto three-times higher on race weekends generate big money. To be sure, local restaurants and gas stations generate more customers a nd on Floridas Turnpike more tolls. As an unnamed reporter observed, the behemoth asphalt track has risen from the rubble, offering promises of economic salvation.75 Another reporter opine d, the Homestead Track is no aesthetic wonder. It sprung from farmland and scrub trees. The Turkey Point power plant is a neighbor. Surely this scene cannot match the spectacu lar panorama of street-course racing in downtown Miami against a backdrop of cruise ships on the bay.76 No doubt, the 75,000-seat Homestead-Miami Speedway offered a quite unique aesthetic. From the grandstands, one can see what remains of the lower east Everglades extending endlessly to the horizon as cars zoom along the backstretch of the facility at over 200 miles-per-hour.77 The Homestead example showed that environmentali sts, despite falling short of their original goal, were exercising a larger vo ice in questioning the recreationa l racing of automobiles, and the south Florida battle formed an important turning point in the greening of American motorsports. Since the mid-1990s, conflicts ove r wetland and open-space preservation, and the protection of endangered species, all stemming from the comp etitive use of automobiles, moved up on the environmental agenda. The Homestead showdow n also illustrated the growing connection between science and racingecological studies and Audubon-sponsored bird-citing reports preempted the first wave of the green flag. As the following chapter will show, the ecological concerns at Homestead were not a one-time affair. 75 New Track Revitalizes Community the Complex Pr ovides a Rainbow for the Hurricane-ravaged Town, Orlando Sentinel, 3 November 1995. 76 Greg Cote, A Victory for Homestead, Miami Herald, 5 November 1995. 77 The event retains Miami in its title b ecause the city has worldw ide visibility. There wa s also a 2.2-mile road course within the facility for automobile and motorcycle road racing.
209 As the modern era progressed beyond the tu rbulent 1970s, environmental and ecological factors shifted and stifled the de velopment of American auto raci ng. Direct connections ensued in the 1970s and continued into the new millennium. This twenty-five year stretch constituted as a bridge to the greener era in American mo torsports. Auto racing caught environmental attention, and kept the sports gr owth in more ecological check.
210 CHAPTER 9 ENVIRO-MOTORSPORTS & THE GREENER ERA Staten Island is a bedroom borough where residents dont just follow the so called NIMBY rule of Not in My Back Yard. They take it a step further to BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone. Bob Pockrass1 If Kazakhstan can eliminate lead from gasoline, why cant NASCAR? Frank ODonnell2 If you worry about ethanol in your vehicle, you dont need to look any further than the quarter-million-dollar engines running around an Indy car series track. Tony Simpson3 By the turn of the twenty-first century, mo torsports was under a more watchful set of environmental eyes. As auto racing slowly developed an environmental consciousness, motorsports critics became more aggressive and voiced concer ns over the sports effect on wetlands, wildlife, and nature. Regionalism persiste d as well; one part of the country remained motorsports-free, while another region reconnected with auto racings deep agricultural roots. In that motorsports-free region, the nations largest city became a battleground for one of the biggest enviro-motorsports clashes. For decades, promoters and representatives from all of Americas major sanctioning bodies sought to c ontest auto races in the New York City metropolitan area. The closest New York City ca me to big-time racing since the pair of Long Island-hosted AAA-sanctioned Vanderbilt Cups in the late 1930s came in the form of eight CART races held at the Meadowlands (New Jersey) Sports Complex parking lot from 1984 1 Bob Pockrass, An Impossible Dream? NASCAR Scene, 12 August 2004, 80. 2 Letter from Frank ODonnell to Brian France, in Viv Bernstein, Dangerous Exposure, NASCAR Scene, 19 January 2006, 30-31. 3 Tony Simpson of Michigan Ethanol, 2006 Ethanol Press Kit
211 through 1991.4 Despite NASCARs national boom, the Big Apple eluded big-time motorsports, and the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) viewed tapping into the New York City market as a final frontier.5 In 2004, to the tune of 100 million dollars, the ISC purchased a 676-acre parcel of land near the Goethals Bridge on the northwestern edge of Staten Isla nd. This section of the island was well known as home to the former Fresh K ills Landfill. Opened in 1948, Fresh Kills grew into the largest trash dump in America before closing in early 2001. 6 The ISCs new property most recen tly served as home to 82 oil storage ta nks and had a long history of industrial use, but this section of Staten Island also contained a mixture of salt and freshwater wetlands. Some of the largest tracts of New York Citys surviving marshland remained in the citys least urbanized borough and, in a similar vein as extreme-eastern New Jersey, untouched by dredging operations. At the same time, the proximity of Staten Island s wetlands to Manhattan made them perhaps the worlds most valuable, potential real estate. Ac cording to ISC senior vi ce president Lee Combs, his concerns property constituted the largest undevel oped parcel of land within each of the five boroughs.7 4 Steve Potter, Jersey is Eager for Indy Race, New York Times, 8 January 1984; Michael Katz, Andretti Winner in Prix, New York Times, 2 July 1984; Joseph Siano, New York Grand Prix? Decision in 90 Days, New York Times, 28 July 1991; Ned Wicker, Twenty Years of CART, Indy Car & Championship Racing, January 1999, 22-31; Iver Peterson, Racing in the Shadow of the City, New York Times, 18 December 1999. 5 The Meadowlands are about ten miles west of Manhattan. The Indy Racing League also competes at ISC tracks. Steve Waid, NASCARs Venture into New York Well Worth the Huge Cost, NASCAR Scene, 5 August 2005, 8; Bob Pockrass, Unresolved Issues, NASCAR Scene, 29 April 2004, 14; Mathew Futterman, International Speedway Hoping for a Victory Lap, Newark Star-Ledger 25 February 2005. As of 2008, the ISC operated thirteen tracks. 6 The site was temporarily re-opened to accommodate debris from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kirk Johnson, Dumping Ends at Fresh Kills, Symbol of Throw-Away Era, New York Times, 18 March 2001; Robert Sullivan, Wall-E Park, New York Times Magazine, 23 November 2008. 7 Robert Sullivan, The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City (New York: Anchor Books, 1998); Michael Brick, NASCARs Possible Track Site is Far, Far From Home, New York Times 29 May 2004; Bob Pockrass, ISC Buys Land for New York City Track, NASCAR Scene, 6 January 2005, 16; Bob Pockrass, Down Payment, NASCAR Scene, 29 July 2004, 22; Walter Elliott, Land Sale Paves Way for ISCs New Track,
212 As in the Homestead-Miami case, the local political machine pushed for the construction of a proposed speedway. In 2004, Staten Island president, James P. Molinaro, approved construction of a $550to 600-million speedway on the former industrial site, and the ISC hired former Staten Island president Guy V. Molinar is Republican lobbying fi rm, the Molinari Group, to develop plans for a NASCAR track. Seati ng about 80,000 fans, the asphalt speedway would be three-quarter-mile s-long, making it the first NASC AR short track built since 1961.8 Unlike Homestead, political opposition was stro ng. Falling across partisan lines, local officials disagreed with the notion that a racetrack reflected an ideal use of the property. Leading the citys political battle ag ainst the ISC were Republican city councilmen James Oddo and Andrew Lanza, and Democratic councilman Mich ael McMahon. McMahon, th e last of the three councilmen to come out and publicly oppose the proj ect, stated, we know that coming to Staten Island would be a great benefit to NASCAR and ISC. Its still not clear what the benefit would be for Staten Island.9 Staten Island residents that ec hoed McMahons stance and opposed the speedway mobilized into a grassroots entity known as Staten Island Citizens Against the Track (SCAT) to generate local awareness a nd activism against th e track proposal. Although the least inhabited of the citys five boroughs, Staten Islands population expanded from 191,555 in 1950 to 443,728 in 2000.10 One third of its working population commuted to Manhattan, another third had New Jersey jobs, and the remainder stayed in Staten National Speed Sport News, 12 January 2005, 2; Matthew Futterman, Gentleman Dont Start your Engines Yet, Star Ledger, 8 December 1999. (GATX was responsible for the cl ean-up before groundbreak ing.) Staten Island: Contract to Build a Speedway, New York Times, 24 July 2004. 8 Charles V. Bagli and Eric Dash, Companies Face Major Obstacles in Plan to Bring NASCAR to S. I., New York Times, 18 July 2004; Eric Dash, Former S. I. President Will Aid Speedway Company, New York Times 4 June 2004; Bob Pockrass, Playing Politics, NASCAR Scene, 12 August 2004, 82; Maureen Seaberg and Don Singleton, Molinari Racing to Save NASCAR, New York Daily News, 29 April 2006. 9 Pockrass, What Went Wrong with ISCs Staten Island Bid? 10 Joseph Berger, New York Citys Last Frontier is Staten Island, New York Times, 4 February 2005.
213 Island. New York City was Americas larges t metropolitan area but fifth-largest NASCAR television market. Nevertheless, according to one reporter, Scarborough and Nielsen research studies indicated that that there were 3.5 million NASCAR fans in the New York City metropolitan area and nearly 70,000 on Staten Island. On race day, in other words, Staten Island was bound to be overwhelmed by race fans. One study projected that up to 60 percent of the fans would originate from the New York City Metropolitan area.11 In other sports, such as football or baseball a likely outcome can become evident halfway through a game. Spectators gradually exit befo re its conclusion, thereby dispersing outgoing traffic. Motorsports events, where crowds of well over 100,000 spectators are common, were different. Races keep crowds in their seat s until the very end, because although a dominant driver could lead every lap, his or her racecar might puncture a ti re, run out of fuel, blow an engine, or crash on the last lap. With massive crowds exiting the track at the same time, motorsports events generate some of the worst traffic scenarios of any sport. Unlike nearly all major post-World War II sp eedways, the Staten Island track would be built adjacent to a congested urban environmen t. For a borough that had 257,000 registered vehicles and a reputation for congested streets, race-day traffic was the major area of contention for Staten Island residents. Their concerns were legitimate; the borough was not accessible by subway, and only four bridgesVerrazano-Na rrows, Outerbridge Crossing, Bayonne, and Goethalsconnected the island. A narrow, obsolet e two-lane connection li nked Staten Island to the New Jersey port city of Elizabeth, the track would rest just south of the Goethals Bridge.12 11 Eric Dash, NASCARs Worry in New York? Lots of Cars Going too Slowly, New York Times, 19 March 2005; Mike Mulhern, Bumper to Bumper, Winston-Salem Journal, 1 July 2005. 12 The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. The Outerbridge Crossing and Bayonne Bridge connect the island with Perth Amboy and Bayonne, New Jersey, respectively. Bob Pockrass, ISC Begins Community Review Portion of Staten Island Plan, NASCAR Scene, 20 April 2006, 24; Bob Pockrass, An Impossible Dream? NASCAR Scene, 12 August 2004, 80-82.
214 Without question, Staten Islands outdated infras tructure was ill-equipped to accommodate its post-World War II growth and, as one journalist observed: the islands relatively primitive road systemm ostly paved-over paths set down centuries ago by American Indians, then used by farmer s and early settlers. The meandering layout makes even the simplest traffic control measures, like timed stoplights, virtually impossible.13 The ISC pledged to limit track use to three major events per year (two NASCAR Sprint Cup races and, most likely, an Indy Racing League date).14 Nevertheless, opponents argued that Staten Islands transportation infrastructure simply could not endure the mass entrance and exodus of over 80,000 spectators, even if their migration occurred on only a few designated weekends year. In response, the ISC developed pl ans for a fleet of ferries to transport thousands of race goers who would assemble in New Jersey and commute to the racetrack. The ISC also consulted engineering firms about building a light-rail system. Early track plans designated approximately only 8,000 parking spaces, in the hope that mass tran sit would alleviate automobile traffic on race day.15 Some people in Staten Island liked these propos als, and a grassroots entity known as Staten Island NASCAR Hopefuls (SINCH) formed to counter the mobilized opposition.16 The group was partially comprised of passionate race fans motivated for the appeal of professional motorsports in their city, but many SINCH members saw the track as an economic and 13 When North Meets NASCAR, New York Times, 11 December 2005. 14 Steve Waid, NASCARs Venture Into New York Well Worth the Huge Cost, NASCAR Scene, 5 August 2005, 8; Bob Pockrass, ISC Pledges to Limit Use of New York Track, NASCAR Scene, 5 May 2005, 22. 15 Robert Strauss, Engines of Economic Progress, New York Times (New Jersey edition), 1 August 2004; Maureen Seaberg and Frank Lombardi, S.I. Polls Wave Red Flag at NASCAR Proposal, New York Daily News, 11 May 2006; Yoav Gonen, Islanders do Slow Burn over Speedway, Staten Island Advance, 2 March, 2005; Sierra Club, Race to Protect Staten Island: Why the Giant Racetrack Stadium Project is Bad for Staten Island Residents and Harmful to Wildlife, 27 April 2006; available from http://www.sierraclub.org /field/northeast/RacetoProtectStatenIsland.pdf ; Internet; cited 27 November 2006. 16 Bob Pockrass, The Waiting Game, NASCAR Scene, 1 December 2005, 12.
215 infrastructural boon to Staten Island. Supporters argued in favor of track construction jobs and potential employment stimulated through road and bridge improvements that the new facility would likely generate. SINCH also countered that ferry ports and light-rail system could improve existing traffic woes in the borough, and st ressed that the track may, in fact, alleviate the boroughs highway and bridge deficiencies. In their view, the infrastructure improvements proposed to accommodate three weekends of racing would impel far-reaching, year-round positive effects. This battle within the borough heated up ove r time, and in April 2006, factions came to blows during ISCs (and NASCARs)17 first public hearing regarding the proposal. Opponents and proponentsincluding labor representatives, politicians, environmentalists, and concerned residentsfilled the 918-seat Michael J. Petrid es Educational Complex auditorium to capacity, and the overflow, denied entrance to the meeting, assembled outside the building. The meeting began at 6:30 P.M. but was cut short by police 45 minutes later after councilman Lanza was confronted on-stage and put in a headlock by union treasurer Christopher Wallace, of the New York District of Carpenters Local No. 20. Wall ace, a Staten Island resident, took exception after councilman suggested that most of the union jobs would likely originate outside of Staten Island, and that those who commuted to the island and constructed the pr operty would not be forced to deal with the likely traffic issues in Staten Isla nd that would come with the completed project. The national media picked up this story, which subsequently generated negative fallout for SINCH, track supporters, and the ISC.18 17 As long-time motorsports correspondent Steve Waid has wittily mentioned, the independent corporations of NASCAR and ISC are so closely linked that one may be substituted for the other in a sentence, as I do here. 18 Charles V. Bagli and Eric Dash, Staten Island, Start Your Engines: NASCAR May Be on Its Way, New York Times, 28 May 2004; Sewell Chan, Plan to Race St ock Cars Frays Tempers at S.I. Meeting, New York Times, 1 May 2006; Bob Pockrass, Meeting on Proposed NY Track Becomes Near Riot NASCAR Scene, 4 May 2005, 22; Bob Pockrass, Despite Controversy, ISC Fo rging Ahead with Staten Island Plan, NASCAR Scene, 11 May 2006,
216 Municipal and political conflic ts comprised a portion of th is storys place in enviromotorsports history, but ecological contingencies form its true legacy. The environmental community was strongly opposed to the track and its potential detrimental ecological impact. Many had seen a restorative opportunity when th e city closed the nearby landfill and aimed to protect the property, especially the saltand freshwater wetlands occupying the site. Although the area was zoned for industry, environmentalis ts viewed the construction of a massive speedway as a worse-case scenario. On the f lip side, ISC representatives claimed that the property amounted to a wasteland, useless for anything but major development. As city council speaker Christine Quinn stated in a letter to New York C ity Mayor Michael Bloomberg: NASCAR proponents have painted a picture of doom and gloom by asserting, if not the track, then you will get an i ndustrial wasteland.19 Environmentalists and sc ientists certainly did not buy into this rhetoric, but neithe r did a growing number of reside nts. As more people saw that the propertys economic and environmental poten tial was not limited to industry, sanitation, or motorsports, the track opposition gained momentum. Ecological concerns launched the Sierra Club and smaller, local organizations, such as WildMetro, into action. The Sierra Club, one of Americas largest and most influential environmental organizations, formed in 1892 thre e years before the first organized American auto race, but this was apparently the firs t time that the group clashed with American motorsports at the macro-level. Sierra Club New York City field office executive director Suzanne Mattei researched and published a mammoth Sierra Club-sponsored report on potential 23; Selena Roberts, NASCAR Wants its Roar to Join the Jackhammers, New York Times, 19 November 2006; Walter Elliott, Tempers Flare at Staten Island Meeting, National Speed Sport News, 3 May 2006, 3, 18; Suzanne Mattei, telephone interview by author, 8 February 2009, in possession of author; David Burg, telephone interview by author, 6 March 2009, in possession of author. Burg is CEO of Wild Metro. 19 Bob Pockrass, War of Words Swirls Around NYC Track Proposal, NASCAR Scene, 18 May 2006, 26.
217 environmental hazards posed by the proposed speed way. A Yale-educated attorney by original profession, Mattei assumed the lead position in 2003, and her meticulous examination of the property provided necessary scientific ammun ition in debunking the claim that a speedway was the ideal use of the property. Mattei used ecology, history, and geography as effective battle tools. Her research methodology was strongly rooted in environmen tal statements, interv iews with long-time naturalists and bird watchers, and other scientific and demographic-based sources. Throughout the extensively footnoted report, Mattei stressed the ecological and hydrological sensitivity of the track site. Situated near Ar thur Kill, a ten-mile-long and na rrow tidal strait dividing New York and New Jersey and connecting Newark and Raritan Bays, the property sat only a few feet above sea level. The report stressed that Staten Island side of the Arthur Kill presents mostly a natural shoreline that provides unique and highly va luable habitat in the midst of an otherwise highly urbanized area including four ecologica lly significant salt marshes, and bordered by the 162-acre freshwater gulfport marsh.20 According to preliminary plans (and before any permit applications), the ISC planned to fill existing wetlands with four million cubic yards of silt to raise the property elevation three to six feet in an extensive dredge-and-fill project. In return, the ISC investigated the possibility of improving some of the existing freshwater marsh. Mattei, aided by the wetlands expertise of biologist Michelle Ashkin, argued that compensato ry mitigation required for the project, which either created new wetlands, restored old wetlands, or improved degraded wetlands, was a poor environmental compromise to the massive speedp lex, which was expected to eliminate fifteen acres of existing wetlands. Mattei stated that Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the mitigation 20 According the report, Gulfport is now the second-larges t freshwater emergent marsh in New York City. Sierra Club, Race to Protect Staten Island.
218 provision, should not be viewed as a blanket permit to destroy and stressed that mitigation works better in some cases and not in others.21 The Homestead case provided a solid example of wetlands mitigation with mixed results (and supported Matteis claim). Nearly 15 year s since restorative efforts ensued, the South Florida Water Management District and other stat e agencies fell short of mitigation objectives and continued in their attempt to meet the ecolo gical goals set forth in the mid-1990s for the 160 acres of restored wetlands near the Homestead -Miami Speedway. Mitigation was by no means a magic wand.22 Quite the contrary, it often inte rrupted or destroyed and could interrupt or destroy a preexisting ecosystem that had valuable functions. For instance, buffer land at the edges of wetlands was also critical because some creatures become more easily accessible for predators than if nests were further out. Finally, because wetlands protect areas during major storms due to their sponge-like character istics, filling and altering existing wetlands could have catastrophic consequences in hurricane-prone ar eas such as Staten Island. In essence, Matteis concerns over wetlands mitigation as a means to facilitate deve lopment echoed the sentiments of others in the scientific community. In short, many environm entalists and scientists believed, and studies showed, contriving wetlands with a bulldozer and an engineers blueprint was no real substitute for natures organic handiwork. Mattei called the existing little wetlands th at could on Staten Island a Clean Water Act success story. Once sewage reduction and water qua lity improvement measures were enforced in the mid-to-late 1970s, herons, egrets, and ibises returned after disappearing from the area as a 21 Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape ; Pittman and Waite, Paving Paradise. 22 Peekstok, interview by author.
219 result of long-term habitat depletion and contamination.23 However, just as the ecosystem was recovering from centuries of environmental de gradation, the area faced a new environmental calamity when this part of the Staten Is land coast was devastated by Exxons 567,000-gallon pipeline oil spill in 1990.24 Literally overnight, area residents became environmentalists and participated in an extensive clean-up and restor ative effort by replanting over a quarter of a million acres of smooth cordgrass (spartina alterniflora ), which provides nutrients to marshes, serves as food and habitat sources for wildlife, purifies water, and protects areas from storms by securing tidal soils. 25 As of a result of these eco-restorative efforts, species returned and the cordgrass thrived. Many locals were not prepared to allow the ISC to negate their dedication toward restoration. As Mattei stated, there were a lot of pe ople that cared a lot about this particular area. It was important to people. They wiped [oil] off rocks and picked up birds. It was her strong contention that the ISC not only underestimated th e sensitivity of the landscape but also the environmenta l passion of New Yorkers.26 Without question, building a racetrack in such an area had countless ecological consequences. The study also pointed out that ferry-generated wake and waves could disrupt mussels, crabs, and fish, and Matt ei indicated that one of the reasons the track was a worse-case scenario rested in the fact that wildlife becomes accustomed to consistent noise, such as the drone of passing automobiles and the continuous ro ar of jet engines from nearby Newark Liberty 23 Dan Ackman, Birds Flock to These New York Islands, Wall Street Journal, 13 July 2006. 24 The Exxon Valdez spill was on March 24, 1989. 25 This species of cordgrass is common along the eastern seaboard. Sierra Club, Race to Protect Staten Island. 26 Mattei, telephone interview by author; Allan R. Go ld, To Colony of Herons, Foul Marsh is Home, New York Times, 29 August 1991; Katharine C. Parsons, Recovering from Oil Spills, The Role of Proactive Science in Mitigating Adverse Affects, Colonial Waterbirds, 19: 1 (1996), 149-153; Alan D. MacCarone and John N. Brzorad, The Use of Foraging Habitats by Wading Bi rds Seven Years after the Occurrence of Major Oil Spills, Colonial Waterbirds 21 no. 3 (1998): 367-374.
220 Airport. Short-term racecar, spectator, and heli copter noise occurring a few weekends a year, however, would be more detrimental to birds an d other animals residing in an already fragile ecosystem. The triad of race weekends actua lly could not have been more ecologically offensive. They were scheduled to coincide with bird-breeding season, with the most damaging noise originating from helicopters. It was possible that a multi-pad heliport would support up to 30 trips on race day.27 ISC and its designer team appeared committe d to keeping the parking lots unpaved to enhance groundwater recharge. Although this initially appeared to be more environmentally friendly, upon further examination, a grass parking area may not have been very green after all. Automotive leaks, petroleum-based or ot herwise, and careless tailgating fans depositing non-environmentally friendly substances remained a problem on non-paved lots. Plus, in the event of a heavy rain, the unpave d lots could create muddy tra ffic nightmares. The report debunked claims that unpaved lots remedied the loss of nesting land by pointing out that if parking lot grass were mowed too short, birds would not nest; if grass were kept long, cut only for races, birds would mistake the lots as safe ne sting areasdestroyed just in time for the next race weekend. The report also cited countless local bird experts who pointed to an avian richness in the area, concluding that birds of all vari eties would be advers ely affected by such fortress amidst the coastal wetlands.28 The Sierra Club report was pivotal in convinc ing many fence sitters as well as proponents that the track was an environmental nightmare ( one could speculate that the Homestead outcome may have been different had a similar report been compiled). Environmen talists proved that the 27 Mattei, telephone interview by author. 28 Sierra Club, Race to Protect Staten Island.
221 ISC had not done a fair ecological analysis in its attempt to bri ng racing to an urban area rich with nature and lacking in in frastructure. In addition to overlooking potential wildlife and wetland issues, ISC officials failed to note how bad existing traffic was on Staten Island and to what degree citizens would oppose the threat of more. The ISC, having pumped millions of dollars into the land purchase and in bankrolling scientis ts, lobbyists, and engineers to back the proposal, finally cut its losses and officially aban doned the effort to build the track in December 2006.29 Because the speedway battle unf olded in Americas largest ci ty, it raised both public and national awareness of the tight connection between automobile racing and nature. The speedway defeat in Staten Island presen ted environmental and social hu rdles that the ISC and NASCAR had not addressed on such a large scale in the past, and, up until then, th e entities faced little mobilized opposition. As was the case of some ot her major environmental victories, such as the Everglades and Homestead jetport battles touche d on earlier, unlikely bi-partisan alliances had formed in Staten Island. A grassroots-base d coalition of politicians, environmentalists, biologists, birdwatchers, reside nts, and an Ivy League-educat ed lawyer turned scientist blockaded the growth of American motorsports in the shadow of Manhattan. Track opponents and environmentalists held the upper hand in th is supreme battle over space and place to race. Rarely was a track demolished to create open sp ace, but in crowded Staten Island open-space issues stymied the construction of a major trac k, and the only NASCAR event that continued to take place in New York City was the seasonending awards banquet at Manhattans worldfamous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.30 29 Alan Feuer, Plan for NASCAR Speedway is Scrapped on Staten Island, New York Times, 5 December 2006. 30 As of 2009, some of the wetlands still require additional clean-up, and the fate of the racetrack land remains pending. The ISC has expressed strong interest in constructing a track near Sea ttle. However, the suburban
222 Times were indeed changing for NASCAR, and the entity was subjected to increasing political, social, and environmental pressure.31 NASCAR continued to wave the motorsports exemption from the 1970 Clean Air Act, and tetraethyl lead remained in its 110-octane racing gasoline (in comparison, street-car octane le vels rarely exceed 94) throug h the 2006 season. Since the early 1950s, long-time racing-fuel supplier Unocal adapte d and produced different fuel formulas to adjust to NASCARs changing compression ratios and engine specifications. As early as 1988, the petroleum company was prep ared to supply NASCAR teams w ith an unleaded blend of highperformance gasoline.32 Although countless high-performance sports cars and open-wheel racecars (and domestic vehicles) had run wit hout the additive for decades, NASCAR refused to get the lead out. Lead was clearly not essential to NASCARs su ccess, yet mechanics and engine builders testified that lead provided critic al lubrication essential for NASCARs highperformance, high-compression engines. This st ance brought back similarities to the 1920s controversy. Although countless viable unleaded options were available for racecars over the years, pleas within the motorsports and racing petroleum industr ies and lack of a government ban kept the poisonous substance legal on American racetracks.33 Washington counties of Snohomish, Olympia, and Kitsap o ffered little encouraging response to the ISCs proposals. As a result, the ISC hoped to develop a track near Portland, Oregon, in its effort to tap into the Northwest. That effort has also failed. 31 By the end of the 20th century, tobacco sponsorship was no longer critical to NASCARs survival, success, and expansion. R.J. Reynolds ceased sponsoring NASCAR after the conclusion of the 2003 season. The Series was renamed Nextel Cup from 2004-2007. Sprint purchased the Nextel name and the series is currently known as the Sprint Cup. 32 In 2003, Sunoco assumed the title as NASCARs fuel provider. Tim Wusz, telephone interview by author, 6 February, 2009, in possession of author. 33 Venlo Wolfsohn, Clean Air Buffs Turn to Racing, Washington Post, 29 March 1973; Art Bently, Race Gas: What it was, what it is and what its Liable to be, Stock Car Racing, February 1988, 77-79; Bill Luther, Leaded Fuel Ban No Problem for Unocal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, 7 February 1993; Doug Gore, Selecting Racing Gas, Stock Car Racing, September 1988, 22-3; Harry Stoffer, Leaded Race Fuel Leaves Black Mark on Industry, Automotive News, 14 February 2005, 14; Rea White, The Perfect Blend, NASCAR Winston Cup Scene, 20 February 2003, 40-41.
223 Historically, there was a great lack of medical and scientific literature regarding the effects of lead on motorsports participants and spectator s. However, in the twenty-first century, the scientific community took noti ce of NASCARs leaded gasoline. A 2005 Indiana University study showed a rise in blood-l ead levels and noted several health symptoms among NASCAR crew members, but cautiously concluded that th ose levels were not to the point of requiring formal action by federal health agencies.34 Researchers concluded that more studies needed to be done at a much larger level, meaning more teams, more participants, and more spectators needed to be tested in a compre hensive longitudinal project. Despite this groundbreaking, long-overdue and somewhat ambiguous study, it was protracted public pressure from environmentalists, the media, Internet bloggers, and advocacy groups, such as Clean Air Watch, that eventually convinced NASCAR to make the change to cleaner fuel. 35 Frank ODonnell, president of Clean Air Watch, was one of the most vocal opponents of lead in racing fuel and quite blunt in one interview when he sa id that breathing in lead will actually harm your brain. It will re duce your IQ level. One way of putting it, breathing in too much lead will make you stupider.36 This type of criticism led NASCAR to take responsible action, and adopted unleaded fuel beginning with th e season-opening Daytona 500 in 2007.37 NASCAR was the last major hold out. Th e Clean Air Act exemption for motorsports 34 ONeil, Steele, McNair, Matusiak, and Madlem, Blood Lead Levels in NASCAR Nextel Cup Teams, 70. 35 Rea White, NASCAR Might Get the Lead Out, NASCAR Scene, 3 June 2004, 16; Mike Hembree, Environmental Group Urges Switch to Unleaded, NASCAR Scene, 17 March 2005, 20. 36 Living on Earth, NASCARs Lead Foot, 6 May 2005, available from http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.ht m?programID=05-P13-00018&segmentID=8 ; transcript, Internet; cited 11 October 2006. 37 Sunoco still produces lead racing fuels. Rea White NASCAR to Switch to Unleaded Fuel in 2008, NASCAR Scene, 26 January 2006, 16. Rea White, NASCARs Move to Unleaded Gas Earns Competitors Praise, NASCAR Scene, 2 February 2006, 16; Viv Bernstein, NASCAR Plans to Switch to Unleaded Fuel in 8, New York Times, 20 January 2006; Rea White, NASCAR to Switch to Unleaded Fuel in 2008, NASCAR Scene, 26 January 2006, 16; NASCAR Hugs a Tree, Sporting News, 10 February 2006, 53; Jesse Greenspan, NASCAR Gets on Track,
224 endured, and leaded racing gasolin e remained in a minor capacity. (After a lengthy period of extensions, it appears Canada will outlaw leaded racing fuel effective in 2010, but no such ban is on the books in the United States.)38 At about the same time NASCAR eliminat ed old technology, the Indy Racing League mandated the use of ethanol fuel. Although ethanol had been used as a power source for some of the earliest automobiles, the transition, in part reflected the Indy Raci ng Leagues association with the Midwest and longstandi ng objective of tapping into cu tting-edge technology and innovation to bring fans out to the track. In a ddition, through its partners hip with the IRL, the ethanol industrys marketing strategy aimed to push America aw ay from its dependence on fossil fuels and promote ethanol as a clean-burning, biodegradable, renewable, and domestically produced fuel source.39 As discussed earlier, alcohol fuels re-emerged as alternative primary-fuel sources in the American automobile industry in the late 1970s. 40 But once gasoline prices stabilized in the 1980s and 90s, the alcohol fuel movement, as was the case after World War II, again lost momentum. Because of its higher-octane, a nd cleaner-burning properties, however, alcohol remained as an additive. Ethanol-enriched ga soline remained predominantly in the cornproducing Midwest, and methanol -enriched fuel was common in California. The ethanol and Audubon, May-June 2006, 12-13; Brant James, Nextel Cup about to Run a Bit Cleaner, St. Petersburg Times, 17 February 2007. 38 Apparently, lead is still common in drag racing. Forbes Aird, Fuel for Thought, Stock Car Racing, March 1995, 141-146; Doug Gore, Race Gas Versus Pump Gas, Speedway Illustrated, October 2007, 70-72; Tim Naumetz, Race Cars get 2-Year Reprieve on Canadas Leaded Fuel-ban Tories Issue Exemption Despite Health Warnings, Toronto Star, 4 May 2008. 39 Phil McCombs, Cars May Guzzle Alcohol too, Washington Post, 19 June 1977; Wilfred Kohl, ed., Methanol as an Alternative Fuel Choice: An Assessment (Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins, 1990); J. P. Vettraino, Racing Green, Autoweek, 23 April 2007, 59-60. 40 Bernton, Kovarik, Sklar, The Forbidden Fuel.
225 methanol industries vied for the lions share of the American alcohol fuel market in the 1980s and 90s, but by 2000, ethanol rose to the top. The ethanol industry had a stronger infrastructure in place, and more effectively garnered ag ricultural and pol itical support, which brought it generous government subsidies and tax breaks. Promoted by Heartland senators, including Jim Thune (R) South Dakota and Evan Bayh (D) Indian a, the ethanol lobby was powerful within the Beltway (although still w eak in comparison with the oil industry).41 Since the days of famous ethanol proponent Henry Ford, most of the alcohol fuel in this country remained corn-based. As of 2008, domestic ethanol was available predominately in two blends, E-10 and E-85. Once confined mostly to the Heartland, E-10 (known as gasohol in the 1970s and 80s) became widespread at commercial gas stations. Beginning in 1997, the auto industry started producing flex-fue l vehicles that could operate on either E-85 or gasoline (reminiscent of the Model T). The production of flex -fuel vehicles, and numb er of dealers selling E-85 (also more centralized in the Midwest) increased after the 2005 federal passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which in itially required 4 billion gallons of biofuels in the nations fuel supply by 2006 and 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. The most notable everyday example of the Renewable Fuel Standard can be found across Am erica on the labels of gasoline pumps, which often read: may contain up to ten percent ethanol or this product contains ten percent ethanol.42 In 2005, most open-wheel entities still used me thanol; stock car and sports car groups used gasoline. Although the ethanol industry had expr essed an interest in getting involved with 41 Allan R. Gold, Methanol Defended as Option, New York Times, 20 September 1989, B-6. 42 E 85 has an octane rating of 105. Joe Browder, interview by author, 21 December 2008, Washington, D.C., in possession of author; Bob Kravitz, IRL Leads En ergy Revolution with its Switch to Ethanol, Indianapolis Star, 18 May 2007; Alex Walordy, Last Call for Alcohol, Stock Car Racing, August 1995, 58-69; Green America: Waking up and Catching Up, Economist, 27 January 2007, 60. The RFS has been modified over the years.
226 motorsports for some time, Paul Dana was the man primarily responsible for convincing the IRL to make the switch to ethanol.43 Dana, a former Autoweek correspondent, had a passion for racing and for the environment, obtained sponsor ship from the ethanol industry, and embarked on a professional racing career while promoting the corn-based fuel. Despite his lack of longtime racing experience, ethanol-i ndustry funding allowed him to climb quickly to the highest level of American open-wheel racing. Dana a nd the ethanol industry su ccessfully pitched the fuel and convinced the IRL mandate ethanol po wer beginning with the season-opening race at Homestead in 2007.44 Their timing was appropriate. The IRL, although clearly prevailing over the weakened Champ Car World Series (formerly CART), still suffered from the American open-wheel racing split. The IRL sought a mark eting shot-in-the-arm and was eager to gain sponsorship dollars from the ethanol industry. On a larger scale, gasoline prices were on the rise, Americans sought relief at the pump, farmers demanded higher grain prices, and the Renewable Fuel Standard was passed that year. Just as was the case in the 1930s and again in the 1970s, Americans sought domestic solutions for foreign o il dependence, and ethanol was one place they looked.45 The IRL and the ethanol industry also stressed that the fuel was safer at the racetrack. Unlike toxic methanol, ethanol spills were less hazardous and its ta il-pipe-exhaust nonpoisonous. Because ethanol provided improved fuel economy, and higher octane (113) than methanol (107), the switch made engineering sense, requiring only minor technical changes to 43 Tragically, Dana was killed in a practice crash at Homestead in March 2006. Bruce Martin, Paul Dana Loved Racing, and it Cost Him His Life, National Speed Sport News, 29 March 2006, 23. 44 In 2006, the teams used ninety percent methanol with ten percent ethanol blended in. 45 Tom Slunecka, interview by author, 1 April 2007, St Pete rsburg, Florida, in possession of author; EPIC (Ethanol Promotion and Information Council) Pres s Kit. Les MacTaggart interview by author, June 2007, Newton, Iowa, in possession of author.
227 the IRLs engine and rules package. Drivers co mmented that the fuel and slightly modified engines provided greater performance than methanol especially when acceler ating out of a turn. In addition, cars handled better because the smaller fuel tanks resulted in less fuel capacitythus lighter and quicker cars.46 The link between the Indy Racing League and the ethanol industry was an example of modern-day chemurgy. Technological and economical benefits of an agriculturally derived power source were showcased through cutting-ed ge automobile racing engines. The ethanol industry embarked on a major campaign to promote the fuel through the IRL. For example, at the St Petersburg street race in 2007 an airplane flew overhead throughout the weekend extending the banner message: Florida needs ethanol. At the 2008 Iowa event, an ethanol-powered motorcycle driven by cable television s American Chopper star Paul Teutul Jr. circled the seventh-eighth-mile track before the IRL race. A favorite among children, Edgar the ethanol mascot also appeared at races The ethanol industry and Indy Racing League relationship was reciprocal; ethanol advertisements aired througho ut television coverage of IRL races. The industries co-sponsored pump-side promotions in which drivers, such as Jeff Simmons, and governors, such as Jim Doyle, Kathleen Sebeliu s, and Jennifer Granholm of the corn-producing states of Wisconsin, Kansas, a nd Michigan gathered at gasoline stations, which offered much lower promotional prices of ethanol.47 46 As is the case with NASCAR and Sunoco, the IRL has traditionally had an exclusive agreement with a solitary fuel supplier per season. Mike Rasor, Racing Industr y Speeds AheadIRL First to Put Ethanol in its Tanks, Indianapolis Star, 17 August 2006; Tim Lemke, Indy 500s Corn Fed Ca rsEthanol Moves Storied Race Ahead of the Curve, Washington Times, 24 May 2007; MacTaggart, interview by author. 47 Brant James, Racing on Ethanol: Its all about Business for Now, St. Petersburg Times, 26 May 2008. Evidently the IRL was courted by the ethanol industry in the mid-1990s and again in 2001. The author attended IRL events at St Petersburg and Iowa in 2007 and 2008.
228 While stressing ethanols capability as a hi gh-performance fuel, these ambassadors touted the fuels economical and envir onmental attributes, but ignored its detriments, one of which plagued the American ethanol industry since the days of th e Model T. Gasoline obtains significantly better fuel economy th an ethanol, and this partially accounts for the lag of ethanol acceptance in America. Burning fuel-grade ethano l at the racetrack has always been safer and more environmentally sound than ga soline, but the life-cycle of et hanol can be extremely costly, particularly the energy, water, chem ical fertilizers, and pesticides required to plant, cultivate, and harvest the corn, transport it to a processing plant, and another energy has to then grind, cook, ferment, distill, dehydrate, and transport the fu el. Environmental side effects also included demands put on local water sources, including the al ready strained aquifers of the Midwest, by way of consumption and agricultural run-off. Although there have been improvements in ethanol production technology sinc e the days of Henry Ford, it remained an environmentally expensive fuel to produce. Granted, most of th e corn used for ethanol production was non-fit for human consumption, but at the same time, as more land was converted to the inedible corn crop to achieve Renewable Fuel Standards, less became available for food production. Global food prices increased in 2008, and the ethanol industry attracted more detractors, primarily in the political, economic, and environmental community.48 To date, scientists, politicians, economists, and environmentalists remain divided in the ethanol debate. Ethanol pr ocessing, producing, and transpor ting technology continues to improve, and as it does, the fuel seems to make more economic sense to be more environmentally friendly. One of the fuels largest environmental vices is the fact that 48 Browder, interview by author; Timothy Searchinger, U se of U.S. Croplands for BioFuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change, Science, 29 February 2009, 1238-1240. For a recent study on the discourse of ethanol in the United States, see Kriste n Ann Chamberlain, Environmentalism, Agrarianism, and Patriotism: Epideictic and Critical Implications of Disc ourse Promoting Ethanol (Ph.D. Diss., North Dakota State University, 2007).
229 processing and transporting the fuel generates a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are not necessarily cancelled ou t at the end of the fuels life cycle by ethanols advantageous burning properties and cleaner tailpipe emissions. Ethanol can be transported in pipelines much more effectively than in the past, and the industr y is actively trying to tr ansport ethanol in tanker trucks powered by biodiesel. Budding technology requires less water to cr eate the fuel, and the ethanol industry continues to move away from fo ssil-fuel-powered plants, slowly shifting toward alternative sources of power such as wind and biomass.49 Since large-scale ethanol plan ts first went under constructio n in the late 1970s, some plants, more than others, have benefited from ne w technologies. For instance, Life-line Foods of St. Joseph, Missouri, the official ethanol supplier to the IRL in 2008, has integrated technology that separates the corn kernel into three part s, extracting only the porti on non-fit for human or animal consumption for fuel production. Indeed these are small steps, but reflective of automobile racing in general, where gains are of ten only measured in fractions of a second or miles-per-hour. But, because the IRL and ethano l industry stressed performance in their venture, they neglected an opportunity to inform the racing community and the general public about advancing technologies within the American ethanol-producing sector.50 Through on-track performance, the ethanol i ndustry publicized the fu els biodegradable and cleaner-burning benefits, but pa rt of the rhetoric also stresse d patriotic elements associated with American-grown and produced ethanol. Empha sizing the political and financial aspects to 49 Richard S. Chang, An Un convincing Shade of Green, New York Times, 20 January 2008; Brant James, Fuel Debate Hits Home in IRL, Sports Cars, St Petersburg Times, 22 April 2008, ; Adam J. Liska, Improvements in Life Cycle Energy Efficiency and Green house Gas Emissions of Corn-Ethanol, Journal of Industrial Ecology, 13 (February 2009): 58-74; Reuel Shinnar and Francesco Citro, A Road Map to U.S. Decarbonization, Science, 1 September 2006, 1243-1244; Joseph Fargione, Jason Hill, David Tillman, Stephen Polasky, and Peter Hawthorne, Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt, Science, 29 February 2008, 1235-1237. 50 Torrington, Wyoming-based Renova Energy supplied fuel for the 2007 season. Press Conference, 18 June 2008, Newton, Iowa.
230 this alliance, some critics claimed that the greenest element of this partnership was the sponsorship money and fuel that the ethanol industry provided the IRL.51 Regardless, it appeared that the IRL made a well-calculated and benefi cial decision in its switch to ethanol. The move indicated a comm itment to higher performance and increasing inclinations toward an environmental conscious ness. The IRL also capitalized on the ethanol and agriculture connection and developed a solid schedule of successful Midwestern races in the Des Moines, Chicago, Kansas City, Fort Worth, M ilwaukee, Detroit, Columbus, and Louisville markets. Ethanol represented the Midwest and cornracing and regionalism linked stronger than evertrue Americanaethanol-powered, open -cockpit racecars racing in the heart of corn country at the Indianapolis 500, held every Memorial Day weekend.52 Although the Indy Racing League mandated a se ries-wide use of ethanol fuel, there was another obvious, but less publicized, shift toward a green racing conscious in 2007. That year, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), mandated an ethanol blend for most of its competitors (The series has limited uni form fuel regulations). The series was based just outside of Atlanta and well outside the ethanol belt, and races we re held in traditionally non ethanol-producing states, such as Georgia, Connecticut, and Calif ornia thereby more widely promoting the fuel.53 Although the ethanol industry also collaborated with ALMS, this affiliation was markedly different in the fact that the AL MS featured recognizable street brands, such as Corvette, Acura, Audi, and Porsche. These were high-performance vehicles that raced solely on temporary street 51 Greg Dolan, telephone interview by author, 6 March 2009, in possession of author. Indy Lights, the Indy Racing Leagues major support division continued to use methanol power. 52 Liz Clarke, IndyCar Makes Switch to Ethanol, Washington Post, 21 March 2007; Walter Elliott, Ethanol Finding a Place in American Auto Racing, Area Auto Racing News, 14 November 2006, B-15; Michael Smith, IndyCar Driving Home Message for Ethanol, Street and Smiths Sport Business Journal, 12-18 March 2007, 7; Dean Broadhead, Indy Car Series Fuels Consumer Interest in Ethanol, AgriMarketing, April 2007, 36-37. 53 In 2007, the Audi team used diesel.
231 circuits or permanent road courses that featured le ft and right turns, as we ll as elevation changes. This type of racing translated more directly to commercial automotive technology more visibly than oval-racing series, just as was th e case in the earliest days of racing.54 In 2008, in an effort to further develop a green consciousness, and permute the fuels performance in a classic American muscle car, the ALMS Corvette te am burned E-85 fuel derived from cellulose. This type of ethanol was made out of wa ste products or inedible biomass such as corn stalks, orange peel s, and switch grass. However, th ere was little infrastructure in place for the production of cellulosic ethanol (although it is now on the rise in the United States). According to University of Florida scientist Lonnie Ingram, cellulosic ethanol has a positive energy balance of about 85, (the remaining 15 percent is the energy required for production (growing, harvesting, transporting, power). Corn conversely has a posi tive energy balance of approximately 15 (though this number can vary). As stated earlier, to determine how green a particular type of fuel is, one must account for the entire life cycle of a particular batch of ethanol, beginning with land selection and the planting of seeds and ending with engine combustion and tailpipe emission.55 As one set of scientists ha ve claimed, sustainable biofuel production systems could play a highly positive role in mitigating climate change, enhancing environmental quality, and strengthening the global economy, but it will take sound, sciencebased policy and additional resear ch effort to make this so.56 Indeed, some of the greener technologies of today could, in fact, become the green technologies of tomorrow. 54 Clayton Triggs, interview by author, 1 April 2007, St. Pete rsburg, Florida, in possession of author. Paul Drayson, interview by author, 3 October 2008, Braselton, Georgia, in possession of the author; Oliver Gavin, interview by author, 4 October 2008, Braselton, Georgia, in possession of the author. 55 Eli Kintisch, The Greening of Synfuels, Science, 18 April 2008, 306-308; Robert F. Service, Eyeing Oil, Synthetic Biologists Mine Microbes for Black Gold, Science, 24 October 2008, 522-523; Joseph Kays, Waste Not Want Not, Explore, Summer 2007, 10-15; Browder, interview by author. 56 G. Philip Robertson, Sustainable Fuels Redux, Science, 3 October 2008, 49-50.
232 Racing reflected this notion and it is clear that before there is green racing there first must be greener racing. Without question, American motorsportssome types of racing more than othersbecame more proactive than reactive to environmental and ecological forces over the last few years. In 2008, the Corvette teams E-85 cellulosic ethanol was produced from Black Hills National Forest waste (undergrowth, needles, dead trees) that originated primarily from Ponderosa Pine trees. A hybrid car was slated to compete in the series the following year. The sport as a whole has become more environmentally conscious, but its shade of green remained contingent on the entity, type of vehicles, varieties of fuel and lubricants used, noise abatement measures, and, perhaps most of all, track location.57 Green rhetoric aside, the Indy Racing League and American Le Mans Series proved what was known one hundred years ago, that et hanol is a high-performance fuel. Motorsports remains an automotive laboratory. In the 2008 St. Petersburg Grand Prix, ALMS raced on Saturday and the IRL on Sunday, and these street races indicated that the purposes and spectacle of racing on municipal, urban streets, where driver skill, mechanical savvy, and brand superiority were at stake, was strikingly similar to that long-ago Chicago race of 1895. If the Homestead-Miami and New York City examples are any indication, ecological factors will play a rising role in how this form of American recreation sustains itself in the years ahead. With gasoline prices eclipsing four do llars per gallon in 2008, more intense criticism lurks on the horizon. Racers have vo iced their concerns about fuel prices. If fuel continues to rise in price many will no longer have sufficient f unding to compete. This, in turn, could lead to 57 Paul Ferriss, LMS Goes Green with Alternative Fuels, Globe and Mail, 15 May 2008; Nate Ryan, Objective is to Win, but Le Mans Teams also Shooting for Efficiency, USA Today, I3 October 2008; Dan Anderson, Ethanol Cocktails, Speedway Illustrated July 2004, 86-87; Tony Fabrizio, ALM S, IRL go green with Alternative Fuels St Pete Race a Showcase, Tampa Tribune, 3 April 2008; Bruce Ritchie, Liberty Shopping $38M Ethanol Plant Proposal, Tallahassee Democrat, 25 January 2008.
233 the closure of more tracks. Fans may no longe r be able to afford the gasoline (or ethanol) required for the drive to the track on a Friday night, just as race teams will not have enough money to fill up the tanks of thei r racecars and transporters. Yet some sports have a life expectancy a nd are dying slowly. Bowling is one such example. However, dying at an even slower pace than bowling is grassroots auto racing. Every year there are fewer American ra cing facilities than the year before, participation becomes more expensive and environmental and ecological factors impinge, someti mes with fatal results, on the sport. This is the stuff scholars will address in the years ahead. Quite simply, auto racing has an unclear and uncertain future, and it is not social, cultural, or political factors but the environment that will dictate where, when, and how the sport accelerates or stalls. But rest assured, whether in the city or in the countr y, on asphalt or on dirt, men and women will be racing automobiles for many decades to come.58 58 Earth First, Racer, May 2007, 6; Alejandro J. Martinez, For NASCAR Drivers, Gas Price is Often just a Drop in the Bucket, Wall Street Journal, 31 May 2005; Norm Froscher, The High Cost of Fuel, Stock Car Racing, January 2006, 14; Jerry F. Boone, The Woes of Grassroots Racing, Speedway Illustrated, April 2007, 12-13; Nate Ryan, Running on Fumes, USA Today, 22 December 2008.
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244 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Daniel J. Simone was born in 1972 and grew up in New Jersey. He earned his B. A. in Sociology at Rowan (NJ) College, his M. A. in History at North Dakota State University, and Ph.D. in American History at the University of Florida. Since 2005, Simone has served as the Program Coordinator at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.