Archive for February 29, 2020

By: Stan Kalwasinski — “Back in the Day”

The 1960 Broadway Speedway Program

The old Broadway Speedway opened in the summer of 1957 after the owner, Ralph Conner and his son, Don, completed about a seven-year building project. Located about three miles south of U.S. 30 on Broadway Ave. (Route 53) in Crown Point, Ind., the new track was described as a slightly banked, clay surface, quarter-mile oval.

Conner, who owned a sod farm north of the speedway, had built two at the time state-of-the-art buildings on the grounds – a glass block ticket office and a huge concession building which for years would have a sign on top of it that read – “Broadway Speedway – Fastest Track On Earth”.

Wayne Adams wrote in his Midwest Whispers column in the July 23, 1957 issue of Illustrated Speedway News, “The Conners are now running midgets (Offys and Fords) every Friday nite and open competition modified stock cars every Saturday nite.”

Wayne Bryant image of Bill Carr after Carr won Broadway’s Season Championship race in 1958

Stock car winners in 1957 included Bob Perrine, Harry Klisiak, Harley Bisselburg and Sonny Hedrick. Early modified (coupe) champions were Jerry Brown, Bill Carr and Luke Gilbert. Gilbert’s championship came in 1960 with the Steel City Racing Association sanctioning the races, which featured the old coupes with flathead engines for the most part. Besides Gilbert, other front runners in 1960 were Carr, George Hatch, brothers Elmer and Don Embry and Don Jeffries, among others. The coupes were the mainstay for the weekly action with Larry Cope becoming the man to beat in the mid-1960s. Late-model were introduced around 1966.

Over the years, the track would see numerous owners and promoters taking over the operational reins with track configurations and name changes (Southlake Speedway and Crown Point Speedway) taking place. The speedway would host its last racing program in 2005.

Gene Crucean photo from 1979 showing the famous Broadway Speedway sign – “Fastest Track On Earth”

By: Stan Kalwasinski — “Back in the Day” –

United States Auto Club (USAC) midgets use to visit Chicago’s Soldier Field pretty much every year from 1957 until 1966 with the exception of 1959 when the asphalt track was torn out for the summer-long Pan American Games.

Wisconsin’s Frank Burany won the first USAC midget feature held at “The Field” on June 8, 1957. Burany, who was a big winner at Soldier Field in the pre-USAC days, beat Andy Linden and Tony Bettenhausen to the checkered flag in the 50-lap headliner that night.

Frank Burany won a lot of feature races at Soldier Field. The Wisconsin driver is pictured in Tony Saylor’s roadster midget in 1963. (Vince Mayer Photo)

Over the years, drivers like Eddie Johnson, Leroy Warriner, Gene Hartley, Jimmy Davies, Tommy Copp, Johnny Riva, Chuck Rodee and Mike McGreevy were USAC winners at Soldier Field.

Before a small crowd, McGreevy defeated Jimmy Knight and Bob Wente in the last USAC event held there – a 50 lapper on July 23, 1966. Over the years, numerous Indianapolis 500 drivers would appear for the midget competition, including future ‘500’ winners A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones.

Two years before his Indianapolis 500 win, Parnelli Jones receives a Bardahl racing jacket for setting the night’s “fast time” on July 1, 1961.

Driver Parnelli Jones, Announcer Bill Wilson and a registered USAC doctor join in the presentation. (Wayne Bryant Photo)