Wichita Fairgrounds Racetrack

Later Known as

West Side Racetrack

Later Known as

West Side Park

Later Known as

West Side Speedway

The Latter Being Two Blocks North of Douglas Street between Glenn Street and Vine Street at 1800 West Third Street in Wichita, Kansas

 

 

Numerous horse racetracks had been scattered around Wichita, KS for years and many automobile races were scheduled on them in the first decade of the twentieth century but few actually took place.  It happened so often that the Wichita Daily Eagle newspaper editorialized that they would not believe in automobile racing until they saw one advertized that actually took place.

The first known serious attempt to run an automobile race in Wichita was on the half-mile dirt ovoid South Riverside Racetrack on September 1, 1902.  A three-race program of automobile racing was scheduled on the half-mile dirt racetrack in Central Riverside Park located just to the northwest of downtown in Wichita, Kansas.

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

Winnings

September 1, 1902

Morris H. Schollenberger

Wichita, KS

Oldsmobile

$10

July 4, 1905

Eugene C. DeLong

Wichita, KS

Rambler

 

 

Another race was scheduled at the South Riverside Racetrack for Labor Day, September 6, 1909 but the posted purse was $6 for first place and $4 for second place.  The drivers assembled refused to compete for such a paltry purse so this event was canceled.

The Wichita Fairgrounds Racetrack can be traced back to 1906.  At that time, the fairgrounds were bounded by what is now First St. on the south, Osage St. on the west, and the Big Arkansas River on the north and the east.  The half-mile dirt oval occupied 15 acres on the west side of the 31 acre Wichita Fairgrounds.  The straightaways on the racetrack ran north and south.  That is where the first automobile races (not counting impromptu contests between just two vehicles) ever run in Wichita were contested.

There were only two entries for the one race that was scheduled to be run on July 3, 1908.  That four-lap contest was canceled when the Auburn, driven by Harry M Hicks (1882-1922) of Wichita, stopped on the course after completing just one lap.  A Ford, driven by Carl E. Evans of Wichita, was already well ahead when Evans stopped beside Hicks’ Auburn with one lap still remaining in the race.  Hicks claimed that his battery was dead so he could not continue.  Race organizer, Charles Mosbacher, then canceled the event as Evans had not yet completed the prescribed distance.

6,000 spectators then returned on July 4, 1908 to witness Evans and Hicks compete in another race.

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

Winnings

July 4, 1908

Carl E. Evans

Wichita, KS

Ford

 

June 11, 1910

Carl E. Evans

Wichita, KS

Auburn

$100

 

            The next known auto races to be run on this half-mile dirt oval was a non-sanctioned event run in a virtual sand storm:

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

Winnings

July 4, 1911

Harold R. Peterson

Wichita, KS

Crawford

 

            Right after these races, much of the land where the fairgrounds had stood was purchased by the Midland Valley Railway Company.  By late August of that year, the racetrack and grandstands had been razed to make way for a new railroad terminal and yard.

            The next races run at Wichita were on November 11, 1912 but nothing more is known about that event.

            The next races run in Wichita were held on a mile and a half circular dirt racetrack at the short-lived Speedway Park southwest of Wichita on South Meridian St. in October of 1915.

            The next known auto races to be run in Wichita were on a half-mile dirt oval that was the first racetrack to be known as the West Side Racetrack.  It was built in 1916 on a 25-acre parcel "even with Charles St. from First St. north to the Arkansas River."  The grandstands were along the east side of what would have been Clarence St. on the west side of the racetrack if Clarence St. had proceeded north from its intersection with First St.  The auto races held on that racetrack this year were promoted by Capt. Harvey Kennedy backed by Ernest Moross and his company, Moross Amusements.  As with the races run at the West Side Racetrack through 1918, the cars and drivers that participated were contracted with by the promoters:

 

  Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

Winnings

 

  July 4, 1916

George Clark

Ft. Worth, TX

Case

$2,000

 

October 10, 1916

Jerry Wonderlich

San Francisco, CA

  Marquette Buick 

 

October 12, 1916

Lee Oldfield

Ohio 

  Oldfield Special Stutz

 

 

It is unknown who promoted the first day of races on this half-mile dirt oval in 1917.  Those consisted of racing during the International Wheat Show and was a non-sanctioned program for local cars and drivers.  The next three days of racing also run during the wheat show were promoted by Louis Disbrow of Indianapolis, Indiana.  Disbrow was a veteran driver himself and competed in his own races:

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

October 7, 1917

October 8, 1917

Jerry Wonderlich

San Francisco, CA

Sunbeam

October 10, 1917

Cliff Woodbury

Chicago, IL

Duesenberg

October 12, 1917

Cliff Woodbury

Chicago, IL

Duesenberg

 

            The next auto races to be run on the half-mile dirt oval were promoted by Ralph Hankinson of Wichita, Kansas:

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

November 7, 1917

Floyd Bowen

 

Mercer

November 8, 1917

“Wild Bill” Endicott

Indianapolis, IN 

Sweeney special

 

            The races run on this racetrack during the International Wheat Show in Wichita in 1918 were promoted by Lewis Disbrow of Indianapolis, Indiana:

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

October 7, 1918

Earl Cooper

San Francisco. CA

Stutz

October 9, 1918

Postponed to October 10, 1918 due to rain

October 10, 1918

Canceled due to rain

 

            I.M.C.A. sanctioned aces were run during that annual International Wheat Show in 1919.  Those were promoted by J. Alex Sloan of Des Moines, Iowa and his assistant, Howard Duff:

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car

October 2, 1919

Cliff Craft

Detroit, MI

Super Zip

October 4, 1919

Sig Haugdahl

Albert Lea, MN

 

October 8, 1919

Postponed to October 9, 1919 due to rain

 

October 9, 1919

George Clark

Ft. Worth, TX

Duesenberg

October 10, 1919

Canceled due to cold weather

 

 

            The next known auto race to be competed there was an unsanctioned event organized by Merle Warren of Newton, Kansas and run on the afternoon of July 4, 1921.  Merle Warren also scheduled a second race to be run at West Side Racetrack on Sunday afternoon, October 2, 1921 but that race was canceled when Warren learned that state law prohibited “amusements” on Sundays.  Races were also scheduled to be run at the West Side Racetrack on October 3, 1921 and October 4, 1921 in connection with the International Wheat Show and that show was held but the races appear to have been canceled, although no reason for those cancelations were given.

            The next auto races run in Wichita took place at the short lived Meridian Speedway in the early 1920s and on the Bo Stearns Track northwest of the intersection of 101st and North Broadway (then known as North Old Lawrence Road) in the 1930s.

            In the meantime, the Cessna-Roos aircraft company purchased much of the land that had been the half-mile West Side Racetrack north of First St. and Charles St. and turned it into a landing field for their adjacent factory in the fall of 1927.  The racetrack was shortened to 1/8 mile and softball fields were also added on the property.  The facility was utilized seven days a week in the summers of 1941 and 1942 with softball games scheduled Monday through Saturday nights and Kansas Midget Racing (KMR) sanctioned midget auto races run on the racetrack owned by Frank Addis and promoted by Frank Murphy on Sunday nights beginning on May 25, 1941.  Over the next two years, drivers from five states would win feature races on this very competitive “bullring”:

  

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car Owner

From

Car #

Car

 

 

 May 25, 1941

Rex Woodward

Wichita, KS

Felix Graves

Tulsa, OK

½

Ford V8-60

 

 

 

June 1, 1941

Canceled due to rain 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 8, 1941

Canceled due to rain 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The racetrack was lengthened to a 1/5 mile oval in time for the next races:

 

 

 

Date

Feature Winner

From

Car Owner

From

Car #

Car

June 15, 1941

Emmett Taylor

Wichita, KS

Emmett Taylor

Wichita, KS

C4

Ford V8-60

June 22, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

June 29, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 4,1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 6, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 13, 1941

Rex Woodward

Wichita, KS

Felix Graves

Tulsa, OK

½

Ford V8-60

July 20, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 27, 1941

George Smith

Kansas City, MO

Art Berry

Raytown, MO

75

Ford V8-60

August 3, 1941

George Smith

Kansas City, MO

Art Berry

Raytown, MO

75

Ford V8-60

August 10, 1941

George Smith

Kansas City, MO

Art Berry

Raytown, MO

75

Ford V8-60

August 17, 1941

George Smith

Kansas City, MO

Art Berry

Raytown, MO

75

Ford V8-60

August 24, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

August 31, 1941

George Smith

Kansas City, MO

Art Berry

Raytown, MO

75

Ford V8-60

September 1, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

September 7, 1941

Ted Parker

Ft. Worth, TX

Walt Allard

Ennis, TX

19 

Ford V8-60

September 14, 1941

Tex West

Dallas, TX

Felix Graves

Tulsa, OK

½

Ford V8-60

September 21, 1941

Ted Parker

Ft. Worth, TX

Walt Allard

Ennis, TX

19 

Ford V8-60

  September 28, 1941

   Postponed to October 1, 1941 due to rain 

  October 1, 1941

   Canceled due to rain 

 

 

 

 

October 5, 1941

George Binnie

Kansas City, MO

George Binnie

Kansas City, MO

20

Elto

October 12, 1941

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

  October 19, 1941

  Canceled due to rain

 

 

 

 

  October 26, 1941

  Canceled due to rain

 

 

 

 

  November 2, 1941

  Canceled due to rain

 

 

 

 

November 9, 1941

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, KS

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

17

Elto

May 3, 1942

Bud Camden

Wichita, KS

Bud Camden

Wichita, KS

C5

Ford V8-60

May 10, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

May 24, 1942

Clarence Brooks

Sioux City, IA

Ralph Foster

Wichita, KS

33

Ford V8-60

May 30, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

May 31, 1942

Clarence Merritt

Chelsea, OK

Peaches Campbell

Tulsa, OK

7JR

Ford V8-60

June 1, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

  June 7, 1942

  Canceled due to rain 

 

 

 

 

  June 14, 1942

  Canceled due to rain 

 

 

 

 

  June 21, 1942

  Canceled due to rain 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 1942

Curly Steerman

Salina, KS

Curly Steerman

Salina, KS

66

Ford V8-60

July 5, 1942

Bud Camden

Wichita, KS

Bud Camden

Wichita, KS

C5

Ford V8-60

July 9, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 12, 1942

Bud Camden

Wichita, KS

Bud Camden

Wichita, KS

C5

Ford V8-60

July 19, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 26, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

July 31, 1942

Mac McHenry

Wichita, KS

D. A. Clem

Wichita, KS

13

FWD Menasco

 

 Sources: One Tough Circuit, Midget Racing in America’s Heartland by Bill Hill

Wichita Beacon newspaper

 

 

D. A. Clem won the points championship in 1941 while Guy “Mac” McHenry was the points champion in 1942 driving a car owned by Clem.

World War II put an end to the racing season across the nation after July 31, 1942 and the sport did not return to this little racing facility.  Today, only the softball complex known as the West Side Athletic Field remains.

 

1941 West Side Speedway Champion – D. A. Clem

Durward Aloysius “D. A.” Clem (1906–1956) at West Side Speedway in the earlier of his at least two front-wheel-drive midgets.  This one was powered by an Indian motorcycle engine and today is owned by Bob More of Junction City, Kansas.  The car is currently in pieces awaiting restoration - Louann (Chacon) Schodde collection

 

 

1942 West Side Speedway Champion – Guy “Mac” McHenry

D. A. Clem found himself too busy helping with the war effort in Wichita’s defense plants to defend his midget title in 1942 so Mac McHenry (1918–1964) drove D. A. Clem’s #13 midget to the championship for him that year.  McHenry is shown here parked in the pit area at West Side Speedway in the later of D. A. Clem’s two front-wheel-drive midgets.  This one was equipped with a Menasco engine.

Clem received serious injuries in a highway accident near Stillwater, Oklahoma in the summer of 1946 while transporting this car to a race in Oklahoma.  While Clem was hospitalized, mechanic Jim Soukup repaired the midget and then took it for a test drive on a Wichita city street.  The result was a crash that required Soukup to be cut from the midget although he sustained only minor injuries.  By September 8th, the car was back in competition again at Wichita’s Cejay Stadium with George Elrod driving – Cindy Abbott collection

 

 

 

 

 

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Durwood A. Clem

Durwood Clem

Durwood Aloysius Clem

 

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