The History of Motorcycle Racing on the Historic Half-Mile Dirt Racetrack at the Cowley County Fairgrounds, Winfield, Kansas

 

The half-mile racetrack at the Cowley County Fairgrounds was originally laid out in the summer of 1872 and has been used for horse racing off and on since the fall of that year.  The corners were dredged out in the summer of 1883, more so near the inside of the track to give the effect of a slight banking to the turns, thus making the racetrack into a rare "dish" oval.  The size, shape, and location of the racetrack  have not been altered since but flood sediment has filled in some of the original dish bringing the racing surface up almost to ground level.  The track lies just a couple hundred yards east and north of the Walnut River and outside the levee protecting the city of Winfield so the racetrack is often covered by flood water.  The track surface is mostly silt which does not pack down well so the racing surface was always very dusty but riders who liked a slick groove found this racetrack to be to their liking.

In the early 1900s at Winfield, motorcycles were raced on the same program with automobiles with afternoon races alternating between an auto race and a motorcycle race.

The following list of race dates and winners may not be complete.  Race results from some of the dates that are listed have yet to be located.  To see what results are currently known, click your mouse on the race date at left.

DATE

RACE

DISTANCE

WINNER

HOMETOWN

MAKE / MODEL

TIME

CROWD

October 15, 1909

Final

20 laps

Ray Weishaar

Wichita, KS

 

 

“Large Crowd”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 16, 1909

Final Free-for-All

4 laps

Dan Randall

Wichita, KS

Indian

2:55.00

“Larger Crowd”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 1, 1910

Free-for-All

8 laps

Pete Hickerson

Winfield, KS

 

6:31.00

  800

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 4, 1911

Races postponed to May 6th due to rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 6, 1911

Australian Pursuit

17 laps

Max Wilson

Topeka, KS

Harley-Davidson

12:03.40

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 1912

Single Cylinder

 20 laps

Wells Bennett

Wichita, KS

Thor

14:08.50

4,000 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 1913

Final 

10 laps

Roy Rinehart

Arkansas City, KS

Indian

16:10.00

6,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 27, 1913

Final

200 laps

Lou Hoyt

Milan, KS

Harley-Davidson

2 hrs., 39 min.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 13, 1915

Final

10 laps

Walter Higley

Coffeyville, KS

Excelsior-Twin

6:39.00

2,000 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 5, 1915

Final

50 laps

Frank Mansfield

Arkansas City, KS

Indian

 

300 

 

E. W. Yount at right

There is a photograph in the Cowley County Historical Society Museum in Winfield, Kansas labeled on the back:

"E. W. Yount racing motorcycles at the fairgrounds in 1916."

Ernest W. Yount (1894-1965) of Winfield, Kansas did race motorcycles at Winfield in 1915 but no other records have yet been located indicating that any motorcycle races were run at the Cowley County Fairgrounds in 1916.

The following races were run at Winfield by the Walnut Valley Motorcycle club:

 

DATE

RACE

DISTANCE

WINNER

HOMETOWN

MAKE / MODEL

TIME

January 29, 1933

Speed Race

4 laps

Lonnie Rose

Arkansas City, KS

Harley-Davidson

2:55.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 9, 1933

Free-For-All

10 laps

Pete Petross

Ponca City, OK

Excelsior-Henderson Super-X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Summer, 1933 (exact date unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Winfield Lions club sponsored stock car races on the Winfield racetrack in the 1950s but too few entrants and declining crowds led the Lions club to try presenting “C” class professional motorcycle racing in association with the Wichita Jeeps Motorcycle Club of Wichita, Kansas:

DATE

RACE

DISTANCE

WINNER

HOMETOWN

PLATE #

MAKE / MODEL

TIME

July 4, 1959

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 1960

Expert Final

 10 laps

Bill Dusenbery, Sr.

Wichita, KS

81

BSA Gold Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 1960

Expert Final

 10 laps

Mike Long

Ponca City, OK

56n

BSA Gold Star

 

 

Hugh “Hugo” Shea

 1929 - 2011

 

 

 

After the Winfield Lions club ceased presenting motorcycle racing in 1960, local horse racing interests constructed a steel pipe guard railing around the perimeter of the racetrack partly to discourage the use of the facility by motor vehicles.  They were only partially successful as the Winfield Jaycees and the Mid-West Harley-Davidson Dealers Association, headed by former Winfield resident, Hugh "Hugo" Shea, conducted the first annual Kansas State Motorcycle Rally at the Cowley County Fairgrounds on May 19-20, 1962.  Shea owned Harley-Davidson dealerships in Wichita, Kansas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  These rallies consisted of poker runs, various contests, church services, and racing on the half-mile racetrack sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association.  The following is an incomplete list of race winners at each Kansas State Motorcycle Rally run at Winfield:

 

 

 

DATE

RACE

DISTANCE

WINNER

HOMETOWN

Plate#

MAKE / MODEL

TIME

CROWD

May 19, 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 20, 1962

Expert Final

  6 laps

Gary Nixon

Ft. Worth, TX

  63

Triumph

3:10.44

 1,000

 

May 11, 1963

250cc Final

 

John Stenfors

Salina, KS

 129n 

Harley-Davidson Sprint

 

 

 

May 12, 1963

Expert Final

10 laps

Darrel Dovel

Hutchinson, KS

  45

Harley-Davidson

5:00.00

 

 

May 17, 1964

Expert Final

  8 laps

Ted Davis

Ponca City, OK

  90

BSA

4:02.46

 1,900

 

May 16, 1965

Expert Final

10 laps

Roger Reiman

Kewanee, IL

    1

Harley-Davidson

5:05.75

 3,000

 

May 15, 1966

Expert Final

  8 laps

Fred Nix

Lawton, OK

  95

Harley-Davidson KR-750

 

2,800

 

May 20, 1967

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 21, 1967

Expert Final

12 laps

Pat Gosch

Omaha, NE

  47

Triumph Daytona 500

 

 2,500

 

May 19, 1968

Expert Final

10 laps

Robert Winters

Ft. Smith, AR

  21

BSA

5:05.45

4,000

 

July 7, 1968

Expert Final

10 laps

Sam Satterley

Little Rock, AR

  72

Harley-Davidson KR-750

5:01.23

 

 

May 17, 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 1969

Expert Final

  8 laps

Sid Carlson

Seattle, WA

  73

Harley-Davidson KR-750

3:51.96

 

 

May 23, 1970

Open Final

 12 Laps

Jim Ratliff

Wichita, KS

    2

Harley-Davidson Sportster

 

 

 

May 24, 1970

Expert Final

 10 laps

Cal Rayborn II

Spring Valley, CA

  25

Harley-Davidson 

4:52.81

7,000

 

May 15, 1971

Open Final

 

Jim Ratliff

Wichita, KS

    2

Harley-Davidson Sportster

 

1,000

 

May 16, 1971

Expert Final

10 laps

Don Castro

Hollister, CA

    5

Triumph

4:44.38

3,000

 

May 21, 1972

Expert Final

11 laps

Neil Keen

St. Louis, MO

  10

Yamaha 650

 

 18,000

 

 

 

Mike Sherman raced at Winfield in 1963

 

George Roeder’s Bonneville land speed record

setting 250cc Harley-Davidson Sprint

behind the grandstand in 1966

 

Motorcycles were everywhere on Winfield’s

Main Street on race weekend in 1967

 

 

Mike Long raced at Winfield

1959 – 1963

 

Race weekend on Winfield’s

Main Street in 1966

 

Mike Van Bibber raced at

Winfield 1967-1970 and 1972

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early 1960s, organizers would hold a large picnic in Island Park at the north end of Main Street for the riders and fans but as the years passed and the weekend crowds increased, such amenities waned.

The motorcycle races at Winfield became well known nation wide drawing increasingly larger crowds.  By the late 1960s, the city was doing little to prepare for the huge annual influx of people which resulted in shortages of almost everything a large crowd might need.  For example, restaurants ran completely out of food causing some visitors to travel as far as Ponca City, Oklahoma (51 miles) just to find something to eat.  Only the lucky few with motel rooms could take a shower although some improvised at the local car wash.  There were long lines at every available restroom in town.  Few trash containers were available on city streets and those few were overflowing within hours leaving no place to deposit further refuse.

The local citizenry was divided between those who wanted Winfield to remain as quite and peaceful on race weekend as it was the rest of the year, and those who felt there was normally little to do in Winfield and the motorcycle rallies provided some much needed activity.  In the end, there was somewhat of a compromise as, after the 1972 rally in Winfield, the Kansas State Motorcycle Rally was moved first to Wichita, Kansas; then to Hutchinson, Kansas; and eventually to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (although that last move prompted an obvious name change).

Just five months after the last motorcycle race there, the Cowley County Fairgrounds became the home of the first annual Walnut Valley Festival.  The City of Winfield has learned to cope with large crowds and that festival continues there to this day.

There is little doubt that, had the motorcycle rallies remained at Winfield, today, the city would rival Sturgis, South Dakota and Daytona Beach, Florida as the most popular gathering points in the country for motorcycle enthusiasts.  Instead, it has become just that for fans of Bluegrass music.

A flood in November 1998, took out the steel pipe guard railing from the front straight-away and from around the first turn, although it remains around the rest of the racetrack which has now been allowed to grow over with grass.  The grandstand has been enlarged but now extends well out into the racetrack itself to accommodate the music festivals so it is unlikely this historic half-mile racetrack will be utilized for racing again anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Nine AMA Expert Class Competitors in the Races at Winfield have been
   Inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame at Pickerington, Ohio:

 

 

NAME

YEARS COMPETED AT WINFIELD

YEAR INDUCTED

Wells Bennett

1912

2000

Ray Weishaar

1913, 1915

1998

Gary Nixon

1960, 1962

1998

Fred Nix

1963 - 1967

1999

Everett Brashear

1964

1998

Roger Reiman

1965 – 1966

1998

Neil Keen

1967, 1970 - 1972

2000

Cal Rayborn II

1970

1999

Don Castro

1970 - 1971

2010

 

 

One Expert Final Race Winner on the Winfield Racetrack has been Inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America at Novi, Michigan:

 

NAME

YEAR HE WON AT WINFIELD

YEAR INDUCTED

Gary Nixon

1962

2003

 

 

Two Expert Class Competitors in the Motorcycle Races on the Winfield Racetrack have been inducted into the Trail Blazers Hall of Fame at Los Angeles, California:

 

NAME

YEARS THEY COMPETED AT WINFIELD

YEAR INDUCTED

Everett Brashear

1964

2005

Neil Keen

1967, 1970-1972

 

 

 

One Novice Competitor in the Motorcycle Racing on the Winfield Racetrack has been Inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America at Novi, Michigan Although in the Drag Racing Category:

 

 NAME

YEAR HE COMPETED AT WINFIELD

YEAR INDUCTED

Eddie Hill

1971

2002

 

 

One Expert Final Race Winner on the Winfield Racetrack has been Inducted into the Dirt Track Hall of Fame at Springfield, Illinois:

 

NAME

YEAR HE WON AT WINFIELD

 

Gary Nixon

1962

 

 

 

One Public Address Announcer of the Motorcycle Races at the Winfield Racetrack has been Inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa:

 

NAME

YEAR HE ANNOUNCED AT WINFIELD

YEAR INDUCTED 

Jack Miller

1972

2001 

 

 

 

This photo was taken at 709 Main Street in Winfield after Michael Ames had ridden this XLCH trike from Texas to take part in the rally festivities in May of 1971.  Note the streamliner on the trailer in the background.

 

 

 

THANK YOU:

Dick Ainsworth, Roger Attebury, Fred Beall, Lee Both, Bill Bottorff, Ken Bright, Joan Cales, Sid Carlson, Don Castro, Harold Chance, Sherry Cobb, Ron Cyr, Bill Dusenbery, Jr.; Connie Fleming, Dave Harrier, Gene Hartline, Robert Herrick, Fred Holter, George Holter, Doug Johnston, John Koller, Mike and Libby Long, Robert Mielke, Russell Moore, Carl Myers, Gary Nixon, Herb Ottaway, Lee Parker, Wendell Petross, Nancy Pinard, Phil Pratt, Jimmie Ratliff, Dan Robertson, Jeff Roth, David Sawhill, Dennis Schoenfeldt, Hugo Shea, Mike Sherman, Bill and Lou Tharp, Mike Van Bibber, Mary Van Scyoc, Warren Vincent, Mary Ann Wortman, the American Motorcycle Association, the Winfield Daily Courier, the Winfield Public Library, and everyone else who has assisted me with this project but whom I might have neglected to name here.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Do you have a photograph, program, entry list, line-up, results sheet, AMA rider supplement, or other memorabilia from the motorcycle races from any time period at Winfield that could be added to this web site?  If so, please contact Bob Lawrence at sprintguy @ cox.net.  Your comments are also welcome as well.

Note that there are many links on this web page to a lot of additional information about the motorcycle races at Winfield.  For instance, many of the race dates above are also links to web pages with information about that particular day of racing.

 

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