Arkansas City Speedway

a.k.a.

West Madison Speedway

Arkansas City, Kansas

 

 

          The roots of this racetrack can be traced to mid-1920s when a group of men from Arkansas City started successfully competing in sprint car races around the Midwest.  Noting that local interest in the sport was good, Don C. Onley and W. W. Bowen, a couple of traveling race promoters from San Antonio, Texas, booked an outlaw sprint car race on the half-mile horse track at the Cowley County Fairgrounds at Winfield, Kansas for the afternoon of July 30, 1927 as the finale to a four-day annual horse racing meet.  Winfield is in south central Kansas, only 13 miles northeast of Arkansas City (10 miles now due to straightening the road).  Seven cars from Arkansas City entered that event.

            All the hype for that Winfield race spurred the Arkansas City Daily Traveler to poll citizens to see if there was sufficient interest in Arkansas City to build a major amusement park there that would feature a racetrack for auto racing.  The positive response was published in the newspaper one week before the Winfield race date.

Energized by the success of the races at Winfield, the Arkansas City Junior Chamber of Commerce got behind the effort and arranged to lease an odd shaped tract consisting of 37.29 acres of flood plain from E. C. Felton.  It was located on the north side of Madison Ave. (U. S. Highway 166) just west of the Arkansas River that runs along the west edge of Arkansas City.  By the summer of 1929, a half-mile clay packed and oiled down racetrack, complete with wooden guardrails and grandstand, had been built with donated materials and volunteer labor.

        The first recorded laps at speed on the speedway were run at 10:30 p.m. on June 30, 1929 by Arkansas City driver Andrew B. “Cokey” Fuller who turned a lap in 37 seconds in a stock Whippet automobile.

        The first scheduled racing program was run on the afternoon of July 4, 1929“Cokey” Fuller won three of the four races run that day including the 10-lap final.  He was driving a Gallivan-Ford sprint car that he co-owned with Joe Hutchinson.

        That first racing program drew a good crowd but internal squabbles over how to allocate limited resources led to shortfalls in the payment of the posted purse and that made it difficult to get entry commitments from race car owners for any future events at the track.  The Arkansas City Racing Association, headed by Marvin “Mack” McAnally, decided the solution to that problem would be to have furture races sanctioned by the American Automobile Association.  Besides payment of a sanctioning fee, the A.A.A. required that the entire purse to be put in escrow before race day.

        The next sprint car races were run on Labor Day, September 2, 1929.  Earl Hovenden of Duncan, Oklahoma, driving his own Frontenac, tied with Fuller for quick time in time trials and then won both races he competed in including the 20-lap “sweepstakes”.

        The next race at Arkansas City Speedway was run on July 4, 1930 with Pat Cunningham of St. Joseph, Missouri winning his heat and the 16-lap feature in the “B & B Special,” a supercharged Frontenac owned by C. O. Bennett of St. Joseph, Missouri.  The total purse for this event was $1,235, the largest ever paid out at Arkansas City Speedway.  Cunningham collected the largest paycheck of $525.

        Unfortunately, race fans had become jaded by disappointing car counts at earlier events and, despite much publicity, attendance was poor for this latest effort.  Those involved with its promotion were devastated by the financial disaster.

        Despite the heavy financial losses, an already scheduled non-sanctioned stock car race was run on the speedway on Sunday afternoon, July 20, 1930.  “Cokey” Fuller won the “sweepstakes” in a Ford roadster owned by Matt Ward of Duncan, Oklahoma.

        Auto racing is believed to have ceased at the Arkansas City Speedway with that event but an American Motorcycle Association sanctioned motorcycle race was run there on Labor Day, September 5, 1932.   Lonnie L. Rose of Arkansas City, won the “sweepstakes” that day on his Indian motorcycle.

The speedway is the only part of the planned amusement park that was ever built and the already finically plagued project became a victim of the “Great Depression”.

The facility fell into disrepair and the landlord moved to Oklahoma.  In 1937, E. C. Felton sold the property to Ruth Ann Thompson of Payne County, Oklahoma.  Thompson turned the facility back into farm ground.  Crops did not do well on the actual surface of the old speedway so that remained visible for several years.

        Today, there is no physical sign the speedway ever existed.  The land belongs to the City of Arkansas City and is dotted with water wells that supply drinking water for the community.

        If you have any additional information about this racetrack, or the men who competed there, please contact Bob Lawrence.

        There are a number of  CLICK HERE buttons below, which will take you to several web pages that tell more about this speedway, the races that were run there, and the men who participated in them.

 

These four photographs were taken at Arkansas City Speedway a.k.a. West Madison Speedway just west of Arkansas City, Kansas

 

 

To see newspaper ads and articles pertaining to the construction and the first race at this speedway.

 

 

 

To see an aerial photograph taken on August 31, 1938 in which the, by then, decaying Arkansas City Speedway a.k.a. West Madison Speedway is clearly visible.

 

 

To see what the site of the former Arkansas City Speedway a.k.a. West Madison Speedway looks like today.

 

 

To see results and statistics for the auto races that were run on this speedway in 1929.

 

 

To see newspaper ads and articles pertaining to the auto races run at this speedway Labor Day, September 2, 1929.

 

 

To see results and statistics for the auto races that were run on this speedway on Independence Day, July 4, 1930.

 

 

To see newspaper ads and articles pertaining to the auto races run at this speedway on Independence Day, July 4, 1930.

 

 

To see results of the stock car races run on this speedway on July 20, 1930.

 

 

To see newspaper article pertaining to the stock car races run on this speedway on July 20, 1930.

 

 

To see results of the motorcycle races on this speedway on Labor Day, September 5, 1932.

 

 

To see newspaper articles pertaining to the motorcycle races run at this speedway Labor Day, September 5, 1932.

 

 

To see the track records for Arkansas City Speedway a.k.a. West Madison Speedway.

 

 

To visit the History of Auto Racing at the Cowley County Fairgrounds, Winfield, Kansas home page.

 

 

To visit the History of Motorcycle Racing at the Cowley County Fairgrounds, Winfield, Kansas.

 

  

To search this website or to view a site map.

 

 

For some Links to interesting websites.

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU

Harold Chance, Dennis Dye, Connie Lawrence, Herb Ottaway, Luther Parman, Don Radbruch, Jeff Roth, Ted Templar, Bill and Lou Tharp, Mary VanScyoc, Gordon White, and everyone else who has assisted me with this project but whom I might have neglected to name here.
Do you have a photograph, program, entry list, line-up, results sheet, or other memorabilia from the Arkansas City Speedway a.k.a. West Madison Speedway that could be added to this web site?  If so, please contact Bob Lawrence.