Pierre Bertrand

Leslie Neff

Jim White

Glen Spena

C. R. Hoag

 

Leonard Kerbs

“Dad” Harrier

Lawrence Hughes

Roy Boggs 

Bill Epps 

 

 

Vic Felt

 

Sammy Ard

 

Tom Holden

 

Willard Prentiss

 

 

 

The History of Automobile

Racing at Oakley, Kansas

 

 

 

 

 

The Sixth Annual Glidden Tour of the American Automobile Association arrived in Oakley on the afternoon of July 28, 1909 for an overnight stay having come from Hugh, Colorado on their way to Salina, Kansas.  There were 30 competing automobiles and 20 chase vehicles for race officials and the press.  The most famous driver in this 18-day, 2,600-mile race was Webb Jay.

Although that race did pass through Oakley, the first automobile race currently known to have been run at Oakley was the “Fall Speed Classic” run on Saturday afternoon, October 9, 1926.  The event was organized by Miss Murriel Keiser (1900-1994), secretary of the Oakley Advertising Club in conjunction with the Western Kansas Motor Show, an event staged to allow dealers in automobiles and motorized farm equipment from Logan, Thomas, Sheridan, and Gove counties to show off their wares.  The original plan was to hold the race on a three-mile course laid out over public roads east of Oakley.  The 50-mile race was to “start on the straight-away north of Myers corner, (go) west past the graveyard and south at the Olson corner to the Reager corner and hence east to the starting place.”  That plan apparently fell through as the race was moved to a flat one-mile dirt oval racetrack that was hastily constructed by Ernie Powell for the purpose on the Widdifield farm one mile north of Oakley.  The Western Kansas Motor Show set up on the infield of the racetrack.  Since it was primarily an advertising event, there was no charge for admission to the show or to the races:

  

  

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Car #

Make / Model

Purse

Attendance

October 9, 1926

Jim White

Sharon Springs, KS

11

Ford Frontenac

$250

5,000

 

 

T. E. Russell

L. E. Pickrel

Leon Wycoff

Jake Betts

 

Flush with the success of their first venture into automobile race promotion, an offshoot of the Oakley Advertising Club called itself the Oakley Automobile Club and scheduled another 50-mile auto race for Thanksgiving Day, 1926, this time offering a total purse of $350 and charging admission of 50¢ per person over 12 years of age.  Although this race was “run under A.A.A. rules”, it was not sanctioned by the American Automobile Association.  Foul weather is credited with keeping the starting field down to only four cars:

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Car #

Make / Model

Purse

Winner Paid

November 25, 1926

Walter Krhut

WaKeeney, KS

11

Ford Frontenac

$350

$200

 

Drivers and car owners got together and put on two ten-mile races on the Widdifield Farm racetrack on December 5, 1926.  Although the attendance was not announced, it was said to have been very good:

 

Race Date

 

Twin Feature Winners

Hometown

Make / Model

Time

December 5, 1926 

Bill Epps

Oakley, KS

Ford Frontenac

10:41

Cecil Wright

Winona, KS

 

11:00

 

The Arthur Radloff American Legion Post took over promotion of the auto races at Oakley in 1927:

:

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Purse

Attendance

October 23, 1927

Vic Felt

Deer Trail, CO

$360

“over 5,000”

 

 

Les Suter

George Bender

Frank Lies

Rick Allen

 

 

A new one-mile American Legion dirt racetrack was built at a cost of $600 before the races in 1928 and local American Legion Post Adjutant William W. Crownover (1895-1986) assumed the roll of race promoter.  The new racetrack was located north of U.S. Highway 40 and south of the Union Pacific right-of-way southwest of Oakley.  It was moderately banked (certainly higher banked than most race tracks in the area which were built primarily for horse racing) and had straight-aways measuring 600 feet in length with curves of 2,040 feet around each end:

 

 

 

 

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Make / Model

Purse

Attendance

July 4, 1928

C. R. Hoag

Denver, CO

Hinton special

$450

“over 5,000”

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 27, 1928

Vic Felt

Deer Trail, CO

Ford Frontenac

$500

“poor”

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4, 1929

 

 

 

$500

not announced 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 6, 1929

Rea Bray

Hutchinson, KS

 

$500

“the usual large crowd”

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 10, 1930

Bill Epps

Oakley, KS

P. E. B. special

$500

“big crowd”

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 14, 1930

Rea Bray 

Hutchinson, KS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 26, 1930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2, 1931

Pat Cunningham

St. Joseph, MO

Kerbs special

 

 

 

 

Bill Ratcliffe

Francis Schulze

Junior Pickrel

Bud Manning

J. D. Hanna

Bob Murra

Charlie Lutkie

Lloyd Walinder

 

 

 

 

About 1946, the Oakley Chamber of Commerce started a fund drive to build Sportsman Park a block north of the railroad at the east edge of Oakley.  It was a combination facility for auto races, baseball, rodeos, and horse shows.  It had light poles with huge incandescent light bulbs and reflectors for events that were held at night.  The chamber initially raised about $12,000 in donations and had the new 1,200 seat grandstand completed by 1947.  The grandstand sat so close to the racing surface that it actually jutted slightly out into the racetrack.

Hot Rods competed several times each summer in the late 1940s and early 1950s on the half-mile racetrack.  The races were promoted by Arnold “Blank” Blankenburg (1905-2000), president of the Oakley Chamber of Commerce under the auspices of the High Plains Racing Association (HPRA) in 1948 and 1949 and the Great Plains Racing Association (GPRA) in 1950.

L. E. Pickrel, Jr. (1924-1969) was president of the both HPRA and GPRA while Ernie Powell served as the official starter / flagman and W. K. Carson was the race announcer.

Motorcycles had raced as early as 1912 on an earlier racetrack on the Sportsman Park site but it is unknown if automobiles ever competed on that early racetrack.

The hot rod races on the Sportsman Park racetrack:

 

 

 

 

  

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Purse

Entries

Attendance

July 25, 1948

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 10, 1948

 No feature race was run

 

11

1,200

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 3, 1948

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 10, 1948

Don Padia

Denver, CO

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 26, 1949

L. E. Pickrel

Scott City, KS

$362.50

  4

1,200

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 24, 1949

Rick Allen

Denver, CO

$882.00

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 10, 1949

J. D. Hanna

Dallas, TX

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 9, 1949

Frank Lies 

Wichita, KS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 4, 1950

Les Suter

Oakley, KS

 

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 8, 1950

J. D. Hanna

Dallas, TX

 

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 27, 1950

Les Suter

Oakley, KS

 

14

 

 

 

Claude Ash

Ray Marcotte

Engine rules that had been in place up through the 1950 racing season were eliminated for the 1951 racing season.  Unlimited engines, modifications, and fuel were allowed in the hot rods during the 1951 racing season.  An article in the May 11, 1951 issue of the Oakley Graphic stated this rule change increased the horsepower of the better engines from around 250 H.P. to more than 300 H.P.

 

 

 

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Purse

Entries

Attendance

May 13, 1951

Races canceled due to high wind, dust, and zero visibility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 3, 1951

Lloyd Walinder

Oberlin, KS

 

11

“Large Crowd” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 1, 1951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July  29, 1951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 14, 1951

Bud Manning

Oakley, KS

 

 

“Good Crowd” 

 

Shorty Jones

Larry Crist

Mickey McCormick

K. O. Christian 

 

 

 

 

Micro-midgets and eventually three-quarter midgets raced a few times on small temporary racetracks at Sportsman Park in the early 1950s.

In 1952, the Oakley Jaycees took over sponsorship of the auto races at Sportsman Park.  They chose to put on “big car” races sanctioned by the United Motor Contest Association (UMCA), an organization that was formed by Jack Merrick and Ernie Powell at a meeting in Oakley on January 20, 1952:

 

 

 

 

 

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Car Owner

Hometown

Entries

Total Purse

July 4, 1952

T. E. Russell*

Denver, CO

Curt Stockwell

Denver, CO

“Few”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 19, 1952

Dave Carter**

Stockton, CA

Hank Hanestad 

Alameda, CA

12 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  July 27, 1952

  Races canceled due to conflicting race date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 4, 1952

Dave Carter**

Stockton, CA

Hank Hanestad 

Alameda, CA

 8

$613.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 9, 1952

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

  August 16, 1952

  Races canceled apparently due to lack of entries 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvus Benge

Richard Ellsworth

Mirl Barnett

Gene Coffman

 *Newspaper accounts state that “Dave Lynn” won this race but that name was an alias used by T. E. Russell when he competed in races that were not sanctioned by the American Automobile Association.

**Newspaper accounts state that “Johnny Thompson” won this race but that name appears to have been an alias used by Dave Carter when he campaigned Henry Walter “Hank” Hanestad’s #63 Offy sprint car in the Midwest in 1952.

 

 

 

 

 

In 1953 and 1954, the Oakley Jaycees put on jalopy races at Sportsman Park for pre-1942 stock automobiles.  These “Old Model Stock Car Races” were sanctioned by the High Plains Stock Car Racing Association (HPSCRA) and the Decatur County Racing Association (DCRA):

 

 

 

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Total Purse

Entries

Attendance

May 31, 1953

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2, 1953

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 6, 1953

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 4, 1954

 

 

 

 

 

 

     The Sherman County Racing Association (SCRA) sanctioned jalopy races on the Sportsman Park racetrack once:

 

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Car Owners

Entries

Attendance

August 10, 1958

Jack Hinkle

Bird City, KS

Jack Hinkle & Leonard Mast

28

 

 

 

Ron Reed

Davey Ross 

 

 

The Oakley Jaycees put on successful auto races at the Sportsman Park racetrack on summer Sunday afternoons in the early 1960s.  Total purses ranged from $375 to $1,000 with the Jaycees making money on the events too.  To date, only the following information about those races has been located.  Where two names are listed as feature winners, one won the feature race for rails while the other won the feature race for jalopies:

 

 

Race Date

 

Feature Winner

Hometown

Car # & Class

Purse

Entries

Attendance

July 24, 1960

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS

#7 Jalopy

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 7, 1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 21, 1960

 

 

 

$500

 

1,000+ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 4, 1960

Paul Garrett 

Oakley, KS

#88 Rail

$300

5

“overflow” 

Gene Coffman

Liberal, KS

#21 Jalopy

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 18, 1960

K. O. Christian

Wichita, KS

#32 Rail

$300

4

“only fair-sized”

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS

#7 Jalopy

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 18, 1961

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS

#7 Rail

$300

6

 

Phil Simmons

Norton, KS

#75 Jalopy

5

 

 

 

July 2, 1961

Races postponed until July 16th apparently due to wheat harvest 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 16, 1961

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS 

#7 Rail

$300

5

 

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS

#7 Jalopy

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 23, 1961

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley 

Liberal, KS  

#7 Rail

$300

6

 

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS 

#7 Jalopy

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 13, 1961

Races canceled due to rain  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 20, 1961

Charlie Hiner

Wichita, KS

#43 Rail

$620

15

 

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS

#7 Jalopy

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 3, 1961

Phil Simmons

Norton, KS

#4 Jalopy

$500

18

“good”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 17, 1961

Phil Simmons 

Norton, KS

#4 Jalopy

 

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 13, 1962

Phil Simmons

Norton, KS

#4 Jalopy

$300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 10, 1962

David Ross

Jetmore, KS

#54 Rail

$300

14

 

Phil Simmons

Norton, KS

#4 Jalopy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 15, 1962

Charlie Hiner

Wichita, KS

#43 Rail

$300

6

“one of the biggest crowds ever” 

Phil Simmons

Norton, KS

#4 Jalopy

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 19, 1962

Clarence “Nut” Cokeley

Liberal, KS

#7 Rail

$300

 

600

Don Shumard

Dodge City, KS

     Jalopy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 5, 1963

Leland Salmans

Larned, KS

#10 Rail

$500

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 16, 1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 14, 1963

 

 

 

$375

 

 

 

 

Orval Beckel

Nut Cokeley

Howard Cochran

Bert Davis

Gene Potts

Don Shumard

Harold Wadsworth

Laverne Owens

Bob Buchholz

Jerry Collins

Charlie Hiner

Bob Salem

Larry Torson

Lee Salmans

Phil Simmons

Andy McKinley

Oakley Auto Racing’s Sportsman of the Year

 

1961

 

K. O. Christian

Wichita, KS

1962

 

David Ross

Jetmore, KS

1963

Dennis Scheetz

Oakley, KS

 

 

The City of Oakley built a swimming pool just a block from Sportsman Park and soon started receiving complaints about the dust the races were kicking up and making the pool water dirty.

Then, late in the evening of July 14, 1963 a thunderstorm blew the roof off the Sportsman Park grandstand and caused other serious damage to the facility.  When the City of Oakley repaired the grandstand, the roof was not replaced.  That left the Jaycees with a choice of either lighting the racetrack for night racing or giving up on putting on the races.  They eventually chose the latter.

Today, a rodeo arena stands on the site of the half-mile racetrack which is now gone.  Both one-mile racetracks are overgrown with buffalo grass and have been abandoned for decades but each of them is still quite visible from the air.

A small racetrack was built just off of U. S. Highway 40 southeast of Oakley in 1960 and Go-Kart races were run there at least into the mid-1960s.

Please contact Bob Lawrence if you have any additional information about any of the automobile races that have been run at Oakley, Kansas.

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To SEARCH this Website

or to VIEW a Site Map

 

To VIEW the

Oakley Track Records

 

For LINKS to Other

Interesting Websites

 

To SEND E-mail to

Bob Lawrence

 

 

 

 

To VIEW a copy of the Rules and Specifications

that Governed the Races at Oakley in 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to:

Kevin Able, Jeff Adams, Janet Bean, Sylvus Benge, Gene Bertrand, Ella Betts, Bernie Beydler, Forrest Brazda, Tom Broeckelman, Bob Buchholz, Roger Burnett, Will Cokeley, Opal Conaway, Roseann Coffman-Davis, Stephen Dean, Roy Eaton, Sherry LeFlore, Gayle Garrett, Robert Gittinger, Jim Glassman, Duard Goble, Paul Hillery, Charlie Hiner, Mary Jamison, Carolyn Junod, Perry Kratchmer, Punch Lemburg, Tony Malsom, Raymond Manning, Bob Mays, Mary Owens, Irwin Porter, Don Radbruch, Calvin Raile, Cloyd Ricketts, Jim Robben, David Ross, Bob Salem, Alan Salmans, Leland Salmans, Roger Schrater, Steven Schrater, Phil Simmons, Jim Smith, Freda Spena, V. Ray Valasek, Warren Vincent, Mark Walinder, Ruby White, Todd White, Dwane Wolf, the Butterfield Trail Museum, the Fick Fossil and History Museum, the Oakley Graphic, and the Gove County Advocate for their assistance with photographs and other information for this web site.

 

 

 

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