Speed Bowl

"A 1/4 mile bullring that was located near State Highway K-15 southwest of the intersection of Oliver Street and McArthur Road on the south edge of Wichita, Kansas in July of 1950"

 

 

The case can be made that the Speed Bowl came along at the end of the era for midget auto racing in south central Kansas.  Midgets first evolved around 1930 but they first appeared in Kansas when promoters Jay Strain from California and Tom Holden of WaKeeney, Kansas brought a group of the small cars and ten of their drivers east from California to run a series of exhibition races on racetracks and even around baseball fields in the summer of 1936.  The drivers that participated on that summer's racing bill were Harry Hart, Bob Ware, Lou Durant, George Sparks, D. W. "Loopy" McCauley, Waldo Burnett, Ted Dumbault, Jimmy Dumbault, "Stubby" Rice, Byron Barnes, and Ralph Keys.  The group made appearances at Dodge City, Great Bend, Salina, Anthony, and probably in another Kansas town or two before returning home on the west coast.  Those races got the seed planted and several of the small racing cars were soon either under construction in the area or on order from west coast builders.

 

No known midget races were run in Kansas in 1937 but 1938 saw the formation of the Midwest Racing Association (M.R.A.) for midget racing formed at Hutchinson, Kansas with a total of thirteen racing programs run that summer at the Bo Stearns' Track north of Wichita, Kansas; the Emporia, Kansas fairgrounds; the Concordia, Kansas fairgrounds; Meade, Kansas; the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson; the Kingman, Kansas fairgrounds; and the Beverly racetrack at Salina, Kansas.  Jimmy Stallman of Hutchinson, Kansas was named the Kansas State Midget Champion for 1938.

 

1939 found the M.R.A. sanctioning 24 midget programs on tracks at Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson; the Beverly, Avalon, and Agricultural Hall tracks at Salina; the Delphos, Kansas fairgrounds; as well as at the Bo Stearns' Track and the Meridian Racetrack at Wichita.  Emmett Taylor of Wichita was crowned the Kansas State Midget Champion for 1939.

 

1940 saw the formation of the Kansas Midget Racing Association (K.M.R.A.) with Emmett Taylor as its president.  That group sanctioned 52 midget racing programs that year at venues such as the Avalon Speedway and the Agricultural Hall in Salina; Great Bend; the Hutchinson, Kansas Airport; the Rush Center Fairgrounds; the Dickinson County Fairgrounds at Abilene; the Dighton Fairgrounds; the Wichita Alaskan Ice Palace; and even at a racetrack at Fairbury, Nebraska.  Ralph Foster of Salina, Kansas was crowned the Kansas State Midget Champion for 1940.

 

In 1941, the K.M.R.A. sanctioned 24 midget racing programs at the Avalon Speedway at Salina; West Side Racetrack in Wichita; the North Central Fairgrounds at Belleville; the Beloit Fairgrounds; and the Dickinson County Fairgrounds at Abilene.  D. A. Clem of Wichita was named the Kansas State Midget Champion for 1941.

 

The only midget racing in Kansas in 1942 were twelve programs at the West Side Racetrack in Wichita.  That season was cut short at the end of July when the federal government placed a nationwide moratorium on all auto racing for the duration of World War II.  D. A. Clem's mechanical skills kept him busy in Wichita defense plants as the war was ramping up so he enlisted Guy "Mac" McHenry of Wichita to drive his front-wheel-drive midget at the West Side Racetrack.  McHenry paid Clem back for his faith in him by winning the 1942 Midget Championship.

 

By the time that auto racing resumed in 1945, suburbia had surrounded the City-owned West Side Speedway in Wichita so Carl and Harry Johnson built a 1/5 mile dirt oval for midget racing on family land near George Washington Boulevard and Oliver Street the southeast edge of the city.  The venue became known as Cejay Stadium, the name being inspired by Carl Johnson's initials.  One week after the ban on racing was lifted, Johnson put on his first of nine midget programs he would promote that year.  Bud Camden of Wichita was named the 1945 Midget Champion.

 

1946 in Wichita saw a new midget drivers and owners association formed with Frank Dickerson as president.  The Johnsons presented 23 midget racing programs at Cejay Stadium that year and Bud Camden repeated as champion.

 

1947 saw Kansas midget racing divided into two different classes with only Offenhauser powered midgets competing for the Class A Midget Championship at Cejay Stadium.  After 15 midget programs run there, Cotton Musick of Wichita had driven the Gibson Brothers Offy #2 to the Class A Kansas Midget Championship.  All non-Offenhauser powered midgets were regulated to the Class B Midget Circuit in 1947 and at least six programs for those midgets were run at Boliet, Dodge City, the Dickinson County Fairgrounds at Abilene, and on a new 1/4 mile racetrack in front of the grandstands at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.  Don Brown of Wichita was crowned the Outdoor Class B Circuit Midget Champion in Kansas for 1947.  A separate indoor champion was crowned for Class B midgets that competed in five races run in the Agricultural Hall in Salina in 1947 with Bob McKim of Salina winning that crown.

 

1948 saw the Class A midgets reunited with the Class B midgets to compete in twelve combined programs run at Cejay Stadium.  Don Brown of Wichita was crowned the midget champion at Cejay Stadium that year.  Class B midget races were also run at Estes Park in Scandia, Kansas; the Dickinson County Fairgrounds at Abilene; and on the 1/4 mile racetrack at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson but no known midget championship included those events.

 

By 1949, the popularity of midget racing was on the wane in Kansas with spectators making it known that they preferred to watch hot rods, jalopies, and the emerging class of new model stock cars race.  In an effort to increase fan support, the Johnsons switched to the more prestigious American Automobile Association (A.A.A.) sanctioning of their midget races although they scheduled fewer of them.  Only two of five scheduled midget programs were run at Cejay Stadium in 1949 with rain claiming the other three scheduled race dates.  Cecil Green of Oklahoma City won the feature races in the Walker Brothers Offy at both of the programs that were run making him the undisputed midget champion in Kansas that year although A.A.A. only recognized its national midget championship.

 

Attendance had been so poor at the two midget racing programs that were run at Cejay Stadium in 1949 that midget racing was dropped by virtually every existing racing venue in the state in 1950.  Many of the midget drivers and owners moved on to other forms of the sport while a few holdouts in the midget ranks banded together to build the Speed Bowl at the south edge of Wichita.  The new racetrack was opened with midget races on Saturday night, July 8, 1950 by promoter Fred Kuhlmann of Wichita but the numbers just were not there.  A shortage of both midgets and fans brought an end to the effort within three to four weeks and soon an end to the Speed Bowl as well.  It would be five years before midget auto racing would return to the Wichita area (at Robbins Speedway) but even then, the fan support just was not there so the little cars have now been regulated to one-night-programs in the area once every few years or so.

 

 

 

 

This photo shows the Speed Bowl under construction in 1950.  The only person to be identified in this photo so far is Eugene Allen "Gene" Loudenback who is the man squatting down at the edge of the racetrack.

 

 

 

 

Ernest Leo "Red" Forshee is pictured here in the Gene-Loudenback-owned Ford V8-60 midget #6 at the Speed Bowl.  The midget #4 in the background has yet to be identified.

 

 

 

 

The Speed Bowl only existed for a short time in the summer of 1950 and some results from the first two racing programs are the only results that are currently to have currently been found:

 

 

 

Saturday Night - July 8, 1950

 

TIME TRIALS - One Lap - Fastest time:  13.26, first lap ever run under time so it was an automatic new track record

PLACE

CAR #

DRIVER

FROM

1

23

Don Brown*

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

A Feature - 25 Laps

1

23

Don Brown*

Wichita, Kansas

2

17

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

3

 

Paul Rogers

Wichita, Kansas

DNF - Wrecked

 

Woody Powell

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Night - July 15, 1950

 

TIME TRIALS - One Lap - Fastest time: 13.13 (New Track Record)

PLACE

CAR #

DRIVER

FROM

1

23

Don Brown*

Wichita, Kansas

2

17

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

TROPHY DASH - Time:  38.98

1

23

Don Brown*

Wichita, Kansas

2

17

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

FIRST HEAT RACE - Time:  2:26.00

1

6

Red Forshee

Wichita, Kansas

2

47

Frank Lies**

Wichita, Kansas

3

 

_____  Harvey

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND HEAT RACE - Time:  2:23.58

1

 

Kenny King

 

2

7

Charlie Lutkie

Wichita, Kansas

3

 

_____  Fortney

 

 

 

 

 

THIRD HEAT RACE - Time:  2:23.92

1

23

Don Brown*

Wichita, Kansas

2

 

Paul Rogers

Wichita, Kansas

3

17

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN PERSUIT

1

 

Kenny King

 

2

6

Red Forshee

Wichita, Kansas

3

23

Don Brown

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

FIRST SEMI-FINAL RACE - Time:  2:54.90

1

 

Paul Rogers

Wichita, Kansas

2

17

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

3

6

Red Forshee

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

SECOND SEMI-FINAL RACE - Time:  2:47.35

1

23

Don Brown

Wichita, Kansas

2

 

Kenny King

 

3

7

Charlie Lutkie

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

A Feature - 25 Laps - Time:  6:07.33

1

23

Don Brown

Wichita, Kansas

2

 

Paul Rogers

Wichita, Kansas

3

17

Frank Dickerson

Wichita, Kansas

 

 

 

 

*  Don Powell drove a red midget #23 owned by Duke Westerhaus of Wichita, Kansas in all of these races.

 

**  The midget driven by Frank Lies was powered by a badly smoking Willys engine.

 

 

 

 

The photographs on this web page are from the Jim Loudenback collection