LaDoyt Earl “Doyt” Atha, Sr.

1902 – 1963

 

Doyt Atha was born August 2, 1902 in Ohio.  He was the third of four sons born to a piano salesman and real-estate agent, James Edward Atha (1868-1911) and his wife, Rhoda May (Rirsel) Atha (1878-1955).  The Atha family moved to Lafayette, Indiana in 1911 and Doyt was working as a taxi cab driver for the Lafayette Taxi Company in Lafayette by 1918.

On May 21, 1920, taxi cab driver Doyt Atha was arrested by the Lafayette city marshal for violating Fayette’s speed laws by racing another taxi driver (Charles Woods) up the State Street Hill in Fayette.  The newspaper account of the incident does not say who won the race.

By 1921, Atha was driving for the People’s Taxi Company but, shortly after that, he got a job as a brakeman on the Monon Railroad, although that meant that he was supposed to race pretty close to home.  The railroad let him go in August of 1925 though as he was continually taking time away from work to go racing.  Next, he took a job repossessing cars for the Lafayette, Indiana office of the Motor Finance Corporation.

He was married first to Ruby, whose maiden name is unknown.  They were divorced in 1922 and Doyt was married second to Virginia Leon Holder (1910-2003) in 1929 in Tippecanoe County, Indiana and the couple became the parents of two sons:  LaDoyt Earl “Doyt” Atha, Jr. (1930-2008) and Theodore Verne “Ted” Atha (1931-).

Following is an incomplete listing of the races that Atha competed in:

 

1921 – ½ mile dirt oval – Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds at Lafayette, Indiana

Car:  The Warwick special Chevrolet owned by Earl Warrick of Covington, Indiana

Finish:  Atha tried to take off from his job at the Monon Railroad but he was told that he would have to work.  It would be either his racing or his job so Atha called George Souders and told him to go to the fairgrounds at Lafayette and drive the car.  Car owner Earl Warrick objected at first as Souders was a “Greenhorn” but realizing that his choice was to let the kid drive or not race, he relented.  Souders finished second in the feature race that day and Warrick was more than pleased with his performance.  Souders racing career was secure from that point onward.

 

 

Doyt Atha

This publicity photo appeared on page 25 of the

October 21, 1923 issue of the Chicago Tribune

 

September 2, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Danville Fairgrounds at Danville, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special built by Elmer Schuck at the 10th Street Garage in Lafayette, Indiana and owned by Elmer Shuck of Lafayette, Indiana.

Finish:  Atha won the 5-mile race in 6:02.0.

5-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana

 

September 5, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Cass County Fairgrounds at Logansport, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special built by Elmer Schuck at the 10th Street Garage in Lafayette, Indiana and owned by Elmer Shuck of Lafayette, Indiana.

Finish:  Atha was handicapped 30 seconds due to the speed of his car but was a lap ahead of the field on the 13th lap when a steering arm broke forcing him to drop out of the race.

 

September 9, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Fairbury Fairgrounds at Fairbury, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special built by Elmer Schuck at the 10th Street Garage in Lafayette, Indiana and owned by Elmer Shuck of Lafayette, Indiana.

Finish:  2nd 10-car, 20-mile race behind Earl Warrick of Covington, Indiana in his Warrick special Chevrolet.  Atha led 6-laps of this race before being passed by Warrick.  He covered the 20-mile distance in 23 minutes.

Feature race winner:  Earl Warrick of Covington, Indiana in his Warrick special Chevrolet

 

October 1, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds at Lafayette, Indiana

Attendance:  2,500

Car:  The Warwick special Chevrolet owned by Earl Warrick of Covington, Indiana

Total Entries:  10

Finish:  Atha started last in the 10-car, 10-mile race and was running and was running in 3rd place on the 18th lap when a “cylinder gave out” forcing him to withdraw from the race that was won by Ralph Ormsby of Ft. Wayne, Indiana in a Chevrolet special.

25-mile feature race winner:  Ralph Ormsby of Ft. Wayne, Indiana in Fronty Ford built by E. M. Valley and owned by J. B. Glutna, both men being from Chicago, Illinois

 

November 11, 1922 – ½ mile dirt oval – Hoosier Motor Speedway at Indianapolis, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special owned by ______ Rosen.

Finish:  Rosen started this race but felt the pace was too fast for him so he turned the car over to Atha.  Atha was 10-laps behind when he got into the car but had worked his way up among the leaders when a wheel broke forcing him to withdraw from the event.

Feature race winner:  Ralph Ormsby of Ft. Wayne, Indiana

 

May 5, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Hoosier Motor Speedway at Indianapolis, Indiana

Car:  Fronty Ford

Total Entries:  27

Finish:  Atha experienced trouble with a steering arm forcing him to drop out of this 150-lap “Indianapolis Inaugural” race.

75-mile feature race winner:  Homer Ormsby of Ft. Wayne, Indiana in Fronty Ford owned by the Chevrolet brothers of Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Homer Ormsby was a brother to Ralph Ormsby, above.)

 

May 13, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds at Lafayette, Indiana

Attendance:  3,500

Car:  A car that Atha owned himself

Finish:  Atha’s car ran well in time trials but then experienced engine trouble and he failed to finish in the money in any of the races.

25-mile feature race winner:  Claude Fix of Clinton, Indiana

 

June 10, 1923 – 1-mile dirt oval – Roby Speedway at Hammond, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha won a 10-mile race in a new track record time of 10:10.

  Atha attempted to take a turn at full speed in the next race.  His car left the racetrack, crashed through a fence and turned over on its top.  Atha was hospitalized with a broken right arm and he was unable to start in the 25-mile feature race.

25-mile feature race winner:  Esthan Wenneston of Chicago, Illinois in a Nelson Brothers Ford

 

 

Doyt Atha in the yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by, and owned by, Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Richard Salamon collection

 

July 4, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha suffered engine trouble during time trials and was unable to compete in any of the races run on this afternoon.

40-mile feature race winner:  Dewey Woodling of Logansport, Indiana in a Chevrolet special

 

1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Crown Point Speedway at Crown Point, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha ran the fastest lap in time trials of 29.8 seconds but no other results of these races have been located to date.

 

September 3, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Attendance:  5,000

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st three finishers which are the only results of these races that have been located to date.

40-mile feature race winner:  Russell Woodling of Logansport, Indiana in a Chevrolet special

 

September 9, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Fairbury Fairgrounds at Fairbury, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special owned by M. D. Hanson of Fairbury, Illinois.

Finish:  Won the 20-mile feature race and $400 from the purse.  2nd place in this race went to C. A. Baker of Charleston, Illinois in a Miller special.

20-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha of Lafayette, Indiana in a Chevrolet special owned by M. D. Hanson of Fairbury, Illinois

 

September 29, 1923 – 1-mile dirt oval – Kewanee Fairgrounds at Kewanee, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Won the 11-car, 50-mile race over F. J. Schenek of Keokuk, Iowa in a Chevrolet

50-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha of Lafayette, Indiana in a Chevrolet special

 

 

This photo was taken in the pits at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana on a practice day in May before the running of the 1927 Indianapolis “500”.  The driver is eventual winner that year, George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana and the car is “Hollywood Bill” White’s Duesenberg.  The men standing beside the car have been identified as, left to right: Phil “Red” Shafer of Des Moines, Iowa; car owner “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California; Jud Appleback who was a mechanic in the garage next door to this car in Gasoline Alley and designated relief driver, Doyt Atha of Lafayette, Indiana.  The two men standing at right have yet to be identified.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo as per Jerry Gebby

 

October 7, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Attendance:  1,500

Total Entries:  13

Finish:  Atha entered these races but his car encountered mechanical trouble during time trials and he did not compete.

30-mile feature race winner:  Glenn C. Hartley of Roanoke, Indiana in a Fronty Ford #4

 

October 13, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds at Lafayette, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

October 21, 1923 – 1-mile dirt oval – Hawthorne Horse Track in Cicero, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha did not place in any of these races.

20-mile feature race winner:  Ray Burr Lampkin of Kansas City, Missouri

 

October 28, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Attendance:  1,500

Total Entries:  13

Finish:  Atha entered these races but his car encountered mechanical trouble during time trials and he did not compete.

30-mile feature race winner:  Glenn C. Hartley of Roanoke, Indiana in a Hartley Brothers Fronty Ford #4

 

November 25, 1923 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Attendance:  1,500

Total Entries:  11

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st three finishers which are the only results of these races that have been located to date.

100-mile feature race winner:  Ted Hartley of Roanoke, Indiana in a Hartley special

Car:  Chevrolet special

 

 

This is believed to have been Doyt Atha at a race at the Lexington Motor Speedway at Lexington, Illinois.  The car would have been the Dodge special #701 owned by Orval D. Zook of Springfield, Illinois.  Note Atha’s foot sticking through the floorboard of the car.

Jeff Adams collection

 

May 18, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds at Lafayette, Indiana – Sanctioned by the Indiana Speedway Association (I.S.A.)

Car:  Chevrolet special owned by Ernest “Skip” Wilson of Lafayette, Indiana

Total Entries:  16

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear in the published results of these races.

50-mile feature race winner:  Roland Clay of South Bend, Indiana in car #4

 

June 8, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Danville Fairgrounds at Danville, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special owned by Ernest “Skip” Wilson of Lafayette, Indiana

Finish:  Atha won the 5-mile race in 5:42.0.

5-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana

 

June 19, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – El Paso Fairgrounds at El Paso, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special owned by Ernest “Skip” Wilson of Lafayette, Indiana

Attendance: “huge crowd”

Total Entries:  30

Finish:  Atha won the 1st heat race in 10:30.5.

  Atha won the 20-mile feature race

20-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana

 

July 4, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Jasper County Fairgrounds at Rensselaer, Indiana – Sanctioned by the Lafayette Racing Association (L.R.A.)

Attendance:  2,000

Car:  Chevrolet special owned by Ernest “Skip” Wilson of Lafayette, Indiana

Finish:  Atha won the 1st 10-mile heat race in 10:30.5 over his brother, Richard “Dick” Atha of Lafayette, Indiana who was driving a Chevrolet special owned by Albert Torrenga also from Lafayette.

              Atha won the 2nd 10-mile heat race over Paul Stemm of Lafayette, Indiana in his own Essex-Stemm special.

              Atha won the 3rd 10-mile heat race over Paul Stemm of Lafayette, Indiana in his own Essex-Stemm special.

 

Doyt Atta in “Hollywood Bill” White’s Duesenberg #32 at Ascot Speedway at Lincoln Heights, California.  This is the car that George Souders drove to victory in the 1927 Indianapolis “500”.                         Jeff Adams collection

 

30-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana in a Chevrolet special owned by Ernest “Skip” Wilson of Lafayette, Indiana

 

August 10, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Attendance: “large crowd”

Total Entries:  10

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st three finishers of the feature race which are the only results of these races that have been located to date.

50-mile feature race winner:  Charles “Dutch” Bauman of Indianapolis, Indiana in a Fronty Ford

 

September 1, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Hoosier Motor Speedway at Indianapolis, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st five finishers of the feature race which are the only results of these races that have been located to date.

100-mile feature race winner:  Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson of Chicago, Illinois in a #1 owned by Sam A. Bernbach

 

September 6, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Fairbury Fairgrounds at Fairbury, Illinois

Attendance: 8,000

Total Entries:  22

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st two finishers in any of the heat races, or among the 1st five finishers in the feature race.

25-mile feature race winner:  Leslie ”Bugs” Allen of Chicago, Illinois in a Fronty Ford #17

 

September 7, 1924 – ½ mile dirt oval – Spencer Park at Logansport, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st five finishers of the feature race which are the only results of these races that have been located to date.

18-mile feature race winner:  George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana in the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #400 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick.   [Note:  This race was 4 laps short of its 20-mile scheduled distance due to an accident in which Ray Butcher of Indianapolis, Indiana was fatally injured.]

 

May 17, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Lake Manitou Fairgrounds at Rochester, Indiana – Sanctioned by the Inter-State Racing Association (I.S.R.A.)

Attendance: 2,000

Total Entries:  14

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha finished 5th in time trials with a lap of 34.3 seconds behind Chance Kinsey, Howdy Wilcox, Wilbur Shaw and Dutch Bauman.

              Atha finished 4th in his heat race behind Howdy Wilcox, Dutch Bauman and Chance Kinsey.

              Atha DNF the 25-mile feature race that was won by Howdy Wilcox.

25-mile feature race winner:  Howard Omar “Howdy” Wilcox of Indianapolis, Indiana in a Fronty Ford

 

June 14, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Lake Manitou Fairgrounds at Rochester, Indiana – Sanctioned by the Inter-State Racing Association (I.S.R.A.)

Car:  Rajo special

Attendance: 2,500

Total Entries:  18

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear among the 1st five finishers of the feature race which are the only results of these races that have been located to date.

20-mile feature race winner:  Howard Omar “Howdy” Wilcox of Indianapolis, Indiana in a Fronty Ford

 

July 4, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Macon County Fairgrounds at Decatur, Illinois – Sanctioned by the Central Illinois Racing Association (C.I.R.A.)

Car:  Yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Attendance: 4,000

Finish:  Before the races began, Atha was replaced in the Hamilton special #24 by Jim Booze of Decatur, Illinois for an undeterred reason.  Booze finished in 4th place in the feature race.

20-mile feature race winner:  Ray “Doc” Roberts of Paris, Illinois in a Noonan Overland special #10.  [Note:  H. M. Lewis of Chicago, built up a big lead in the feature only to have his engine go dead 1½ laps from the finish.]

 

July 19, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Benton Harbor Fairgrounds at Benton Harbor, Michigan

Car:  Chevrolet special

Attendance: 2,500

Total Entries:  13

Finish:  Atha did not finish the 100-mile feature race

100-mile feature race winner:  Howard Omar “Howdy” Wilcox of Indianapolis, Indiana in a Fronty Ford owned by Elmer Roesner

 

August 2, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Charleston Fairgrounds at Charleston, Illinois

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

August 27, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Le Roy Fairgrounds at Le Roy, Illinois – Sanctioned by the Central Illinois Racing Association (C.I.R.A.)

Car:  Yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Total Entries:  12

Finish:  Atha won each of the races that were run. 

Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana in the Hamilton special #24 built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

 

August 30, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Crown Point Speedway at Crown Point, Indiana

Car:  Chevrolet special

Finish:  Atha’s name does not appear in the published results of these races.

20-mile feature race winner:  Howdy Wilcox of Indianapolis, Indiana

 

September 5, 1925 – 1-mile dirt oval – Kewanee Fairgrounds at Kewanee, Illinois

Car:  Yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Total Entries:  21

FinishTore down several sections of fence and taking off quite a bark as he narrowly missed a tree during time trials; breaking a wheel and an axle

  3rd in the 10-mile feature race behind Cliff Woodbury of Chicago, Illinois and Bob Ziene (or Bob Boozen) from Iowa despite being involved in two different accidents near the beginning of the race

10-mile Feature race winner:  Cliff Woodbury of Chicago, Illinois

 

September 7, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Champaign County Fairgrounds at Urbana, Illinois

Car:  Yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Finish:  Results of these races have yet to be located.

 

September 19, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Macon County Fairgrounds at Decatur, Illinois – Sanctioned by the Central Illinois Racing Association (C.I.R.A.)

Car:  Yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Attendance: 5,000

Total Entries:  16 of which 10 participated in time trials

Finish:   Atha ran the 3rd fastest lap in time trials of 34.4 which was only slower than the 33.0 laps run Harvey M. “Blondy” Rickgauer of Towanda, Illinois in a Fronty Ford #666 owned by Harry Quensel and Howdy Wilcox of Indianapolis, Indiana in the R & V special #16.  Atha’s car suffered a broken fuel line which caused it to catch fire twice during these time trials.  “With the flames blazing in his face, Atha leaped from the car, while it was going 40 m.p.h. down the home stretch, and it crashed into the fence, knocking a section down but not damaging the car,” except for part of the paint being burned from it.

               Atha was leading when he dropped out of the 1st 10-lap heat race “when the foot throttle dropped.”  Harvey M. “Blondy” Rickgauer of Towanda, Illinois in a Fronty Ford #666, owned by Harry Quensel of Towanda, Illinois, won this heat race.

                    Atha won the 2nd 10-lap heat race in 6:06.0 over Ralph Parker of Danville, Illinois in a Gallivan Ford special #8.

    Atha won the 7-car, 20-mile feature race over Harvey M. “Blondy” Rickgauer of Towanda, Illinois in a Fronty Ford #666 owned by Harry Quensel, also of Towanda.  Rickgauer finished 1¾ laps behind Atha.  Atha took the lead at the start and ran the race in 22:12.4 which was a new track record for that distance.

20-mile feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana in the Hamilton special #24 built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

 

September 20, 1925 – ½ mile dirt oval – Loda Motor Speedway at Loda, Illinois

Car:  Yellow Hamilton special #24 that was built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

Finish:  Won the 20-mile feature race in 21:44.0 over Billy McCoy of Linton, Indiana

20-mile feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana in the Hamilton special #24 built by and owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

 

Atha had been driving mostly Chevrolet specials in races in the Midwest as early as 1922, but late in 1925, he quit his job with the Motor Finance Corporation in Lafayette, Indiana and he, along with another driver from Lafayette named George Souders, moved to Austin, Texas where they jointed the two-car Roberts & Warrick racing team to campaign Chevrolet powered racing cars in contests sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.) in the southwestern United States.  Their goals were to do well enough in those races to make a living racing cars and to be noticed by car owners who competed in the Indianapolis “500” auto race in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

 

December 25, 1925 – 1-mile dirt oval – Douglas Fairgrounds at Douglas, Arizona – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Car:  Blue Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #401 and teammate with George Souders of Ft. Worth, Texas who was driving the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #400 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick

Total Entries:  9

Finish:  Atha finished 6th in the 9-car, 50-mile feature race behind Jimmy Randolph of Douglas, Arizona; Johnny Lee of San Angelo, Texas; Slim Harper of Longmont, Colorado; Harry Milburn of Ft. Worth, Texas and George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana.

50-mile feature race winner:  Jimmy Randolph of Douglas, Arizona who was driving his own Fronty Ford known as the “Douglas special”

 

January 1, 1926 – 1 mile dirt oval – All American Speedway at Albuquerque, New Mexico

Car:  Blue Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #401 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick, and teammate with George Souders of Ft. Worth, Texas who was driving the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #400 also co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick

Attendance: “thousands”

Total Entries:  12

Finish:  Atha ran the fastest time in time trials, running one lap in 52.5 followed by Bill Agnew of Winslow, Arizona in a Sellsberg special #9 with a lap of 56.0.

   It began snowing right after time trials but a good crowd of spectators had turned out in the cold weather to watch the races so promoter Roscoe Bangs offered $100 for the winner of a 10-lap feature race if the participants would run in it.  10 volunteered to race.  Atha led the last four laps and won the race in 11:48.0, although the snow was making the racetrack very slick by the end of the race.  Harry Milburn of Ft. Worth, Texas finished in 2nd place in his own Duesenberg #10.  The remainder of the racing program was postponed until January 3, 1926.

10-lap feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana in the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #401

 

January 3, 1926 – 1 mile dirt oval – All American Speedway at Albuquerque, New Mexico – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Car:  Blue Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #401 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick, and teammate with George Souders of Ft. Worth, Texas who was driving the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #400 also co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick

Total Entries:  17

Finish:  Atha was credited with 6th place after he dropped out of the 11-car, 50-lap feature race which was won by George Souders of Ft. Worth, Texas who was driving the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #400.

50-lap feature race winner:  George Souders of Ft. Worth, Texas who was driving the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #400 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick

 

February 21, 1926 – 2-mile dirt oval – San Antonio Speedway at San Antonio, Texas – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Car:  Fronty Ford

Total Entries:  35

Finish:  Atha ran the 9th quickest lap in time trials with a time of 1:33.0 which was slower than the lap times turned in by Jimmie Lawrence in his own Fronty Ford #24, Harry Milburn in his own Duesenberg #16, Bill. Tennell in his own Fronty Ford #17, Eddie Byer in a Fortner special Chevrolet #17 owned by H. S. Fortner, Harry Norris in his own Dodge special #9, E. A. Moore in the Kirby Brothers’ special #10, Pat Hog (or Hoch) in a Fronty Ford and Oscar Coleman of Dallas, Texas in a Fronty Ford #77.

6-lap feature race winner:  Pat Hog (Hoch) in a Fronty Ford #44

 

February 22, 1926 – 2-mile dirt oval – San Antonio Speedway at San Antonio, Texas – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Car:  Fronty Ford

Total Entries:  35

Finish:  Atha ran the 16th quickest lap in time trials with a time of 1::55.0 which was slower than the times turned in by Jimmie Lawrence in his own Fronty Ford #24, Harry Milburn in his own Duesenberg #16, Bill Terrell in his own Fronty Ford #17, Eddie Byer in a Fortner special Chevrolet #17 owned by H. S. Fortner, Harry Norris in his own Dodge special #9, E. A. Moore in the Kirby Brothers’ special #10, Pat Hog (or Hoch) in a Fronty Ford #44, Oscar Coleman of Dallas, Texas in his own Fronty Ford #77. Charley Calthorp in his own Dodge special #26, Grayson Lubbock in the Passur special Dodge #14 owned by Sam Passur, Jimmie Draper in a Multileft Winfield #66, Barney Oman in a Chalmers owned by Reese Green, Eddie Neva in a Ford special, Lee Bammell in his own Fronty Ford and Allen Tillolson in his own Chevrolet special #5.

60-mile feature race winner:  Harry Milburn of Ft. Worth, Texas in his own Duesenberg #16

 

In the spring of 1926, Atha and George Souders returned home to Lafayette, Indiana where Atha got his job back with the Motor Finance Corporation in Lafayette.

 

June 6, 1926 – ½ mile dirt oval – Edgar County Fairgrounds at Paris, Illinois

Car:  #666 owned by Paul A. Humphries and Harry Quensel, both of Towanda, Illinois

Finish:  Officials disqualified Atha after the 15th lap of the 25-mile feature race, for cutting the corners too close.  Many fans and even several of his competitors argued that Atha had a right to drive wherever he wanted to and, if any of the other drivers wanted to pass him, they were free to do so on his right, but the disqualification stood.

 

June 20, 1926 – ½ mile dirt oval – Danville Fairgrounds at Danville, Illinois

Car:  #666 owned by Paul A. Humphries and Harry Quensel, both of Towanda, Illinois

Finish:  Atha won the 5-mile race in 5:42.0.

5-mile Feature race winner:  Doyt Atha, Sr. of Lafayette, Indiana

 

July 5, 1926 – ½ mile dirt oval – Jungle Park north of Rockville, Indiana – Sanctioned by the Tri-State Racing Association (T.S.R.A.)

Car:  #666 owned by Paul A. Humphries and Harry Quensel, both of Towanda, Illinois

Attendance: 5,500

Finish:  Atha did not place in the 1st three finishers in the 25-mile feature.

25-mile feature race winner:  Fred Roberts of Westville, Illinois in the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #500 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick

 

August 8, 1926 – ½ mile dirt oval – Lexington Motor Speedway at Lexington, Illinois – Sanctioned by the Tri-State Racing Association (T.S.R.A.)

Car:  #666 owned by Paul A. Humphries and Harry Quensel, both of Towanda, Illinois

Attendance: 3,000

Total Entries:  19

Finish:  Atha won the 1st 5-mile heat race over Jerome Henderson.

              Atha did not place in the 1st three finishers in the 25-mile feature.

5-mile feature race winner:  Fred Roberts of Westville, Illinois in the Roberts & Warrick special Chevrolet #500 co-owned by Fred Roberts and Earl Warrick

 

August 21, 1926 – 1-mile dirt oval – Illinois State Fairgrounds at Springfield, Illinois

Finish:  Atha dropped out of the 5-mile Franklin Cup race with a blown engine.  That race was won by Charles “Dutch” Bauman of Indianapolis, Indiana in a Chevrolet Frontenac owned by the Chevrolet Brothers of Indianapolis, Indiana.

35-mile feature race winner:  Louis F. “Lou” Schneider of Indianapolis, Indiana in a Fronty Ford #13 owned by Mike Boyle.

 

August 22, 1926 – ½ mile dirt oval – Loda Motor Speedway at Loda, Illinois – Sanctioned by the Tri-State Racing Association (T.S.R.A.)

Car:  #10

Finish:  Atha dropped out of the 20-mile feature race.

20-mile feature race winner:  Ralph Eckstrom of Chicago, Illinois in his own #46 (or maybe #66).

 

August 28, 1926 – 1-mile dirt oval – Illinois State Fairgrounds at Springfield, Illinois

Car:  Gallivan Ford special owned by Dr. Paul Humphrey M. D. of Towanda, Illinois

Finish:  One report said that Atha’s car threw a wheel on the 18th lap, crashed and he was seriously injured.  A more widely published report said that Atha was running in 2nd place when a steering knuckle broke and his car plunged through the inside fence, tore down 12 posts and flipped end-for-end.  That report also states that a 5” splinter from the fence, pierced Atha’s side narrowly missing a lung.  Whichever is true, he was rushed to St. John’s hospital in Springfield and then transferred to the Brookaw hospital in Bloomington, Illinois that night at the request of his car owner.

35-mile feature race winner:  Howard Omar “Howdy” Wilcox of Indianapolis, Indiana in the “E.A.R.” special

 

                When Doyt Atha and Steve Hannagan were small, they were playmates and lived next door to each other in Lafayette, Indiana.  Although Hannagan grew up and moved away, he would return to Lafayette on occasion to visit his parents.  When he did, Atha would wheel him around town some in his taxi cab.  Hannagan noticed that Atha had such good car control that he could scratch the paint of other cars without actually running into the cars themselves, or causing any real damage.  Hannagan remembered whispering in his beard at the time, “Aw ha.  He(re) is a young race driver in the making!”  It was only a few short years later that Atha appeared at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway listed as a relief driver for the Duesenberg racing team owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California.  Hannagan was there too, only he was the Speedway’s publicity director.

 

May 30, 1927 – 2½ mile brick oval – Indianapolis Motor Speedway at Indianapolis, Indiana – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Car:  Duesenberg #32 owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Anta, California

Total Entries:  41 of which 38 participated in time trials and 33 started in the race.

Finish:  “Hollywood “Bill White was a veteran car owner at the Indianapolis “500” auto races and he is reported to have said that he had wanted George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana to drive one of his race cars from the first time that he saw him race.  White even stated that he wanted Souders to drive one of his cars so badly that he would even be willing to mortgage his mother’s house in order to have a good car built for him (which he did).  When it was announced that Souders would be the driver of White’s new Duesenberg, it was also announced that Doyt Atha would be Souders’ relief driver, if Souder needed a relief driver.  Atha was even given a few laps to get used to the car before the race.

As a rooky driver in the Indianapolis “500”, Souders started the race from the 22nd position but led the race for the last 51 laps to win easily by an eight-lap margin.  After the race, polesitter and defending race champion, but early race dropout this year, Frank Lockhart from southern California, announced to the press that, if Sounders had needed a relief driver, the nod would have gone to him.  Sounders then made an announcement of his own saying that he had not needed a relief driver during the race but, if he had needed relief, no one had ever been under consideration for the job except his good friend, Doyt Atha.  Atha then joined Souders for all of the victory celebrations that Souders attended that day and over the next few weeks.

                500-mile race winner:  George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana in the Duesenberg #32 owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California

 

July 4, 1927 – ½ mile dirt oval – Macon County Fairgrounds at Decatur, Illinois

Attendance:  5,000

Car:  Dodge special #701 owned by Orval D. Zook of Springfield, Illinois.  This was a team car to the #702 driven on this afternoon by Paul Kempel of Belvidere, Illinois.  [Note:  Atha’s car owner, Orval D. Zook of Springfield, Illinois was burned above the knee by boiling water coming from a car’s radiator in the pits.  Later that same afternoon, Zook was leading the 20-mile feature race in the #666 Quensel special owed by Harry Quensel, when his right foot slipped between the crank case and the ground, badly bruising his foot and spraining his ankle.  The incident caused the car to crash through the inside fence on the racetrack but that caused little damage.]

Finish:  Atha’s car misfired and he dropped out of the 1st 3-mile heat race won by Bob Slater of St. Louis, Missouri in the Hamilton special #24 owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.

  Atha crashed with Jimmy Allison of Decatur in car #C13 and then spun around 3 times on the racetrack during the 2nd 3-mile heat race.  Atha was only shaken and bruised in the accident.  Allison received a laceration of his left arm.  This heat race was won by Howard Fraser of Rantoul, Illinois.

20-mile feature race winner:  Bob Slater of St. Louis, Missouri in the Hamilton special #24 owned by Charles T. Hamilton of Decatur, Illinois.  The car was powered by a 4-cylinder Saxon Duplex engine.

 

 

Doyt Atha joined as part owner of the “Lafayette Racing Team” in the spring of 1937 and the group entered this Duesenberg #56 in the 1937 Indianapolis “500”.  The night before time trials, the racetrack’s safety committee ruled that the car was unsafe and would not be allowed to participate in time trials.  The man behind the wheel in this photo of the car has yet to be identified.

May 25, 1978 issue of the Journal and Courier, Lafayette, Indiana

 

November 27, 1927 – ⅝ mile high banked, oiled dirt oval – Ascot Speedway at Lincoln Heights, California – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Attendance:  15,000

Car:  Duesenberg #32 owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California.  Atha and George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana were teammates in these races.

Finish:  A connecting rod broke on the Duesenberg during warmup laps ending Atha’s day early.

Feature race winner:  George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana.  The car was owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California

 

December 16, 1927 – ⅝ mile high banked, oiled dirt oval – Ascot Speedway at Lincoln Heights, California

Car:  Duesenberg #32 owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California.

Finish:  Atha ran a few practice laps on this day but he did not participate in any races.

 

December 18, 1927 – ⅝ mile high banked, oiled dirt oval – Ascot Speedway at Lincoln Heights, California – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Attendance:  10,000

Car:  Duesenberg #32 owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California.  Atha and George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana were teammates in these races.

Finish:  Atha finished 4th in the 50-lap feature race behind George Stewart a.k.a. Leon Duray of San Bernardino, California; Fred Frame of San Luis Obispo, California in a Miller and Ralph DePalma.

50-Lap Feature race winner:  George Stewart a.k.a. Leon Duray of San Bernardino, California

 

January 15, 1928 – ⅝ mile high banked, oiled dirt oval – Ascot Speedway at Lincoln Heights, California – Sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (A.A.A.)

Car:  Duesenberg #32 owned by William S. “Hollywood Bill” White of Santa Ana, California.

Finish:  Atha did not place among the 1st three finishers in the 50-mile feature.

50-Lap Feature race winner:  George Souders of Lafayette, Indiana in a Miller.

 

By 1933, Atha was not only repossessing cars for the Motor Finance Corporation of Lafayette, Indiana but he had expanded to performing the same work for the Associates Investment Company of South Bend, Indiana.

In the spring of 1937, Atha joined with Dick Ebershoff, George Souders and Jack Gallivan to form the “Lafayette Racing Team”.  The group pooled their resources to enter a Model A, 8-cylinder Duesenberg special #56 in the Indianapolis “500”.  They decided to name the car “The Lafayette Special’ and driver Ira Hall, also from Lafayette at the time, agreed to drive the car for the group in the Memorial Day Classic.  Hall was able to get the car up to 124 m.p.h. so things were looking up for the team but, the night before qualifying, word came that the racetracks’ safety committee had ruled that the car was unsafe so it would not be allowed an attempt to qualify for the race and no amount of cajoling would change their mind.

At the conclusion of World War II, Atha moved to his family to Miami, Florida where he became a real estate agent.  He also resided in West Hollywood, Florida; Miami Gardens, Florida and some other southern Florida communities before he passed away in Broward County, Florida in December of 1963.

If you know anything more about LaDoyt Atha, please contact Bob Lawrence at sprintguy @ cox.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you:

Jeff Adams