The Dayton Speedway

The start of a 1950 sprint car heat race sees the cars slide through the first corner and into the second.  Photo copyright 1950 by Ray Peterson, from the Skip Peterson Collection.

The start of a 1950 sprint car heat race sees the cars slide through the first corner and into the second. Photo copyright 1950 by Ray Peterson, from the Skip Peterson Collection.

Dayton, Ohio has long been a hotbed of racing action, though it may not appear so today. Starting back in 1933 with the opening of the Dayton Speedway, a D shaped 5/8 mile track that copied the Ascott Speedway.

It opened with a childrens race in 1933, followed by it’s first official race on Sunday June 3rd. 1934. The winner of that first race was a gentlemen (who would go on to race at Indianapolis three years later, then again ten years after that), by the name of Ken Fowler.

The track operated for three years until it was redesigned in 1936 and on June 4th, more asphalt was added to the track, as well as the turns were modified in an attempt to make it the fastest D shaped track in the country. In 1937 the track was purchased by a gentlemen by the name of Frank Funk, he proceeded to convert the track to a high banked 1/2 mile oval. Twice the banked turns were raised to increase the speeds. The track was also prepped with an unknown substance that caused the track to ‘get as hard as asphalt’, however on hot days, the track became soapy and would cover the crowd and drivers. Rumors are trolley cars were buried to fill up space to help build the banked turns up. Though, that was never been proven and none have been found.

In the late 30’s, covered grandstands were added for the spectators comfort, and remained at the track until they were removed in 1970. Sometime in the early 1940, billboard signage was placed along the backstretch With the beginning of WW2, the track was closed from 1941 to 1945. With the end of hostilities and many of the racers back home, the track was reopened on Friday June 29th, 1946. The first event was the first ‘Big Car’ race held at night on the East Coast, (Ascott was the first in the world).

Early sprint cars exit the fourth turn as they prepare to test Dayton Speedway's high banking. In this photo the track is dirt, not yet paved. Notice the absence of a guardrail. Notice also that the neat wooden fencing appears to have been replaced here, probably more than once, and probably as a result of an errant race car. This photo was taken from the pedestrian bridge that once crossed the track near the fourth corner. Photo from the collection of Gene Ingram

The track was sold again in 1949 to an unknown gentlemen. At that time the infield of the track was a 1/4 mile and the track only had a single white guardrail for protection and wooden announcer stand and wooden scoring stand. In 1950 the track was converted to a single ‘strap’ style guardrail until the 1951-52 season when it was updated to corrugated/extruded, rounded guardrails.

The start of a 1950 sprint car heat race sees the cars slide through the first corner and into the second. Photo copyright 1950 by Ray Peterson, from the Skip Peterson Collection.

In 1953 the first Dayton 500 was held, and was subsequently won by a guy named Iggy Katona. The next year, the band ‘The Drifters’, used the track for a concert in the infield that by 1955 was now a 3/8 mile.

Here’s the start of a sprint car heat race in 1954. Mike Nazaruk is in the #3, Mutt Anderson’s car, on the pole. Don Freeland is in the #4 on the outside. Then comes Gene Force in #74, Eddie Sachs in #25, Pat O’Connor in #1, and Larry Crockett in #31, Charlie Engle’s car. Photo copyright Ray Peterson, from the Skip Peterson Collection

During the 1960’s Harlan Fengler, (chief steward of the Indy 500), removed 6 feet off the top of the banked turns. Track ownership and operations changed hands several times, including three years when Earl Baltes ran the track. The speedway sat closed from 1971 to 1974, though some drivers still used the track for testing as the surface had yet to deteriorate.

Late 1975 came, and so did new ownership, a man by the name of Don Flory, quit his job, sold his house in an attempt to resurrect the track. Along with that came a new covered grandstand, however, once again the track was closed down from 1976-1978.

(All green bordered photos are courtesy Al Wolford, 1974-1975)

Just as before, some still used the track for testing purposes. In 1979 the track was reopened and repaved twice under the oversight of it’s new operator Don Thompson, also came the new name ‘Greater Dayton Speedway’.

(All blue bordered photos are from the Skip Peterson Collection)

Racing continued from 1979 until the end of the 1982 season when the track no longer had liability coverage and was forced to close. However, by that point, much of the track was in disrepair, one night the front of the concession stands in turn one almost collapsed, as well the guardrails were in heavy disrepair.

The photo below shows the state of disrepair towards the end, the grandstand roof was long gone, and a figure 8 track had been built in the infield to help boost dwindling attendance numbers, all the no avail.

(Photo from the collection of Jerry Hall) 

The track sat vacant for several years after the end of racing, ultimately being used as a landfill to the point that debris and trash reached the top of the straightaways.

(Photos below are from the collection of Ralph Bray Jr.)

 

The photo below shows the state of the track in 1986. Pretty sad. Over it’s lifetime, it held events for NASCAR, AAA, MARC, ARCA, ASA and USAC.

(Photo from the collection of Gene Ingram)

 

Ariel views of the track then versus now.

1938

1949

1968

1980

1987

1995

2000

2005

Unknown Year

Today

 

Sources:

http://wthompson4.sports.officelive.com/default.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dayton_Speedway

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