Friday, March 2, 2012

Speedway Park

I just found this interesting link. I was actually looking for Simonson Cycle Co. advertising stuff.

Speedway Park was opened in 1950 by the Heiser family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, near Kirtland AFB. For over 30 years, the track was host to some of the most exciting oval racing that New Mexico has seen or may ever see. Facing the encroachment of residential housing, as well as various other factors, the track was forced to shut down in the early 80s.

FlatTrack Motorcycle racing never really got going as good as it should have here in Albq. There were a lot of really top notch racers who competed every Friday night at Speedway Park for several years, but for whatever reason the sport died out. Flat tracking in the 50's, 60's and early 70's was a lot different than it is today.

Below is an account by Bob Ingram where he recalls some of the motorcycle racing that took place at Speedway Park many years ago

Today the sport is dominated by Harley and a few Honda's but back in the day there were lots of different brands to choose from, such as, BSA, AJS, Maico, Bultaco, Triumph, and Ossa as well as the Harleys, Hondas and Yamahas. These bikes started from a standing start on 2 or 3 rows and did some of the coolest wheelies coming off the line and heading into turn one handlebar to handlebar. These bikes ran without brakes and relied on downshifting and driver skills to slow them down. One of the best sights in racing was to see the sparks flying from the Steel Shoe the riders wore on their left foot. There were usually 3 divisions of bikes, the 100cc's 250cc's and the Open class that allowed bikes of any displacement. Although the Open Class was the most popular with the fans, the 250 class usually had the largest field of bikes and put on some of the most exciting side by side racing anyone could ever hope to see. Though the 250's had less horsepower they also weighed less and often ran speeds very close to the Open class. There was nothing like the sound of the big four stroke bikes in the open class though, they had a very deep sound that made your chest pound.

There were so many good riders at that time that it would take a full length book to talk about all of them, but here are a few of the memories I have from those days. Frank Westerman riding the #7 Harley KR750. It took a few weeks to get this bike figured out but once Frank and the Harley shop got it together Frank was nearly unbeatable. Frank was a pretty interesting guy, he dropped out of high school and served a hitch in the Air Force then returned to Albq. and the racing scene. Unfortunately Frank suffered a badly fractured pelvis in an accident that ended his riding days. Frank eventually got a degree and wound up being a College Professor in Mesa, Arizona. David Spain was another rider with a pretty interesting background. David started working at Bob Harris's Cushman dealership on Central in the late 50's or early 60's, then worked for Bobby J's Yamaha for quite awhile before eventually running the Harley Dealership for a while then moving to Florida and another Harley job. David had many great battles with some other Bobby J employees, namely Stan & Vernie Johnson and Frank Neel. A couple of other guys who always put on a great show were Norm Addy and Wayne Pinkard. These two guys had one of the most unusual riding styles in the country. They made the oval look like a square as they would run deeper into the corners than anyone and throw their bikes nearly sideways at a 90 degree angle to make the turns. It didn't always work to perfection but it sure was fun to watch.

Two riders who probably had the most hotly contested battles at Speedway Park were cousins Stanley and Vernie Johnson. These two guys were probably as good as anyone in the country at the time and got the most bang for the buck out of their Bobby J Yamaha's. Another rider who was nearly unbeatable for a few years was Dan Blacklock. Dan ran the 250 class and won several championships. Today Dan is a very successful businessman here in Albq. Dan owns Basic/Danlin, a company that makes Dental Implants. Dan not only makes these implants but also travels the country and the world training Dentists to install them.

Joe Turney was one of the most interesting racers of all. Joe and his wife Mary owned the BSA dealership on Lomas for many years. Joe was possibly one of the oldest flat trackers in the country as he was still racing and pretty competitive well into his 50's. I also have to say Thanks to Joe and Mary as the few times I was able to race flat track at Speedway was on a BSA from Joe & Mary's shop.

Here are a few more of the great riders who also were very fast at Speedway Park and other tracks. Don Overholser (Triumph), Charlie Kellen (Honda ??), John Pacheco, James Ballog, Mike Collins, Ken Boddy, Jack Rich, Pancho Klaurens and Coy Moss.

The Albuquerque motorcycle community was noticeably moved last year when Vern Johnson (referenced above) passed away in a racing related accident. I never knew him but it's clear he is missed.
Albuquerque Dealer


Flathead45 said...

My mind is fuzzy. I remember going to Speedway park a few times in the late 1970's to see midget cars race. Did you go too? Was it friends of yours that initiated that?

Seems like I remember a pretty serious accident that hurt spectators at Speedway Park that kind of intiated the final end...

BitMonkey said...

I think the chief instigator was Chris Kahler. I feel a huge debit of gratitude every time I think about all the things Mary took us along to on dates. Not ever boyfriend would think that was cool. Pretty cool sister.

Speedway limped along for years but ultimately I do believe it was residential encroachment and noise complaints that killed it.

Anonymous said...

Just found this blog, thanks for the comments and photos. I lived on Sandia Base near the end closed to speedway (and the Eubank drags). I spent a lot of time in there. Kids could get in cheaply and we'd con some adult to let us be their "kid" and get in for 50c. Barring that it was not too hard to sneak in anyway. I was there when the promoter (I can't recall his name) took the infield and blasted his trumpet towards the trailer court that was encroaching in an effort to make as much noise as possible towards the crew that shut down the track.

I loved that place.

BitMonkey said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Great stuff!