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webby 04-16-2009 04:04 PM

Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
- Written by Bill Peratt

It seems man has been competing against man for about as long as history can tell us. Horses, chariot races, foot races, all in the name of competing to see who can be first, quickest, fastest, farthest, and so on. Among those contests, speed evolved to include anything powered by energy sources, wind, steam, and the good old internal combustion engine.

Almost as soon as the automobile was invented the challenge was on to see who had the fastest of those ”new fangled contraptions”. Early contests included activities on what roads there were at the time, but straight stretches were sought out as well. The sands of Daytona Beach, and the dry lake beds including Bonneville, proved popular for these early speed challenges.

Going in a circle seemed to make more sense to others, as witnessed by horse racing, in that a contestant didn’t have to travel forever to get back to the start point, as was the case in the aforementioned beach and dry lake courses. Horse tracks were already in place, and were used early on. However, recognizing the need for automobile only speed courses, prompted the development of venues designed specifically for them. From the simple oval carved out of the side of a hill, or in the pasture west of town, to the high banked board tracks designed to exact every horsepower out of an engine. And finally, the great paved ovals such as Indianapolis (even though originally brick) to the magnificent super speedways of today.

All across America, small tracks, paved and unpaved, were built in small towns to larger cities alike. Colorado was no different, as race courses of the circular kind began to show up soon after the automobile did. Many of those tracks in the larger communities were associated with an amusement park, usually taking their name from that of the park.
Pictured here it the tower at Lakeside Speedway. This photo is from the Lakeside Amusement History site.

Lakeside Speedway, in Denver, CO, was one of those. That amusement park, built on the east side of West Berkeley Lake, began life as White City Amusement Park, owned and promoted by Adolph Zang, one of Denver’s pioneer brewers. (One of the Zang Brewery buildings still exists, just east of the Valley highway at the 23rd Ave.exit) Located at the northeast outskirts of Denver, at 46th Avenue and Sheridan Blvd., the date was May 30, 1908, and was was called White City because of all the white painted buildings, as well as the thousands of bulbs lighting up both the 150 foot Tower of Jewels (then the tallest building in Denver) as well as other buildings in the Park.

Prospering into the 1920s, the park suffered in the thirties, and by the time the Depression came along, was looking for another owner. Ben Krasner, since 1917 a concessionaire at the park, organized friends and family, and purchased the park in 1933. Under Mr. Krasner’s guidance the park was given new life with a new modern look created by west coast architect Richard Crouther. Re-named Lakeside Park, Mr. Krasner also re-named the Lake, Lake Rhoda, after his daughter.

By 1935, Mr. Krasner had added a baseball diamond to the south of the park. One account says that a trial midget race was held on this ball park site that year. However, by 1938, the track was made official, although still unpaved at this point in time. With midget auto racing sweeping the nation in popularity, the grandstands were enlarged and the track paved. The midgets had also been racing at Merchants Park on south Broadway (another ball park). 1939 was the last year at that track as racing was now at the newly paved fifth mile Lakeside Speedway.

Most of the big names of the day raced at Lakeside at one time or another. A stop in Denver seemed a natural as racers moved back and forth across the country, from the west coast to the Midwest racing hotbeds. Ben was not only known to pay appearance money for those traveling racers, but also to provided financial assistance to local car owners to keep their cars running.

All of auto racing in America was put on hold by the government during World War II, but resumed again at Lakeside Speedway in 1946 with racing continuing there for many years to come.

Another form of racing began across the land in the late forties, stock car racing. By the early fifties, this form of racing was mushrooming in popularity, and Lakeside Speedway was chosen by the CARC (Colorado Automobile Racing Club) to hold their programs there beginning in 1952. Prior to then, the CARC had run roadster races at several venues around the area before settling on then unpaved Englewood Speedway south of the metro area as their track. There, the CARC ran both roadsters and stock cars in 1950, and would race stock cars there again in 1951 before moving to Lakeside Speedway.

Both midget and stock car racing continued at Lakeside, with the RMMRA midgets racing on Saturday evenings, and the CARC stock cars on Sunday evenings. With the growth of stock car racing around the country, the CARC experimented during the mid fifties running two shows a week, a Wednesday program in addition to the regular Sunday program. Some holidays, such as Memorial Day, saw combined RMMRA and CARC programs, touting “500 Laps of Racing”, no doubt taking a cue from the Indianapolis 500 (mile) race.
This is Vern Grams hot lapping the #53 in 1953. Notice the new 3rd rail is not painted silver as are the other two.

Lakeside Speedway is a moderately banked one fifth mile paved oval running north to south. Unlike some narrow hairpin shaped tracks, Lakeside was a wider shapedoval, that along with the banking, allowed for passing on the outside. While not a regular practice, the racing surface was wide enough to accommodate three wide racing for the most daring. (The late great Sam Sauer won a main event doing just that, beginning at the tail end, passing every other competitor three high, one of the most exciting CARC races ever!) Originally a single, then two rail outside guardrail. a third rail was added for the 1953 season. Construction of the guardrail was steel, anchored by heavy wooden posts buried into the ground. This design allowed just enough rail movement to absorb the impact of wayward racecars. A particularly hard hit would occasionally require replacement of one of those posts.

The flagman’s area at the start/finish line was protected by short sections of the same rail and post design. That flagman's barrier would prove it's value (see below) of safety for flagmen many times over the years as shown in this early 60's photo of Tom Pryor, #31, having just been stuffed into the barrier with perhaps some help by the #47. A red/yellow/green lighting system was positioned at the end of each straight to advise drivers of conditions.

A board fence closed in the pit area just outside of the track at the south end. On track entrance from the pits was in turn two, and the track-to-pit exit was at the end of the front straight in turn one. A pit board showing car lineups was stationed between turn one and two, backed up to the guardrail as shown here just behind car owner Roy Edwards, driver Dan Day, and crew of the #73, from 1958.

During the mid fifties, the Sunday evening CARC races were televised on a half hour program. This TV camera is on a platform just inside the track-to-pit exit.
This TV camera is on a platform just inside the track-to-pit exit.

Spectator seating encircled approximately three quarters of the track with the main grandstand on the west side. The announcer’s and race official’s booth was centrally placed high above and to the front of this stand. Seating at the north end in turn four is comprised of the original ball park stands. The ball park announcer’s booth sits above this turn four section. This booth was used by the CARC Powder Puff Club to spin records over the track PA system during breaks in the action. A dog leg shaped grandstand was built around the turn 3 corner.
Announcer’s Booth

The east side bleachers were replaced during the late fifties by a covered grandstand built to match the west stands with seat backs for greater spectator comfort. Open bleachers to the south make up the rest of east side seating. Heavy chain link fencing was in place to protect spectators. Also about that time, open seating stands were constructed at the beginning of turn one on the south west corner, in an area that had previously been used as part of the track pit area. (More on that later) With the majority of the stands right up next to the track, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
This booth was used by the CARC Powder Puff Club to spin records over the track PA system during breaks in the action.

Ticket booths, spectator entrance/exit and concession stands were at the north end between the 3rd and 4th turn stands, and north of the west stands,as well as a concession stand south of the new east stands, and another in the pit area. Additional exits on the east (just below the PEPSI sign) and south of thewest stands were used after the races. A recognizable symbol of this facility was this Lakeside Speedway PEPSI sign that hung between the turn three and the eastside stands.
This Dave Allinger photo made at least one national racing paper in 1968. Tom Pryor Jr. in the #3, with pieces of the fiberglass '32 coupe flying up in the air, makes it over the turn three fence, while Blu Plemmons #4 and Charles Palmer go by. Tom was OK, by the way, he was out of the car before the track crew could get there.

The placement of stands in turn one eventually proved to be the undoing of racing programs at the speedway. The heavy chain link fence protecting these stands were no match for the bigger and heavier race cars that had evolved through the years, and when a car got into the fence, during a CARC program in 1988, scattering debris through the crowd, a spectator life was lost.
This is a newspaper articles about the spectator death and the closing of the track. It's from the Rocky Mountain News, 9-2-88.

Even though racing was halted, the Lakeside Speedway facility continued to be used for several years for special events. In time, however, the stands deteriorated, the pit fence was removed, and trees and weeds have assumed control. Even before racing ended, the roof of one section of the old ball park stands collapsed. It’s still hard to miss though, when driving by on west 44th Ave, large, still sort of white, but decrepit appearing, a sad testament to a greater time. Old timer’s conversation will occasionally turn to discussion about restoring the track. Lots of “what ifs”, “wouldn’t it be nice if”, and the dreaming goes on. A half century of some of America’s best racing, just a memory now, but a really good memory!

- Written by Bill Peratt

Thomas E 04-24-2009 03:18 PM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
Lest we forget . . .

Lakeside Speedway
A Remembrance
by Tom Ellis
For twenty years we have watched Lakeside Speedway, what I have often called the "Flagship" of Colorado racing, slowly fall apart and diminish like a sinking ship on the ocean. Lakeside Speedway a place that is ebbing slowly into the past, much like the "Dust Devils" that swirl and dance around sprightly across the dirt surface of the parking lot, and will flow with a quick disappearance into the future and progress as quickly as they came.

Lakeside Speedway the place of white wash paint, a big Pepsi sign, gray colored grandstand seating, the famous south stands where most of us would look over the side and look for our favorite car or driver maybe to yell message to a friend or member of a pit crew. You would see the Powder Puff girl's selling programs, and hawkers pitching for their popcorn and soda pop sales, and "Beer here!" At the concession stands you get a Sigman’s "Top Dog" Hot Dog, there wasn't a better hot dog anywhere, bar none. Don’t forget the gridlock going out of Lakeside's main parking lot gate to Sheridan Boulevard when the races were over.

Lakeside Speedway where Shirley would play 45's from the top 40 or 50 to keep us entertained before the time trials and between the trophy dashes, heats, hooligan, the semi and main events, rain and red lights. The grandstand lights were turned off during each racing event. About rain, remember drying the track during or after a rain storm, a couple of times they decided to finally call it all off at 9:00 p.m., and "Rain Checks" where honored the next Sunday, great for spectators, a bummer for the next Sunday's gate receipts. In the 50's and 60's the ambulance service was provided by Reed Ambulance, and once in a while by Haley Ambulance Service, they didn't have vans or "Boxes" no they had the real McCoy - Cadillac's.

Of the Lakeside's announcers, I recall Reed Walker the most. Reed called the action for both the RMMRA and CARC, a very affable fellow who before the races would walk through the pit area and get the latest details from the drivers and owners, the CARC officials, then during the race meet Reed would give us fans the latest scope about who, what, when and where. On one of the Saturday night midget programs with the RMMRA, the four fastest midget's turned a four lap trophy dash in 48 seconds, over the loud speaker came Reed’s request, "Run it over again, give us our money's worth."

Lakeside Speedway and it’s participants combined to make for the "Greatest show on wheels"
A remembrance of yesterday, and a thought for today . . .

Soon Lakeside Speedway will go into history too, along with the thinning ranks, whether it be the "Hot Dogs" or "Chrome-Shoes" the "Also Ran" driver's, the owner's, and the ever loyal fan's; it causes us to say, "I'm glad I knew them. I‘m glad I was there, I remember when . . ." The stalwart gladiator's with their steeds of steel, chrome, paint and rubber, put on a race card that was second to none. This home away from home of competition, a fifth mile oval with the north turn banked and a flat south turn, a track that to some was as famed as the "Brick Yard" and Daytona.

At Lakeside we watched big wins, and near misses too; there was the short lived figure-eight racing with that infield "X" of dirt and you would hear the bumpers "click". Our favorite driver might crash and that was it for the night, we would visit the driver in the pits and say, "You'll do it the next time." We have seen the best, the track villain and the crowd favorite and also ran's, each one which provided some real entertainment and good competition . . . When all is said and done, regardless of whatever we thought, Lakeside and all who attended or participated are a part of our past that we will remember.

For today and before all is gone . . .

It has been said that late at night if you are over by Lakeside Speedway, you can hear the ghosts, the bark of the "Flathead", the zing of the "Stove bolt 6", the deep throated rumble of the "Offy", the snarl of the "V8-60", and faintly from the pit PA system hear "Sammy meet Jingles over at the pit board," or Reed Walker say "Ladies and gentlemen, here is the line up for the main event," combined with the echoing of the cheers and boo's and you'll remember who.

To some, Lakeside Speedway has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Others came back week after week, year after year. But which ever the case is, it is always difficult to release each one's grasp on the pulsating emotion that has been Lakeside Speedway.

The icy winter's will come and go, along with the other season's in the year's to come, and the area of 44th and Sheridan Boulevard will be forever changed. May memories of the cheering fans, the roar of the engines, the driver's, owner's and their cars, in the years ahead under a lazy Colorado sky bring us back for a moment to the memory of . . .

Lakeside Speedway

In Memory of

Ben Krasner

A man who went from baseball to auto racing.

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,
he will meet with a success unexpected."

~ Henry David Thoreau ~

rapid30 04-25-2009 03:35 PM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
4 Attachment(s)
I have some great old shots of the Modifieds from the 60's, the #90 is Don Careli from 1967, #19 is Don Wilson in John Pachello's car 1967, 2 shots of the Banner Auto has Harry McCool in 1966 and Fritz Wilson in 1967.

rapid30 04-25-2009 03:37 PM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
1 Attachment(s)
Here is a shot of Wayne Stallsworth in the infamous Chevy II also from Lakeside.

webby 07-17-2009 03:25 PM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
Here is a video that Rick uploaded to my other site (RIP Rick!)

Modifieds at Colorado's Lakeside Speedway 1950's

webby 07-17-2009 03:47 PM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
The midgets at Lakeside from the 1950's. (Rick Wasilko video)

carc7 09-19-2009 01:16 AM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
One little detail item that Bill left out in his awesome description of Lakeside is that the elevation of the track changed from south to north. The north turn (turns 3 & 4) were at a lower level than the south (turns 1 & 2). The banking in the north turn, consequently, was higher than in the south. Cars would pick up great speed going down the backstretch and could enter the north turn with more velocity due to the banking, and because you were traveling downhill. Old timers tell me that setting a car up for Lakeside was quite a compromise - if it worked well in the south, it wouldn't in the north, and vice-versa.
The bottom rows from the original grandstands from the baseball field, at turn 4, were well below the racing surface at the top of the banking. The banking was plowed up after it was changed from the baseball field. Nobody could sit there because all you could see was the back of the railings and a slit of color as a car would blast by. Exceptions were if a car went over the "wall" there, as Frank Denning did once. It was a drop of about 15 feet to the grandstand. Removing a car from that area took a lot of time and work, usually resulting in the car receiving just as much damage from removal as it did from the accident itself.

Personal memories: my Dad took me with my brothers to Lakeside for the first time in 1959. Dad's best friend was Rufus "Boots" Stallings, who sponsored Sam and Elmer Sauer's cars that year. Sam drove #28 and Elmer #5. So becoming a Sam Sauer fan was a natural for me. Sam was the "track villian" for many years and some people didn't appreciate his talent. I guess that was easy to overlook, especially in his earlier, more reckless, years.
But we would arrive just before 6:00 to watch the last hour of hot laps and see who was running well. We would park at the Skagg's Drug parking lot on the extreme east side of Lakeside Shopping Center, and since the west gate wasn't opened yet, walk all the way around the property along 44th and in the alley behind the houses facing Sheridan to the front gate at 46th and Sheridan. We sat on the top row of the west stands just to the north of the start/finish line, so we could greet Boots as he climbed up into the judges' booth. We preferred to sit atop so we could stand up when we wanted without bothering those around us. For me, it also meant I could jump up and down and yell for Sammy to win.
Dad didn't have a lot of money (5 kids will do that for you), so my Mom would make a grocery bag full of popcorn for us to take. Not today's plastic ones, but an old brown paper one. You know, about 20" high. We didn't take anything to drink because then we'd have to use the bathroom, and Dad didn't want us leaving the speedway (the bathrooms were shared with the amusement park), and you had to exit and move to the north of the speedway to use them. The first time I used those restrooms when attending races was when I was in high school. I was 5 when I first went to the races. My BEST memories outside of family were at Lakeside Speedway.
My brothers and I would play races with our AMT '32 Ford coupes that we would build and paint like those with the CARC. We took our set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas and lined the outside of the room with "guard rails": the books standing on the open end. The race event would always conclude with a pit fight, complete with launched wrenches and spare tires!

Terry Von Tilius 09-19-2009 09:00 AM

My memories were taking the whole day and going to Lakeside. (Any one remember the little midget ride in "kiddie land"? I loved that one... Is it still there?)
My Mom would take us to the amusement park, while Dad would go to the track to help out who ever he was "wrenching" for at the time. (He had quit racing long before).
We would get all worn out from our day at the park. Then off to the races that night.
I can still remember how GOOD those Pepsi's tasted. (no differnet than any other Pepsi, but it must have been the atmosphere).
And that smell, when the midgets ran. Oh the Methanol and caster oil. It was just was more prevalent at Lakeside, because you were so close to the track and the overhead roof kept the smell in.
I don't get up to that part of town very often any more. But when I do, I gaze over at the old place and can feel the memories.

Mitch G. 09-20-2009 09:40 AM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
I was there in July of 2008, took my kids to see the park, and ride the rides. The little midget ride is still there in Kiddieland, and still runs! We snuck into the track, it's in terrible shape, and hurts to look at it, my wife wouldn't even look at the old track. It's best not to see the place, just keep the memories.

parrot 09-20-2009 02:11 PM

Re: Lakeside Speedway - Denver Colorado
"Old timers tell me that setting up a car at Lakeside was quite a compromise - if it worked well in the south, it wouldn't work in the north, and vise versa." quote by CARC7.

Paul, thank you for reminding me. That is indeed an important piece of Lakeside history. I'd completely forgotten about what always appeared to be a track that 'tilted' down at the north end. Never did read/hear why? Maybe going 'up hill' toward turn one was the plan; during those early years there were so many cars in attendance that time trials began at 6:30 and each driver got only one lap and had to exit just after crossing the start/finish line as the next car to time was already coming down the back stretch. Suppose going 'up hill' made it a little easier to slow for the pit entrance? A lot of hard braking and was fun to watch, but diffucult to keep track of and write down all the times as there was a never ending cycle of cars on the track getting their lap in.

Speaking of large car counts, thanks to Mitch G. for a copy of a 1955 program. Armed with both early and late season programs I show there were at least 129 cars that year. Mitch's copy had the times of those who timed in that night marked, which totaled 83 cars! So 35 guys only got fifteen laps of glory in their one and only event, the Hooligan race. A friend who raced there during that time recounted how so many cars showed up some Sundays that there were two Hooligans! The lucky few who finished at front of that race got to fill in at the rear of the Semi Main. What a sight that was during those years. First race I saw at Lakeside had 78 cars timed in, all coupes. I was in awe!

Also some good memories about that track and taking your own snacks. (Heck, I still sneak stuff in to the movies!) I remember even being able to buy beer from vendors there, in cans, no less. None of those limp plastic containers at other venues that would sooner or later alow someone in front of you to get a beer bath.

I, like Paul and a lot of others, prefered the top row so we could occasionally stand. Here's a memory, I remember when on that top row of the west stands, looking out to the west and seeing just a large vacant lot, the Shopping center hadn't been built yet.

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