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Race Tracks Everyone has their favorite race track(s) growing up as a kid. In this forum you can discuss your favorite old race track. Make sure to title your new thread with the name of the race track.

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Old 06-25-2009, 11:37 PM   #1
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Default Devils Motor Club

Sidney, Nebraska

This story is for those who enjoyed early model coupe/sedan stock car racing, wherever there was racing. Motor sports in general was booming during the post WW II days of the late forties and early fifties. Midget racing at the height of its popularity was curtailed, along with other forms of motor racing, at the start of WW II. They resumed after the war as popular as ever, dry lakes racing resumed again, and track roadster racing evolved from more or less “stock” car events to a refined form of open wheel racing machine. Both the midgets, (and track roadsters), while still popular with the fans, evolved to a level that was just not within reach of the average guy wanting to go racing. That desire to go racing, but at an affordable level, contributed to the development of stock automobile racing all across America. During the late forties and by the early fifties racing promoters, tracks and competitors were springing up in towns both large and small. Initially, this form of racing began at most venues as sort of a novelty, fad of the times, something that just about anyone could afford to get into, with brightly painted cars, slogans and the like lettered on them, it was just a fun time for enthusiast and fan alike.

While living in eastern Nebraska I had been introduced to racing as a young lad, where a quick bike ride and four bits would get you into the fairgrounds grandstand to witness first track roadsters, then something new called ‘stock car racing’. I first heard about all the racing going on in Sidney, in the western panhandle, from dad, who had been transferred there in 1951. After hearing his stories, I couldn’t wait for our move there in time for the ’52 season. Some years later I had the good fortune to stumble across and then acquire the bulk of the track photographer’s negatives, over 260 in all. Weeding them down to a representative group without leaving out something interesting was a challenge. As you’ll note in the photo descriptions, there was no aversion to the color green in this Club and sedans were as popular as coupes. Here then are some of those from that collection:

The club logo was a devil’s face with a stock car in its mouth, against crossed checkered flags in the background
I don’t know if this logo was ‘official’, but I saw it painted on the deck lid of one of the cars. I’ve re-created it here to the best of my memory. Club members were mostly from the south west panhandle area of Nebraska plus northeastern Colorado.

Auto Polo was a short lived auto hobby event that began about the time stock car racing did. This photo is from the W.A.R.C. Yearbook
Sidney, Nebraska was no exception, first trying out this new fad of Auto Polo then forming the Devils Motor Club, to race stock cars. The Cheyenne County fairgrounds , which was said to have once hosted midget racing some years before, was reconfigured from a flat half mile horse track to a one third mile banked clay oval, and stock car racing in that community began in earnest in 1951. Guys with colorful names like Bud, Curley, Whitey, Spike and Red, driving brightly painted cars raced well into the Fall that first season to a packed grandstand. The last race of that inaugural season was Oct. 14th. Dad reported that even the snow had to be cleared from the track one Sunday.

One of my favorite photos is this one from the back stretch facing the grandstands. Time trials at 1:00, first race at 2:00, but first the national anthem and raising of the flag
The track ran from west to east with the front stretch grandstand on the south. Special spectator parking was available adjacent to the back straight separated by posts and cables for those who preferred to watch the races from their own auto. The main grandstands were also protected by the same arrangement along with heavy planking that would prove it’s worth every now and again as wayward racers would careen into those cables.
A high board fence partially encircled the track both west of the grandstand and to the east following turns one and two around to the auto parking area. In addition to the north side auto parking, turns three and four on the west end remained open. There, those cars that arrived by flatbed truck or trailer could be unloaded and driven into the infield where the pits were set up. Cars generally pitted according to number, west to east, from #00 through #100.
The Sunday afternoon program consisted of time trials, a four car trophy dash, 3 heats, consolation race and/or a semi main and main event. There was also a “special event” that sometimes including a backwards race, mechanics race, or powder puff race, and the popular Australian Pursuit, where entrants start single file and are eliminated when passed, up to a set lap number. Cars ranged from a lone ’32 coupe up to early forties models. As at most tracks during this era, Fords were the most popular make, but Club cars also included a Studebaker, Oldsmobile, Hudson, Nash, and a few Plymouths.

Gene Cole drove this ’37 Plymouth for car owner and Club official Ed Bauman from late ’51 through most of the ’52 season
Ed Bauman was a Plymouth guy and this is the second of the three that he built. After the first one was totaled in late ‘51, Ed built “JEZEBEL”, this yellow and white with a green # 33 that lasted through most of 1952. Gene usually timed in the top five, and often made the dash. Note the “crash” helmet. A lot of old football helmets got a second life in this form of auto racing. On the deck lid was lettered “Powered by HADACOL”. Wonder what ever happed to that stuff! The #29 in the background was also a Plymouth.

Dean Neeman drove this dark green and yellow #25 during the ’51 season. It was re-painted a flashy white and light blue for 1952
The #25 was the only ’34 Tudor in the Club. I discovered this car, after school one day, under a tarp just a block from where we lived. I had fun searching alleys, service stations and the like, and ran across quite a few. Note the exhausts poking out the back. Apparently a club safety rule required that all exhausts exit through the back above the bumper. Many of the flathead Fords ran individual pipes from all six of the exhaust ports for a very unique (read, ‘cool’) sound. Several years later, one of my high school buddies acquired this car and ran it as #7. I like to kid him about having the record for taking out the most fence when he rolled through it coming off turn four one Sunday. I had heard that this car may still exist.

The #29 Plymouth sedan gets on his lid during some 1951 action. Notice all the sedans that were raced. Again painted green, this one two toned with cream
Just a block from the high school I spotted this car in a vacant lot with the top caved in. this must be the wreck that did it. Hard to see in this photo, but the exhaust on #15 was unique in that all six pipes were stacked on the left side. The #65 in the center of this photo is memorable to me in that it was the first stock car I spotted right after moving to Sidney. Dad was showing us the neighborhood where we would later move and I spotted this ’35 Ford Fordor parked in a driveway. I convinced him to pull over so I could hop out and get a closer look. Cream and black, and a roll cage built like Fort Knox! Apparently they took safety seriously. The next day there was a big blizzard curtailing any further searches. Once the weather was nice again, I went up and down main street after school one day and spotted four more. It was not uncommon to see stock cars parked next to service stations, auto garages and the like during this era. Couldn’t wait for the season to start!

Every track seemed to have a #8-Ball. Howard Hurst drove this black and white “DAUBERS SPECIAL”, A ’36 Tudor. It was popular for cars to be given ‘names’!

“TALULLAH” was the name Don Lafler gave to his maroon, white and yellow ’37 coupe for 1951. Bud Green took over for 1952

Wrecked cars were towed off to one end of the infield pits to wait out the rest of the afternoon
There were more 1935-36 Fords in the Club than any other model during the ’51-’52 seasons. The #67 coupe was built and sponsored by the local Pontiac dealer (Horn Motors) and was painted the, new for ’52, Pontiac colors of Seamist green and Placid green, the only colors offered for the hard top convertible that year.

Spike Dwinell was owner and driver of this ’35 Fordor. Green and white in ’51, but shown here in Coca Cola yellow and black for the ’52 season
Spike’s sedan was another one of those cars I spotted down the alley, just a few blocks from home. This was a community that, thanks to the oil boom of the early fifties, had a population that had only recently grown to around six thousand, and with the high interest in racing these first few years there were stock cars seemingly everywhere. Give or take a few, there were around forty cars in the Club each of the first two years.

Bob Lafler’s red and white #77 was painted as a team car to brother Chuck’s green and white #7. (See under, The ’34 Ford Story) They would occasionally cross the state line south to Sterling, Colorado to race

This red and white #99 was one of three cars that came up from Haxtun, Colo. each Sunday, arriving in the back of a grain truck and a flatbed semi. They unloaded on a dock west of the track

Mo Gordon stands his #12 on it’s nose. When a car went over, the tall front bumper would dig into the clay, standing the car straight up. The good news is that the radiators usually survived. Mo ran a wrecking yard and would also provide his GMC tow truck for track use. Looks like he’s going to need it!

Curly Doggett, future Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Famer, accepting another dash trophy in 1952

This purple #5 was usually the car to beat, although Curly managed to tear up his share of cars. This was his second car for the ’52 season, but wouldn’t be his last. He rolled this one into the center front of the grandstand injuring his shoulder. Two weeks later Curly came out with another new car, his arm in a sling, driving one handed. I’m not aware if the Club had a points system, but if there was, Curly would probably have been the season champ. Note the Chrysler Town & Country Convertible in the background, sometimes used as a trophy car. The ‘47 Chevy sedan delivery with the roof mounted speakers was the “PA system.”

This nice looking ’35 Ford, #71, was sponsored by the John Deere dealer and painted, what else, John Deere green and yellow. Results of a hard roll over is evident
Sidney is a rural agricultural town and , as such, several of the cars were sponsored by farm implement companies. The boys with the #71 may have decided that after nearly two years of ‘green’, maybe their luck would change if they used a different color. They replaced this one with another 3 window, but painted gray and red.

1952. Purl Copley drove this clean yellow and maroon ’40 coupe. Hood sides were opened up to improve air flow. It wouldn’t stay this nice looking
The #3 could usually be seen during the week parked at sponsor, Sid’s Service, on the corner of 12th and Illinois. Similar to that all across the country during these early stock car years, most Service stations in this community were car sponsors.

Purl Copley in the #3 on his way over. Before this 1952 season was over, every car had been on it’s side or worse. A few guys went through more than one car during the season. #50 is a Hudson

’51 Studebaker convertible pace car leads field of 16 cars into turn three for the start of the main event during 1952. Whitey Hrbeck is on the pole in #19. Spectators who chose to watch the races from their cars, parked along the back stretch behind a protective (?) cable
1953 saw new, but fewer cars overall with ’32-’34 models now dominating. There was a split between two groups, those who wanted to allow some engine mods and those who didn’t . The latter group decided to race at Kruger’s Lake, a track hurriedly built several miles east of town on the Krueger farm. Neither group could field enough cars to put on a good show, so a compromise was made whereby both groups would combine and alternate between tracks, but with only moderate success.
Racing continued sporadically for a few more years, but the novelty had worn off. Car counts were supplemented by racers from North Platte and Scottsbluff, Nebr., Cheyenne, Wyo, and northeast Colorado groups, but by the mid to late fifties, racing at the Cheyenne County fairgrounds was just another memory.
Most Sidney racers went back to doing what they were doing before stock car racing came along. A few raced here and there at other tracks. Curly Doggett would go on to race sprint cars with the BCRA (Big Car Racing Assoc.) in and around Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.
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Old 06-26-2009, 06:22 AM   #2
Olen McGuire
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Great job Bill,We've been waiting on this post for awhile.Now that you have it down,I hope we see a lot more of this.~Olen
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Old 06-26-2009, 07:21 AM   #3
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Now that's a great post, excellent photo's and history, a fun read for sure!
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Old 06-26-2009, 09:07 AM   #4
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Thanks Olen and Mitch, this was a fun story to do since it happened where I was growing up. You should have seen all the toys that I destroyed as a kid during those years, making them into 'stock cars' emulating the real ones. A great time to be growing up for sure. BP
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:28 PM   #5
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What a very complete and interesting "article". Wow, I have done a couple of items for magazines, but you, sir, REALLY have the program! Thanks from an old timer who got to relive his childhood...great job! Thanks to whomever captured all those great photos. Irreplaceable.
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Old 05-31-2011, 01:41 PM   #6
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In a way , Sidney Nebraska really helped fuel my interest in race cars . During the 1950s and 60s , we went through Sidney from Sterling on our way to my grandmothers home practically EVERY holiday and EVERY summer for vacation . And it always worked out that we needed gas just about the time we pulled in Sidney . I don't recall names or numbers , but i remember several of the gas stations in town had stock cars parked in front or in the bay . I always requested that we get gas at one of those stations . And all the time my father was getting gas and checking under the hood , i was scrutinizing every nut and bolt of whatever race car was parked there .
I often think local racing could be better marketed by parking race cars in front of local businesses every day of the week with a poster describing the car and giving info on the race track .
Thanks for the great photos .
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:06 PM   #7
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May the 4th, a special remembrance day for me. May 4th was a Sunday in 1952, and the season opener for stock car racers and fans in Sidney, Nebraska. We had recently moved to this west Nebraska community and I couldn't wait for the first race of the season. Less than a mile from our house, just hopped on my bike and rode out to the Fairgrounds track. Time trials at 1:00, races at 2:00. This was going to be great! During Spring, when the weather got nicer, I'd looked all over town and found a number of stock cars parked in places like alleys and auto garages, but here was an infield full of cars I hadn't seen yet.

This was the second year for the Club. Some 40 plus cars in the Club, 26 of them made it out this Sunday. With the clay track tough on cars, it was hard to get many more than a couple of dozen each race day. Didn't matter to me, this was the best racing I'd seen as a kid. I didn't miss a race that summer. Here are some of those cars for that first race of the 1952 season. (I don't remember every name, but will fill in as best as I can)

Virg Zwickle drove the red, white and blue #69 and had the dubious honor of being the first to wreck, when hit by another car and forced off turn 4, through a board fence and into some parked cars. His brother Mel drove #66 and also owned the #64 fordor sedan. Both were cream and red. Chuck Lafler debuted a new #7, this pristine '34 three window coupe, green and white paint scheme to match his brother Bob's #77 in red and white. Chuck was usually in the trophy dash and won his share. Check those white walls! #100 showed up with a new pink paint job and dubbed "The Pink Lady" by track announcer Bill Ward.
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:21 PM   #8
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More from Sidney, 1952: LeRoy Darling's #41 was painted an unusual brown and cream. Sometime during the season I remember a hood full of 2 inch louvers in this car. Vern "Heinie" Westphalen's green #13 was the first and only '32 Ford during these first two seasons. I last saw the red #39 parked in a back yard in east Sidney with an unusual '39 Ford hood on this '34 coupe. A little rough around the edges from the previous season, #00 was one of the team cars (blue and white #0 and #00) sponsored by the Mayfair service station on Hwy 30 east of town. It would soon be replaced by a '34 Ford coupe to match it's twin. Other cars to return from the '51 season included Ray Martin in #56, white with Oliver tractor green and yellow trim. There appears to have been no superstition to green! (Oops! Just noticed that I inverted #00 and #100 in these posts, Sorry)
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:07 AM   #9
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This is a great thread Bill. Did you get those drivers to pose for these pictures? I would have loved to have been there with you. We could have teamed up and lettered a bunch of those cars.......We could have been rich....or, MORE THAN LIKELY, we would have had a lot of free eggs, ham and CORN. Are many of these guys still with us?

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Old 05-05-2012, 08:36 AM   #10
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Great post. Love history like this. I've got a copy of that logo on file somewhere. I collect 'em. I'll try to find it.
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