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The origins of Sprint Car racing


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#1 Flat Black

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 22:14

Can anybody provide me with information about when sprint cars began to diverge from "big cars"? I know they spring from a common lineage, but I just don't know when the split between the two began to manifest itself.

Thanks! Cool site, BTW.

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#2 RStock

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 01:11

No one is really sure when sprint cars became a seperate class from the "big cars" , but I've seen cars identified as "Sprint cars" as early as the 1920's .

That's my knowledge , perhaps someone else has something more definative .

#3 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 02:11

Being from New Zealand I am a long way from the mecca of sprint car racing but I raced sprint cars in New Zealand for about 25 years. We used to have a Super Modified [Dirt] class here in the 60's and that gave way to sprint cars in the early 70's.To start with we allowed a few sprints to run with the modifieds provided they had a clutch and starter. When we had more sprints than modifieds we did away with the starter and clutch rule and changed the name of the class to sprint cars. I understand this is what happened in a lot of cases in the US. As far as the US goes I understand that what are now called sprint cars developed from a alternative to the larger more expensive car that ran on the larger tracks in the 20's. They had a shorter wheel base, mostly stock block based engines and raced in shorter races on shorter tracks eg. 1/4 to 1/2 mile.It is my understanding that the name Sprint Car came into being in the late 40's early 50's and up to that time they had several names eg."Big Cars"/"3/4 Cars" and more. The Big Cars Flat Black is talking about are now called "Silver Crown Cars" or "Champ Dirt Cars"
Sprint Cars [ the US type ] are raced in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africia
My last car was an "Ozcar" built by Lee Osbourne out of Jamestown Ind.

#4 RStock

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 02:56

Originally posted by Peter Leversedge
It is my understanding that the name Sprint Car came into being in the late 40's early 50's and up to that time they had several names eg."Big Cars"/"3/4 Cars" and more. The Big Cars Flat Black is talking about are now called "Silver Crown Cars" or "Champ Dirt Cars"


I want to make it clear that when I said I have seen cars identified as early as the 20's as "Sprint cars" , I did not mean they were then refered to as such back then , just that they could be considered "Sprintcars" . I didn't want to cause any confusion , so I felt the need to clarify that .

If you go to this page and click on some of the photo's , I think you'll see some of the cars could be considered "Big Cars" and some "Sprint cars" , and they were competing at the same time .

http://winfield.50me...om/sullivan.htm

Sprint Cars [ the US type ] are raced in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africia
My last car was an "Ozcar" built by Lee Osbourne out of Jamestown Ind.


Ah Lee Osborne , one of the original outlaws . I had the honor of seeing him drive on several occasions .

#5 fines

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 08:45

Now, this is a bit of a difficult terrain, but in general Sprint Cars are Big Cars - it's more or less the same thing! As for the origins of Sprint Car Racing as in the thread title, Peter is quite right about the term "Sprint Car" developing in the late forties, it is sometimes attributed to a short NARN/NSSN article of Chris Economaki in 1947, irrc. Be that as it may, it was in the early-to-mid fifties that the name Sprint Car was bit-by-bit introduced for the Big Cars used in short races on short tracks, but nothing's ever so easy. Even in the sixties there were certain Sprint Cars with more than 100 inch wheelbases racing over 100 miles on full mile circuits, and pretty soon the Super Modifieds/Winged Sprints/Roll Cage debate (to say nothing about rear-engines!) began in earnest to muddy the waters all over again...

If you are looking for the real origins of the type of racing that could be called "Sprint Car Racing", it gets even more complicated. I will endeavour to list all the important milestones in the development of Sprint Car Racing, and by necessity we have to go all the way back to the earliest days of the 20th century here...

In the USofA, autoracing began along similar lines as in Europe, i.e. mainly rich individuals organising themselves into Automobil Clubs which then organise racing events, with manufacturers support in exchange for publicity. BUT - big difference here - due to cultural diversity and a progressive political system (then, not now ;)), in America there soon developed also a somewhat "proletarian" form of autoracing, i.e. "blue collar" folk organizing races as an entertainment business venture "with and for themselves", so to speak. And, again due to cultural differences, manufacturers supported these also, because they realized that there was a mass market for these "new-fangled machines" (=> Curved Dash, Model T). But, in general, cars for these "show biz" races were a motley collection of the bizarre and the weird, i.e. special jobs built by skilled individuals, and sometimes experimental studies done by the factories.

So, in the early days of the century, we have Road Racing European Style in the USofA as well as a barnstorming "circus circuit" with Barney Oldfield et al. It is the latter which will develop into what we today know as Sprint Car Racing, of course. Due to a number of reasons which are quite obvious if you think about it, the barnstormers usually restricted themselves to a number of short races on horse racing tracks, usually located at State and County Fairgrounds. Soon, there would be some sort of overlap between the two "tribes", with "proper" races on the fairgrounds (including some 24-hour affairs), and some of the "freak" racers appearing at road races.

At the end of the first decade of the century, a range of new factors spelled the end for the original era of the barnstormers, although the spirit of Oldfield & Co. would survive well into the seventies, but it was transformed. For one thing, permanent autoracing circuits sprouted all over the country, from the East (Atlanta Speedway) over the Midwest (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) to the Pacific Coast (Los Angeles Motordrome), and every man and his dog predicted the end of the fairgrounds as autoracing venues... a bit prematurely, as it turned out!

Perhaps even more important was the formation of the Contest Board of the AAA, with which autoracing in the USofA entered a whole new era in terms of organisation of events and application of rules. Not only that, but for the first time really, a universally acceptable set of rules was available to start with, and soon the Fair Boards, which often served as race promoters at the fairgrounds themselves, organized their meetings around a familiar pattern: a number of short races for the various classes and displacement divisions, and a "Free-for-All" to conclude the day. This format of several short races with short fields and a "grand final" is still the backbone of any Sprint Car meeting today!

For a few years the sport enjoyed one of its banner periods, but trouble was already brewing under the surface: while basically fine for the fairs and other track events, the multi-class system was a bit cumbersome and unpractical for the bigger road racing and speedway meets, so the promoters of the latter sought to reduce the number of classes. The Contest Board principally agreed with that view, especially in order to combat rising average speeds, but had trouble of its own trying to keep the manufacturers in the game, who would withdraw from the sport once they had a) won a major race or b) despaired of ever winning one! Fewer classes of course meant fewer opportunities to win, and short fields led promoters to open up their events to allcomers, with the result that private owners with last year's hand-me-down racer ended up competing against new works cars which were built to newer rules designed to rein in horsepower. Manufacturers thus shown up weren't exactly happy campers, and prone to recalculate their racing expenses...

As if this all wasn't enough, the fair boards also started to cause headaches for the Contest Board: the sanction system called for fees to be paid by the promoters to the AAA in exchange for services like scheduling, scrutineering and timing & scoring. Rightfully or not, the fair boards felt these expenses weren't really called for, when all their customers really wanted was (cheap) entertainment! The resultant founding of the IMCA was not the first "outlaw" organisation flexing its muscles against the AAA, but it was the first to do so successfully, and together with the aforementioned problems probably was the chief reason for the AAA National Championship, introduced in 1916.

That championship was a stroke of genius as, coupled with the glamour of the Indy 500 to which it was always intrinsically linked, it effectively secured supremacy for the AAA throughout the existence of its Contest Board. It also channelled all the efforts of the Special builders, now that the passenger car manufacturers had virtually disappeared from the scene, and there wasn't any need to refer to the racing cars as (phoney) Stock Cars anymore; instead they were now usually called Speedway Cars. Pretty soon the manufacture of those Speedway Cars was well and truly in the hands of specialist companies like Duesenberg, Miller and Frontenac, and the home-built Special was once again confined to the backwater events, and usually refered to as a Dirt Track Car. This latter designation was also used for the racing cars of the "outlaw" organisations and the unsanctioned "independent" events, and is precisely that what would be called a Sprint Car thirty years later, and even today. Hence a title like "Outlaw Sprint Car Racer" for a book covering a time when those words would mean absolutely nothing at all!

While the Speedway Cars were built to the rulebook of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Co., Dirt Track Cars were of many different hues, mostly according to local rules, be that an area, an organisation or a single track. Many of those were former Speedway Cars, made obsolete by a rule change, or simply junkyard specials; a few were purpose built, though. That changed pretty dramatically with the advent of the IMS "Junk Formula" in 1930, which made scores of $10,000+ Speedway Cars obsolete almost overnight. Some were rebuilt into Two-man Cars, but most were recruited for dirt track use, with various modifictaions over the years, as One-man Cars, but the former names were also still in use.

While Indianapolis slumped into (one of) its most insignificant era(s), dirt track racing boomed as never before, and the thirties were a Golden Age for the would-be Sprint Cars! Races were held all over the country, through all the seasons, and with more and more sanctioning bodies appearing on the scene to challenge not one, but up to four very healthy AAA circuits. Still, rules varied from area to area, and sometimes even within organisations, but the demand was so high that various small companies were able to make a living by providing "speed equipment", mainly hot-rodded Ford components, but also scratch-built engines, frames and bodies, as well as all the peripherals needed for racing. In those days, these One-man Cars were the top category in US racing, running on all tracks, in races of up to several hours of duration, and with the latest developments in technology (at least as far as the US was concerned). Purses were healthy, though not as good as at Indy, but still very respectable for the hard times of those days.

About the same time, Midget Racing became another popular from of motor sport in the States, and though it was "eating into the same pie", the Big Cars (as they were now known, to differentiate them from the Midgets, or Small Cars) still stayed healthy. By 1936, the Two-man Cars were being phased out, and until the end of the decade there were now only Big Cars, some of them a bit larger because they were intended to run only at Indy and the miles, and some a bit smaller for the halfmiles, BUT there was yet no difference in the rules regarding dimensions such as wheelbase, only a COMMON minimum wheelbase for ALL Big Cars, i.e. "Indy Cars" and "Sprint Cars"! This, of course, only applied to AAA races, and it is not entirely clear if any other sanctioning body at the time had specific rules other than "run what ya brung"! As a rule of thumb, a sanctioning body (or an independent promoter, for that matter) would send out entry blanks, simply calling for "Big Cars", "Speedway Cars" and/or "Not Midgets"!!

Starting in 1941, the AAA introduced specific rules for Half-mile Cars, or Non-championship Cars, as opposed to Championship Cars, and with that a lot of confusion set in. For one thing, those "Non-championship Cars" had, in fact, their own championships to compete in, i.e. the regional "Big Car Championship Circuits", since the earliest thirties! Also, for the duration of the forties at least, "Championship Cars" were allowed to start in "Non-championship events" on circuits of one mile or longer, while "Non-championship Cars" regularly ran in "Championship events" at Indianapolis and elsewhere! To add to the confusion, Midget Race Cars started to appear in Big Car events as soon as the so-called "Midget Craze" was dying away, late forties, and prompted the AAA to introduce minimum wheel sizes for Big Cars. Cue in the "stretched Midgets", Small Cars rebuilt to meet Big Car specifications...

By the early fifties, things began to settle down a bit, and the term Sprint Car came into official usage. "Outlaw" organisations like IMCA and NASCAR would still use Speedway Cars, others Big Cars or even Full-size Cars, but within a relatively short time "Sprint Car" became very common. Short race distances, although dominant in most regions since the twenties, became more and more standard practice, but to this day some Sprint Car races are anything but "sprints" (=> Little 500). Sprint car technology got increasingly posh, too, to the point that, almost invariably, cheaper forms of racing were sought - and found: Jalopies, Track Roadsters and Modifieds would soon usurp the grassroots of dirt track racing, and within no time at all these cars became more and more like Sprint Cars, some even doing double duty with removable fenders and the like!

Come the sixties, and apart from AAA being replaced by USAC, the Sprint Car world hadn't changed that much, except for puny roll-over bars perhaps, and stock-block engines beginning to take over, much in parallel to the Champ Cars. But a new threat had evolved in form of the Super Modifieds, a mix of sorts of Jalopies, Track Roadsters and Modifieds - effectively Sprint Cars with a roll cage! To add to the troubles, some of these Super Modifieds even had aerodynamic "wings" on top of their "roll cages", many years before Jim Hall or even Colin Chapman had thought of that, by the way. These eventually resulted in the Super Sprints that began dominating the "outlaw" scene in the mid-to-end sixties.

USAC soon found itself in an awkward position: while roll cages where indeed a bit of an aesthetical problem, they were also clearly a safety feature, and after tolerating them for many years they were finally made mandatory in the early seventies, with pressure from the insurance companies no doubt! Wings, on the other hand, were not only an aesthetical disaster, but also added considerable speed to the cars, and reduced the spectacle. Still, many sanctioning bodies as well as independent promoters prefered the winged cars, simply because they were faster, and the fans responded to that fact.

Speaking of independent promoters, these "Open Competition" events became another big issue of the seventies, with right-to-work legal disputes following on. Ever since the earliest days of the century, sanctioning bodies had sought to secure the interests of "their" promoters and spectators by tying "their" drivers and cars to a strict party line, and banning drivers, owners and promoters alike for straying from the "path of righteousness". Most of the flak had traditionally been directed towards the AAA and USAC, because of their high-profile Indy 500 event being protected like that, but most ironically it was their arch-rival IMCA which was bitten first! Anyway, it still affected USAC more than any other organisation, and resulted in a revival of the barnstormer tradition, with Rick Ferkel ("The Ohio Traveler") and Jan Opperman ("The Racing Hippie") being the most visible proponents.

Another bullet to be dodged was the rear-engined Sprint Car, and most of the independent associations took care of that by expressly outlawing them from the start. To their credit, USAC and IMCA faced the music and gave them a try, but eventually outlawed them as well, prohibitive costs being the main argument, but fan dislike was almost certainly a factor, too! All in all, Sprint Car racing was in danger of losing its direction throughout the seventies, as the "path to Indy", for example, had long since vanished for a variety of reasons, some of which may have become clear by the aforementioned happenings. The IMCA, the oldest racing organisation in the world, went under midway through the 1977 season, after more than sixty years of operation - USAC very nearly followed suit a couple of years later.

In the meantime, a Sprint Car fan named Ted Johnson thought about ways to determine a real "King of the Outlaws", and devised a point system for any race paying out $2,000 or more for the feature win. Initially, his ploy was met with much reservation and scepticism, but within a year the "World of Outlaws" circuit was a household name...

#6 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 11:00

REDARMYSOJA
I visited the US in 1977 and 1981 to take in racing during our off season and also had a chance to see Lee Osborne racing. He was a great racer and built a neat race car. The Ozcar I had [ still got the chassis sitting in my shop ] was a 86' model which I obtained from John Bickford and had been raced by his step son Jeff Gordon

#7 Flat Black

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 14:40

Great stuff! Thanks.

The history of sprint car racing is obviously very complex and chaotic. That is why, I suspect, the definitive book on the subject has yet to be written. High time some enterprising--and masochistic--soul rectifies this situation.

#8 Bob Riebe

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 17:36

If you want an inside look at early sprint/dirt track racing, read John Gerber's Outlaw Sprint Car Racer.
He was there.

In the early years they raced on dirt tracks of up to two miles in length; I would love to see a sprint car on a two-mile dirt track.
Bob

#9 RStock

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 18:11

Originally posted by fines
Now, this is a bit of a difficult terrain, but in general Sprint Cars are Big Cars - it's more or less the same thing! ... and usually refered to as a Dirt Track Car. This latter designation was also used for the racing cars of the "outlaw" organisations and the unsanctioned "independent" events, and is precisely that what would be called a Sprint Car thirty years later, and even today. Hence a title like "Outlaw Sprint Car Racer" for a book covering a time when those words would mean absolutely nothing at all!

...While the Speedway Cars were built to the rulebook of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Co., Dirt Track Cars were of many different hues, mostly according to local rules, be that an area, an organisation or a single track.



The term "Roadster" was also used . IIRC , there was a difference , as roadsters could and were driven on public streets (Wilber Shaw spoke about racing freight trains before and after race meets in his "Roadster") , and Big car/Sprint cars were more of a purpose built , stripped down roadster . But there wasn't , for the most part , much of a difference and they were all refered to as "Big Cars" and competed together .

A good example of that was the "MRA" , or "Mutual Racing Association" that ran in and around the Indiana area in the late 30's . They were know as the "Roaring Roadsters" , and about everything other than Midgets were competing .

I have an article by Ron LeMasters SR. that says the term "Big Cars" was first used to differentiate between the "Roadster/Big Car/Sprint cars" and Midgets . I know you said that in your post , just helping back it up .

And IIRC about Chris Economaki using the term "Sprint Car" , I've seen where it was probably a term that had been used loosly for some time before that , and made it into popular lingo after the article . Chris , being the old railbird that he was , had probably heard it before .

This is a subject I've tried researching myself a bit , and I'll say that fines post is probably as authorataive and well explained as I have seen . Good work . :up:

#10 RStock

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 18:19

Originally posted by Peter Leversedge
REDARMYSOJA
I visited the US in 1977 and 1981 to take in racing during our off season and also had a chance to see Lee Osborne racing.


Then we were out there at the same time . Ever make it to Devils Bowl , by chance ?


He was a great racer and built a neat race car. The Ozcar I had [ still got the chassis sitting in my shop ] was a 86' model which I obtained from John Bickford and had been raced by his step son Jeff Gordon


Sounds like quite a prize you have there . If vintage Sprint cars ever reach the status of vintage GP cars , you'll have yourself a nice little collector car . I'll bet Jeff would like to have it for his collection . :cool:

#11 fines

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 18:23

Bob, Johnny Gerber only ever raced on one two-mile track, at San Antonio (TX) in the winter of 1926/7, and it apparently bored him stiff! This is what he had to say about it:

It did not take much skill to drive the San Antonio two-mile track - just the nerve to hold the throttle open. The only place you had to be on the alert to control your car was where the track was bumpy going into the second turn. Looking at the track, you would declare it was level, but if you put your eye next to the ground, you could see bumps 30 to 40 feet apart with perhaps only a two-inch rise on each bump. I remember at one race, a car owner needed a driver and a fellow offered himself as one. He hit the bumps, lost control and was killed. Later, we learned that he was not really an auto racing driver. On a half-mile track, he would not have been able to fool anyone.

He didn't even bother to give results for the races, only saying that "quite often (...) something would rob me of first place."

#12 Flat Black

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 18:25

The term "Roadster" was also used . IIRC , there was a difference , as roadsters could and were driven on public streets (Wilber Shaw spoke about racing freight trains before and after race meets in his "Roadster") , and Big car/Sprint cars were more of a purpose built , stripped down roadster . But there wasn't , for the most part , much of a difference and they were all refered to as "Big Cars" and competed together .

But at what juncture did they cease competing against one another, Redar? It seems to me that that must be the point at which sprint cars became truly distinct from big/Indy cars.

#13 fines

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 18:30

I believe the name "Roadster", or more often "Speedster" was used in the twenties for old two-man cars competing against newer one-man cars. Both names would be recycled for similar cars in later years, but it was not the same thing, if I'm not mistaken! The twenties Roadsters and Speedsters were basically old racing cars, and the thirties/forties Roadster old stock/passenger cars cut down for racing, the Speedsters of the fifties a sort of Modifieds.

#14 Bob Riebe

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 19:51

Originally posted by fines
Bob, Johnny Gerber only ever raced on one two-mile track, at San Antonio (TX) in the winter of 1926/7, and it apparently bored him stiff! This is what he had to say about it:

He didn't even bother to give results for the races, only saying that "quite often (...) something would rob me of first place."

As you have the book you know it is merely a compiliation of his notes, and past memories (turned into a book by his wife and others) not something he originally intended to make a book out of.
Of the the only time the two-mile track is mentioned in the book that I can find easily, he says: "...Jimmie Lawrence was the fastest competitor, but had various troubles. How the races finished I do not remember...."

I know there was also a two-mile track in Nebraska. That may have shut down before his racing was in full swing.
It still shows the huge variation of track that existed before WW II.

Most of his years, Gerber drove a "bob-tail speedster."
There is also a picture of J.W. Franks bob-tail speester that won several fifty miles races at the San Antonio two mile track.
, and a bob-tail speedster midget driven by Frank Hefling.

#15 RStock

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 22:06

Originally posted by fines
Both names would be recycled for similar cars in later years, but it was not the same thing, if I'm not mistaken! The twenties Roadsters and Speedsters were basically old racing cars, and the thirties/forties Roadster old stock/passenger cars cut down for racing, the Speedsters of the fifties a sort of Modifieds.


No your not mistaken , I am . I was working from memory , which is a dangerous thing for me to do . I was specifically refering to a circuit , the MRA , that ran in pre and postwar Indiana when I mentioned "roadsters" . So I dug up the old magazine I was referencing to check my source , and fines is right that the "roadsters" in my post were a different type car . I think this line from the article by Ron LeMasters Sr. is what confused me .


" Stir all three non-midget classifications together , and you will end up sooner or later in what came to be known as the Mutual Racing Association (MRA) , home of the "roaring roadsters" "

Coupled with photo's that are definatly Big cars/Sprint cars , and the further mention of competitors in the MRA that went on to win at Indy , and the cause of my confusion becomes evident . But after researching the roaring roadsters that ran the MRA , they are certainly another type car . What I have seen refered to as "Hot Rods" , to further add to the confusion .

But , and this is a bit vauge , the two may have competed together at times . LeMasters goes on to say , in refering to the "Little 500" and the decline of the "Roadsters"

"Nowhere was the change more apparent than in the Little 500 at Anderson's Sun Valley Speedway . Through 1954 , the 33 car , 500 lap classic on the 1/4 mile high banks was basically a roadster race . Almost overnight it turned into a race of upright sprint cars . "

I have an old photo somewhere that I will try and find that shows what appears to be "sprint cars" and "roadsters" competing in the same race at Jungle Park .

If nothing else , this will show flatblack how confusing this subject can be . And how he should listen to fines , and not myself . :D

#16 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 04:15

Some interesting info has come out of this thread so far. It appears that "The Origins of Sprint Car Racing" are surounded in a cloud of obscurity. It would appear that in a lot of cases different classes of cars that were quite basic, evolved into sprint cars as they became more sophisticated. It appears therefore that the Sprint Car is the ultimate developement of an open wheel, front engined, "up right", short dirt track race car.
Although I am interested in all types of open wheel cars Sprint Cars are my favourite and therefore very interested in their history.

#17 RStock

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 04:49

Originally posted by Peter Leversedge
It appears therefore that the Sprint Car is the ultimate developement of an open wheel, front engined, "up right", short dirt track race car.


I say that since the "Big cars" pretty much developed into the Champ Car/Indy car , and Sprint cars are evolved from stripped down , lighter faster versions of the old big cars , the argument could be made that sprint cars are actually "modified" Indy cars . ;)


Here's that photo of Jungle park . I think it's post-war and looks like a feature lineup . You can see roadsters and sprint cars together on the track . The one tagging the field is obviously a sprint , and it looks to me like at least the car on the outside of the front row is a sprint , but it's hard to tell .


click > Posted Image

#18 dbw

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 05:05

if you wish to get esoteric then you have to establish the era and definition of "bobtail", "flatback", "big car", "3/4 midget", "full midget","stretched midget", "ascot car", "one-man speedway", "two-man speedway", "roadster", "triple A car"......well, you get the idea...we needn't even venture into the world of two ,four, or three springers, "railjobs" or the much desired 42mm speedway rudge.

once a few years back i ran a vintage dirt race with the W.R.A. [western racing association] that was ruled as "flatback ascot cars only"....i was repremanded for bringing an early bobtail t ford [similar to the winfield bobtail]...soon an oldtimer came over and stated that the early ascot races had mostly tailless cars[bobtail] and later flatbacks .[car with a tail but no headrest] after that i was ok to run...welcome to the wonderful wacky world of "sprint cars". :wave:

#19 Wilyman

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 08:44

If anyone is confused as to what is etc, get hold of a copy of the Mickey Rooney movie "The Big Wheel".
It features post war USA racing of most types. Roadsters. Midgets. "Big" track cars both dirt and paved and up to the cars of the '47 /'48 Indianapolis.

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#20 fines

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 14:42

Originally posted by Peter Leversedge
Some interesting info has come out of this thread so far. It appears that "The Origins of Sprint Car Racing" are surounded in a cloud of obscurity. It would appear that in a lot of cases different classes of cars that were quite basic, evolved into sprint cars as they became more sophisticated. It appears therefore that the Sprint Car is the ultimate developement of an open wheel, front engined, "up right", short dirt track race car.
Although I am interested in all types of open wheel cars Sprint Cars are my favourite and therefore very interested in their history.

Quite a good summary, and a lot shorter than mine, too! :up: :D

It's true that some basic categories evolved into Sprint Cars over time, perhaps because the rules were never that watertight in the first place. Traditionally, the name "Sprint Car" has been applied to a number of quite different vehicles, and that is true for period as well as retrospective designations! The lowest common denominator appears to be pretty close to what you have described.

#21 fines

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:11

REDARMYSOJA,

I have never heard of that Ron LeMasters fella, but these two snippets from his writings aren't too confidence-inspiring, so to speak! As far as I understand it, MRA (Mutual Rac. Assoc.) ran the Hoosier version of what was known as Track Roadsters all over the US, like ARA (Arizona Rac. Assoc.) and CRA (California Roadster/Rac. Assoc.) did in the West. I'm no expert on these cars, but I believe they were generally cut-down pre-war passenger cars with hopped-up engines; some may have been only cut-down pre-war body shells on purpose built chassis with racing engines, I'm not sure.

Anyway, by the mid-to-late fifties they were pretty much extinct, substituted by "proper" Sprint Cars in ARA and CRA, for example, while MRA itself was substituted by the Sprint Car organisation AARC (All American Racing Club) as the sanctioning body for the Little 500. And it certainly didn't happen "overnight", it was a gradual process that usually took a few years, depending on locale. I'm sure your Jungle Park picture shows a race from such a transitional period, perhaps it's even an MRA event!?

#22 fines

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:15

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA
I say that since the "Big cars" pretty much developed into the Champ Car/Indy car , and Sprint cars are evolved from stripped down , lighter faster versions of the old big cars , the argument could be made that sprint cars are actually "modified" Indy cars . ;)

It's a bit like saying "man evolved from ape", when in truth both have merely the same ancestry.;)

				Big Cars

			//	 II	 

		   //	  II	  

Indy Cars	  Champ Cars	 Sprint Cars


#23 paulhooft

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:39

I heard that there was a difference in Wheelbase, however, I am no expert on that...
PcH

#24 Flat Black

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 15:52

Can anybody provide a ballpark date for when Indy cars and sprint cars ceased competed against one another? I'm guessing the mid- to late-50s, but what the hell do I know?

:drunk:

#25 Bob Riebe

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 16:19

Originally posted by paulhooft
I heard that there was a difference in Wheelbase, however, I am no expert on that...
PcH

In reading one of the books or maybe it was on a web site, I have seen more than once sprint cars, and dirt champ cars, that have been lengthened or shortened froom one discipline to another.
Bob

#26 Jim Thurman

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 17:37

Originally posted by fines
REDARMYSOJA,

I have never heard of that Ron LeMasters fella, but these two snippets from his writings aren't too confidence-inspiring, so to speak! As far as I understand it, MRA (Mutual Rac. Assoc.) ran the Hoosier version of what was known as Track Roadsters all over the US, like ARA (Arizona Rac. Assoc.) and CRA (California Roadster/Rac. Assoc.) did in the West. I'm no expert on these cars, but I believe they were generally cut-down pre-war passenger cars with hopped-up engines; some may have been only cut-down pre-war body shells on purpose built chassis with racing engines, I'm not sure.

Anyway, by the mid-to-late fifties they were pretty much extinct, substituted by "proper" Sprint Cars in ARA and CRA, for example, while MRA itself was substituted by the Sprint Car organisation AARC (All American Racing Club) as the sanctioning body for the Little 500. And it certainly didn't happen "overnight", it was a gradual process that usually took a few years, depending on locale. I'm sure your Jungle Park picture shows a race from such a transitional period, perhaps it's even an MRA event!?


For not knowing much about Track Roadsters, fines does a great job :up:

I was going to post that Roadsters (Hot Rods, Track Roadsters) were popularized in California. Earlier, more crude cars were competing in Central and Southern California in the 1930's and drivers like Rex Mays, George Robson, Floyd Roberts, Bill Vukovich and Fred Agabashian all raced them. Immediately after WWII there was a boom, like Midgets and the California Roadster Association was formed. As far as fines descriptions (cut-down with hopped up engines and cut-down body shells on purpose built chassis with racing engines)...yes! :) Roadsters ranged from very crude looking to as sophisticated as Sprint Cars of the time.

The popularity of the "Hot Rods" in Southern California caught the attention of promoter Andy Granatelli, who started Roadster racing at his Hurricane Racing Association tracks in Illinois. With roots to pre-war, Mutual followed a similar path.

As roadster racing waned, the CRA opened up it's racing to include Sprint bodywork, then Sprint Cars. Mixed fields weren't uncommon up to the point in 1957 when CRA switched to Sprint Cars only and became the California Racing Association.

Super Modifieds (on dirt) followed a similar path, only it occurred from the 60's through the 80's. I can't find any dirt Super Modified racing anywhere in the country currently :( Now, that was my favorite class.

#27 Jim Thurman

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 17:53

Originally posted by Flat Black
Can anybody provide a ballpark date for when Indy cars and sprint cars ceased competed against one another? I'm guessing the mid- to late-50s, but what the hell do I know?

:drunk:

Well, not Sprint Cars since they had shorter wheelbase, but the last upright dirt car to have competed in a USAC Championship race on pavement occurred on September 21, 1969 when Charlie Masters raced one amidst the rear engined cars at Trenton.

There were a few other upright dirt cars in 1969 races (Tommy Copp at Phoenix, Rollie Beale at Langhorne and A.J. Foyt at Milwaukee), but never more than 1 in any field. A couple tried to qualify for the second Phoenix race, one of them being Copp again, but were too slow.

Is that what you were looking for? For multiple uprights in the same field, I'd have to dig deeper, but it probably was a Langhorne or Milwaukee race from '68 or '67.

Keep in mind some drivers ran their upright Champ dirt type cars in the sole USAC Championship race at Daytona International Speedway :eek:

#28 paulhooft

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 19:43

------
I have seen more than once sprint cars, and dirt champ cars, that have been lengthened or shortened from one discipline to another
---

Yes that is one of the problems too....
back in the early 50's... even one of the Indy 500 Winners
was as they say A lengthened.......???:
Midget???
or a Sprint Car???? :rotfl:




quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by paulhooft
I heard that there was a difference in Wheelbase, however, I am no expert on that...
PcH
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

another quote:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In reading one of the books or maybe it was on a web site, I have seen more than once sprint cars, and dirt champ cars, that have been lengthened or shortened froom one discipline to another.
Bob

#29 RStock

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 20:19

Originally posted by fines
REDARMYSOJA,

I have never heard of that Ron LeMasters fella, but these two snippets from his writings aren't too confidence-inspiring, so to speak! As far as I understand it, MRA (Mutual Rac. Assoc.) ran the Hoosier version of what was known as Track Roadsters all over the US, like ARA (Arizona Rac. Assoc.) and CRA (California Roadster/Rac. Assoc.) did in the West. I'm no expert on these cars, but I believe they were generally cut-down pre-war passenger cars with hopped-up engines; some may have been only cut-down pre-war body shells on purpose built chassis with racing engines, I'm not sure.

Anyway, by the mid-to-late fifties they were pretty much extinct, substituted by "proper" Sprint Cars in ARA and CRA, for example, while MRA itself was substituted by the Sprint Car organisation AARC (All American Racing Club) as the sanctioning body for the Little 500. And it certainly didn't happen "overnight", it was a gradual process that usually took a few years, depending on locale. I'm sure your Jungle Park picture shows a race from such a transitional period, perhaps it's even an MRA event!?



Well , I think my trying to work from memory is the cause of the confusion . But I actually found the article that I was quoting from . If you want , click on this link , and then the Ron LeMasters article link .

http://www.mtlawn.com/years.html

Here's some more from that site that tells about the MRA . From what I can see , it was pretty much an Indiana club and didn't compete outside of there . There's even a story that tells of one of the cars being converted to a proper sprint car merely by changing over the rear bodywork .


http://www.mtlawn.com/MRA/v1pb.jpg

http://www.mtlawn.co...A/Page0005.html


But like I say , this is pretty much not relevant to the discussion . When Lemasters spoke of "roadsters" , I pictured the Indy type roadsters , the cars he was talking about I've always heard refered to as "Hot Rods" or other such names , not "roadsters" . If you go to the LeMasters story link , I think you'll see the photo's help lend to my confusion .

#30 Flat Black

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 20:29

This subject is like trying to play dodge ball with Jell-O.
:lol:

#31 paulhooft

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 20:38

This subject is like trying to play dodge ball with Jell-O.

OK:
Your turn:

Jell-O!!!

#32 David M. Woodhouse

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 02:21

I think fines pretty much covered it in post #5, but even those who were there are not sure. In the introduction to Jack C. Fox's book "The Illustrated History of Sprint Car Racing, Volume One 1896-1942" (Hungness 1985), the author writes:

"...everyone knows what a Sprint car is...don't they? They're halfway between a Championship car and a Midget except that nowadays their engines are bigger than any of them and they run on pavement tracks as well as dirt (except in the World of Outlaws and CRA and some other associations....I think)".

Woody

#33 Bob Riebe

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 03:59

Originally posted by fines

In the meantime, a Sprint Car fan named Ted Johnson thought about ways to determine a real "King of the Outlaws", and devised a point system for any race paying out $2,000 or more for the feature win. Initially, his ploy was met with much reservation and scepticism, but within a year the "World of Outlaws" circuit was a household name...

Which brings us to the first year of WOO and Bentley Warren brings his dirt super mod to the WOO race at Syracuse NY, and whoops the WOO boys.
Poof---the "outlaws" ban their first vehicle, no more super mods allowed to compete in WOO races.
Pretty soon the "outlaws" were just another rule infused sanction.

Of course there was the Copper World Classic....

#34 fines

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 09:17

The path to Indy

During a recent bout of research concerning the beginnings of the World of Outlaws, I came across a number of quotes from young hopefuls (Steve Kinser, Robert Smith) as well as, surprisingly, some of the old guard (Rick Ferkel, Kenny Weld), expressing their hopes and dreams "to try USAC one day, maybe the 500", even as late as 1977. I guess the formation of CART finally put a lid on that, although the success of WoO must've been a factor as well.

What took me aback completely, though, and I'm sure everyone present that day must've felt the same, was the confession of 24-year-old South Dakotan Doug Wolfgang, himself a relative newcomer to Sprint Car racing then, upon winning the blue-riband Knoxville Nationals in 1977: "My great dream in auto racing is to drive Formula One cars in Europe"!

WOW! :eek: That has to settle for a moment before I digest!

For a bit of historical perspective, this happened on the eve of the Austrian Grand Prix, another race from which Mario Andretti was going to retire while leading, and a fortnight before his (in)famous clash with James Hunt in Zandvoort, which effectively put an end to his hopes of becoming the second US driver to win the World Championship, sixteen years after Phil Hill. It was also three days before Elvis Presley died...

#35 fines

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 12:47

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA
http://www.mtlawn.co...A/Page0005.html

This last link leads to an enormous resource for Track Roadster stuff and the Mutual Rac. Assoc. - brilliant find! :up:

Unfortunately, time is not my own right now and this sort of stuff only just tickles my curiosity, but anyone interested in these sort of machines, or indeed anyone interested in US racing of the late thirties to early fifties, should take a look! Highly recommended!!!

#36 RStock

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:57

Originally posted by Bob Riebe
Which brings us to the first year of WOO and Bentley Warren brings his dirt super mod to the WOO race at Syracuse NY, and whoops the WOO boys.
Poof---the "outlaws" ban their first vehicle, no more super mods allowed to compete in WOO races.
Pretty soon the "outlaws" were just another rule infused sanction.

Of course there was the Copper World Classic....


Well , it wasn't "poof" . Bently won in 78 and the Supers were'nt banned until several years later . After the Outlaws required wings at all events , the supers were so slow they were a danger . I remember Sammy Swindell complaining in victory lane about them being a hazard . Which at the earliest would have been 1982 .

#37 RStock

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 16:58

Originally posted by fines

This last link leads to an enormous resource for Track Roadster stuff and the Mutual Rac. Assoc. - brilliant find! :up:


I'm good for something , occasionally .

#38 Bob Riebe

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 17:23

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA


Well , it wasn't "poof" . Bently won in 78 and the Supers were'nt banned until several years later . After the Outlaws required wings at all events , the supers were so slow they were a danger . I remember Sammy Swindell complaining in victory lane about them being a hazard . Which at the earliest would have been 1982 .

I noticed over at the Motorsport site, that WOO results stop at 2000.
Any reason other than info supplier quit doing so?

#39 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 18:17

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA


Well , it wasn't "poof" . Bently won in 78 and the Supers were'nt banned until several years later . After the Outlaws required wings at all events , the supers were so slow they were a danger . I remember Sammy Swindell complaining in victory lane about them being a hazard . Which at the earliest would have been 1982 .


While it wasn't a WoO sanctioned event, Nick Rescino drove a local winged Super Modified to victory over many of them in a 1978 open race at West Capital Raceway, West Sacramento CA.

Supers ran with wings before Sprints did.

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#40 Jim Thurman

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 18:18

Originally posted by Bob Riebe

I noticed over at the Motorsport site, that WOO results stop at 2000.
Any reason other than info supplier quit doing so?

Phil Harms, who did the stats for Motorsport.com, was an outstanding stats compiler and used to post here, passed away :cry:

#41 RStock

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 19:19

Originally posted by Jim Thurman


While it wasn't a WoO sanctioned event, Nick Rescino drove a local winged Super Modified to victory over many of them in a 1978 open race at West Capital Raceway, West Sacramento CA.

Supers ran with wings before Sprints did.


None of the cars were running wings the year Bentley won at Syracuse , I'm not sure what year they were first used there though .

I thought that was a sanctioned event that "Quick Nick" won . Not saying it was , mind you , I was just under the impression it was . I've seen him billed as the only driver in a Super Modified to win a WOO event .

I don't kow why Warren isn't given that credit also , unless Syracuse wasn't a sanctoned event that year either .

Being their first year , I think the WOO just paid points for certain races , but they were'nt run under their rules or sanction , such as the Knoxville nationals , which allowed Super Modifieds for years ,(Anyone remember Carmen Manzanardo?) and might still .

#42 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 00:27

It my understanding that Syracuse is a hard dirt surface norrow flat mile which at the time that Warren Bentley is said to have run against the WOO sprint cars and won may not be suprising given that fact that a sprint car is more of a "short track" eg. 1/4 to !/2 mile heavy track car.
My questions would be was Bentley's car a dirt or pavement car and was it powered by a big block or a small block?

#43 fines

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 10:26

Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA
None of the cars were running wings the year Bentley won at Syracuse , I'm not sure what year they were first used there though .

I thought that was a sanctioned event that "Quick Nick" won . Not saying it was , mind you , I was just under the impression it was . I've seen him billed as the only driver in a Super Modified to win a WOO event .

I don't kow why Warren isn't given that credit also , unless Syracuse wasn't a sanctoned event that year either .

Being their first year , I think the WOO just paid points for certain races , but they were'nt run under their rules or sanction , such as the Knoxville nationals , which allowed Super Modifieds for years ,(Anyone remember Carmen Manzanardo?) and might still .

WoO ran three times at West Capital in 1978, with Ferkel winning and Kinser twice - Rescino's win must've been in an Open Comp event. Syracuse, on the other hand, is always listed as a WoO event, though it's true that in the first year of WoO there was no sanction as such.

About Warren, I've seen his Syracuse car described as a "roadster", another source has it more specifically as "Cindy Snyder's Oswego-type super modified roadster" :) I guess that makes it clear, a pavement car! There were at least three USAC Champ Cars present, too, and the WoO also ran at the Missouri State Fairgrounds, another flat mile.

About Warren's engine, I'll have to do a bit more research - Supers are not my core interest...

#44 fines

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 10:48

Originally posted by fines
About Warren's engine, I'll have to do a bit more research - Supers are not my core interest...

All I can find in a hurry is that it was almost certainly a big block - Oswego outlawed all other engines except 454 ci big blocks around 1980, and other Super organisations usually also ran them; e.g. I have seen a 467 ci specification (ISMA?) somewhere.

#45 RStock

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 14:23

Originally posted by fines



About Warren, I've seen his Syracuse car described as a "roadster", another source has it more specifically as "Cindy Snyder's Oswego-type super modified roadster" :) I guess that makes it clear, a pavement car! ...


I've seen a photo of the car that day , and it certainly appears to be an asphalt car . Which makes it even more impressive .

#46 Bob Riebe

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 17:08

For many years Woo had no spec. limits as it has now.
The Rodeck 481, which was very popular, in certain areas, was eliminated when the big blocks were banned.

Are there ANY true outlaw races still running with the death of the CWC?
Bob
From Jakessite:
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#47 RStock

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 17:31

Originally posted by Bob Riebe


Are there ANY true outlaw races still running with the death of the CWC?


Do they still run cheaters day in South Dakota ? Can't remember the name of the track .

#48 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 23:54

It appears that the Super Mod that Bentley ran at Syracuse against the Outlaws was a pavement car and may have been more suited to the flat hard Syracuse surface than a sprint car [ see my last post ]
Also a big block may have had "more legs" on the long straightaways than a small block

#49 Peter Leversedge

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 04:39

Bob I take another look at the shot you posted and they look like pavement cars to with a lot of engine off set and the car on the pole line even has the engine tilted to left meaning a lot of inside weight.The drive shaft would run past the leftside of the driver with the driver sitting very low to the right. Total different set up as required for up right sprinter on a short heavy dirt track. When I last raced a up right sprint car [2000] in NZ our rules allowed no more than a 1/2 " engine off set

#50 fines

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 15:54

Some of these Supers had the engine and driveshaft offset so much that the left-hand radius rods connected to the right side of the rear end!