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500-mile 'big car' races at Oakland


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#1 Jim Thurman

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Posted 25 November 2003 - 03:54

In Jimmy's quest for race winners, I've started this thread...

Tom Motter's "The History of the Oakland Stadium, 1946-1955" has precious little in the way of results, and only a couple of mentions of the 500 lap races held each Memorial Day.

Here's all I found in the way of race winners...

1940 Hal Cole
1941 Ed Barnett

Both of these were 500 mile races on the high banked, oiled dirt Oakland Speedway. The track closed during WWII and afterwards, a high banked paved 5/8 mile was built on the site - layed out in the opposite direction.

The only info I have on the races at Oakland Stadium is that Eli Vukovich won a race on one of the same Memorial Days that brother Bill won the Indianapolis 500 (placing it either in 1953 or 1954).

The May 30, 1954 event was a 250 lap race and the track had it's turns filled in with dirt (paved straights remained though).

I've posed a query to some other historians and I'll see what I can come up with.


Jim Thurman

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#2 Jimmy Piget

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Posted 25 November 2003 - 08:40

Dear Jim

Thanks for minding.

#3 Jim Thurman

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Posted 25 November 2003 - 22:26

I'm afraid I've been misled by some poor source material. Turns out the pre-WWII Oakland 500s were not on Memorial Day, but in September (unfortunately, I don't have exact dates).

Oakland Speedway 500 mile race

1938 Bud Rose (yes, same fellow who won 20 years later at Riverside!)
1939 Tex Peterson (relief: Rajo Jack)
1940 Hal Cole
1941 Ed Barnett

Track closed for WWII

Oakland Stadium, Memorial Day 500 lap race

1952
1. Bud Rose
2. Jack Flaherty
3. Don Radbruch (relief: Les Radbruch)

The info on the Oakland Stadium race came from Don himself. He added that he thought the Stadium had Memorial Day races in 1953 and 1954 (I have record of a 250 lap race in 1954), but that the 1952 race was the only 500 lap event held there.


Jim Thurman

#4 Jimmy Piget

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Posted 26 November 2003 - 06:49

Does a good available source (book ? web site ?) exist on the sprint events, back to these years ?

#5 humphries

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Posted 26 November 2003 - 10:22

Jimmy and Jim

Dates for Oakland 500

25/09/1938 Bud Rose .........................Pearson Miller
24/09/1939 Tex Peterson/ Rajo Jack ..Pearson Miller
02/09/1940 Hal Cole............................Pearson Miller
01/09/1941 Ed Barnett........................Riley ( American not British! )

Amazingly the first three wins in the 500 were by the same car. Like Indy, 33 cars ran and started in rows of three although the dirt track was not really wide enough. The track length was actually 1.125 miles and only (!) 444 laps had to be completed.

This information has come from "A History of the Oakland Speedway 1931-1941" by Tom Motter. The stats for the book were supplied by an old friend of mine, Jim O'Keefe of Boston, Mass., one of the best researchers of motor-racing history. ISBN 0-9710287-3-7. A very well presented book and a worthwhile addition to the shelves.

Tom has also produced "A History of the Oakland Stadium 1946-1955" ISBN 0-9710287-1-0. Again a well presented book but it deals with a more parochial series of races and does not have O'Keefe
stats. For the 500 lap races contemporary magazine reports are required.

Cheers

John

#6 antonvrs

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 04:37

Originally posted by humphries
Jimmy and Jim

Dates for Oakland 500

25/09/1938 Bud Rose .........................Pearson Miller
24/09/1939 Tex Peterson/ Rajo Jack ..Pearson Miller
02/09/1940 Hal Cole............................Pearson Miller
01/09/1941 Ed Barnett........................Riley ( American not British! )

Amazingly the first three wins in the 500 were by the same car. Like Indy, 33 cars ran and started in rows of three although the dirt track was not really wide enough. The track length was actually 1.125 miles and only (!) 444 laps had to be completed.

This information has come from "A History of the Oakland Speedway 1931-1941" by Tom Motter. The stats for the book were supplied by an old friend of mine, Jim O'Keefe of Boston, Mass., one of the best researchers of motor-racing history. ISBN 0-9710287-3-7. A very well presented book and a worthwhile addition to the shelves.

Tom has also produced "A History of the Oakland Stadium 1946-1955" ISBN 0-9710287-1-0. Again a well presented book but it deals with a more parochial series of races and does not have O'Keefe
stats. For the 500 lap races contemporary magazine reports are required.

Cheers

John


The Pearson Miller was built/owned by Gil Pearson from Santa Monica, CA. My little workshop where I maintain a Fiat 8V Zagato and an Abarth 207 is in the garage behind his former home in Santa Monica.
When we cleaned out garage we found newspaper clippings from a couple of those races at Oakland along with a lot of leftover junk from his many years there.
I'm still using his 1943 LeBlond lathe.
Anton

#7 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 November 2003 - 23:44

John, tremendous thanks for posting those :up:

Anton, thanks for adding that about Gil Pearson. Small world!

Originally posted by Jimmy Piget
Does a good available source (book ? web site ?) exist on the sprint events, back to these years ?


Jimmy, unfortunately, I'm not aware of any one place that has compiled data from the many Sprint Car clubs around the country.

Carl Hungness' "USAC Sprint Car History 1956-1980" has brief season re-caps with race by race listings and yearly point standings. Unfortunately, good as it is, that leaves all of the AAA era (up through 1955).

On the web, I'm aware of www.scrafan.com, which has info on many CRA Sprint winners (scroll down right side to CRA, click and then scroll down left to CRA Season and click for listing of what they have - then click again on whichever season).

IMCA data, at least post-WWII, has been compiled and I know there are people working on pre-WWII and even pre-WWI material for that association.

Phil Harms has been working on compiling CRA and World of Outlaws (and has much of it done), and was hoping to compile NARC.

So, there are a lot of people working on rectifying this, and there is a lot of it out there, but widely scattered.


Jim Thurman

#8 Don Capps

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Posted 29 November 2003 - 20:33

The latest NSSN had an advert for A History of the Oaklnad Speedway (1931-1941) and A History of Oakland Stadium (1946-1955) from Vinatge Images in Rancho Cordova, CA , phone number (916) 361-8674.

#9 Michael Ferner

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 13:49

Oakland Speedway (or Stadium) ran an indefinite number of Big Car/Sprint Car races after WW2 - for a brief time in 1946, the track even ran twice a week! I have results for roughly 50 races, ranging from just the winner to full entry lists. The track (re-)opened on June 30, 1946 with a 15-lap (9 3/8 miles) race, won by Howard "Buck" Whitmer, and the inaugural season's longest race was a 100-lapper (62 1/2 miles) on Thanksgiving Day (won by Bayliss Levrett).

The only "Oakland 500" event after the war was a 500-lap (312 1/2 miles) race on May 30, 1952, as referenced by Jim Thurman above. The following year, Jack Flaherty won a 160-lap (100 miles) race on Memorial Day, and in 1954 Eli Vukovich won over 250 laps (125 miles) - the old banked turns had by now been bypassed. Really, those banked turns were the track's downfall, as they prevented any real racing: there was just one racing line through them, and all the passing had to be done and completed on the straights. It was a terribly unpopular circuit with the drivers, and the fans, too, although there were reasonable crowds for some of the races, especially in 1946.

Most of these races were sanctioned by the American Racing Association, a so-called "Class B" circuit that ran mostly in Northern and Central California. Most cars were pre-war, rail frames and production-based engines, with a few Miller marine or Hisso engines thrown in for good measure. By and by, a few Offenhausers filled the ranks, and both Rose (Larry Albedi Offy) and Vukovich (Cecil Shaw Offy) took their big wins in Offies - Vukie's was even a tube-frame car! The rival Western Racing Association (J. C. Agajanian's former club) also sanctioned a few races, providing Bob Sweikert with his first Sprint Car win in 1949, and the AAA had three appearances during their short-lived Pacific Coast renaissance in 1950 and '52. In the latter year, the banks had been shut off with hay bales, to provide at least some interest for the spectators - still, the stands remained largely empty. Apart from the boom times immediately after the war, the track ran an average of only two Big Car races per year from 1949 onwards - nobody missed it when it closed after the 1954 season.

#10 Michael Ferner

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 14:26

Jimmy and Jim

Dates for Oakland 500

25/09/1938 Bud Rose .........................Pearson Miller
24/09/1939 Tex Peterson/ Rajo Jack ..Pearson Miller
02/09/1940 Hal Cole............................Pearson Miller
01/09/1941 Ed Barnett........................Riley ( American not British! )

Amazingly the first three wins in the 500 were by the same car. Like Indy, 33 cars ran and started in rows of three although the dirt track was not really wide enough. The track length was actually 1.125 miles and only (!) 444 laps had to be completed.


The pre-war 500-mile races had been staged by the same club, and were also pretty much "Class B" races. Apart from one car, perhaps: the Pearson/Miller not only won the first three 500s (and finished 7th in the fourth), it also won pretty much all the races in between (two 200-milers included). The track was really just a mile in circumference, but it's true that the first race went over only 444 laps - it was a trick, because the management feared that there wouldn't be enough cars to last the full 500 miles, and it wasn't clear how long it would take to finish the race. So, the track was just advertised as 1 1/8 miles, the change being explained by putting some hay bales on the apex of the corners. It doesn't take expert mathematical skills to work out that an increase of track length by 220 yards is not possible that way!!

After the first race was run off in less than five-and-a-half hours and with eleven cars still running at the end, this plot was dropped* and the later races were real 500-milers, which explains why the first race was so much "faster" than the others. Information about relief drivers is even poorer than with the Indy 500, but it is known that "Rajo Jack" drove only the last 54 laps in 1939. Tex Petersen was so knackered after driving for almost six hours, that even in the post-race celebration photos he looks just like a ghost - and he'd been out of the car for half an hour by then! Still, he'd driven two more laps than Bud Rose the year before. The only drivers to go the full 500 miles were Hal Cole and Ed Barnett. Cole was one of the stars of the circuit, and a former and future AAA driver, but Barnett was almost completely unknown, even then. He had been around for several years, but always back "in the ruck", apart from a couple of second place finishes. Two months after the 500, he won a race at Southern Ascot, and that seems to be about it. After the war, he remained a regular at Oakland, and finished second at least seven more times. He finished seventh in Oakland's penultimate race, 1954, to conclude (?) a career of two decades, but only one highlight.


* EDIT I just noticed, the next race in early 1939 was still advertised as a 50-miler on a 1 1/8 track, but the average speed was calculated for 44 miles! Apparently, with the race finished in less than half an hour, the organizers felt they would be pushing things by claiming an average speed of over 100 mph! True, in its heyday, with AAA cars and drivers Oakland had seen speeds that high, but in 1939 it was Ray Gardner winning, and not his brother Chet - so, they clandestinely restored Oakland Speedway to its traditional lap length of one mile, period! :D

Edited by Michael Ferner, 25 June 2012 - 14:54.


#11 bpratt

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 16:41

Not a lot online. The Berkeley Daily Gazette does have some information (top ten) for the races. Starting here (http://news.google.c...&b_mode=2&hl=en) might help.

The reprint of Throttle magazine has a cover story on the 1941 500 miler. And ARA point standings.

#12 sramoa

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 17:36

The reprint of Throttle magazine has a cover story on the 1941 500 miler. And ARA point standings.


Brian!Do you give me this ARA point standings?

#13 bpratt

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 03:12

Hi Richard,
Here's some of the information from the November 1941 issue of Throttle:

American Racing Association

1936

1 -- Art Armstrong

1937

1 -- Fred Agabashian

1938

1 -- Bud Rose

1939

1 -- Wally Shock

1940

1 -- Wally Shock

1941 season to November 1st

1 -- Tex Sanders………….1130
2 -- Ed Barnett……………..1109.5
3 -- Rajo Jack…………….. 1057
4 -- Hal Cole…………….... 839
5 -- Wally Shock…………. 820.5
6 -- Slim Mathis………….. 702
7 -- Gabby Gilbert………… 684.5
8 -- Bob Frame……………. 570
9 -- Sam Nigro…………….. 566
10-- Van Edwards………….. 559


Tex Sanders is said to be the champion according to the headline of the story so I suppose no more races were held. The twelve issue run of Throttle was reprinted by The Rodder's Journal.

#14 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 00:11

Thanks for the poins table, Brian. :up:

Interesting. If I'm not mistaken, there were nine qualifying rounds, three at Oakland and six at (Southern) Ascot, with points basically paying one per lap for first, 0.98 for second, 0.96 for third and son on. As one can easily see, a championship for consistency, rather than outright speed: Between them, Bill Sheffler and Tex Petersen won more than half of all the races, but neither finished in the top ten in points, and Hal Cole wouldn't have (despite two wins) if not for his seventh place finish at the 500. Tex Sanders (often spelled Saunders), on the other hand, was a model of consistency, finishing fourth in each of the first four races, and adding two fifths to his second place finish at the showpiece event to become a winless champion. Ed Barnett, too, was always around at the end of the races, but apart from his big triumph he had only one second and one third to add to a string of placings in the lower half of the top ten (the Ascot win mentioned in my last post was a WRA event). "Rajo Jack" also had a win, a second and a first as his only top 5 finishes, the difference being that none of them came in the point-heavy 500. Schock had two seconds, and Mathis one, but the only mention of George "Gabby" Gilbert in the season's results that I was able to find had been a win in a consy, and another one in a special match race against a non-regular of the series - otherwise not a single main event finish (i.e., the top 7 or 8 finishing positions that were mentioned, on average, in the papers)! Theoretically, you could have scored more than 1,000 points without ever finishing in the top ten!

Edited by Michael Ferner, 01 July 2012 - 00:20.


#15 Michael Ferner

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 18:50

Oh, and while we're at it, I also have the final 1940 ARA points (with the caveat, however, that the source was a bit difficult to read):

1 Wally Schock 805
2 Slim Mathis 649
3 "Rajo Jack" 616
4 Van Edwards 614
5 Tex Petersen 555
6 Tommy Wise 550
7 Bernie Miller 542
8 Hal Cole 542
9 Bud Rose 449
10 Bill Gelhar 440

Bernie Miller is probably, in fact, Jimmy Miller, or possibly a brother of Jimmy. There is some confusion here which I would love to resolve, however, with a name like that it's difficult to research. Some day, perhaps, I'll find the answer by accident.