Pictures from Bob Lawrence


By Bob Lawrence

The race track at the Cowley county fairgrounds was originally built for horse racing as the track predates the automobile. The size (one half mile), shape, (low banked oval), and location of the track have not been altered from its earliest days.
Touring promoters presented a number of exhibition auto races on the track in the early 1900s. In those races, the promoter either owned, or contracted for, the cars and drivers in the field with the emphasis placed on providing a good show for the crowd rather than on presenting a real competition. These early events were not affiliated with any organized sanctioning body.
In the early 1950s, Winfield car dealer Joe Collins, with help from the Winfield Lions Club, began promoting three stock car racing events per year at the track, those being run on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. The City of Winfield required that a local civic organization sponsor such events in order to receive the City's permission to use the facility.
On September 7, 1953 (Labor Day), 9-year-old Alvie Wesley Wilson of Winfield was with a group of people watching the races from the railroad tracks south of the racetrack when he was struck and killed by an errant wheel from a race car. Although races continued to be held at the track for a few years after that accident, improvements demanded by insurers led to the cessation of auto racing at the track by the end of the decade.

Racing Program 1

In 1967, the Auto Racing Association of Kansas headed by its president, Dale Chase, teamed up with Charles "Dusty" Cloud and Winfield's Spencer - Yarbrough V.F.W. Post 3544 to present late model automobile races on the fairgrounds track again. Racing events run on the fairgrounds track by this group:

Date Feature Race Winner Winning Driver's Hometown
July 23, 1967 Bob Reed Wichita, KS
September 24, 1967 Bud Hahn Wichita, KS
May 26, 1968 Bill Collins South Coffeyville, OK
June 23, 1968 Mel Montgomery Wichita, KS
July 14, 1968 Mike Lutkie Wichita, KS
September 22, 1968 Charlie Lutkie* Wichita, KS

* Winfield driver Kenny Moore driving a car owned by Leo Phillips of Winfield, finished a very close second place in this race. It was a controversial finish as many observers felt that Moore had won the race.

In 1970, Bob Lawrence teamed with Wayne Wilt and the Winfield Jaycees to promote three more late model stock car races at the track:

Date Feature Race Winner Winning Driver's Hometown
July 12, 1970 Pinky Mullins Wichita, KS
August 16, 1970 **
July 25, 1971 Gary Moore Wichita, KS

Advertising Flyer 1

** Bill Bookout, of Enid, OK, towing his `Super Modified' class car to a race in Wichita to a race scheduled for Sunday evening, August 16, 1970, stopped by the Winfield fairgrounds to watch the late model stock cars race there that Sunday afternoon. He asked the promoters if he could enter his modified in the stock car race but his request was denied. Bill Collins, of South Coffeyville, OK, commented that it would not matter if the modified was allowed to run as he (Collins) thought his late model car could beat the modified anyway. Bookout challenged Collins to a four lap match race between their two cars and, if the promoters would post some prize money, it should be a `winner take all' event. Collins agreed providing they use an inline start (rather than side by side) putting the late model in front since it was the heavier race car. $25 was posted for prize money and the race commenced. The late model led through the first two turns but was passed by the modified going into the back stretch. Since Bookout had planned to run at the smaller race track at Wichita, he had a lower rear end gear in the car than was really needed for the larger Winfield track. Collins easily passed Bookout back before the cars reached the third turn. In doing so though, Collins ran his car into the turn too fast and slammed into the steel pipe guard railing heavily damaging both the railing and his race car. Bookout stopped his car and said that, if Collins could make repairs, he was willing to rerun the race. Although his car could be repaired, Collins declined Bookout's offer saying that he would rather save his car for the late model feature event scheduled for later that afternoon. After that race, he would consider rerunning the match race with Bookout
The feature race started under threatening skies and was stopped after just two completed laps when a car driven by Benny Feeley of Enid, OK, rolled over several times exiting the fourth turn. It started raining before the race could be restarted and the remainder of the racing program had to be canceled. Although Mike Smith of Bartlesville, OK was leading when the feature race was stopped, no winner was declared as half of the scheduled 20-lap race had not been completed.

The unwillingness of the City of Winfield to replace the pipe railing around the track with something safer, coupled with dwindling crowds and, thus, smaller purses, led this latest group to stop promoting races at the track after the 1971 event.
The races run on the Winfield race track between 1967 and 1971 were very competitive with no driver being able to repeat a feature race win although it should be noted that the feature event run on July 14, 1968 and the one run on September 22, 1968 were both won by the same car, but with different drivers at the wheel.
In December of 1977, Wayne Wilt and Don Branine made a formal presentation to the Winfield City Commission that the city make $18,000 in improvements to the old race track so that automobile racing could return to the facility. Commissioners rejected the proposal on a 3-to-1 vote.

This photo (above) appeared in the 1993 book "Winfield Then and Now" so you have probably seen it before but I think it goes well with the other photo (left) you have of that early car race at the Winfield fairgrounds.
Bob Lawrence, Feb. 11, '00

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