The Central Auto Racing Boosters history begins in 1952, when Clara Goshorn and Virginia Nelson got together and formed a group to support the drivers in the Kansas City area. However Kansas City racing history begins many years before these two ladies got together.
The Midwest has long been a hotspot for auto racing. In 1915, four years after the inaugural Indianapolis 500 race, the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia began hosting car races, making dual use of the horse track. Major league auto racing arrived in Kansas City in the 1920s. A banked wooden 1.25-mile track was constructed at a location in south Kansas City that is now 95th and Holmes. Known as the Million Dollar Speedway, there was seating for about 50,000 people in a partially covered grandstand.
Barney Oldfield, a legendary automobile racer and pioneer in the sport and the first man to drive a car at 60 miles per hour on an oval track, drove the pace car in the first race at the Million Dollar Speedway. Life of the Million Dollar Speedway was short-lived, however. Only four races were held there, as the wood material used for the track surface proved to be highly inadequate for auto racing.
Olympic Stadium, opened in 1935, was an all-purpose facility with a fifth-mile dirt track. The facility was located on 15th Street, east of the Kansas City, Mo., downtown area and had seating for 3,000 people. In addition to auto racing, which became the primary activity at Olympic Stadium, baseball games, pro wrestling and Wild West shows were also part of the commercial fare. The first auto-racing event at Olympic, the Missouri State Derby, paid the winner $600.
The iconic motorsports journalist Chris Economaki called Olympic “a waystation.” Racers would haul their cars from California and stop at tracks in Denver, Kansas City, Iowa Illinois, and Indiana on their way to more established, higher-revenue Eastern race tracks. The legendary A. J. Foyt won at Olympic Stadium on May 12, 1957.
Riverside Park, opened in 1939, doubled as a horse-racing track as well as a facility for auto racing. A place where Kansas City’s elected officials loved to hang out.
In 1951, another Riverside track, Riverside Speedway, was built on a stretch of flood plain north of the Missouri River. The dirt-track facility was operated exclusively for motorsports.
Lakeside Speedway opened in April 1955 – a half-mile, dirt oval, banked track – at a location three miles north of the present Kansas Speedway. The first event held at Lakeside was an AAA-sanctioned sprint-car race, with a field that included three drivers who had raced in the Indianapolis 500.
Car racing ended in 1988 at Lakeside Speedway’s 92nd and Leavenworth Road location, replaced by the Woodlands horse and dog-racing facility. Lakeside opened a new race track in 1989, south of the Missouri River and just west of I-435. The new Lakeside track was a little less than a half mile and paved in asphalt. The track surface was changed to dirt in 2000.
In 1968, I-70 Speedway opened a half-mile, paved oval track on 278 acres of land east of Odessa, Mo. When it first opened, the I-70 track hosted stock-car racing on Saturday and sprint-car racing on Sunday. Later, racing classes at the track were expanded to include kart racing, quarter midgets and truck racing (several NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events were held at I-70 Speedway). In 2006, a dirt track was added behind the asphalt track. I-70 Speedway was closed in 2008 after hosting motorsports events for 41 years.
Since its opening in 2001, Kansas Speedway, not only has brought major-league auto racing to the Kansas City area but tens of thousands of racing fans, as well. And all of this has meant a lot of increased revenue for Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kan., and the Greater Kansas City area.
Owned by International Speedway Corporation, Kansas Speedway currently hosts three different series of NASCAR racing (Camping World trucks, Nationwide series, and the Sprint Cup race) every year. Speedway officials built a Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series road-course race, hosting a race this past year.
Kansas Speedway is considered the home track for two of NASCAR’s biggest names: Clint Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kan., and Carl Edwards, who hails from Columbia, Mo. Both drivers honed their racing skills on the short tracks at Lakeside and I-70 Speedway.
Kansas City’s long auto-racing heritage is not just surviving here in the heart of America, but actually thriving.
The Central Auto Racing Boosters is a 62 year old organization that has promoted the sport of auto racing at various tracks throughout the Kansas and Missouri area. In 2001 work began on the First 50 Years of the Central Auto Racing Boosters book, again led by two ladies, Joan Ellis and Diana Green. This book published in 2002 led to the Central Auto Racing Boosters forming a committee in 2003 with the purpose to establish a Hall of Fame. On March 6, 2004, the first fifteen members of the C.A.R.B. Hall of Fame were inducted. The tenth class was inducted this past March.
Our next step as the Central Auto Racing Boosters is to establish a Museum so we can capture the rich racing history of this area and display our past, our present, and our future as our sport continues on. With the help of many volunteers and the current owners of Lakeside Speedway, we are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of the C.A.R.B. Hall of Fame. This is the first step in completing our goal of raising money for our own building where we can display racecars, past, present, and future and where oldtimers can swap stories and present what we like to call bench racing. We need everyone’s assistance in making this happen, we need donations, monetary and memorabilia. Thank you for your assistance.