We have to begin with the man whose life’s action meant the most to Kansas City area racing. As you will see he never wanted to fame or glory, he wanted racing to survive and grow. He was not about himself, he was simply about the sport! A man who worked six days a week, and only accepted that there were two holidays, Christmas and Independence Day. On July 20, 2002 at Central Missouri Speedway track announcer Tom Wilson stated that the “Godfather” of Kansas City racing was in attendance. The “Godfather” is none other than long time racing legend Clyde Ellis, owner of Seeburg Mufflers. In Tom’s term the “Godfather” was a huge compliment.
Clyde Ellis always had a love for automobile racing; as a Race Fan, a Driver, a Promoter, an Official, and a Track Owner. He was actively involved in automobile racing for over 50 years. He continually made outstanding and unselfish contributions for the betterment and advancement of the sport of automobile racing.
Clyde began racing a 1936 Ford in 1958 at the former Riverside Stadium in Riverside, Missouri. He purchased and drove his first late model, a 1956 Ford, from Shorty Eberts, an I.M.C.A. driver from Avondale, Missouri. Clyde would own and drive three other late model racecars before his driving career was ended by a racing accident. Clyde normally campaigned at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas and with I.M.C.A. He finished in the Top 20 in I.M.C.A. points in 1959 and 1961. He once finished fourth in the 100 lap Missouri State Fair Race on the mile track.
After a racing accident in Topeka, Kansas on May 30, 1964 Clyde was left with a crippled left arm, ironically he was left-handed. Rather than be bitter about the racing accident, Clyde switched to promoting racing. In July 1964 he was appointed Assistant Manager of Lakeside Speedway. In 1965 he became Manager of the racetrack.
During his tenure as manager, Clyde was able to secure sanctioned races with I.M.C.A. and U.S.A.C. To promote these races, he would paint his personal vehicle with advertisement concerning the race. His wife, Joan, would then drive the car around to shopping malls and auto parts stores and sell tickets. Clyde would assist drivers coming to Kansas City for the race by making room reservations and providing transportation. Clyde was active with I.M.C.A. from 1965 through 1974. He accepted and performed the responsibility of scoring I.M.C.A.’s long races (100 to 500 miles) throughout the Midwest in various cities.
Clyde brought to Lakeside numerous safety rules. He upgraded safety by installing rules requiring window nets, the first in the Kansas City area, and he enforced proper roll bar, chassis, and tire rules. The safety of the drivers and race fans was his claim to success as Manager of Lakeside.
Clyde and his family donated many hours of their time in helping I-70 Speedway to open in 1969. They assisted in installing seats and general clean up. Clyde was I-70’s first pit steward.
In 1988, the original dirt Lakeside Speedway ran its last race. The next year it was replaced by a horse and dog track, The Woodlands. Clyde was one of several investors that built a new asphalt Lakeside Speedway five miles north of the old track’s location. Racing at the new facility began in June of 1989. The new track featured concrete pits for the racers and the cleanest restrooms of any racetrack in the country for fans. Additions to the track which can be directly attributed to Clyde include the 12-foot wall along the back straight that replaced a guard rail, thus, improving safety for the racers, the turn four grandstand for the pit area, and the outdoor concession stands which reduced walking distances for the race fans. He and his family will never admit to this, but the 1990 through 1993 racing seasons can be attributed to Clyde, because without his financial support racing would not have happened at Lakeside during those years.
Clyde was a member of the Central Auto Racing Boosters (C.A.R.B.) for 50+ years. He donated endless amounts of time, money, and ideas for the betterment of Auto Racing. Although he never accepted the nomination for President of C.A.R.B., he served in some official capacity for many years. Clyde was the “guiding light” on many of C.A.R.B.’s projects. He was a leader in assisting the younger generation in C.A.R.B.’s traditions as they acceped and held offices. Clyde won many awards through his work with the Central Auto Racing Boosters and with racing. He is a past winner of the J.O. “Pop” Hartman Award, The Virginia Nelson Achievement Award, the Distinguished Service Award, and the Tom Karrick Memorial Family Award. But Clyde’s work has been noticed outside of the racing circles, also. His name was on the scroll of the NASCAR banquet of people we lost in the year he moved on to heaven.
In 2002, Clyde was honored with a Green Jacket, symbolic of his work with the Snake Saturday (St. Patrick’s Day festival and parade) committee for several years. The Green Jacket is an honor along the lines of the Green Jacket for the Masters golf tournament. C.A.R.B., through Clyde’s assistance and work with the Snake Saturday committee, has had their annual racecar show in conjunction with this event. In 2008 he was the Grand Marshal of the Snake Saturday parade. He was also the person in that background pushing Mickey Finn to appoint myself as the president of Northland Festivals.
Clyde Ellis was involved in racing for over 50 years. He was a lifelong friend to the sport of automobile racing. Even through the good and the bad he remained a supporter of the sport. He continually promoted the sport of auto racing to the general public.