October 4, 2008

Old Times for Old Timers

Keeping this site active for our class is great - but when we find we have expanded to others who have an appreciation for past memories it is very gratifying.  Deb Mangas received feedback from a former Winchester native who shared his memories of Funk's speedway.  Mr. Coffman now lives in Greenville, OH with his wife of 60 years!  He also recalled being a caddy at the Beeson Golf Course for Robert Oliver, Sr. and Frances Simpson.  Welcome to our website, Mr. Coffman!  Come back often and we welcome you to share your memories and any photos you have with the class! 

Mr. Coffman wrote: 

Deb, My name is Glen Coffman and am 79 years old. I was raised in Winchester and am very familiar to the Funk's Speedway. I used to be a life guard at the round Goodrich swimming pool and actually met my wife of 60 years there. During the war the track was closed and we found a way to get through the locked gates in 1947. I and several of my friends would drive around the track till a couple of them later on brought motor cycles and Frank Funk heard them, came over and ran us all out of there. I got to see the races after they started racing again for free. I sold bags of peanuts in their shells for Bob Ludy during the intermissions. I lived in the last house on the east edge of Winchester at 644 East Washington Street.  Loved sitting on the front porch watching cars from Ohio returning towards their homes after being at the races that day. Always waiting for a race car being towed behind a truck on a flat bed trailer. Thanks for putting up with an old fan.  Glen  PS: Love your site and have sent in on to all my e mail friends.

  Photo of our new friend, Glen Coffman, sitting on the front of his DeSoto.  Circa 1947.

The Webmaster received a great story from another new website visitor.  Welcome to John Massey Davis, who now lives in Atlanta, GA.  Mr. Davis wrote:

Winchester did not have a city owned ambulance back in the 40's, so the track administrators would hire various funeral home hearses that could be converted to ambulances.  In my senior years at Winchester High School in 1948, I worked part time for the Maynard-Walker Funeral Home.  The funeral home owned a Packard hearse and a Ford vehicle that could serve as both a flower truck and an ambulance.  On the Sunday that Maynard-Walker was awarded the ambulance contract, I was allowed to drive the converted flower truck onto the track as the designated ambulance driver.. It was a great thrill to be parked among the drivers and their race cars on the infield.  There was an accident on the North end embankment and I was called upon to drive to the scene with the red light on ( it was a fog light on the front bumper). Since we were required to drive in the same direction as the race cars, I drove the entire length of the track banking on both of the 45 degree turns....it was quite a thrill...Fortunately, the driver was not seriously injured and I drove him back to the infield and turned off my red (fog lamp) light...John Massey Davis, Atlanta, GA

Children growing up in Winchester in the 1950s were among some of the luckiest.  Winchester was booming.  There were lots of jobs, lots of stores downtown and a lot for a kid to do.  Movie theaters, skating rink, swimming pool, and a soda fountain in every drug store.  Winchester, as the county seat, was the heart of Randolph County.  We had many noteworthy attractions.  Our swimming pool was famous, and until its demise it was one of the last round public swimming pools in existence.  In the fall, we had Mardi Gras.  Who among us didn't endure the wrath of our mothers as we came home from the Mardi Gras with confetti in our hair, in our shoes, and in the pockets of our coats, and as we entered, our movements could be easily tracked by the trail of the hundreds of little colored paper circles left behind.  What a mess, but oh what fun!  So much to see, so much to do in Winchester.  One place holds special memories for the Hintys.  Funk's Speedway, as it was called then, Winchester Speedway, as it is now called.

A
lthough half the clan was either too young (or not yet born) to recall the concession booth under the bleachers at the racetrack, we still hold memorabilia from the day, and we have heard the stories.   In later years, we went to the track for the races.  Dad and Grandpa were into racing, any kind of racing.  They loved go-karts, midgets and the Indianapolis 500.  We always watched or listened to the Indianapolis 500.  Foyt was a household word.  Parnelli Jones was a particular favorite.

T
he weekend of September 27, 2008, Winchester Speedway brought back a wonderful tradition.  Old Timer's Weekend.

Many of you also have memories of the racetrack.  Here, we have just a few.

Photo courtesy Nancy K. Lane-Felder at Split Second Sports

HISTORY OF WINCHESTER SPEEDWAY (FUNK’S)

Article from the Union City Evening Times – May 24, 1938

Just 24 years ago May 30, the man who is fighting a grim battle with death at the Randolph County hospital at Winchester, IN, gave America the first specially constructed speedway.  That man is Frank Funk, a name well familiar all over the nation in speedway racing circles and well known to the thousands of Miami Valley auto race patrons.  Funk lies in a critical condition the result of a highway accident near his home at Winchester.

Auto racing has made Funk and he in turn has made auto racing, which is an important part of the sport menu through the mid-west.  The site of the world famous Winchester Speedway, which holds every recognized record from 22 seconds for the half mile up to 100 miles, and which at every race meet has attracted crowds ranging from 10,000 to as high as 15,000 was once a corn field.

Recently, Funk told how the speedway idea struck him.  “Back in 1914 the site of the present speed bowl was a corn field.  I was always tinkering around some mechanical car motor when one day on the road, I saw the then unusual feat of two cars tearing down the open dirt road.  The thought struck me that if we cleared enough cornstalks and weeds to lay out a round path and could round up enough owners, a small race could be staged on Memorial Day. That the idea was a popular one was shown by the crowd which came by buggy, bicycle and traction car, and we were so pleased by our success that we have been racing ever since.” 

The banks were increased on the turns from year to year and the speeds increased as well.  He next experimented with track treatment.  During the early seasons, he had used mineral oil.  This was impractical, as it penetrated, and from race to race it was necessary to oil the entire track to control dust and afford a surface for the drivers.  By mixing various compositions during the past two years he has been able to compound a surface that retained its form race to race.

Road builders and highway engineers became vitally interested in the Winchester course as the material that stood up under the terrific speeds of the racing cars would solve their problems of road building.  Funk aided the materially, and his findings were always available to the state and county officials from all over the nation and became a laboratory and proving ground in road building.

With the spread of fame across the nation of Winchester under his guidance he was in demand all over the nation for building racing tracks.  He constructed the $50,000 Ft. Wayne, IN oval, patterned after Winchester, and succeeded in returning the record for five-eighth-mile speedway to the Midwest.  This was done also by Everett Saylor of Dayton last summer.

Other speedways built under his supervision were Huntington, IN., Woodbridge, NJ, and Jungle Park, IN.

All through the years racing participants found a friend in Frank Funk.  And of the thousands of drivers and car owners who had raced for him in the past, never was there a complaint against his treatment of them.  Funk, Dr. J. K. Bailey of Union City, and Foster Shultz of Greenville, OH, were responsible for the establishment of the Central States Racing association in 1935.   They set purses large enough to attract the drivers and car owners of repute to races in the scope of C.S.R.A. operations, and also created additional purses to care for those who suffered the misfortune of breakups.

That the Funk plan operated successfully can be seen in all C.S.R.A meets attracting the leading star drivers from all over America.  The Central States group has grown so vast in prominence that it is recognized as the “fastest auto racing circuit in the world”  His season’s inaugural at Winchester will be staged next Sunday despite his serious illness. It has always been his wish that no matter what happens to him, “the show must go on.”  And it will.

(Frank Funk did survive his accident injuries and lived on).

From:  archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/INRANDOL/2005-08/1125010816

       

 Photos courtesy of Fred Lawson.

Gary Junco

I was on the track once, way back, when it was Funk's Speedway.  We were in our family sedan and my Mom was all over my Dad to stay at the bottom.  It did seem steep at the time.  Not so intimidating now that I've raced on some pretty tight ovals.

I also remember watching a race and seeing a car go out of the track in turn 3 - literally flew over the wall.  I don't remember who or when - just that sight of the sprint car in the air with the trees in the background. 

           

Deb (Durbin) Mangas

I remember my dad taking me, Deanna and Dana to the track.  We would get in free because the day after the race, he would take us (and any neighbor kids that wanted to go) out to the track and pick up the pop bottles under the bleachers and around the area.  He would then turn them in for a deposit and split the money with all the kids.

I also remember him taking us all for a ride around the track in our family station wagon! 

Black Sunday    
Randy Beck

I wish I had photos of the old days. I do remember that when I was a kid, the grandstand was covered and the tower in the infield was a pagoda style. The outside wall, fence, on the track was wood with wood post's. At that time the orphans home was still in operation and the kids from there would come over to watch a race and set in the trees on the east side of the track. At the very beginning of Funk's, he had a carnival on the south side (in the parking lot)

I would like to know why he built the lake behind the track, maybe to build the banks on the track? It used to be called "Funk's Lake"--now "The Timbers", I think?

Last year's Winchester 400 winner, Ryan Lawler, gets cooled off by NASCAR driver, David Stremme, who finished 2nd.  Photo courtesy of Randy Crist, 3rd Turn Photos.

Winchester Speedway history

Racing series  

ASA HISTORY

Date

2001-09-07

Winchester Speedway, Winchester 400 Both Go Back to the Ages Oldest Half-Mile Oval in Country Started Hosting ASA in 1970

PENDLETON, Ind. (August 30, 2001) -- It has a legendary feel, and rightfully so. It was the world's first half-mile oval race track and, to this day, remains one of the steepest and fastest half-mile tracks in the country. Its every nook and cranny has seen many of the legends of short track stock car racing, and all of racing in general, pass over it at one point or another. It has seen some of the best racing moments in stock car racing, some of the worst accidents and plenty of heart-warming and heart-breaking moments.

Winchester Speedway history starts in 1916 with Frank Funk. The track was the first half-mile oval in the United States, which was made out of a clay surface. It is the oldest running short track in operation, and falls second to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the oldest speedways still under operation. The first season began with three scheduled events. The first show was much less than a success, which carried over into the track's second race, where only a few fans returned.

Pete Wales owned the track for a brief 10 years, from 1960 to 1970. Wales was instrumental in getting the track paved for a first time, covering up the old clay surface. In the 1970s, another new owner, Roger Holdeman, took over responsibilities of the speedway. It was during Holdeman's tenure that the speedway underwent numerous surface changes, as well as pushing the track into its prime. It was 1970 when Holdeman was involved in getting the first 400-lap late model stock car race running, the one that would eventually turn into one of the most decorated races in all of the country, the Winchester 400. Upon his death in February of 1996, his widow, Linda, took over the track responsibilities and held them until November of 1997.

The track was sold to three gentleman, Jim LaBar, Jeff Jeffers and Charlie Shaw in November of 1997. As a result, immediate changes started taking place and additional work was being done to improve the track. The immediate goal of the group was to bring the family environment back to the racetrack and to make Winchester Speedway one of the premier half-mile ovals. In late 1999, Shaw purchased a majority of the vested interest in the track, and, along with partner and open-wheel legend Tom Bigelow, began an even more extensive plan to help modernize the facility.

The track has always been and remains a staple for both stock car and open wheel racing. Some of the best drivers in the country regularly flock with some of the best sanctioning bodies in the country to the "super-speedway short track" to help hone their skills. Some of the top drivers in stock car racing now; Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Mike Eddy, Bob Senneker, Jeff Gordon, Mike Cope and Scott Hansen, have all made Winchester Speedway their home at some time.

Courtesy Motorsport.com

Jill (Hinty) Keener
We lived about 2 miles from Funk's Speedway for many years.  My earliest memories were of spending the evening at my grandpa and dad's concession stand under the wooden bleachers near the fourth turn.  I can still smell the fuel and hear the cars as they raced around the track.  We had the best grape and "blue" popsicles in the world! I still have some of the memorabilia from their concessions at the track.

I remember driving my dad's go-kart around the track and then taking the Black Corvair and the '67 Chevelle for a few laps!

Finally, I remember marching in the band around the track one summer between our junior and senior year.  Summer in a wool majorette uniform was no fun!!!

I am so glad that there are still races at this historic track!

Please post your speedway memories on the Forum and send any photos to the Webmaster

          

Photos courtesy of Fred, Jill and the Randolph County Historical Society

 

  Click on the logo to go to the Winchester Speedway website

Charlie Shaw is the owner of the Speedway. It is hard to describe the heart he has for the place. He has loved that racetrack for many, many years, and wants it to remain open for fans and racers to enjoy.

Glenn Luckett, R.J. Scott and myself of Champion Racing Association (CRA) are managing the racing events for him.

Greg Wood
CRA / Winchester Speedway

       

       

   

    Linton C. Hinty     Funk's Speedway - 1948     

                                                    Serena P. Hinty   

Jill's grandparents sold racing souvenirs and memorabilia at the local racetrack, as well as other racetracks in the surrounding area.