Remembering the glory days of the Dayton Speedway

Credit: DDN file photo

Credit: DDN file photo

The Dayton Speedway, once located on Soldiers Home-West Carrollton Road, was the site of many amazing races during its long history.

The track opened in 1934 and immediately attracted large crowds.

» PHOTOS: Dayton Speedway images from the archives

The inaugural race was won by Ken Fowler of Paterson, New Jersey. Mauri Rose of Dayton finished second.

Through the years it hosted races for NASCAR, ARCA (stock cars), and AAA (sprint cars).

The track

Dayton Speedway opened as a 5/8th mile D-shaped, flat, dirt track.

After a few years, 30-degree banking and asphalt were added to help drivers increase speed.

Credit: Skip Peterson

Credit: Skip Peterson

Old trolley cars were rumored to be buried in the banks to build them up.

Referred to as The Hills, the Dayton Speedway was considered a challenge to drivers through the entire half mile (plus 210 feet).

“It was extremely fast, extremely dangerous and extremely fun to drive,” driver Lee Raymond, a two-time ARCA national champion, once said of the track. “It was probably my top racetrack of all.”

Here’s a view of where the speedway was located:

The drivers

The raceway, which could bring in crowds of over 10,000, produced many acclaimed drivers.

A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser, Eddie Sachs and Joie Ray all ran at Dayton Speedway. So did Spider Webb, Benny Parsons, Iggy Katona and Lee Petty.

The speedway served as a test for aspiring Indianapolis 500 drivers. If you could run Dayton, Salem and Winchester, it was said you were ready for the Indy 500.

A list of area drivers battling the high banks reads like a who’s who of Miami Valley racers, including Jack Bowsher, Dick Dunlevy Sr. and Jr., Dick Freeman, Chick Hale, Larry Moore, Neal Sceva, Harold Smith, Lee Raymond and Don Wilbur.

There are also those drivers remembered for their tragic endings.

Gordon Reid plowed into the grandstand on April 20, 1952, killing himself, two spectators and a police officer. Reports said as many as 98 were injured.

Months later, Jim Rigsby’s throttle stuck wide open after contact with another car sending Rigsby speeding straight up the 30-degree banking. It was a several story drop on the other side straight down. Reports say his car shot 20 feet into the air and landed in a field 200 feet away. Rigsby’s accident prompted a U.S. senator to call for a ban on auto racing.

The finish line

The Speedway was closed in 1941 due to World War II. Racing resumed in 1946.

The track’s glory days were the 1940s and 1950s. The 1960s still brought great racing and crowds of 10,000. But Dayton Speedway started to fall on hard times in the 1970s

The track was also closed from 1971-74 and again from 1976-78. During those times, the track would occasionally be rented out for race car testing. Owners Don Flory and Don Thompson tried to keep it up and running, and would often draw drivers from as many as seven different states when they held events.

In 1979 the track was re-sealed and re-opened for competition, running under the name of Greater Dayton Speedway. But with too much work and not enough money for liability insurance or to keep the track suitable for racing, it closed for good in 1982.

Once the proud site of Dayton’s heralded racing history, Dayton Speedway is now buried under trash and industrial rubble on the site of a landfill.