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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Fairbury Races, 1946

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

Fairbury had a horse racetrack and a car racetrack which they were calling the American Legion Speedway in 1946. In May of that year they were working on the car racetrack to get it ready for first midget car races in Fairbury. (The only other images of midget race cars in the Pantagraph collection are those from 1941, when Farmer City had midget car races.)

The car track was built inside the horse track with a metal guard rail all the way around and lights were being installed just in time for the car races. It was a fifth mile dirt track and 39 racers came to Fairbury for this race. Of those cars, only 22 qualified. They came from as far away as Milwaukee, St. Louis and Indiana. Races were planned for a full ten weeks -- the entire summer!

The name of the man installing the light was not mentioned in the Pantagraph.

Here is Roy Tomaseski from Lasalle, IL in his Offy racer with Spud Schlipf. Spud was in charge of the racetrack preparations. (If anyone knows his given name please let me know.) These cars did not offer much protection for the drivers!! Offy racers were apparently quite expensive and coveted by racers.

This image of the driver's seat in the Offy is mind-blowing. His legs were directly over an unprotected drive shaft!!

The only local contestant was Joe Gouge (the name was pretty much illegible so my best guess, let me know if this is right) and his partner was Shorty Headley (given name??). They owned a car with a Roof engine.

Here is a close up view of their engine:

Drivers drove for a portion of the gate and on the first night of the races there were 2,800 people in the stands. The winner of the 20 lap race, Mike O'Hallaran, received $185 ($2,612.00 in today's economy). The cars drove of speeds of almost 75 miles per hour -- that's really fast for what was essentially the size of a go-cart but with a much bigger engine.

Exciting times in Fairbury, and the start of a long tradition of car racing.

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