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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Splinter Alley: 1925

Splinter Alley: 1925

July 11, 1925. Another look at the lineup on Laurel Speedway's board track. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Just for the record

With its 48-degree banked track, Laurel was topped only by the 50-degree track at Fulford-By-The-Sea, near Miami. (Daytona is 31 degrees.) There were 24 board tracks in 13 states built between 1905 and 1926. Most lasted only a handful of years because not much was known then about making the pine boards most tracks used durable enough to withstand the cars' pounding and the weather. There was creosote but it was not acceptable for track surfaces (no traction).

I don't have in my files the highest lap speed at Laurel, but the record for the fastest single lap driven on a board track (championship car) was set by Frank Lockhart on the 1.5 mile 45-degree Atlantic City track, on May 7, 1927, in a Miller 91 rear drive with an average speed of 147.229mph. This record was not topped until 1960 at Indianapolis (and not on wood!) with a qualifying speed of 149.056 mph set by Jim Hurtubise.

Wow, indeed

The Duesies and the Millers had straight-8 DOHC engines with superchargers. No slackers here!

Hard to Imagine

It would be hard to imagine a modern race car going that fast on a wooden track. It must have been a heck of a time keeping the car under control with those narrow tires going over the parallel boards. Incredible. What a thrill it must have been to see.


I love these shots of the old wooden tracks. This track was 1.125 miles in length so I'll bet that the straight speeds were approaching something over 140mph, in 1925!

Straight Eight Flatheads, I'll bet.

Look! There's no fence separating the grandstand from the track and the infield is wide open. And those cars, I'm sure, were pretty heavy. The danger here is astounding.

These guys were truly fearless.

Speed-Crazed Drivers

Washington Post, Jul 11, 1925

14 Auto Entrants Qualify for
Race Today at Laurel

De Paolo Leads With and Average of
131.5 Miles for One Lap

A wide board track, wrapping 80 acres of ground as a ribbon might encircle an ostrich egg, with a huge grandstand overlooking it all, is ready today to vibrate under the great motor gruel, the inaugural race at the Washington-Baltimore automobile speedway.

Never level and in places almost up and down, it is to the arena of sixteen speed-crazed drivers, out on a Roman holiday to entertain the populace and in so doing to lower the world's speed records.

Peter de Paolo, plucky aspirant for this year's motor racing fame, made himself and machine a fitting apparition on it yesterday and establishing a strategic place in today's get-away. De Paolo drove his racing Dusenberg around the course at a speed of 131.5 miles an hour, the greatest speed attained in the qualifying rounds. As a result he will have the preferred position at the start with Earl Cooper, who qualified Thursday with a speed of 129.8 miles an hour.
An inspection of the approach to the track yesterday emphasized the traffic problem. While there is plenty of space to park machines both outside and inside the oval there is only a narrow road leading to it from the highway, a distance of about half a mile. Every effort, however, is to be made to keep traffic moving briskly. Those planning to go to the track in machines, should bear this in mind in arranging their running time.

Special trains will be operated over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. They run directly to the track.
Arrangements have been completed for handling the vast crowd expected to attend the race. Two hundred District national guardsmen, under the command of Capt. P.G. Nevitt, are to cooperate with the Maryland guardsmen, State police and regular soldiers in regulating traffic both inside and outside the bowl.

Capt. Nevitt's men are to assemble at the armory. He stated last night that any motorist who will come by, fill his car with as many guardsmen as he can take will be given free parking space at the track.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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