Nostalgia seems to have overcome the inhabitants of the Garage. The Vanderbilt Cup which was held on Long Island, is only one event that made up a rich heritage of New York City area racing in days gone by. One of the greatest race tracks in an era of wood surfaces, yes I said wood, was located in Brooklyn, New York of all places.
In 1915 the Sheepshead Bay Race Track was closed. The horse track was replaced by a different kind of horse power. A two mile track constructed of 2×4 yellow Georgia Pine beams was built on the site. The Astor Cup Race at 350 miles run on Oct. 9, 1915, was the first event at the Sheepshead Bay Speedway. The winner was Gil Anderson in the No. 5 Stutz. His teammate, Tom Rooney, No. 7, finished second. No. 4, a Peugeot driven by Bob Burman, was seventh. The crowd was estimated at 70,000.
Also in 1915, a Peugeot set a world speed record of 108 mph at the Speedway.
Unfortunately, the track was demolished in 1919, and replaced with housing. Sounds familiar even today, knocking down race tracks to make way for housing!
Buy the way, whoever said endorsements by race car drivers are of recent vintage?
Board tracks were not limited to Brooklyn, nor was the New York track the first.
The Los Angeles Motordome, was the first speedway with a board track and opened near Playa Del Rey, California. The Motordome, affectionately known as “The Boards,” was a huge success.
By 1915, nearly a half-dozen board tracks had popped up around the country. By 1931, there were 24 board tracks in operation including tracks in Beverly Hills, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Atlantic City. Incidentally, the Beverly Hills track stood approximately where the prime-time shopping blocks of Rodeo Drive are located now. No tracks have ever approximated the speeds allowed on the heavily banked boards.
Board tracks began to fade from existence during the Depression. The lifetime for 2×4′s exposed to racing tires was approximately five years after which deadly splinters and potholes would begin to dot the track’s smooth surfaces. During the Depression, the expensive upkeep of the board tracks made them impractical. The last decade of board racing was a sight to behold. Cars tore down straightawayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s at 120mph while carpenter’s patched the tracks from beneath.
Racing entertainment just isn’t what it used to be.