March 12, 2012
One of the most popular pages on MEADOR.ORG is the one about the Pathfinder Parkway. Today I received an interesting comment from Bob Curtis:
Hopefully you can help me out. Back in the 50′s/60′s, was there a large asphalt race track located between Tuxedo Ave and Frank Phillips Ave, just about where the orchard is located? I have asked many people about this about this and have always got a no, but I could have sworn that my Dad took me by there one time when I was a kid and showed me it. I believe he said it was not used very often.
Occasionally I get very specific questions generated by my Bartlesville history pages, but often they are about specific people whom I cannot possibly trace down. But occasionally one of my Bartlesville history books will cough up a clue. The above question seemed answerable by using old maps and aerial photographs, so I took the bait.
First I went to the USGS Store’s interactive map and found the 1971 topographic map for Bartlesville. It did not show anything but the orchard between Frank Phillips and Tuxedo, but it did indicate a small oval track north of Tuxedo, located between the sewer plant and the cement plant. (You can click any of the images in this post to enlarge them to their full scale.)
Could that be what Mr. Curtis was recalling? I needed some photography to check that out. My next stop was the USGS Earth Explorer where I zeroed in on the same area looking for old aerial photographs. This was more difficult, but I did find imagery of the area from 1954 and 1971. Here’s the area in 1954:
So in 1954 there was definitely no race track anywhere around there. Instead of an orchard and Blazer ball fields, there was just a farm field. But in 1971 there definitely was some sort of oval track just west of the cement plant:
That’s not a huge track, but it is about half a city block in length and bigger than a baseball field. So to a kid 50 years ago it probably seemed much larger than it looks here. Here’s a zoom in on it:
Hmmm. Perhaps bleachers on either side? Now here’s the same area today:
So the area in question is still a clear space, with visible tracks, surrounded by the Pathfinder on the north, the house and field where the horse lives on the west (with the sewage plant farther west of that), the cement plant on the east, and Automasters to the south. I suspect Automasters takes cycles or other vehicles out for a spin on that land.
Here’s a big zoom of the area, showing that the oval thing-a-ma-bob was located just south and east of my favorite bench on the Pathfinder, where I like to sun myself and watch the horse that lives just south and west of there.
So I think there was indeed some sort of track there at one time and that is probably what Mr. Curtis recalls from his childhood. I’ll encourage him to go inquire about it at Automasters…they may know something about it. I’m impressed once again by what one can find on the internet if you know where and how to look.
3/15/2012 UPDATE: Patrick Yokley’s father confirms this was a Micro Midget racetrack:
Bartlesville Micro Midget Racers Association was organized in Sept. 1958.
President Johnny Pearson, Kenneth Coonfield
Vice President, Donna Fox Secetary
Treasurer, Lew Fesserman
Business Manager/Promoter and Kenneth Tate Trace
Supervisor/Flagman + a membership of 25 people.
Other members were Jim Clause, Paul Fox, Johnny Hankins, Johnny Sawyer, Curtis Wilkerson, G.B. Brown Jr., Bob Milton, Francis Rourke, Buddy Small, Roy Putman, Jim Cable, Dee Strum, Walt Thompson, Clinton Clopp, Mary Alice Pearson, Virginia Hankins, Kenneth Roland, Eddie Coonfield, Tommy Fresserman, D.C. McKibbin, Tom Carman and Marvin Schaal.
Quarter Midget racing for children was added later. The inter-club competition heats were held on Sundays at the track at the north end of Quapaw. The local track was constructed in 1960 and named “Phillips 66 Speedway”. I do not know what was used prior to this date. I assume they went to other tracks until they could afford to build one.
The track was 1/8th mile oval with medium banks. The long dimension ran north and south. The track was asphalt with concrete and wooden bleachers. The facility had a concession stand, parts and repair services, press facilities, and complete medical facilities manned by two local doctors, Dr. Elvin M. Amen and Dr. Merle D. Fox.
The opening race was on Friday Aug. 21, 1960. It was quite an event. The most well-known entry was Marty Robbins from Nashville, Tenn. Yes, the country and western singer. On Saturday he was leading the race when he was involved in a crash. He was not hurt nor were the other two drivers. Kenneth Coonfield won the race in the twin-cylinder Konigs class.
Even with the low banking, the racers reached speeds of 60 mph in the straight-a-ways and 30 to 40 on the curves. These cars had 19 to 23 cubic inch engines and weighed 320 pounds. The cars cost $400 to $500 to build.
There was an International Championship race held on Aug 19, 1961 with some 150 racers. The prize purse for the event amounted to a whopping $1,500 total. It made it into the major Oklahoma newspapers.
3/18/2012 UPDATE: I walked the Pathfinder a few days after this post to locate what remains of the speedway. The asphalt track is entirely gone, with just a bit of concrete poking through the overgrowth in one area and then there are the overgrown remains of the west and east stands.
This post continues to get traffic, and Rich Scaler has kindly shared some great photos he found in a garage sale.
If you use the timeline slider in Google Earth, you can still clearly see the oval in the 1995 aerial photo.
Yes, it was clearly just a dirt track by that time. Perhaps it was always a dirt track. Patrick Yokley discovered that a baseball stadium was built in the early 1900s just east of “the North Johnstone Avenue Race Track” – no idea how long that race track existed.
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I remember the track very well, my father raced there weekly, driving in from TULSA, it was at the time in the 60’s the closest midget race track in the area. Lots of local BARTLESVILLE people raced there too.It was a 1/8 mile oval asphalt then.We raced there from 1965-68, then everyone was going to COFFEYVILLE not sure why the track closed other than the micro midget scene fell way off, but revived in the early 70’s in TULSA with PORT CITY RACEWAY.
I have quite a bit of information on the Micro-Midget past as My family ran these cars on the West Coast. I would be interested in all information you have on this track and its stars. We have about four cars from that area that are being restored right now. Thanks Rick Rickh@brightwood.com
The track started when three friends decided to build micro midget cars and take them out to a friends field and run against each other around two trees. Eventually it became an asphalt track with these two trees still in the infield. Then, later it switched to dirt…but the two trees always stood in the infield. They were never cut down.
My husbands grandfather was one of those three men. His name was Kenneth Coonfield but everyone knew him as Red. When he passed away they always ran The Coonfield Invitational every year in his memory. Racers came from everywhere and it was great fun.
A lot of wonderful memories are attached to the track…memories that started with three friends obsession with racing those fast little cars.
Thank you for sharing that wonderful bit of history!
This former speedway is in a racing simulator called rFactor. Very small circuit with high banking.
Yes I remember it well and the land was owned and the track built by my uncle Walter Thompson. It is a big part of my early childhood and my memories.
I remember it well. Mrs GB Brown, Jr.
My late uncle, Toby Schmoll of Bartlesville, was a champion micromidget racer there. And I remember the night Marty Robbins raced. All the drivers wanted to let him win, and he left the track until they just let him race. What I vividly remember, however, are the trophy girls. One of them changed her hair color to match her dress every time. Pale lilac, pink, yellow, you name it! That racetrack was always filled each weekend, too.
I thought this racetrack was so cool. Dad’s uncle was one of the members. Mom’s uncle had the most beautiful blue racecar that he ran there.
i too remember very well of going there as a kid, it was mid-late 70’s and early 80’s, i still have a few pics a few of the cars that raced there. they had a “car show” at eastland mall, which is where i took the pictures. i close my eyes and seems like yesterday i was there in awe over all the race cars. the place is gone but not forgotten to me
My husband Bob Piper was the caller of the races for a year sometime in the sixties.
It was last known as Mid America speedway. I raced there many times up to the mid 80’s. Country legend Marty Robbins also raced there somewhere around the 1961 time frame. They even staged a race for him to win there and recorded it.
I raced at that track from 1983 to 1988 in 1986 I was track champion also regional champ and placed 3rd in the nation I also ran in the first two Tulsa Shootouts with a lot of the guys raced with in Bartlesville we would all travel together to out of town races and stop at the same motels and have big party’s the owners of the motels would sways to ask us to comeback because there would be 10 to 15 cars in the group plus family’s. You should try to talk to Rick Blevins I think he has a lot of history about the track and pic’s
’62 to ’64 we’d take my twinengined kart out there and zip around. i heard the reason the club folded was that in the big race someone crossed the finish line first, but upside down. big argument–no rules saying you have to be right side up. schism folded the club….or so i heard
I just came upon your site and specifically the article about the micro midget track in bartlesville. My dad raced in the opening with Marty robbins in 1960. He always enjoyed telling that story. Dad always did pretty well racing in those days my family has many trophies, I don’t remember the track since my brother and I were very young, I will have to see if i can find the remains of that track. How could I fi,d out if any of the original members of the association are still alive? Thanks for the great article.
The concrete stands were still there in the underbrush when I looked around there some years back. Jack Gibson commented that Rick Blevins might have a lot of history on the track, and see other comments with more possible contacts.
I was there one of the the evenings that Marty Robbins raced. His car was called BIG IRON after one of his hit songs. Bill Caswell grew up across Tuxedo from the track. His family owned the pecan orchard. He can tell you a lot about the track. Bill & Rosi moved back and live there again since retiring from a career in music in Nashville. Twenty five + top artists recorded Bill’s songs.
I have a really good aerial photo of the track with a live race going shot by a helicopter back in the late 1969 70 ish.. Great pic of the track in its hayday!
if you would like a photo
A photo would be great! I’ll email you.
Yes, it was mostly a midget track. Marty Robbins raced his car, BIG IRON, there one night. Bill Caswell lived across Tuxedo from it. He can tell you about anything worth knowing about it.
Rich, those photos are fantastic, and I’ve added them to the end of the post. Thank you so much!
Through June 2018 the Bartlesville Area History Museum has an exhibit on display all about Micro-Midget Racing in Bartlesville!
The Museum is open M-F from 10-4 on the top floor of the City Center at 401 S Johnstone; admission is free but donations are welcome.
Granger – I’m pretty sure my ex-husband’s dad, L.D. Long and his partner Charlie McNair were also involved in the midget car racing. My ex, Gary Long, took over his dad’s body shop after his dad passed away. (C&M Collision Repair on Morton Ave.) I remember in the early 80’s that they painted some of the midget cars and I’m pretty sure that Charlie raced. You may want to contact Gary at the shop and see if he has any other photos or knows who might have more info on the history. Also, about a week ago I took a tour of “The Rock” and I’m pretty sure they had a midget car with “Examiner Enterprise” on the side. I hadn’t seen one in years and so I was really surprised to see it. Ironically, ran into your blog when looking for photos of the old drive-in theater!
I attended a race at this track in ’64 or ’65 as a 4 or 5 yo. I cant remember if it was the Nationals or Internationals
We traveled from Birmingham AL. Quite the drive with no interstates.
My Dad was a mechanic for Billie Reeves who drove a blk #5 w Konig power. Several Alabama drivers made the trek. Nelson Reese of Montgomery AL, Tommy Tillery and I think Tommy Springfield as well.
All the guys raved abt the facility. State of the art for the times.
That was such a fun time since we got to stay in a motel with a pool!! But I was always so afraid Daddy would wreck and get hurt. Your mama was such a hoot and I was crazy about yall. It was on one of those trips that your pacifier got thrown out of the window!! ❤️
I remember some of the guys you mentioned ! As I worked at the local Harley shop ran and own by TD Howton ! TD and Elbert car built two micro midgets back in the day and they both were powered by 1/2 of a K model engine !! Marty Robbins bought both of TD’s cars and took em back to Nashville !! I would give anything to know if any of those cars survived !!
Dave Phillips ..
My dad race there his name was Norris Watkins
The track was dirt in 1958 when they started having Sunday afternoon races. By the 1961 International races held at Phillips 66 Speedway it was paved with asphalt. I heard Boots Adam’s was instrumental in getting it paved.
When the track closed in the 60s it lay dormant until the late 70s, early 80s. Micro racing had progressed to racing on dirt, so the Bartlesville track was covered with clay.
I heard Bill Green prepared the dirt track, and as I recall, it was always a great racing surface.
I watched a lot of races there.