Sunday, November 16, 2014

1965 – Race Track in Burlington Becoming a Reality

Burlington, Iowa (November 16, 1965) - A new racing oval, stymied by anti-race fans and lack of zoning ordinances, is finally a reality.

A three-eighths mile oval has been built by Samjac, Inc., near Middletown. The track has been laid out, but other work, such as construction of the grandstand and lighting is yet to come.

Samjac, operated by At Samberg, Gene, Ken, Rich and Mel Jackson, plans to have the track in operation by late April or early May.

Samberg tried unsuccessfully to place a track elsewhere in the county. He met with opposition from persons who claimed the autos would make too much noise, and raise too much dust.

The county Board of Supervisors refused to legislate in the case since Des Moines County has no zoning ordinances. Samjac has leased ground on the Don Guegeler property, just east of Middletown and about one mile north of highway 34.

The track operators plan to erect a grandstand to seat 3,100 people. In addition, a retaining wall of railroad ties and steel will be built in front of the stands.

A board fence will be placed around the track and the usual “out buildings” such as ticket offices and concession stands will be ready to do business by spring. Six light towers will be placed around the track perimeter.

Races are tentatively planned for Saturday nights in two classes.  There will be a modified division for more experienced drivers and a cadet section for rookies.

Modified cars may not have motors larger than 325 cubic inches and car bodies must retain their original styling. Cadet drivers will be required to face a claim situation.

While definite rules haven’t been ironed out, the track operators said under the claim rules, a winning car must be sold to anyone who claims it for a specified number of dollars.

“At some tracks the claim price is $150,” Mel (Sox) Jackson said. “We are thinking about raising the price. It is hard to build a race car for $150.”

Only cars manufactured between 1928 and 1948 will be permitted. If interest warrants, programs may be held twice a week, with cadets running one night and modifieds another.

Samberg said it is possible that motorcycle races will be staged Sunday afternoon. Also in the planning stage are late model stock car races. “We might be able to get hooked up with USAC (United States Auto Club); at the winter fair convention in Chicago,” Samberg said.

Another possibility is the three-quarter (TQ) midgets, a small car which uses a tiny engine such as the old Crosley passenger car.

The track was built on an old gully which was lined, with trees. All trees have been removed and the track has been graded.

The oval sets so that the first turn is northwest and the final turn is southeast. The grandstand will be built on the northeast side of the track. Pit area will be on the southwest side.

Cars will not be permitted on the infield during a race.

“The only things we will have out there are an ambulance, a fire truck and a couple of wreckers,” Samberg said. Spectators will have ample parking near the grandstand.

The five men, involved in the program, all have racing backgrounds. Samberg was president of the Mississippi Valley Speed Club jalopy circuit for several years. Ken and Gene Jackson were top drivers on the MVSC and Rich and Mel helped build and maintain the race cars.

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