Tuesday, October 10, 2023

1952 – Race Promoter Got Start by Tinkering with Clocks


By Tony Cordaro – Des Moines Tribune

Des Moines, Iowa (October 10, 1952) – As a boy, Marion Robinson, promoter of the Pioneer Raceways in Des Moines, was a tinkerer. His specialty was tearing up alarm clocks and putting them back together again.

As he grew older, Marion was willing to tinker with anything that ticked or hummed.

Thus, inevitably, young Marion progressed to automobile engines.

Now, some years later, his fondest dreams have been fulfilled. With two other businessmen, Jack Lazarus and Isadore Tucker, Robinson purchased the old Kessell Speedway, located at 2000 S.E. Fourteenth Street.

Lazarus and Tucker put up the money and Robinson provided the work and the management.

What did Robinson know about promoting automobile races?

Plenty. As a youth he served as a pitman and later as a mechanic at all of the auto races at the State Fairgrounds.

He watched the promotional ventures of J. Alex Sloan, his son John, and Al Sweeney and Gaylord White.

“I realized quickly that if you give the people a good show, they’ll keep coming back,” Robinson said.

But before the season was very old this summer, Robinson’s financial backers had begun to think they had made a huge mistake. Five of the first six programs had been rained out.

The promotion was $8,000 in the red, besides the original investment, before the weatherman gave them a friendly smile.

With warmer and drier weather, the stock car races started drawing big crowds, including over 5,000 fans for the 4th of July race program.

As it now appears, no one will lose money from the Pioneer Raceways’ function this year. The season closes Sunday with an outstanding attraction.

“But I wouldn’t have made it without the cooperation of the Moor Sports group,” said Robinson. “The two presidents, the late Carl Fields, who was killed in a racing accident on Memorial Day Weekend, and his successor, Bob Hanna, went out of their way to help me.”

“I never guaranteed a driver a nickel. They all raced for cash prizes.”

“In 48 dates this year, we drew 81,000 paying customers, and we’ll do even better, weather permitting, next year.”

Marion does not have a monopoly on all of the racing interests in the family. His wife Nadine is active in the promotion as a starter, scorer, and program organizer.

“Nadine knows more about cars than I do,” admitted Marion. “She raced until she got in a serious accident a year ago.”

Marion owns four cars himself, two midgets, one big car, and a stock car.

“Only the stock car makes me any money.”

His rebuilt 1934 Ford, with Al DeCarlo behind the wheel, has won more races than any other car this season at Pioneer.

“There’s a little interest in midget car racing now,” added Marion. “Maybe I’ll fine time to tune up the big car engine this winter and have someone drive it next summer.”

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