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Does anyone remember a track in..........

Discussion in 'St. Louis Area Auto Racing Discussion' started by Pops15, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. Pops15

    Pops15 Member

    Does anyone remember a track in Marion, Illinois called Williamson County Speedway?
    I was told there was a 3/8 mile track on the east side of town. Possibly at the fairgrounds that shut down in the late 1980's.

    I was also told that the track was on the west side of town, south of rte 13 that had an old coupe above the entrance to the track. I was told that track was 3/8 mile and closed in the late 1980's and was just bulldozed within the past couple of years.

    I've seen an aerial view of a track on the east side of town that looks like it could be a fairgrounds.

    Can anyone share ANY info on either of these tracks? Did both tracks actually host stock car racing? When did they close? And more importantly why did they close?
    Also, is the track on the east side of town still there? Is there any chance it could ever reopen?

    Thanks in advance for ANY info!

  2. ghost67

    ghost67 Well-Known Member

    Yes there was a track between Marion and Carbondale on highway 13. They did have an old coupe racecar with the sign for the racetrack. They ran stock cars, b cars, sprints. I don't know why they closed. Marion ran one night and Benton the other...

    I think the track on the east side of town that ran mini sprints is still open, I THINK.

    I would love to see any pics that someone might have of the old Benton fairgrounds track and the Marion track
  3. Groove Grabber

    Groove Grabber Blood Type: Motor Oil

    My father, Cliff Cockrum, built and ran the old Benton Fairgrounds. He also was one of many locals who ran the Marion Track, which I believe was known as Turnpike. The Benton fairgrounds ran for quite a few years and was a success, but absent minded citizens thought they were to loud and it closed. The track hosted many races and brought in the likes of Schrader (who details it in the back of his new book), Waltrips, Wallaces and many other local heros. This was all before my time but I can safely say, through the countless racing stories I've heard over the years, that racing just isnt the same anymore. It is possible that I might have some photos of these old tracks and I will look through them and see.

    Shane Cockrum
  4. Motorhead

    Motorhead www.workmonster.com

    The Benton Fairgrounds is where my uncle took me to see my first stock car race. I don't remember how big it was, to me it looked like Daytona...well, since that was before daytona was a speedway, it looked huge!. A very young Chuck Amati(The One-armed Bandit) won the sprint feature(I think). The Marion Fairgrounds was about the same size, I remember walking down to the Shell station on south Main Street and climbing all over the modifieds they kept there(they kept them outside!). They had Ford flatheads for power. I used to know all the Modified drivers and numbers, but that was a long time ago. the only one I remember was Dick Poe(8-Ball?). the Franklin Co. Fairgrounds just got so decrepit it just about fell down on it's own, and that side of town was developing. The track between Benton and West Frankfort, on the East side of Rt.37, across from the Mid-way Drive-in, opened up about the time of the fairground's demise. This track is near I-57 Dragway, but I'm pretty sure it was on the other side of the highways. I looked on Terraserver, and there is a track at the same location that I remember the Marion(Williamson County) Fairgrounds to be. we moved from Marion in 1963, and I lost track.

    Shane, I was good friends with your late Uncle, Frank(ie) Fisher. My family lived in Benton, and after we moved out of a house on West Church street(to Marion), your grandparents moved into it, and lived there for many years. I spent many sleep-overs there. My cousins and grandparents still lived in the neighborhood, so I hung out there all the time. I could really tell some stories here, like the time someone talked Frankie into peeing on the sparkplug of a running lawn mower, or when we made an oval motorcycle race track in the vacant lot next door! My condolences on the recent loss of your brother, I was saddened to hear it.

    GOATROPER2 Member

    I use to watch Cliff Cockrum, Johnny Powell, The Millican brothers,Jack Wheat, John Prior run at the Benton fairgrounds track....If I am not mistaken I think Cliff drove with a broken leg or both broken ....he was a hell of a racer
  6. ghost67

    ghost67 Well-Known Member

    How about Eddie Stearns in the Blue 2? Doesn't his son run a mini sprint now?

    Anyone remember Gary Easton, Jim Eaves?
  7. luckybuc97

    luckybuc97 Active Member

    Johnny Powell, what A show could that man put on, He was somethingelse in a Sprintcar. WAHOOOOO.......
  8. luckybuc97

    luckybuc97 Active Member

    PS GOATROPER2, Your showing your AGE.......:eek: :eek: :eek: :D
  9. Don't Matter

    Don't Matter New Member

    I have a scrapbook of Frankie's dad racing at Marion, It has all of his old paystubs and results. Back then you were crowned King at the end of the year and there was a tall crown with a long red velvet robe like you see in those old margarine commercials. I grew up at the Marion, Benton, Centralia tracks. I got to race in one powder puff and Frankie's car beat me. It was driven by a seasoned veteran who had many races under her belt Mama Shirley Emling, Raymond Sr's wife. My funniest memory was when Jimmy Sloan got into a headon pushing match with the wrecker at Benton. That was funny. Larry the Cable guy could have had a great time announcing that one. There were many great drivers there from Il, MO and Ky. I remember Chuck Amati winning races with his broken arm. I remember Bill Hay, Hoyte Choate, Jerry English, Ron Fisher, Frank Khumacha, Joe Rider and many others. I wish that track was still there.

    GOATROPER2 Member

    Luckybuc97 I am almost older than dirt...........:) :D :eek: :eek:
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Darkstar44

    Darkstar44 Active Member

    Memory lane

    Boy, do I remember those tracks. When I was just a lad my dad took us to those tracks to watch his cousin, Jim Eaves race. Thats where I fell in love with racing. There was also a track in Cape Gerardo(sp) that we went to. Jims son David now races Late Models at Mt. Vernon with an occasional visit to B-ville. Dave still hauls his racer with a '36 Chevy truck that hauled his dads cars 35 years ago. I can vividly remember David and I riding in the back of that truck to races when I was about nine years old.
    Jim ran very successfully what was then called the "B" cars. Most were center seat chopped coupes with very high horsepower (Jims had a 427 Ford). One thing that was cool was all the cars were home built and they all looked different from each other (no cookie cutter cars in those days).
    Those tracks also ran what were called "A" cars which evolved into sprint cars.
    As I write this the memories are flowing like a river. Like the time Chuck Amati and Cliff Cockrum got together on Championship night at Marion County which resulted in Cockrum flipping wildly down the backstretch. Cliff climbed from his battered car, climbed into another competetors har, restarted in the back and raced his to second behind Amati. The crowd went nuts. I could go on and on but there just isn't enough time or space for that. If you're ever at B-ville, please stop by my pit area and we'll remenisce all night.
    Some of the names I remember (at the risk of repeating names that other people have mentioned) Gene "The Flying Eyeball" Henson, Bob Melvin (Rodneys dad), Gary Easton, Johnny Prior, Dick Poe, Denny Lingle, Bill Bost Cliff Johns, Russ Racine, Eddie Stearns, Frank Hollingsworth, Ron Weakly, Frank Kamucha(sp), Bill Millikan, Larry Fowler, Bill Burks, Bill Corzine, Ray Emiling Sr. Gene Cooms, Tubby Black, and B.J. Murphy just to name a few.
    For more info and pictures of some of the cars visit the web site Big Mikes Speedway of Dreams.

    Brian Eaves, Full Moon Racing #44
  12. Jamie Hall

    Jamie Hall Member

    Not sure about the Marion track, but I don't remember the stock car track near Marion being open in the '80s. The smaller track near Marion was still open at last check, but I don't think it ever ran stock cars.

    I went to I-57 Raceway several times in '83 and '84. It was the 1/4-mile track right beside the interstate between West Frankfort and Benton. Some of the late models (James Satterfield, Jim Hall, Emmett Groves, Danny Robinson) would run Sikeston on Saturdays, then take off the top wing and run Sundays at I-57. The track always seemed kinda unsafe because the pits were in the infield, but there was no guardrail or anything else out there. I'm not even sure how they got insurance.

    I'm almost sure I-57 closed around 1985, and Mount Vernon opened up around 1987 . I think I've even got some old pictures and newspaper articles from I-57 somewhere.
  13. Pops15

    Pops15 Member

    Thanks for the info. So it looks like there were indeed two tracks in Marion. The fairgrounds track on the east side of town and the one on Rte 13 west of town.
    The vintage racer site has a picture of the fairgrounds track (Williamson County Speedway) which they say closed in 1987 but I can't find anyone that rembers it being open that recently.
    That was the track I was mainly interested in because I believe its still there.

    There is a mini sprint track north of Marion that is still in operation as best as I can tell.

    Both the dirt track near Benton and the dragstrip were on the west side of 57. I've seen the aerial photo and I remember seeing it on a few trips to southern Illinois in the early 80's.
    I wasn't aware that there was also a fairgrounds track in Benton.

    Is the track in Centralia (Marion County Speedway) gone?

    I've been to Mt Vernon but wasn't aware the track was built in the 80's.

    Its a shame so many tracks have closed in the region. I saw where there was once a track in Metropolis,IL too.

    We're eventually going to relocate to the Marion (Goreville) area and was wondering about the racing history in the area, and the posibility of racing returning to the area.
    Mt Vernon is about an hour to the north and Paducah an hour to the south.

    I'm hoping to get down to Belle Clair Speedway this summer. I hear its a twin to my favorite little bullring (Macon).

    Thanks for the info and please keep posting if you have more information or memories of the tracks and drivers from southern Illinois.

    GOATROPER2 Member

    It has been many years since I have been back to the track in Centralia,, but the last time I was there the track was still there but they were building homes where the spectators parked...
  15. Jamie Hall

    Jamie Hall Member

    I found my copy of Allan Brown's book called "History of the American Speedway" (I have the 1984 edition) -- it lists Williamson County Speedway (also called Turnpike Speedway) as a 3/8-mile dirt oval open from about 1964 to 1977. No info listed about the smaller kart track.

    Metropolis Speedway (also known as Massac County Fairgrounds Speedway) was a half-mile dirt oval open 1953 to 1970.

    The track in Centralia was a quarter-mile oval called Marion County Speedway and was open 1968-1977.

    Harrisburg also had a track at the Saline County Fairgrounds. It was a half-mile dirt oval open 1950-1968. There was also an old track at Mount Vernon called Jefferson County Fairgrounds; it was a half-mile open 1932-1969.

    Those are the main ones the book shows in southern Illinois.

    I also went back and found some of my own info on I-57 Raceway Park (the quarter-mile oval alongside the interstate): It opened in 1976 and closed after the '84 season (it was sanctioned by UMP in its last year). The last "big" event at I-57 was probably the $900-to-win late model special on July 3, 1983 won by James Satterfield (Robert Baker second, Randy Sellars third); it drew 24 late models. Best I can tell, they paid $400 to win the weekly LM shows in '83. Hoyt Choate, Jerry English, Randy Sellars and Bill Hay all won features in '83; Frankie Martin, John Terry and Gary Beattie were the top sportsman drivers. The track also ran sprints several times; Ken Schrader was one of the feature winners.

    The new Mount Vernon Speedway opened June 11, 1988. On the first night, Gary Hayhurst won in sprints, Jimmy Burwell beat Butch Burwell in late models, and Mike Thompson won in super streets. By the second week the track was drawing 3,000 fans and more than 20 cars in each class.
  16. Pops15

    Pops15 Member

    I-57 must have been one of the original UMP tracks. 1984 was their first year.
    Looks like things got real bad down there in the late 60's with three tracks closing in 3 years.

    I don't think the mini sprint track was built near Marion when that book was printed. I wonder if the track on 13 operated after the fairgrounds track?
    Thanks for the info. Those were some familiar names. I probably saw some of those guys at Danville or Charleston in the 80's....or maybe over at Haubstadt.
  17. BuzzyBear

    BuzzyBear New Member

    I help clean the stands at the Benton fair were I could get in at night. There was a track on the outside for horse racing it was a 1/2 mile track I think. When I was about 15 I sold speed sports mag. The flag stand was in the middle of the track in Benton. I live about 3 blocks from the old track now. wish it was still there. And there was a track west of Murphyoro IL in the 60's
  18. Racersedge

    Racersedge New Member

    Need more info

    This has really got me interested in the old tracks. If any has links to any info
    please post it.

    I remember Mt.Vernon Raceway ran 1 year with the owner that built the track.
    The next year either Larry Gowler ran it or the Davis's that owned the ground.
    The following year the other above ran it.

    The track was purchased by Ken Lomax who ran it for several years.He started running Sprints and modifed midgets on Fridays and Latemodels and Modifies and Street Stocks and Bombers on Saturdays

    Now for the old tracks there was a track East of Mt.Vernon that ran I think in the early Sixties.It was somewhere out toward Buford. I remember going to watch the Crow's from Desoto than my father had grown up with. There son Mike is a race announcer around the area.

    I thinks there was a track also East of Mt.Vernon that was off of what is now old Fairfield road that raced midgets. This had to be at least 50yrs ago Somewhere around where the old ball park used to be.

    If anyone has any info please post it.

    Up until a year or two ago you could see the light posts for the old track between Marion and Carbondale but I think it got taken down not to log ago.

    Also there is a Modified Midget track East of Marion and Ken Lomax had a track out by his home on the road to McLeansboro out of Mt.Vernon.

    There is also a Modified Midget track south of Wayne City,IL
  19. Marion County Speedway Centralia Il

    Late Model Track Record Was Held By Bill Hale For Years.i Think It Still Stands.my Dad Bob Timmons Raced At Marion County In The Six Cylinder Class An Won Lots Of Features.he Raced With Guys Like Ron Corry Dale Hartnell.my Dads Racing Came To An End In 1974 When The Flag Man Was Hit By My Dads Car At The Start Of The Late Model Feature.racing Never Was The Same After That For My Dad.my First Race Was At The I57 Raceway In Benton Il In 1983 I Raced With Guys Like Gary Beetie John Terry Jimmy Sloan Bill Baker Billy Joe Murphy Bobby Joe Voleys Bobby Melvin Carl Hartung Darrel Spiller .i Had My Hands Full Will Them Guys They All Were Very Fast. Back In The Days At Marion County 24 Johnny Powell Was The Man.---rob Timmons
  20. luckybuc97

    luckybuc97 Active Member

    I'm not possitive but I think John Powell is or was Butch Burrwells FatherInLaw??? Someone correct me if I'm Wrong.

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