Racing in Wyoming


First Super Speedway welcomes James Fuller as our guest blogger today!
By James Fuller
Photography provided by Wyoming State Archives, Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources
Klaxon horns, Thomas Flyers, and 4-stroke engines don’t seem to be something you would have heard about in Cheyenne in 1909. Many may assume of a growing Western town there would be terms related to cattle, rodeos and how the West was tamed (or is it?). However, the Industrial Age was in full swing, and many in Cheyenne wanted to be a part of this flourishing new revolution.
On Tuesday night, March 2, 1909, 25 local Cheyenne automobile drivers met to form a motor club. The club’s aim was to advance the interest of other motorists in Cheyenne, and conduct social and business meetings. The Cheyenne Motor Club wanted to bring Cheyenne to the forefront of the automobile era – and that is exactly what they did.
The Cheyenne Motor Club wasted no time in moving forward with their agenda in placing Cheyenne on the auto touring map. Within 25 days of forming their organization, members met with the Civic Improvement Committee and the Industrial Cheyenne Motor Club, bringing with them ambitious plans to build a five-mile race track north of the Cheyenne city limits. The expense of the track was to be paid entirely by the club, as they anticipated big races to make these funds back. The ambitions of the club and city rang through in the headline from the Wyoming Tribune, March 3, 1909: “That Five-Mile Auto Track For Cheyenne Will Bring A Lot of People And Money For This City.” Two plans for the track were presented. The first of these plans was to build a track that started from the grandstands of Frontier Park, heading south toward Fort Boulevard (possibly Pershing Boulevard today), then east to Lake Boulevard (possibly Logan today), ending back at the grandstands. With the first course crossing private property and the length not being as long as they had hoped for, a second plan was considered (which won the vote). The second course covered only city property and did not come as far south as Fort Boulevard while including the start-finish line at the Frontier Park grandstands from the first proposal. With the plans in place, the Cheyenne Motor Club made preparations to start the construction on the now four-mile track.
Using their connections, the club spared no expense in creating one of the fastest race tracks in the United States, able to handle the top speeds of the day in racing. Club member W. E. Dinneen headed the sales department of the Buick Motor Car Company. Dinneen approached C. F. Huffman, who was considered to be one of the most experienced automobile drivers in the East and worked directly for the Buick factory. Huffman relocated his family to Cheyenne to support the build of the auto track, with work beginning on May 5, 1909, finishing sometime in June.[1] Although the track was finished under the supervision of Buick’s top automobile drivers, the club still wanted approval from other professionals in the field.  
Club member Warren Richardson discovered that Elbert E. Bellows, a top racer in the 1909 New York to Seattle Race, was knocked out of the race due to an accident – and as luck would have it, was in Cheyenne. Richardson asked Bellows to come out and “…pass critical judgment on what had been accomplished so far.” Bellows was definitely impressed by what he saw, as he gave his accolades to The Wyoming Tribune. Bellows stated, “You will easily have the one of the fastest and finest automobile race courses in the country if not the fastest. I want to race over this track, and will try and introduce Mr. Robert Guggenheim for whom I drive, to send me here to make a run in a 24-hour race. I am certain records will be broken.” Having the endorsement of auto racing’s biggest names, the Cheyenne Motor Club completed the auto track and prepared for an August 1909 race date.
The club worked to promote the upcoming race, but also to keep the racers as safe as possible. The club sent messages out to the public through the local paper, urging them not to drive and walk over the race track, as they could potentially damage the track leading to potential crashes. Frontier Days would coincide with the race, aiding to bring in people and racers to this highly publicized event. With a race day filled with seven different events, the Cheyenne Motor Club spent more than $10,000 to prepare the track for visitors and racers.
However, with all of the great work that was done, tragedy struck. Denver taxi driver turned novice racer Ben Loy was killed after his car struck a cow that had wandered onto the track. Cows had already been on the track and drivers had been warned, and the cows were chased off numerous times. Two other drivers, Shannon Lee and W. M. Johnson, were injured in the accident. While the incident was shocking to many in Cheyenne, racing would continue in the capital city.
The club held a number of well-attended events in 1909 and 1910, bringing in big names such as Barney Oilfield and Lisle Branson. By June 13, 1910, the track was in trouble, as the headline of an article in the Tribune Stockman Farmer read, “4-Mile Auto Track Should Be Preserved.” The article indicated that the track’s land was valuable real estate property that many wanted to develop for the growing metropolis. As 1911 came into view, the Cheyenne Motor Club rallied for a race to come back once again to the Cheyenne Auto Track. Tucked away on page four of the June 20, 1911, Wyoming Tribune, sat a small article titled simply, "Save the 4-Mile Track." The Motor Club was attempting in the brief article to inform the residents of Cheyenne just how important the track was to the city and the economy. In the article, the club explained that builders were already planning out areas on the site and in another year, the track would be gone altogether.
While a large 1911 event was boasted in the papers, an August 7th Wyoming Tribune article announced that the club decided to cancel the event. The Tribune explained that the club attempted to bring in big names to the event, however, this was only feasible with an inexhaustible limit of funds. The track struggled on but eventually closed shortly after World War I. The land was absorbed, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Those who raced across the dusty four-mile track, setting records, exciting fans, and ushering in a new era, did all of that here in Cheyenne. Although Indianapolis is the auto track so many in the racing community consider to be where racing was born, Wyomingites should know that Cheyenne was part of that great story.

[1] Cheyenne Daily Leader, Race Track Work, May 5, 1909.