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Some great Pan American Speedway trivia from Ed Bowles, Jr.

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NOTE from Nick: Ed Bowles, Sr.,  Ed’s father, was the great person who ran several speedways in the San Antonio area, including Pan American Speedway.

 

Here's a little bit of Pan American Speedway trivia.  In the early 1960s, a kid named Alan Dillard started racing at the old Pan American Speedway on Austin Highway.  I vaguely recall that he drove a blue 1940 Ford sedan.  His car number was 2.  (I don't have any pics.)

He soon thereafter moved to North Carolina and became a successful businessman.  His interest in racing continued, although he stopped driving race cars in the 1970s.  He went on to start a NASCAR Busch Grand National race team in the 1980s with drivers such as the Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, Rick Mast, and Ward Burton.  The team won 13 Busch races.

In 1994, he secured Hardee's sponsorship and moved up to the Winston Cup series with Ward Burton as the driver.  In 1995, Burton moved on to Bill Davis racing.  Greg Sacks, Jimmy Hensley, and Gary Bradberry drove for Dillard in the 1995 season.  He closed his race team after the 1995 season because it had become too costly.

Dillard passed away last week at the age of 80...

Probably no one else in these parts knows this little bit of racing trivia.  Now you do.

- Ed 

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This also from Ed Bowles, Jr.

Here's a bonus tidbit...the famous NASCAR northeast modified driver "Bugs" Stevens also got his racing career started at the Pan Am Speedway on Austin Highway in the 1950s, when he was in the Air Force and stationed at Lackland AFB.  Don't have any pics of him racing at Pan Am, but found one of him at the Corpus Christi track.

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If you can't quite make out the names in the caption:

Bottom Row left to right are: Jc Monroe, Ronnie Miller, Dub Rollins, Bobby Bellew, Tommy Davis and H.JM. Colley

Standing are: Bugs Stevens of Brownsville (He was actually stationed at Lackland AFB in San Antonio at the time), Gene Evert of Aransas Pass, Buddy Mack of Aransas pass, A.D. Sparks, Johnny Rollins, Paul McDowell and George Jackson

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I remember Allan Dillard well. He was a regular on Friday nights at Austin Speed-o-rama in the early '60's, in the Hobby Stock class.  Later, he moved up to the super-modified class, driving the car #41.  The most unusual thing about that car was it was a direct drive setup.  It had no transmission and no fly-wheel.  He had little use for brakes.  When he'd lift off the gas, the car would practically stop on its on.  It was great fun to watch him out there! 

if I'm not mistaken, I seem to remember the car having an Edsel engine in it.

Edited by Budman

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More from Ed Bowles, Jr.

I don't know if anyone really cares about old stuff like this since most of the folks who raced in San Antonio in the 1950s and 60s have passed on, but I have some other old pics related to the two Pan American Speedways. 

Nick, my dad first became involved with the Pan American Speedway on Austin Highway as a car owner in the early 1950s.  He eventually became the race promoter there.  He also built the Pan American Speedway on Toepperwein Road and managed that track through the 1968 racing season.  He sold his interest in that track after that season. 

Over the years, I've heard lots of inaccurate information about the origin of the Toepperwein Road race track, but the truth is that my dad was one of two principal stockholders at the outset.  Travis Jenkins was the other.  They each held 45% of the stock.  There were three other minority stockholders who held the other 10%.

Following is a pic of my dad overseeing the Pan Am track on Austin Highway being paved in the mid-1950s (I think the year was 1956, but I'm not 100% sure).  He managed the track for one season while it was still a dirt track, but quickly concluded that San Antonio does not have a climate conducive to dirt track racing, so he paved the track.

5ce6a1aa6313c_EdBowlesatPanAmAustinHwy.thumb.jpg.d561692f1680a9b6c75e68be4c8cf666.jpg

Courtesy of Ed Bowles, Jr.

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Would be great to see more from Mr Bowles. Very interesting stuff to help clear up and fill some holes in the history.

 

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Hi txtom,

I'm not exactly sure how to respond to your request above.  What exactly do you want to know more about?  My father passed away in 2010 at the age of 94, so I may not be able to answer all of your questions.  I was 14 years old when my dad's involvement with the Pan Am track on Toepperwein Road ended in 1968.  I'll do my best to answer questions about the two Pan An tracks based on the information my dad left me and my own memory.  The time frame I'm talking about would be from about 1954 (i.e., the year I was born) through 1968.  My dad's exit from the Pan Am ownership group in 1968 was not amicable , so I do not know what happened to the ownership of that track after my father got out.

Ed Bowles, Jr.

 

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Hello Ed,

There are still a few around who would like to see any history of the area tracks. Any stories, pictures, news articles, etc. There does not seem to much out there about Pan American # 1 anymore; and very early Pan Am# 2 is getting hard to find also. Speaking for several others, I would relish seeing any other pictures you may have from that era. If you need help scanning pics or news articles, i can help with that also. 

 

Thanks, Tom

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Thanks Tom.  I do have some old photos and newspaper clippings (and even a couple of old 8 mm movies from the Austin Highway track).  It will take me a little time, but I'll work on posting some of that stuff here.  Nick Holt has a couple more pics of the beginnings of the Toepperwein Road track from the batch of pics and info posted above.  Perhaps he can post those as a start?  Also, Bruce Mabrito wrote a newspaper article several years ago on the history of San Antonio race tracks and in that article he documented some of the ownership and management history of the two Pan Am tracks.  Bruce interviewed my father as part of his background research.  I don't know if you may have seen that article but it is worth reading, if you want to know more history about the old tracks.

As an interesting side note, there was a period in the 1950s when WOAI television broadcast races live from the track on Austin Highway.  At the time, TV stations were looking for things to broadcast, since there was a lot of "dead air" time - which is probably inconceivable to most people now.  I don't know if those broadcasts were recorded by the TV station and may still exist in an archive somewhere.  I'm sure there is a lot of information in the local newspaper archives - if someone is ambitious enough to go look.  The San Antonio Light and Express-News newspapers regularly ran articles related to the tracks during  each racing season.  Many famous racers from "back in the day" raced at the Pan Am tracks...A.J. Foyt, Jr; Lloyd Ruby; Tony Bettenhausen, Sr (one of the last races he ran prior to perishing in a practice crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a midget race at the Austin Highway track); Pancho Carter; Benny Parsons; and Charlie Glotzbach; among others.

Here's a bit of history about how the second Pan Am track came to be...  The property where the original Pan Am track on Austin Highway was located was owned by Jimmy Johnson (who also owned the old Playland Park amusement park on Broadway).  As San Antonio began to grow northward in the early 1960s, the land became too valuable to keep as a racetrack, so Mr. Johnson decided to sell the property.  My father was in the race promotion business strictly as a hobby.  He was not a wealthy man and did not have the financial resources to build a new track - unless he had a partner (or partners) to help fund the endeavor.  Travis Jenkins was a race fan at the original track on Austin Highway - and his father-in-law owned a local paving company.  When Mr. Jenkins heard that the Austin HIghway track would be closing, he approached my father about partnering to build a new track.  That is how and why their original partnership was formed - to help create the second Pan Am track on Toepperwein Road.  Mr. Jenkins oversaw the grading and paving of the track and pit area at the second Pan Am track.  My father handled just about everything else regarding the planning, construction (i.e., grandstands, ticket booth, concession stands, restrooms, lighting, fencing, sound system, etc), and management of the track (once it opened).  At the outset of the project, my father asked many racers and other track promoters for suggestions on the best configuration for the track.  We also visited many tracks around the country during the planning stage.  The final configuration was roughly based on the oval track in Bristol, TN.  Note that the Bristol track in the early 1960s was not the same configuration as the current track.  It was a half-mile paved oval track in the 1960s, but the banking in the turns was not nearly as steep as it is today.  I have some old 8 mm film footage of the Bristol track that my father took in the early 60s and I can assure you that it looks a lot different than the track looks today.  Also, my dad felt that the size of the track should fit the number of cars on the track and he knew that most races would have well less than 20 cars.  He did not want to see a lot of empty space on the track during a race.  So, he made the second Pan Am track relatively short (1/4-mile in length), but relatively wide, with moderately banked turns to allow for room to pass.

That's it for now.  More to follow - hopefully, within the next few days.

Ed Bowles, Jr. 

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awesome history! thank you for sharing

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