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Houston area road racing


OldGalveston
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Back in the day, way before MSR Houston and Grandsport Speedway were built, the closest permanent road course to Houston was Texas World, about 90 miles or so away. So for road racing the options in the Houston area were limited. In the 60s the SCCA staged a race in the Astrodome parking lots, pretty much where Indycar now also races, and also at airfields in Galveston and Conroe.

 

But does anyone remember road racing at the Freeway dragstrip in Dickinson ? It was sometime in the mid to late 1980s but I don't have the details. I think it was a one time thing.

 

Apart from the Indycar races (downtown and at the dome), can anyone add anything ? Any memories are appreciated.

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Hello OldGalveston, and other readers.

In regard to the SCCA road race at the Astrodome,it was run on October 10 and 11 of 1964. It was the first race I can remember attending between going to Playland Park a few times as a family outing and regularly attending races at Meyer Speedway in 1965 and other area tracks from then on. The race was actually run on the street, Fannin was the front straightaway south bound, the north bound lanes were the pit area and Knight road was the backstraight heading north and connected by Greenbriar on the north end and the unfinished 610 loop on the south end. My program list's it as the 1st annual race, the spectator area was the parking lot of the Astrodome complex with only a chain link fence and some hay bales to protect us, no stands of any type that I remember. You just drove in, parked and walked to the fence. There used to be a weekly column in the Houston Chronicle, I believe it was called Sports Car Corner and would always list coming sports car related events no matter how minor. There is a Houston Chronicle archive if you can figure out how to use it , I haven't tried to get into it yet.

 

Thanks; Byron

 

P.S. The program I saved from this event is one of my prized possesions and I didn't think I would ever get to share the information from it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for that, Byron. Good memories ! Any chance you could make a few scans or photographs from the program ? Maybe it has a map of the course ?

 

Below the report of this meeting from Competition Press, enjoy.

 

 

 

WASHBURN OVERTAKES OPPOSITION WITH WINS AT HOUSTON
By Stan Schaeffer

Houston, Tex - Harry Washburn of Shreveport made a processional out of both day's big bore events staged within the shadows of the new Harris county domed stadium. Using perimeter roads about the new stadium, the Houston JCs and the San Jacinto region of SCCA inscribed a 1.9 mile road course.

Political objections were overcome and the British consul-general obtained the backing of English car distributors and accessory firms to help make the meet a successful one. Large silver trophies were awaiting the winners of each race.

Washburn's Cooper Monaco-Chevy sported a single 4 barrel carb and was chased, at some distance, by the Mecom Racing Team Chevrolet Grand Sport Sting Ray. Mecom's lightweight 'Ray was lent to Jack Saunders of Houston, less the exotic engine which used four gigantic sidedraft Webers.

Saunders' crew installed a standard 327 Chev engine which, though not delivering the ponies Mecom's engine does, was as much as Saunders could handle. Mecom was on the West Coast looking after his team Riverside GP entries.

A distant third on Sunday was Bill Steele driving Gene Hamon's immaculate Cobra.

The first Southwestern competition model of a Lotus Elan appeared in the hands of Ed Tucker of Dallas. Tucker and Homer Rader are the Lotus distributors for the Southwest. Tucker's Elan hit a clocked 141 mph on the straight! Tucker, Southwest divisional points champ in C production, will drive the Elan in the divisional runoffs at Riverside in November.

Tucker had no brakes on Saturday but won by a mile anyway. On Sunday, he lapped the second placed car by the seventh lap. The car really flies.

Many competitors had arguments with the curbs on the course, which they lost in varying degrees. Bags filled with sand, hay bales and dump truck loads of sand marked the course boundaries for the unwary.

Several Lotus 7's had frontsuspensions wiped out during off-course excursions. John Henry Kirby, driving a De Tomaso Formula Libre with an Alfa engine, had a radiator hose connection blow just as he neared the end of the back straight. The hose, just above Kirby's knees, spewed hot, hot water all over his legs while he was travelling in excess of 100 mph.

Kirby brought the vehicle under control nevertheless before ejecting himself from the steaming cockppit.

Conversation piece of the race weekend was the 450 lb. Brat Special, built and driven by Mark Bratton of Corpus Christi. It was a winner, too.

Bratton's car must not be over two feet high and six feet long but this H modified has a large 50 hp Mercury outboard engine which must hit 15,000 rpm! The car is unsprung and has go-kart spot brakes inside the six-inch front wheels.

Acceleration is fantastic and when he shifts, most other car's tachs would have wound around twice! Bratton's sled makes the ex-Dan Odenburg H modified special from Oregon look like a Mack truck in comparison.

Houston, Texas SCCA Restricted Race, Oct. 10-11, 1964

C & H Production, H Modified & GT (20 laps, avg. 68.9 mph): 1. Mark Bratton (Brat Special)
C, D, E & F Production (20 laps, avg. 76.5 mph): Ed Tucker (Lotus Elan)
Formula V & IV (20 laps, avg. 66.4 mph): Guy McMurray (Berkeley)
Formula Libre & Junior (20 laps, avg. 84.2 mph): Mason O'Kieff (Lotus 27)
C-G Modified, A & B Production (20 laps, avg. 84.4 mph): Harry Washburn (Cooper Monaco)

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

First of all thanks for the race report, one of the highlights of the day was getting to see the Cobra race in person. I will try to learn how to post pictures on here in the next few weeks. Also there was supposed to be a Formula Ford race at Meyer Speedway using a portion of the figure eight track off of the backstretch to make a dogleg through the infield. This would have been in the late sixties or early seventies. I'm not sure if it was ever run, I know I was not there to see it if it was.

 

Thanks; Byron

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  • 3 years later...

My name is Garrett Waddell. I worked that Astrodome race as crew member for a Triumph TR3.  Matt McCluggan damaged the suspension of his H-Modified when he hit a curb. It was Bill Steel in the Gene Hammond Cobra who (because street pads were the only brake pads he could find) ran out of brakes and had to be manhandled to a stop by crew members after the race.  I saw a former gradeschool classmate, Dana Childress spectating at this race, in a Bugatti Type 57SC!!!  The British Counsul General gave a post race party for us racers and workers at (I think) Sakowitz, downtown.. I believe that our TR3 driver wound up 3rd in class. My memory is that uniformed police were policing the pits to physically remove people who did not have credentials. They made me stop working on the car to show them mine.

Those were the days!!! Imagine trying to do that today.. (My understanding is that the CITY of Houston deeded the streets to the COUNTY of Harris for the weekend, in order to limit liability to the city, and to enable the county workers to pave a 45 degree berm onto the curb at the exit of each turn, so to (hopefully) prevent any cars from being inverted due to the curb acting as a launch ramp.  I don't believe any cars turned over....

PS I also worked flags and pit marshal  at most of the tracks that SCCA ran at this time period, including Galveston Scholes Field, Hammond, Louisiiana, Green Valley,  Hilltop Raceways, and Mansfield, Louisiana.

58porsche.JPG

62 Cobra Ed Lowthar.jpg

Edited by Garrett
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