Photo ID # f02.01.09_ARA_TOL_SPE_0026S_1
Car #: NA
Driver (s) : NA
Location: near Hammonton, NJ
Date: 1926 and maybe the following year...
Photographer: Unknown
Photo provided by: Russ Dodge and Larry Jendras Jr.
Comments: Senior Moment Provided By Russ Dodge:

Cars Set Splintering Pace!

As a young stock car fan during the 50’s in South Jersey, I often heard the “old Timers” talking about a wooden board track “over by” Hammonton. Some placed it at a place called Amatol. The stories were very interesting and by later research found to be fairly accurate.

“Over by” Hammonton (NJ) ended up being the land behind the State Police barracks on Route 30 about 4 miles East of Hammonton. A 600 acre parcel of land called Amatol had been the location of a munitions plant during World War I and included dwellings for the plant workers. When the war ended, so did the need for the Amatol facility and the place was dormant.

In 1925 some investors selected the site to build a board track for auto racing. With board track racing already in existence in other parts of the country, the fastest and grandest race track became the intent of the investors. An experienced California contractor with 10 tracks to his credit was hired to build the new $750,000. , 1 ½ mile speedway.

Starting construction in early January 1926, the track was finished with grandstand seating for 30,000 people by the May 1st opener, just four months later! The new track was operated by Atlantic City Motor Speedway Association, listing the track location as Speedway, New Jersey, the newly appointed name for the old Amatol facility. The official name appearing on the tickets was the Atlantic City Speedway.

The track was designed for all-out speed with the turns banked at 45 degrees. This is greater than Daytona and other super speedways today! On may first, a driver named Bennett Hill set a new world speed record – 146.7 mph. The opening show winner, Harry Hartz went the 300 mile distance in 2 hours and 14 minutes averaging 135 mph. This took place before an opening day crowd of 80,000.

A newspaper article recounted the start of the race being delayed when the official track car had a front wheel fall through a board on the track requiring carpenters to repair the surface. It was reported that spectators actually stuck their heads up through the openings in the surface to watch the race!

Only 14 cars were there for the opening show which was an indication of the future car count and success of the track. Two more races were held in the remaining 1926 opening season with the last championship car race held in May 1927. Following the last stock car race in May of 1928, the track was closed for racing and leased to automobile companies for performance testing.

Why did the track fail? Aside from being a dangerous way to race on a wood surface spotted with oil, in a car running faster than it should on the fragile tires of the era, some of the causes are relevant today. The track operated in a time leading into the depression when money was tight and the admission prices were high. Grandstand seats ranged in cost from $4.20 to $15.40. General admission was $2.20 which was a major part of a weeks pay in 1926!

Offering high purses, $12,000. to win, the opening show did not guarantee the big name drivers of the day. They scheduled races on conflicting dates near INDY time as well as with the more established board track in Altoona, Pa. This kept the “stars of the day” racing elsewhere. With the constant breaking down of the track and the short field of cars, it’s easy to understand the track demise. A sheriff’s sale in 1935 brought the demolition of the speedway with the used lumber being sold from the facility.

Senior Moment by Russ Dodge

Here's a few pictures from what we think was the Baltimore -Washington  Speedway:



 

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Comment:

02.01.09 3Wide What an enormous undertaking...  Hard to imagine the vision that someone had that this could be built out in the middle of nowhere, and then to see it actually happen... only to see it fail in a very short period of time.  Amazingly, after almost 80 years, you can still see the outline of the speedway from the air:

If you look slightly to the right of the center of this image, you can still see the oval.

(Image From Google Earth)

Here's a few more links that provide additional information about Amatol:
http://wikimapia.org/2413293/Amatol-Racetrack

http://www.southjersey.com/articles/?articleid=6456

http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=a9124ff8-e150-4055-b1de-8d0476a2c3bc


The same was true in 1926 as it is now... You can't just build a racetrack and expect people to come...  Thanks Russ for providing the images and the info.  There is so much promise in the first photo, and then so much excitement in the bottom photo... 

Nothing stays the same.

(For more info on Amatol, click here:  http://www.3widespicturevault.com/FRONT%20PAGE%20STUFF/Speedway_Memories_1.htm
02.02.09 Ed Duncan Results:

May 1,1926 200 Laps/300 Miles 1. Harry Hartz
July 17,1926 80 Laps/120 Miles 1. Harry Hartz
May 7,1927 133 Laps/199.5 Miles 1. Dave Lewis
Sept.16,1928 67 Laps/100.5 Miles 1. Ray Keech
02.03.09 John L Polson There is a lot of exploring you can do in the track area. I used to hunt in that section.  You
can see ruins of Amatol by following some of the dirt roads. There are also concrete bunkers that were for storing explosives etc near by. Interesting racing info that most people never knew was right here in our back yard. Can you imagine the amount of wood needed for a wooden track, stands etc! These pictures of the track are the best. Great job.
03.04.09 Ed Duncan In August 1928 a Studebaker passanger car driven by Cliff Bergere, Tony Gullotta an Johnny Kreiger avg. 68.37 mph for 30,000 miles at the speedway.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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