On the west banks of the Grand River, just south of the current 5/3rd Ballpark, the Grand Rapids Speedrome was once the hot spot for hot rods in West Michigan.
On Thursday night at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Main Branch, Doug Taylor will share the history of this special place. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. at 111 Library NE.
The Speedrome, which opened in 1903, was located on North Park Street between the Grand River and West River Drive. Originally, the site opened as the West Michigan Fairgrounds and hosted auto and horse racing. The one-mile oval track was closed down in 1937 and was converted into an air park by local businessman Richard DeVos in 1948.
When the track re-opened in 1950, the Speedrome hosted NASCAR races. NASCAR arrived on July 1, 1951, for a Grand National Series 200-lap race. The series returned on July 11, 1954, as legendary driver Lee Petty took checkered flag.
Taylor will bring take guests on a journey back to the days of the thundering race cars with famous drivers like Barney Oldfield, Louis Chevrolet, and Ralph DePalma.
In the 1960s, super fast modifieds and semi-late model stock cars were the talk of the town. Johnny Benson Sr. started racing there in 1956 and took home an assortment of race titles through the years.
Benson, along with Speedrome drivers Wayne Landon, Gail Cobb, Bob Senneker, and Ralph Baker, will be on hand for a question and answer session after the presentation.