Friday, September 22, 2017

Chance Kinsley - Racer

Part Four

In this installment we return to follow Hoosier dirt track hero Chance Kinsley’s racing career with the latter part of the 1923 racing season.

Following the twice-postponed July 14 1923 race, Hoosier Motor Speedway General Manager JV Lines announced beginning immediately that the track would stage a slate of weekly races on Saturday nights. The next race, held on July 21, featured 14 starters who raced for the odd distance of 125 laps.  

Worth Schloeman, the Iowa native who was Kinsley’s teammate on the Frontenac team won his second straight race of the ½-mile track. Schloeman finished in time of one hour, eleven minutes and 40 seconds as he was chased across the finish line by his teammate Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson.

A newspaper photograph of the Roof "Flier"
On August 4 1923 the Hoosier Motor Speedway hosted a 100-lap race. The entry list featured Ralph Ormsby as the driver of the tiny Roof ‘Flyer’ which was touted in that day’s Indianapolis Star newspaper as “the smallest race car in the world.” 

The car built by the Laurel Motor Works of Anderson Indiana (in which Robert Roof was a partner) was powered by a four-cylinder Ford engine fitted with a Roof type C 16-valve cylinder head fed by four Zenith HP5A side draft carburetors. Ormsby had defected from the Frontenac team to drive for Roof; the three-car Frontenac team now featured Kinsley, Davidson and Schloeman as drivers.

Another significant entry for the 100-lap race was Lafayette native George Souders behind the wheel of the ‘Schuck Special.’ George had qualified twelfth fastest for the July 100-lap race which was rained out.  Apparently George was not fast enough on August 4 to make the starting field, but he would find great success in 1927 as a rookie at the track located on the west side of town, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.     

A total of twenty-seven cars were entered with twelve of the entrants eliminated through time trials which started at 1 o'clock on Saturday afternoon.  The fifteen fastest cars took the green flag at 3 o'clock and the next day’s edition of the Indianapolis Star reported that Earl Warrick of Covington Indiana grabbed the race lead on the eighth lap and led the rest of the way.

Warrick in his own blue-colored car won the 100-mile grind in a time of 56 minutes and 15 seconds as Chance Kinsley finished second a lap behind the winner followed by third place finisher Claude Fix. Kinsley had replaced the car's original driver, Ford Moyer, on the 35th lap of the race. The Star noted that the Moyer's Ford lost over a lap to leader Warrick in the driver exchange, and that Chance "drove a sensational race in an effort to overcome the lead of the fleet blue leader." 

There was apparently an interruption in auto racing at the Hoosier Motor Speedway for several weeks as a temporary arena was erected onsite to host a boxing exhibition between Argentinian Luis Angel Firpo and Joe Downey from Columbus Ohio. Scheduled for Thursday August 9, on the eve of the fight, Indiana Governor Warren T. McCray instructed Marion County Sheriff George Snider to stop the match.

McCray claimed that Indiana law prohibited prize fighting and that it was “unbecoming to hold a public contest of this nature as the country was in mourning for Warren G Harding,”  the United States President who had passed away suddenly on August 2 1923. The Sheriff also ordered the boxers use 16-ounce sparing (or training) gloves when the rescheduled exhibition was held on August 17.

Before the fight on August 16, track general manager JV Lines had announced that the upcoming Labor Day race at the Hoosier Motor Speedway would be known as the “First Annual 100-mile Hoosier Sweepstakes” which meant 200 laps around the oiled half-mile track. General admission to the grounds for the 100-mile race was one dollar with seats in the grandstand an additional 75 cents or a paddock seat for one dollar. 

The boxing match was described as a “joke” in the next day’s Chicago Tribune which revealed that the fight promoter Jack Druley had disappeared before the match. After a delay of more than an hour Indianapolis Mayor Samuel Shanks climbed into the ring and ordered the boxers to begin the match or go to jail. Wearing the pillow-like 16 ounce gloves “the Wild Man of the Pampas” pummeled Downey for ten rounds and afterwards Downey was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital in a “semi-conscious state” with “severe injures about the head.”  

Fight promoter Jack Druley reappeared days later and explained his pre-fight disappearance. Druley said he had only taken in a total of $4,600 at the gate and that said that after he paid Firpo $2000 of the contracted amount of $4000 and paid Downey $800 of the $1000 he was due that he did not have enough money left to pay Firpo’s inflated hotel room bill.  

Fearing that Firpo’s manager would demand the balance due, Druley fled. There was little public sympathy for the fight promoter, as the fighters on the under card remained unpaid and track manager JV Lines threatened civil action against the promoter unless the track received its promised 1/3 of the gate receipts. Eventually Lines paid the bills which led to Hoosier Motor Speedway entering severe financial straits.   

Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson won the Hoosier Motor Speedway Labor Day 100-mile race at an average speed of 53 miles per hour as he finished in one hour and fifty-five minutes.  Chance Kinsley meanwhile was at Funk’s Speedway in Winchester but the race there was rained out. 

The next race at the high-banked half-mile in Winchester was held on September 16 1923 and in time trials Kinsley in his Frontenac-Ford turned a lap at 28 & 2/5th seconds which was reported as “the fastest lap ever made on a one-half mile track by cars of 183 cubic inch displacement.”

Chance's success was trumpeted in the Frontenac catalog
click to enlarge

In the 100-mile race that followed, Kinsley led the first 60 miles on the high-banked half-mile, but soon after his car retired with a broken axle which handed the lead to Ralph Ormsby in the Roof Flyer who led the rest of the way to claim victory. None of the five Frontenacs entered at Winchester that day finished the race, and only three cars finished the grind with Ray Butcher of Indianapolis in second place and Claude Fix third.

The full-page newspaper ad for the Bellmont Park races
Click to enlarge

Chance Kinsley was entered in the “Discovery Day” races held on October 13 1923 at Decatur Motor Speedway located in Bellmont Park in Decatur Indiana. A trio of races of distances of 10, 25, and 40 miles was scheduled on the half-mile dirt track frequently used for trotter races.  

Kinsley was entered as the driver of the Frontenac owned by Harry Murray from Fort Wayne Indiana while other entries were received from Claude Fix, Ted Hartley in a Rajo, and the Ormsby brothers in a pair of Roof-Fords.     

Neither Ralph Ormsby nor Chance appeared in Decatur and Murray’s car was driven by Charles “Dutch” Baumann (frequently misspelled as Bowman) of Indianapolis. Baumann who would later drive in the 1927 Indianapolis 500-mile race swept the day’s program, as he started the day with the fastest qualifying lap of 33-2/5 seconds, then led all 25 laps in the first race and then repeated as he led all forty laps in the finale to claim the lion’s share of the $1000 total purse.

Despite the “ideal weather” the October race promoted by two local men, DW Berry and JW Meibers, only drew an audience of 1500 fans, down considerably from the 4000 people that had attended the Labor Day races at the same track held on a dark overcast day.
On Labor Day, the track had been a muddy mess from overnight rains, but after skies cleared around noon, gasoline was poured on the track and lit and by 3 PM the races began. The 25 mile race was won by Louis Burkett in a Rajo, and then Burkett finished as the runner-up to Ralph Ormsby in the 50-mile finale. 
Following the October 1923 race, Bellmont Park in Decatur which today is the site of a high school apparently did not host any more automobile races.

Chance was listed as an entry list for the 100-mile season finale at Hoosier Motor Speedway on Armistice Day November 11 1923. “The Hoosier 100 for the Central States Championship to award the J.V. Lines Trophy.” The race was held to benefit the Elks Christmas Fund to “provide Christmas cheer for orphans and children of the poor” according to the Greensburg Daily News. 

This marked the second benefit race at the Hoosier Motor Speedway as the proceeds from the October 21 race won by “Dutch” Baumann went to the Riley Memorial Association which was collecting funds for construction of the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children. 

42 cars and drivers from across three states entered the Armistice Day race but only 16 cars would start the 100-mile feature.  Starters in the feature included Arthur ‘Fuzzy’ Davidson from Chicago, George Lyons from Chicago in his Essex Special and future Indianapolis competitors William ‘Shorty’ Cantlon, Joe Huff, Charles ‘Dutch’ Baumann, Homer Ormsby, and Stuart Wilkinson.

The field consisted of mostly “Fronty-Fords,” which used Arthur Chevrolet’s Frontenac double overhead camshaft cylinder head on a Ford Model T engine block, but included the ‘Hartley Special’ built by brothers Ted and Calvin Glenn ‘C.G.’ Hartley who ran the Hartley Garage in tiny Roanoke Indiana. The engine in the ‘Hartley Special’ used a standard Ford crankshaft, but featured a Bosch battery ignition system built by Harry Bonewitz also of Roanoke.

At the drop of the green flag at 2 o’clock in the afternoon Davidson grabbed the lead but he was soon passed by Lyons, who led until his Essex suffered a broken axle on the 50th lap. Joe Huff in his eponymous racer took command and held the lead until he was forced to pit with engine trouble and he lost two laps while repairs were made.

Ted Hartley took the lead from Huff and held the point the rest of the way without a pit stop to finish the 100 miles in one hour 56 minutes and 29 seconds. Second place went to Joe Huff who had made up one of his lost laps after his return. The Hartley brothers won $260.00 and the J.V. Lines silver loving cup, which was displayed in the lobby of the Farmers State Bank in Roanoke. The J.V. Lines trophy is still displayed in the city of Roanoke in the trophy case of the local historical society.

The Central States Championship was Ted Hartley’s first race victory in what proved to be a long and successful racing career. Ted raced into his 70’s before he retired in 1973 raced across the United States as well as in Canada, Mexico, and South America. Ted won the 1939 Central States Racing Association midget championship and the 1950 Great Lakes Auto Racing Association championship.
Ted Hartley's son, Leslie Eugene “Gene” Hartley was the 1959 USAC (United States Auto Club) midget series champion, scored 33 USAC midget feature wins in his career, and drove in ten Indianapolis 500-mile races. Both Hartley’s, father and son, are immortalized in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

In our installment we will review Chance Kinsley’s 1924 racing season.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pre-war ELTO midget

While Offenhauser, Chevy II, Volkswagen, Esslinger and Toyota engines spring to mind as the dominant midget auto racing engines of their respective eras, the sport has always featured a wide variety of powerplants, as evidenced by this beautiful example of an early pre-war midget powered by a Elto 4-60 engine displayed at the  2017 Calistoga Speedway Hall of Fame induction ceremony.   

Outboard motor pioneer Ole Evinrude sold his eponymous company in 1913 to care for his ill wife with one of the terms of the sale that he could not enter the outboard motor business for five years. Ole kept experimenting and developed a lighter more powerful two-cylinder outboard motor and in 1921 he founded a new company to sell his invention. Ole couldn’t use his name for the new company so he called it ELTO, which stood for “Evinrude Light Twin Outboard."

In 1928 ELTO an immediate leader in the market introduced the ground-breaking four-cylinder two-cycle outboard motor which used horizontally opposed cylinders. The following year, ELTO, Evinrude Motor Company and Lockwood a Michigan outboard motor manufacturer merged to form the Outboard Motor Company (OMC).

During the early nineteen thirties Elto marketed two two-cycle engines to the midget auto racing community; the Elto 4-60 (as in this car) comprised of four cylinders with a single rotary valve that displaced 59.4 cubic inches that produced 60 horsepower and the “class X” also a four cylinder engine that displaced 61 cubic inches fed by dual rotary valves and was advertised at 67 horsepower. For a lubricant racers added castor oil to a mix of methanol (wood alcohol), benzene which created the signature trail of smoke associated with Elto engines.

A brand-new  “complete Class A” Elto-powered midget car powered by an Elto 4-60 engine with two extra wheels was advertised nationwide for a list price of $1425 while a midget with a more powerful “class X” motor sold for $200 more.   

During the latter part of the 1933 season Southern Californian Billy Betteridge widely regarded as midget auto racing’s first superstar replaced the original converted Kaley outboard engine in his “little red racer” the #7 “Power-Lube Special” with an Elto 4-60 and in 1934 rocketed to  the 1934 Midget Auto Racing Association (MARA) with a reputed fifty feature wins during 1934. Other midget racing stars who won in Elto-powered machines included Jack “Curly” Mills, Pat Warren, Frank Brisko and Ronny Householder.  

The introduction of the Offenhauser midget engine during 1934 marked the beginning of the decline of the Elto as a top-flight competitive engine, although the loud smoky ELTO engines continued to appear in “Class B” races across the country until the outbreak of World War 2 around the same time period that the ELTO nameplate vanished from the outboard motor marketplace.  

The example shown at Calistoga was restored by Marvin Silva and is owned by the Schmid family collection from Stockton California.   
All photographs by the author

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chance Kinsley- racer

Part three

In 1923, Kinsley became one of the star attractions at the Hoosier Motor Speedway. Today the track would be well within the Indianapolis city boundaries, but from 1922 to 1925, when the oval track was in operation, it sat just beyond the eastern outskirts of the city of Indianapolis near the intersection of 38th Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Parking was free for those who drove their cars to the track, but the site was also serviced by the Fort Harrison bus and interurban lines.  

When it opened on Armistice Day November 11, 1922 with a 75-mile race, the Hoosier Motor Speedway billed itself as “the greatest half-mile race course in the world.” In that 1922 Armistice Day race, Chance Kinsley set quick time in qualifying and held the lead of the race when a broken connecting rod in his Lexington-Ansted Special’s engine ended his day prematurely.  The Ormsby brothers of Fort Wayne were the day’s big winners with Ralph in his Frontenac taking first as brother Homer finished second, with Joe Guinta of Chicago in third place.  

The Hoosier Motor Speedway did not run a schedule of regular weekly racing programs rather it staged occasional special-event long distance (for the time) races. For example the 1923 Hoosier Motor Speedway advertised schedule featured just six races on May 5, June 9. July 4, August 4, Labor Day and the season finale on October 13.

Click to enlarge
For the track’s inaugural 75-mile race of 1923, the 23-car entry list included Kinsley, the Ormsby brothers (who were considered Frontenac factory drivers), future Indianapolis ‘500’ starter Joe Huff from Fort Wayne, Joe King of Chicago, and Bill Hunt who brought three cars to the track. Chance Kinsley was named one of the early favorites to win in the six-cylinder Ansted Special, the product of one of the many Connersville companies owned by Edward W. Ansted grandfather of long-time Indianapolis ‘500’ entrant and 1964 Indianapolis ‘500’ co-winning car owner William Ansted Junior. 

Other scheduled entries for the May 5 1923 Hoosier Motor Speedway race included Arthur “Fuzzy” Davidson with a “Red Arrow”, future ‘500’ mechanic Ford Moyer, Benton “Bennie” Schoaf from Paris Illinois and a young Hoosier racer named Warren “Wilbur” Shaw.  Two renowned speed equipment manufacturers, the Rajo Motor and Manufacturing Company in Racine Wisconsin and the Robert Roof Company of Anderson Indiana, each entered one car without naming their drivers. 

On Tuesday May 2 Hoosier Motor Speedway General Manager J.V. Lines directed oil be placed on the track surface to keep down dust, but too much oil was applied which resulted in slick conditions and the cancellation of that day’s practice.  After a large roller was brought to the track in the afternoon and after the surface was rolled practice resumed on the afternoon of Wednesday May 3.

A reported five thousand spectators were on hand on Saturday as the event opened with morning time trials to “weed out any slow cars,” which apparently included Kinsley’s Ansted entry. Twelve cars took the green flag with Ford Moyer the early leader until just past the 1/3 point of the race when his car slid high into the wooden guardrail.
A plank came through the cowling of the car and hit Moyer in the chest which forced him to pit. Moyer was relieved by a driver named Johnson but the car was out of contention for victory. With Moyer sidelined, Claude Fix in a Frontenac-Ford grabbed the lead which he held until just past halfway when his car’s axle broke.

With Fix’s retirement the race lead fell to Homer Ormsby who drove in place of his brother who had arrived late. At the 50-mile mark Ormsby still led with Schoaf who drove an Oakland in second followed by Koehler in another Frontenac-Ford in third place. The running order remained unchanged to the finish as there were only five cars still running when starter Roscoe Dunning dropped the checkered flag. Orsmby finished the 75-mile distance in one hour and 31.54 minutes for an average speed of more than 49 miles per hour. 

Chance Kinsley did not have long to reflect on the disappointment of his failure to qualify for the season-opening 75-mile race on May 5 1923 at the Hoosier Motor Speedway on the east side of Indianapolis, as his next race was scheduled for May 30 Decoration Day at Winchester Indiana.

The half-mile track built by Frank Funk adjacent to his lakeside amusement park west of the village of Winchester had been remodeled from its original flatter configuration.  While intimidating today the new configuration must have been even more so in 1923, with an oiled dirt surface and eighteen foot high banked turns which reportedly made it “the highest banked half-mile track in the world.”

Early entrants included the Fort Wayne based Ormsby brothers in a pair of Frontenacs entered by Arthur Chevrolet, along with Ray Butcher and Wilbur Shaw named as drivers of two of the three cars entered by Imperial Motors the predecessor to Craig-Hunt and Speedway Engineering run by Wilbert “Bill” Hunt.  There were twenty cars entered in the races with a purse of $1,500.

Chance Kinsley’s career received a boost as at Winchester he was entered as the driver of a  ‘Roof Special’ powered by a Ford four-cylinder engine fitted with an overhead Roof Racing “Peugeot style” cylinder head manufactured by the Roof Auto Specialty Company of Anderson Indiana. At this time in history, Roof, the Chevrolet brothers with their Frontenac heads, the Rajo Motor and Manufacturing Company in Racine Wisconsin and Hunt with Imperial Motors were engaged in stiff competition for Ford Model T conversion racing cylinder head superiority.   

A reported crowd of 25,000 saw an epic battle in qualifying as “four world records” were broken, as Homer Ormsby, Benton “Bennie” Schoaf and Ford Moyer each posted laps of 29 seconds flat which eclipsed the previous track record of 29 and 3/5 seconds but time trials ended with Ralph Ormsby on top with a lap of 28-4/5 seconds.

There were three races held on Decoration Day 1923 and Claude Fix from Clinton Indiana in a “Powell Special” designed and owned by Charles Powell of Greensburg Indiana won the 10- and 20-mile races.  Both races were finished in record times despite the fact that Fix was still recovering from burns on his throttle foot sustained in a recent race in Lafayette Indiana. Fix led at the 25-lap mark of the featured 30-mile race but soon after his car suffered a blown tire which knocked him from contention. Chance Kinsley won the race in a time of 33 minutes and 15 seconds at an average speed of 54 MPH over Homer Ormsby and Ford Moyer, as these were the only three cars to finish the race.

CC Kinsley was listed as entrant in the “Deluxe Special” for a series of three races or 10, 20 and 30 miles on June 17 1923 at Centlivre Park Speedway in Fort Wayne Indiana. This unique narrow half-mile track was originally built by the Centlivre family of brewery fame to train their stable of race horses. Several years after the family lost interest in trotting horses, the property was bought by the Fort Wayne Auto Racing Association and the group headed by Ray Harper and Sam Novick built a new grandstand and restored the facility for motorcycle and automobile races.

It unclear whether Kinsley raced that day as only five of the fourteen cars entered actually appeared. The same day that his brother Ralph won the 100-lap race in Grand Rapids Michigan Hometown racer Homer Ormsby swept all to victory in all three of the Centilvre races. The site of the race track and park near Spy Run Creek is now home to the Centilvre Apartment complex.   

By the time of the Fourth of July 100-mile race at the Hoosier Motor Speedway Kinsley was a Frontenac team driver in the employ of Arthur Chevrolet. The race was highly anticipated, with a $1000 purse for the winner, the second place finisher set to win $500, third place $200 and fourth place $100.  After the track was treated with what the Indianapolis Star reported was “twelve tons of dust-laying chemical preparation” (later revealed to be calcium chloride) an open practice session was held on Sunday June 24 for those cars that were early entries.

Besides Kinsley, early local entries were received from Fred Koehler, S. R. Rosenbaum and M. M. Cowherd. During the next week, entries were received from D.E. Jacques who hailed from the Boone County town of Thorntown and Fred Wilson of Crawfordsville which brought the total number of entries to eighteen. Claude Fix had already told track General Manager J.V. Lines that he would be racing with the Powell Special at Winchester on July 4.  

After another practice session on Sunday July 1, another coating of calcium chloride was applied to the track surface in preparation for qualifying on Tuesday July 3 to winnow the field down to the twelve fastest cars. After he ran 20 laps of practice in the freshly-built Frontenac, Chance Kinsley was the first car to qualify and he set a new track record of 31-1/5 seconds, two seconds faster than the previous track mark.

The next car out  to qualify was Chance’s teammate Arthur ‘Fuzzy” Davidson in another Frontenac-Ford whose lap was timed at 35-3/5 seconds  Charles Moorhead took to the Speedway in his Essex and posted a time of 35 seconds flat as rain began to fall and washed out the rest of time trials.

JV Lines planned to resume qualifying at 8 AM on July 4th but unfortunately the rain forced the rescheduling of the race to Saturday July 7 and many of the racers including Kinsley headed east to Winchester for the 40- and 60-mile races. In time trials at the high-banked half-mile Funk’s Speedway Paul Clancy from Chicago in a Miller Special lowered the track record to 28 seconds flat.  

In the latter stages of the 40-mile race, Clancy battled Claude Fix for the lead. On the last lap, Fix steered the Powell Special into the low groove to pass for the lead. Clancy dropped out of the middle groove to block and forced Fix’s car into the inner berm. The resulting impact tore the rear wheels off the Powell Special as Clancy claimed the win ahead of Arthur “Fuzzy Davidson.

Clancy completed the 40 miles in 40 minutes and 20 seconds, which shaved seven minutes off the old record for that distance. In the 60-mile feature event at Winchester the former one-lap track record holder Ralph Ormsby cruised to victory in sixty minutes and 46-2/5 seconds nearly ten minutes better than the old mark for the third new track record established that day.

With the Hoosier Motor Speedway postponement to July 7 the entry list grew to 35 cars which included Claude Fix in his repaired Powell Special and Auter Thompson winner of the July 4 race at the Ripley County Fairgrounds in Osgood Indiana but rain again forced a postponement to July 14.

This second delay though it led to a reduction in the race distance to 75 miles, brought an added celebrity attraction, as General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing who was in town for the annual reunion of the 42nd “Rainbow” division was scheduled to attend the race along with his guest and World War 1 comrade in arms French General Henri Gouraud. 

Chance Kinsley took the lead of the race on the opening lap and looked to have the race won until his Frontenac-Ford suffered “compression trouble” on the 125th or the 150 laps and was forced into the pits. Kinsley’s teammate Worth Schloeman a lap behind Kinsley in his own Frontenac-Ford soon unlapped himself and assumed the race lead, an exciting turn of events for the young man who had left his home state of Iowa two years earlier and just 13 months before rode with Wilbur D’Alene in a Monroe in the Indianapolis 500-mile race.  

After quick repairs, Kinsley rejoined the race in second place scored three laps behind Schloeman. Chance only made up one lap of the deficit by the time the checkered flag fell with Dempsey Chancey in another Frontenac in third place while Claude Fix rounded out the top finishers in fourth. With the shorter race distance the purse was cut in half from the original July 4 race and Schloeman won $500, Kinsley $300, Chancey $200 while Fix received $100.   

At some point during the course of the race tragedy struck after a multiple car accident occurred.  In the confusion after the accident, a guard at the track, 34-year old Joseph Battley (also reported as Betler or Betley) ran onto the track to warn the  drivers. Battley was struck by the “Imperial Special” driven by Ray Butcher and died of his injuries the following day July 15 in an area hospital.

The story of Chance Kinsley’s breakout 1923 racing season continues in our next installment.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Chance Kinsley- racer

Part two

In the first part of the Chance Kinsley story, the young racer from Greenfield Indiana won the 1920 Labor Day races at the Shelby County Fairgrounds in Shelbyville Indiana. This second installment of his story begins Decoration Day weekend in 1921, with Kinsley entered in the 100-lap race on the ½-mile dirt track at the Butler County fairgrounds in Hamilton Ohio.

Wilbur D'Alene in 1919 in his Duesenberg
Photograph courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies

The race was promoted by well-known race driver Wilbur D’Alene a Hoosier native whose given name was Edwin Wilbur Aleon. D’Alene had raced with the American Automobile Association (AAA) since 1914, first for the Marmon factory and later the Duesenberg team. D’Alene nicknamed “the wild man from the West” finished second in the 1916 Indianapolis 500-mile race. D’Alene’s name was familiar to Southwestern Ohio fans as he finished second at the Cincinnati Motor Speedway board track in Sharonville Ohio on Labor Day 1916.

After he divorced his first wife late 1916 Wilbur enlisted and served as an instructor for the aviation section of the US Signal Corps at Kelly Field in San Antonio Texas during World War 1.  On leave, D’Alene married for second time in July 1918 at age 33 and after his release from the service apparently raced little though he did appear in the 1919 Liberty 500-mile race.  D’Alene and riding mechanic William Vetere narrowly escaped disaster as their Duesenberg spun at high speed after one of the front tires blew out and jammed the steering. With the front axle broken the car was retired with 300 miles completed.   

During 1920, D’Alene settled in Fort Wayne Indiana where he operated a service station and a Miller Carburetor distributorship and was involved in “Garden City,” a planned amusement park and 1-1/4 motor speedway project. D’Alene’s race date at Hamilton was the first of a two-race promotion with the second race scheduled in Erlanger Kentucky on Saturday June 11.

The promised $1000 cash purse attracted a strong field. Drivers from Ohio included Charles Vischer from Toledo in a Chandler,  Joe Fielding of Columbus with an Essex,  Frank Varagnue from Walbridge and his Duesenberg,  Waldo Sober from Cleveland with a Roof Special and C. M. Fox of Toledo with an Oldsmobile racer.  In addition to Chance Kinsley in his Chevrolet Special, Hoosier entries among the fifteen cars and drivers entered included Frank Thomas from Indianapolis with a Rajo Special, Wilbert “Bill” Hunt in his ‘Craig-Hunt Special’ from Indianapolis and rookie driver Harold Werst from Fort Wayne with his Roof Special.

The Sunday afternoon pre-race practice session from 2 to 5 PM, held to give the drivers a chance to familiarize themselves with the track and tune their cars, was free and open to the public and attracted a sizeable crowd. The Monday May 30th race program was scheduled to begin at 2:30 PM, opening with an “elimination round” as each car took one flying lap against the clock to determine the nine-car starting field for the 100-lap 50-mile main event. Each successful qualifier was guaranteed $50 to start the race with the race winner set to receive $500, second place $300, third place $125, and the fourth place finisher $75.

On a day that featured “perfect weather” according to the report in the next day’s Hamilton Evening Journal the crowd which was “not as large as expected” enjoyed a thrilling afternoon of racing.  Alas, Chance Kinsley’s qualifying lap was not fast enough to advance to the 100-lap race which was marred by two accidents.
About a third of the way into the race, five cars tangled and all were knocked out of the race with Hunt’s Craig-Hunt Special faring the worst with as the Evening Journal  described the car as “practically destroyed with three wheels torn off.”  Driver Bill Hunt was rushed to Mercy Hospital with “painful and serious injuries” with cuts on his knee and chest and several broken ribs.

Later in the race while trying to catch the leader, Frank Thomas his ‘Rajo Special’ ran over the wheel of Bob Jackson’s Craig-Hunt Special and both cars were eliminated after the ensuing crash. At the end of the 50-mile race, D’Alene waved the checkered flag for the only three cars were still running with Joe Fielding’s Essex the victor by a three-lap margin over second place finisher Ben Lawwell with Ford Moyer from Indianapolis in third place. 

Apparently race promotion was not a long-term career path for D’Alene, and he returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the following May in 1922 as a driver for the Monroe-sponsored three-car Frontenac team. Wilbur was teamed with young racer Worth Schloeman as his riding mechanic in a machine that was scheduled to carry a “radiophone” wireless system for communication between the car and the pit box according to Schloeman’s hometown Estherville Iowa Vindicator and Republican newspaper.  Schloeman born in 1899 had left his hometown just a year earlier with his home-built race car in tow in search of fame and fortune in the Middle West.  

Despite the pre-race publicity the honor of carrying the first radio set in the 1922 ’500’ went to Jack Curtner and his mechanic Homer Smith in the #18 Frontenac-Ford entered by the Chevrolet brothers.  During the 1922 ‘500’ D’Alene’s Monroe burst into flames on the backstretch and “singed” D’Alene and Scholeman.
The fire was extinguished and repairs were made, but the car lost many laps and when it was flagged off the track it had completed only 160 laps.  After he retired from racing D’Alene worked for a time as a deputy Federal Game Warden under his birth name Edwin Aleon.


Results from Chance Kinsley’s 1921 racing season are incomplete but the author found two reports.  Chance competed in the 25-mile race held on the ½-mile dirt track on the Fairgrounds in Warren Indiana on Saturday September 3 1921. An article in the Huntington Press newspaper the day before stated that “every plan of the management of the local races has been completed, and all is in readiness for the races. 
The writer promised that "every care is to be taken by the management to prevent accidents and show the public a clean, keenly contested race.” However, the article went on to note that “the public is warned to keep away from the fences and turns on the track, and is asked to aid in any way possible in making the race safe for the spectators.”

Earlier it had been revealed that F. S. Howell “entered a new 16 -valve Dodge which .will be driven by Chance Kinsley' of Greenfield, an old head at the racing game, having had a number of years of experience on the dirt tracks throughout the country.” Kinsley was joined by D. E. Jaques will appear in his Jaques Special from Thorntown, Ind., where he owned and operated the Jaques Auto and Garage Company which sold Dort and Velie automobile and Firestone tires.
Another entrant, Hugh Rife was identified as a former member of the Chevrolet team who “last year won six firsts out of ten starts” and there was an entry from Fred Clemons of Indianapolis with the ‘Speedway Special.’ Clemons was identified by the Huntington Press as “an old time driver and in 1911 and 1912 was driver for the McFarlan team in the 500-mile International races at Indianapolis.”

Clemons in fact had appeared at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1910 and 1911 and finished fifth in a McFarlan in the 1910 Remy Grand Trophy Race and fifth in an 80-lap race held on September 5 1910. Clemons and the McFarlan were entered for the 1911 “500’ but failed to maintain the required 75-mile per hour minimum speed.

The featured driver among the seventeen entries was Worth E. Schloeman of Estherville lowa with his ‘Schloeman Special.  Schliemann had reportedly entered his first races “in this section of the country” in 1920 and won fourteen out of sixteen starts. Among Worth’s accomplishments were victories in both the July 5th and the Labor Day events at Winchester, Indiana. The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette article stated that Schloeman “won first place at Greenfield in the fastest time made this year, beating a field of the fastest dirt track cars in this section of the country.”       

The races in Warren were apparently plagued by a small crowd (estimated at 1,000) and poor track conditions and there were several accidents which resulted in two injuries. In his five-mile elimination race, Jaques skidded in one of turns and flipped end-over-end twice and then caught fire with flames “shooting 20 feet in the air” as Jaques received severe burns around his left shoulder.

Meanwhile at the other end of the track a car swerved through the outer wooden fence and the riding mechanic L. Chapman was thrown from the car and suffered a deep wound below his left eye. In the other five-mile elimination ace the Frontenac-Ford of Ralph Ormsby of Fort Wayne the day’s fastest qualifier was eliminated for the day after the car’s rear axle broke.    

Five cars started the 25-mile feature race that Kinsley, Schloeman and Homer Ormsby. Homer’s car was eliminated when it too broke an axle on third lap, then Kinsley’s 16-valve Dodge dropped out with engine trouble on the 23rd lap. Schloeman led the remaining two cars to the finish in a time of 28 minutes and 58 seconds judged to be “exceptional considering the conditions.” No prize money was mentioned but Worth won “a beautiful silver loving cup put up by the racing association” and some handsome lap prizes donated by the merchants.”

Two days later on Labor Day Monday September 5 1921, many of the same drivers were among the fifteen race cars entered at the steeply banked half-mile Funk’s Speedway in Winchester Indiana. The Labor Day races featured a pair of races, 20 miles and 30 miles and attracted a large crowd despite the threatening skies overhead.
At some point during the afternoon, Chance Kinsley’s car went through the wooden guardrail and he suffered a “badly bruised” arm and chest. Kinsley was the only driver to suffer injuries at Winchester that day, though Worth Schloeman’s car reportedly turned over twice, and while the car was eliminated from racing for the rest of the day, Schloeman escaped injury.

Charles Brown of Indianapolis won the first 20-mile race in his ‘Brown Special’ in a time of 23 minutes and 54 seconds, more than two minutes faster than the previous track record for that distance. Brown won $200, while Cecil D Laum of Bloomington won $100 for finishing second in his Ford and local driver Everett Cox won $50 for his third place finish.
Arthur Chevrolet made a rare appearance on Labor Day as the driver and it paid off with a $400 victory in the thirty-mile feature event.  Chevrolet made limited starts after he was injured in a practice crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1920. The May 24 collision with Rene Thomas and Ralph DePalma left Arthur with facial cuts and a bruised chest.  On Labor Day 1921, Arthur’s Frotenac was chased across the finish line at Winchester by Waldo Smith and Charles Brown.     


Click to enlarge

Results for Chase Kinsley's 1922 season are non-existent but an advertisement in the Shelby Democrat newspaper days before the scheduled October 8 1922 races at the Shelby County Fairgrounds identified Kinsley as a “famed motorcycle racer” who had driven “the Speedway Special in nine races this season and never finished out of the money.” 

In our next installment we will continue the story and look at how 1923 became Chance Kinsley’s breakout racing season.




Monday, August 21, 2017

Chance Kinsley - racer
Part One  

Young Chauncey “Chance” Kinsley was a Hoosier dirt track race car driver whose star was on the rise during the early part of the decade of the nineteen twenties but he never got his chance at the top rung of auto racing fame and fortune.

Chance born in Greenfield Indiana in 1896 was one of Marvin and Nannie Kinsley’s family of six children – two boys and four girls. Chance’s older brother Joseph and older sister Carrie both married and moved away from Indiana, while un-married middle sister Bessie lived in Portland Oregon.  Chance’s other two sisters, Nell born in 1890 and Frances, born in 1900, both lived in the family home at 218 South State Street in Greenfield and worked as school teachers.

Chance’s name first surfaced in connection with automobile racing at an event at the nearby Shelby County Fairgrounds ½-mile dirt track in Shelbyville on Labor Day Monday September 6 1920.  An advertisement in the Shelbyville Republican newspaper cautioned readers “Don’t fail to see these races or you will miss the most sensational, death-defying races ever witnessed by the public. The fastest and most daring speed demons in the country will drive in these races which will without doubt be the most exciting event ever staged in this community.” Admission to the races, held as part of the annual County Fair was 75 cents with a grandstand seat 25 cents more with the spectator gates scheduled to open at 10 AM and the racing set to start at 2:00 PM.

Due to the entries of “eleven speed artists” it was announced that “it will be necessary to hold elimination trials Monday morning in order to cut the field to the limited number of cars” for the three scheduled races, two 10-mile races and a 25-mile finale. Advance entries were received from hometown driver Dick Carroll, as well as from Wilbert “Bill” Hunt, Frank Thomas and Clarence Belt of Indianapolis, Toby Conners of Richmond, John Mahoney from Dunreith and Packey Quinn who hailed from Greensburg.

Louis Williams from Indianapolis was scheduled to drive the Keeton entry which was reported to have “held the record of 90 miles per hour (MPH) at Cincinnati,” a reference to the short-lived 2-mile board track Cincinnati Motor Speedway which had closed after the 1919 season.  Nearly 100 years after the fact, the provenance of Williams’ 1920 Shelbyville race entry cannot be positively confirmed but it seems probable that it was a former Indianapolis entry. The Keeton was seven years old in 1920 but local odds makers still established Williams as the 6-to-5 favorite to win the Labor Day races.  


The Keeton

In 1913, the company’s first year of passenger car production  Bob Burman raced a Keeton  finished in Brewster green with white trim in the Indianapolis ‘500.’ Burman’s Keeton was powered by a T-head Wisconsin Motor Company 4-cylinder engine that displaced 449 cubic inches and developed over 100 horsepower.  When one compares the specifications of Burman’s race car engine to that of the stock Keeton four-cylinder 255-cubic inch engine which produced 38 horsepower from the Detroit factory it appears that Burman’s car was an early example of a “silhouette race car.”  An April 1913 advertisement in the Motor World Wholesale magazine stated that Burman, “the Speed King of the World” had “selected the Keeton to drive and win the great 500-mile race at Indianapolis.”

Inventor Forrest M. Keeton established the Keeton Motor Company which built both six- and four- cylinder cars which rode on 120-inch wheelbase chassis that featured the radiator located behind the engine. Mr. Keeton’s patented design awarded patent number 969107 used a centrifugal fan attached to the flywheel to force air through the radiator.   
According to Keeton’s advertising, this “European design” (which was similar to Renault) allowed for a “graceful sloping hood” and “long low lines.”  The Keeton radiator design feature was carried over to Burman’s race car, which Mr. Keeton watched perform in the 1913 Indianapolis 500-mile race from the car’s pit stall.  
Bob Burman ran his single qualifying lap at 84 miles per hour in time trials and started the ‘500’ from 21st position but grabbed the lead of the race on lap 16 and quickly built up a substantial lead. Burman's time for 120 miles (48 laps) was one hour and thirty-one minutes, and as there was no previous standing mark for this distance, Burman's average speed of 79.12 MPH became a new race record.
Burman and his riding mechanic Tony Janette led the race until the engine backfired and the car caught fire on their 58th lap.  After the fire was extinguished and repairs made which included a carburetor replacement the Keeton had  lost over 20 minutes and ten laps but still managed to finish the race as “Wild Bob” who may have suffered burns accepted relief driving help from British driver Hughie Hughes.   
Author’s note:  there are a number of interesting photos of Keeton passenger cars and the Keeton racer in action in the 1913 Indianapolis ‘500’ on the Detroit Public Library website at

Two weeks after the Indianapolis ‘500,’ Burman was entered in the Keeton in a race at the former Oakland Trotting Park in Emeryville California, but he drove his ‘Blitzen Benz’ instead. Over the July 4th holiday Burman and the Keeton placed second in the Potlach Trophy road race at Tacoma Washington then dropped out early in the National Trophy road race at Elgin Illinois at the end of August 1913. 

William “Willie” Knipper drove the Keeton racer now owned by Burman at Indianapolis for the 1914 International Sweepstakes after Louis Chevrolet passed on the ride. After he started twelfth over the course of the race Knipper made thirteen pit stops as the crew attempted to diagnosis the car’s lack of performance and changed the coil only to later find that the engine was performing poorly due to a stuck valve. The Keeton finished the ‘500’ in thirteenth place as car owner Burman relieved Knipper and was behind the wheel when the Keeton finally completed its 200th lap an hour and half after winner Rene Thomas had taken the checkered flag.

Jack Callaghan in the Keeton racer at Elgin Illinois

After racing promoter Ernest Moross bought the Wisconsin-powered Keeton,  Michigander John D. "Jack" Callaghan took the controls of the for the rest of 1914 and finished fourth in his hometown AAA (American Automobile Association) race at Kalamazoo (won by Burman in a Peugeot) and fifth at Galesburg Illinois both of which were one mile dirt ovals with small starting fields.   

Callaghan also raced the Keeton in several “outlaw” non-AAA IMCA (International Motor Contest Association) events across the country often in match races against the “Blitzen Benz” before he joined the Duesenberg team. Callaghan drove the third Duesenberg entry early in the 1915 AAA season while Frank Jennings replaced Callaghan as the driver of the Keeton in IMCA races.

Callaghan finished second in the “Tropico Road Race” held mid-week after a rain delay which was promoted by Lodge #1289 of the Benevolent and Protective Orders of Elks in Glendale, California, crashed out of the other two AAA early season West Coast races.  Jack lost two teeth after he struck a pole in the first crash at the San Diego Exposition Race, but his second crash a month later at Ascot Speedway proved fatal after Jack was impaled on a fence board and died the following day.   

The  Keeton Motor Company merged with the Car-Nation cyclecar company in early 1914, but the combined company failed in at the end of 1914. The Keeton was gone after just thirty-three months in business, and the factory building at 462 Lawton Avenue in Detroit and remaining inventory of 100 Keeton cars were sold off by the bankruptcy court during 1915.

The Craig-Hunt Special

 Another favorite for the Labor Day 1920 races at Shelbyville was Bill Hunt at 4-to-1 odds in the Craig-Hunt Special which was powered by a Ford Model T engine fitted with a sixteen-valve “Peugeot style” racing cylinder head. These heads with overhead valves and the camshaft controlled by bevel gears driven off the crankshaft were built in the shop owned by Hunt and John Craig on North Illinois Avenue in Indianapolis. Craig-Hunt Inc. later known as Speedway Engineering was also an early catalogue speed shop which sold parts needed  to build a race car such as speedster bodies, underslung frames, gear sets, engine parts and Pasco wire wheels.  

A few years later, Bill Hunt would hire a young man named Wilbur Shaw and allowed the young Shelbyville native to use his Illinois Avenue shop to build his first race car and the pair became lifelong friends. Hunt drove a Ford-Frontenac in the 1924 ‘500’ and later worked as a team manager and mechanic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before he died in mid-December 1950, at what was believed to be 62 years old in Wickenburg Arizona after he collapsed while driving from Las Vegas to Phoenix. 

On Friday, September 3 1920 the Shelbyville Republican carried the news that the race registration committee announced that the fairgrounds track “will not be turned over to the drivers for practice spins before Monday morning.” The qualifying runs, for which the car and driver had to “do over 60 MPH” were overseen by Howard “Howdy” Wilcox the 1919 Liberty 500-mile Sweepstakes race winner, the second native Hoosier to win the great race and the first American born driver to do so since 1912 even though he drove a French Peugeot.   

The entry list for the 1920 Labor Day races in Shelbyville also included several Ford Specials, a Buick, an Oakland and a five-year Chevrolet driven by Chance Kinsley who was an employee of the Maxwell Motor Company.  While the author has been unable to find any published reports of the race, an advertisement in the Thursday September 9 edition of the Shelbyville Republican proclaimed that “Chance Kinsley of Greenfield won the most daring race Labor Day on the fairground track that was ever witnessed on a half-mile dirt track in his Chevrolet Special. He also says he never uses anything but Indian Gas.”

Indian Gasoline was the product of the Indian Refinery Company originally an Indiana company formed in Asphaltum a small village midway between Lafayette and Gary but which had years before relocated its offices to Cincinnati with its refinery in Lawrenceville Illinois. 

During the period between 1920 and 1922 Indian became a national chain via acquisitions and   transitioned its logo from the previous "running Indian" design to a logo that was a red ball surrounded by the words  “Indian” and  "Gas" in dark blue letters. In 1931 the Texas Corporation (TEXACO) purchased the Indian Refinery Company and operated Indian as a subsidiary until March 1943 when Texaco officially discontinued the Indian brand. 

In our next installment we will examine how Chance Kinsley’s racing successes led to growing prominence within his home state. 

A big “thank you” to Don Capps, Dennis Mattish and Jim Thurman of the Racing History Group for the information on the 1915 Tropico Road Race. Learn more and join the group at