Ed Kretz (Indian Scout) leading Dick Ince (J.A.P.) in the 26th lap at the Oakland races. I
The Oakland Speedway lay etched, crystal clear, under a November sun that gave glorious promise of warmth and failed to deliver as per contract as we and some couple of thousand assorted Eskimos shivered in the grandstand while Al Chasteen cleaned house for himself, capturing a couple of new Class “C” records, with a Sport Scout that really went to town.
A goodly field was listed. Looking down in the pits it could be seen that the honor of the Wigwam was being upheld by sundry gentlemen of stout hearts and high courage while the Milwaukee camp had no Sisters of Meek. There loomed up Chasteen, elongated veteran of racing from Oakland, who owns to a rather disgusting amount of long track experience. Supporting Chasteen and the Wigwam was Pomona’s Ed Kretz, a racing gent who knows his way around; Meeks Hubbard; stocky, plugging Lou Casazza of San Francisco; Al Bauer of Sacramento; Don Rodman of San Francisco; ace pilot from the Night Speedways, Big Bo Lisman, and Louie Marzotto from Chicago.
Harley-Davidson’s crew boasted Jim Young, 200-mile winner ; Leonard Andres, night speedway veteran; Lee Jamison, T.T. crack from San Francisco; Sal Gatto, plucky little scrapper from San Jose, who came within an ace of cleaning the 200-mile fracas here a few months ago; Ray Eddy, Targo Florio champion, and Sam Arena, night speedway star. It was a good field that should have produced good racing. As it so developed, it did. Dick Ince carried the standard of the JAP’s with a cute 30.50 chrome tanked overhead that went places in somewhat of a hurry.
The pits likewise contained their quota of perennials without whom no race gathering has a savor. Stalked about in the Indian pit, overcoated, eyeglassed, Hap Alzina with a multitude of stopwatches. Everywhere in the Harley-Davidson pit was jerkined Dudley Perkins. A long trail of competition that stretched behind this pair, a trail that wended back to 1915, when the sandy-haired Perkins met the stocking-capped Alzina at Stockton’s mile, at Bakersfield’s mile-dirt, and met again at starting line at San Jose. Where Jefferson met Indian and Don Johns was king. Both visible at this time in their customary pre-race meet attitude-advising counseling, changing. Hap hammered Kretz down into position (it was Kretz’s first time out on dropped bars), Perkins stopwatched the rangy Young and called him in for gear change. Everywhere was that tenseness that passes only with the dropping of the flag. Visible also the modern Merlins of mechanical wizardry. Sandy-haired, white-coveralled “Red” Fenwick, the reverberations of whose famed Dry Lakes motors still echo where speedmen meet-Fenwick in the Indian pit, and opposite him Les Van De Mark, who work in unison. Together they moved from engine to engine, giving last minute touches. Fin Speer and Al Thomason hold forth at the next pit, different men but the same process. Harley-Davidson’s ace, Tom Sifton, silently stopwatched Sal Gatto. Sifton’s motors go and keep going. Today should be no exception. Oakland’s Frank Martoza looked on. One of his was second in the Oakland “200.”
Here we have Chasteen leading after recovering his ground lost earlier in the race. Riders
Above in the stands we shivered wearily and called down maledictions upon a sun that had played us false. We bought a hot dog, and immediately solved the problem of what was done with those drought cattle of a few years back. Timer National Champion Joe Petrali stepped up into the officials’ box. Henchman Timer Speedway Racer Pete Coleman followed him. A spot of verbal racing relieved us of the chilling wind momentarily. Racing talk flagged, and we turn our attention to what was about to ensue. The card embraced three fifteen-mile heats with the first four men from each heat qualifying for the 30-mile main event, and wound up with a 10-mile consolation. Chasteen set a new 15-mile mark in the opening heat with a time of 10:40 3/5, which adds up to 84.297, with the pencil in the hands of someone whose mathematics are better than ours, and picked off a new mark in the 30-mile main, passing under the checkered flag just exactly 21 minutes 30 2/5 seconds after leaving the same gentleman who had waved a green flag at him. That one-added up by the same interest-calculating shark-figures 83.695 miles per hour, which, to our untutored mind, is going places hastily for a road machine that was running on Ethyl gasoline.
Starter George Harais rolled the first heat to the line and administered the final rites to Casazza, Chasteen, Hubbard, Andres, Wilson and Young in the time-honored fashion, “Now come down together, men, and let’s try and get away in the first lap.” And, strangely enough, the men took his words to heart. A trailing, formation that chuckled their way down Oakland’s mammoth backstretch, a formation that jerked uneasily as though the tension was communicating itself to inanimate motors, the formation dressing to the left as it swept into the corner. The snuffling, uneasy bellow grew, became a drumming cannonading. Motors slid into tune, that booming sound as exhaust note synchronized with exhaust note until it sounded as though there were but one machine running. Suddenly came a break in the rhythmic cadence. Driving down came six bulleting figures, diving off the top of the turn, helmeted heads drop on tanks and a white flag whips downward. Chasteen, white helmeted, brown jacketed, a crouching figure jumped the pack and streaked into the first turn. He blasted his way into the lower turn, and made a fast drive up the straightaway, some two hundred yards in the lead.
His Sport Scout ran in a chuckling fashion, exhaust note clean and clear. Behind him boomed the Harley-Davidson ace, Young, veteran craftsman slugging away as best he might. The routine remained unchanged lap after lap. A deft throttle backed off and then increased-on just enough to remain with the precious lead; off just enough to conserve the stamina. Duplicating the performance in the second spot Track General Young does likewise. The main event was yet to come and then would be time to test the strength and toss caution to the winds. So much for the front rank battle. In the rear Casazza, Andres and Hubbard had a battle of their own, as Jimmy Wilson fell by the wayside. Then the brown jacketed figure dived off the top of the final turn once again, and Chasteen came down to the finish. Down went the flag again, and this time it whipped in front of Young. Twice more it fell before it finished the job of chalking off the qualifiers for the main event. In doing so, it qualified Casazza (Indian) and Andres (Harley-Davidson).
Indian President Paul du Pont displays to Editor Chet Billings the motorcycle he engineere
The Eskimos in the stands gaze somewhat disgustedly at the double-crossing sunlight. They buy an occasional hot dog or two. Even the dogs tasted weary and chilled. Starter George Harais once more went through his routine as the second fifteen-miler rolled to the line. The words never change… “Come down together, men, and let’s try and get away in the first lap.” Kretz, Lauer, Jamison, Gatto, Marzotto and Al Owen start in this race. Interest revived in the stands. The pack made the starting lap off the corner. The cautioning hand of the starter demanded a better line-up. Throttles backed off. No start! Once again the milling group went into the lower turn. Helmeted head turned to helmeted head as bitter words were passed. Racing men are always ready to debate a false start. Once again they came into the back stretch and once again into the turn. This time the motors catch. They seem to catch with that even bellow that rises slowly to a screech and indicated to the race-wise who shivered with us in the stands that it was a start. Down drove the wolf-pack and down whipped the flag. Kretz threw his Sport Scout into the lead and the chase was on. Behind him plugged stocky Gatto, his Harley-Davidson running easily, smoothly. Back in the vanguard hung Jamison, Lauer and Al Owen. Interest centered in the first two however. It was in the thirteenth that Gatto made his bid. It was a good bid. It came from a waving hand of the stocky San Josean, in the pit, ordering him to go. And go, Gatto did. He was even with Kretz in the lower turn. He held him steady down the back stretch and rode him down in the corner coming up for the White flag. Gatto was fast and he rode hard. Second is a qualifying place and Kretz looked rearward. There was no threat from the group in the back and he quickly conserved his motor. Another turn and the checkered flag dropped for Gatto and then for Kretz. Jamison and Lauer saw it for third and fourth.
The rival camps checked hastily and found that the match stood at a bye. It was first and third for Indian in the first heat, second and fourth for their rivals. First and third for Harley-Davidson and second and fourth for the Wigwam in the second.
Up above, in the high places of the chilly grandstand, Timer Joe Petrali clucked a tongue over the readings of the watches. Chasteen’s average in the first one was a new record for the distance. Gatto’s average in the second was nothing sultry.
Ray Eddy (Harley-Davidson) stolid winner of the Targo at Ascot; Eddy who rides in an unemotional fashion was in the third preliminary. Bucking him was the Northland ace, Sam Arena; the Southern star, Bo Lisman, and then Mr. X. Mr. X was Dick Ince and his chrome tanked Isle of Man model road racing J.A.P.
Speculation was rife on Ince. To the Western mind a bit of scorn falls upon the single cylinder. A heritage of strockers and mighty eightys has induced a superiority complex that is difficult to overcome. However in those morning trials Ince had really gone to town. The J.A.P. clicked smoothly; it accelerated like lightning from 75 miles an hour. It might be good. The hard-bitten ones in the stands reserved judgment however. Don Rodman completed the picture and the six were ready to pour, and pour they did.
The first lap start was good and out into the lead hammered Mr. X. Behind him came the emotionless Ray Eddy. Eddy dropped into pace as though it were merely a club run. No racing fervor visible here, merely a stolid, orange helmeted figure who clung with no effort to the tail of the flying J.A.P. The methodical Eddy tried his laboratory test on the backstretch in the fifth mile. Up moved the orange helmet, even with the J.A.P., hung there a moment and then slid back into pace. Ince promptly boosted the pace another half second to the mile. Eddy felt the increase and methodically tried his hand again in the tenth. Once again even with the J.A.P. and once again Ince accepted the challenge and up went the pace another half second to the mile.
The thirteenth came and with it the laboratory testing Eddy. Eddy cranked on in the backstretch, out into the clear and then from nowhere came a howling J.A.P. Ince let it go and it went. Fast, smooth, the motor running with beautiful precision. A high fast turn, the lead, a white flag and then all out for the final lap to the checker. Ince took the flag some twenty yards in front of the methodical San Franciscan and earned the plaudits. Sam Arena and Don Rodman accounted for the next two places. A sour motor had laid the mighty Lisman by the wayside earlier in the fracas.
The consolation event was due. Speed had taken the toll however and it left but three machines eligible for it. A plethora of broken rods, departed pistons, etc., had left much iron in the pits that would not see another racing flag until some other day had dawned. The consolation went to Meeks Hubbard with Louie Marzotto nibbling off the second spot.
We in the grandstand cocked eyes at the false sun. It moved down behind the stand and the casting shadow brought the chill of the Arctic with it. But there was bustle in the pits; frantic last minute adjustments; men running hither and yon. carrying cans, filling tanks and doing all of those things which it seems that motorcycle pitmen have always to do at the last minute.
Gradually the line-up assumed form on the starting line. It was a colorful sight; the clean machines, glistening in the remainder of the sunlight, the helmeted and begoggled riders adjusting gloves, fussing with this, and adjusting that. The air of tension communicated itself to the stands. The first line chalked off Chasteen , Young, Gatto. Rodman, Lauer, Eddy. The rear line held Casazza, Andres, Kretz, Jamison, Ince and Arena.
Suddenly the formation broke. Motors were pushed off. The main event was under way. Scorers settled down in their positions. A last minute check was made on the telephone. Twelve racing men swung slowly up the backstretch. It was a hodge podge of motorcycles. Then the formation etched itself into two straight lines, that move in unison down the backstretch, chuckle slowly into the upper corner with no break in the smooth formation. The irregular bellowing changed, grew in volume, became high pitched and down comes the pack. Screaming, unleashed motors took the flag and the 30-mile was on. It is here that ennui disappeared from the stands. Gone was the thought of that false sunlight. Left only was one of the grandest racing events that we have ever witnessed in some fifteen years of professional watching.
The Indian grins and so do all the big wigs in the clan when Chasteen gets hearty congratu
From the first came the division of the sheep and the goats. The mighty five drove to the front and the battle was on. Chasteen and Kretz, Sport Scouts running like jeweled watches; Young and Gatto, Harley-Davidson forty-fives tossing clean notes out into the November air. Ince, distinct, bellowing, the J.A.P. notes coming sharp and hard into the stands. Eddy, methodical, unperturbed! First it was Ince. The flying southern lad made his bid for the front on the backstretch. Behind him trailed Chasteen and Kretz. Under the same blanket ran Eddy and Young and Gatto. The big six were under way. A brown jacket slid smoothly into the front and a white helmet loomed behind the dropped bars. Goggled eyes peered ahead and Chasteen moved into the lead, but not for long. The pack accepted the challenge and moved up with him. Chasteen seemed to gather the blanket right with him and the tail end of that blanket, that is signalized by “draft,” moved down the stretch with him. Excitement grew in the stands. It became plain that the pack went out with but one thought and that to let no man see too much daylight.
Chasteen clipped back into pace as running mate, Ed Kretz, moved up into the gunner’s position. Then suddenly the formation broke. They broke draft like alarmed geese, and a hammer and tongs battle ensued. All took their turn at leading, Ince, Kretz, Eddy, Gatto, Young. Chasteen dabbled along in third and refused the challenge. Excitement in the stands mounted. This was a 30-miler and it was being run like a one-lap sprint.
The blanket still covered the six. There was nothing for the race-wise to be guided by. One turned to his neighbor to remark on the leader, and by the time he turned back, first place had changed hands four times. One thing was evident -that somewhere among these six rode a new record holder. The pace was scorching. The terrific pace was proven by the vanguard. Motors dropped from the running in that group. No one watched however. Eyes were welded to the knot that moved with terrifying precision into the corners, where they rode in dangerous proximity, sliding elbow to elbow as they came out of the turns.
Twelve miles saw no change. Rather it saw every change. Everyone led and no one was out in front. Still the perfectly functioning team of Chasteen, Kretz and Ince shifted pace in front to trade betimes with another perfectly functioning team of Gatto, Young and Eddy. One cranking throttle and off they would go again into a mad merry whirl of spinning wheels and screaming motors. Gatto tried his run on the backstretch in the thirteenth. He was in the rear at the moment. He came high, right against the rail. Young turned on the heat below him. There was a gasp from the crowd. Gatto fell! Young sliding below, slid up into the stocky San Josean, tangled with him and Gatto dropped. The machine slid 50 yards! Young wobbled and recovered. Gatto’s bike hung crosswise near the top of the track. Gatto ran to the infield. We learned later that he received a broken arm. The six had now become four. Young was out although he plugged along to remain in the running.
Still the pace remained terrifically high. These were stock machines, remember, and they were lapping somewhere around 85 and possibly touching close to the 100 mark at the end of the straightaways. Chasteen’s motor ran with the effortless burble of perfectly tuned machinery. Kretz functioned steadily, clicking off and on with beautiful precision. Ince, sharp J.A.P. exhaust note still superbly clean threatened at any time. The stolid Eddy, like a lance at the back of his adversaries was there under the blanket. It was a smaller blanket now, covering four. The lead still changed on both straightaways, now Kretz leads, now Chasteen, Kretz in pace. Ince turned on the heat on the stretch and three begoggled riders dropped behind-inches behind-to accept draft.
The public address system boomed out in an interlude of silence-“Twenty-first mile.” Kretz led; Ince took pace and the invisible towline carried Chasteen and Eddy. The lower corner swallowed the four. Then suddenly everyone rose. Chasteen, patiently the most potent threat, overslid! A slithering, roaring Scout cocks itself around. It was Chasteen making a great and gallant fight for recovery. He took in the entire speedway in his magnificent fight for control. Ahead the blanketed three continue, unchecked. Dog has eaten dog and it was now Chasteen who is the interloper. The gap widened as the brown jerkined pilot made his fight to fend off a disastrous spill. It was here that Chasteen proved himself a great racing man mounted upon a great machine. The formation ahead was running in record time. They had gained a priceless quarter-lap on a potent threat, and did not propose to lay themselves again open to that threat. It didn’t seem that greater speed could be achieved and yet the brown jacketed figure lay down on the tank and started to drive. He had a quarter-mile to make in the nine that remained. Eyes shifted to the Oakland rider’s great fight. All alone he rode, but it was superb. Watches clicked on his efforts. Wide open down the straightaways, cramping into the corners at terrific speed. The gap narrowed perceptibly. Above in the stands, excited, unofficial timers gave him 41.2-41.3! That is just nibbling at the 90 mark! The twenty-fifth mile and the gap was nearly closed. Then the tail end of the blanket enfolded Chasteen.
The brown jerkined figure moved into the lead and then dropped back into pace. Ince made his drive in the twenty-sixth. It was no dice! He evened with the field; the field cranked on, and swept into the corner as one machine. Ince dropped back to third. Kretz clung tenaciously to his lead. It was only by inches. Three laps, thus-the white flag dropped. The winner was still in doubt although it seemed that it must be either Chasteen or Kretz. Ince had been tried and his metal was found light. Eddy had unleashed both guns and failed on the backstretch. The last corner! They came out high, fast-unbelievably fast! Driving down for the checkered flag, screaming motors bellowed their challenge to time, to space and to distance. And here it was that the veteran proved that racing generalship had not been gained for naught. There was a tiny spot of throttle in reserve and wheel to wheel they dove for the flag. It was Chasteen! Inches only, but it was Chasteen. The checkered flag dropped on a new record holder, a maker of incredible time, nearly 84 miles per hour! We relaxed. We beat one another on the back. It was a great finish. Professional racing watchers such as ourselves, newsmen, peanut vendors-everyone. We assured one another that it was the greatest tangle that we had ever seen. Kretz was second. Ince, riding a grand race was third and stolid Ray Eddy accounted for fourth. Both first and second place men used all standard components, Rio Grande gasoline, Firestone tires, Duckworth chains and Schebler carburetors.