Ed Kretz Wins The 200-Mile National Road Race Championship

West Coast entrant rides an Indian to the first National Championship of 1936, at Savannah

By E.c. Smith, Photography by Unknown

Then it came. The chief timer let down the signal to Referee Ellis who, in turn, gave the flag to the first tier. Away went five riders with but one thought, to get over the line first at the end of 200 miles. Ten seconds later the second tier roared into action; another ten and the third group, and so on until all 68 motors were flashing about the course.

As the boys left the starting line they had a long stretch of gravel or coral road. At the finish of the stretch was a short left-hand turn, banked some but rather loose, straightening out onto a short stretch of gravel. Then came another turn which led them out onto a mile and a half of macadam road down which they really “smoked.” Another turn took them back onto the gravel stretch which led back to the starting line.

The first group speeded around the course and roared toward the line. No. 2-“Wild Bill” Brady, and No. 11-Ed Kretz, were in the lead and they were setting the dizzy pace of 95 m.p.h. Sharp behind was the second group and in a flash it was by. From there on it was any man’s race.

Kretz took the lead in the first lap and that position he held until it was time for him to stop and refuel.

As will be noted by the lap report accompanying, riders began dropping out for one cause or another from the moment they had finished the first lap.

Very early in the race-after 2 laps-J.B. Anderson, Indian dealer from Columbus Ga., over-rode a turn and suffered an injury which was to end in a fatality. When he left the course the crowd miraculously split before him and Anderson crashed a tree far back from the track. He was rushed to the hospital, but died soon after.

Early in the race pit men began to get signals-“plugs,” “oil,” “tires,” etc. Those same pit men gave the crowd new thrills by putting out some record service. Less fortunate were some outfits which limped into the pits and stayed there.

Ralph Edwards and Buck O’Neil, part of Savannah’s hopes in the race, suffered a spill. Buck’s motor got to missing. He stopped at the pits, and it cost him 5 laps to find that a ground wire had suffered in the fall. With it tightened up, Buck took off again and rode like he really meant it.

When Kretz stopped for gasoline the lead changed. First L. Hilbish of Reading was out in front; then Al Chasteen from Oakland decided he liked the open spaces; then Babe Tancrede put in a bid for pace setting. In fact, within 15 laps there were almost that many different leaders. By that time nearly everyone had stopped to refuel.

The Indian crowd began pulling for Kretz in earnest. At the same time the Harley-Davidson crowd started rooting for Tancrede, who most surely was getting his bearings and forging ahead.

Along with Babe, that boy George Pepper started making the rounds in fast style. At one time Pepper was in front. No doubt he began to see first prize money in his hand, and at the time it really was his. But, just then he went into the turn and chopped. When he came off the button it was still cut out. He had fouled a plug and, of course, lost time putting in another. That plug cost George real money.

What was bad luck to Pepper was good luck to No. 70. But just as he felt his pockets begin to swell he noticed his tire doing the same thing. Pfooey went the tire, and No. 70 lost laps getting it fixed.

By E.c. Smith
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