My speedway experience started at the first events on the short flat track at the Breakfast Club in Los Angeles. I have ridden steadily on the western circuits ever since, ranging from San Diego in the South to Sacramento in the North.
Speedway racing was still another experience for me. I was surprised at the amount of physical exertion it called for. When we came in after four laps and I found myself panting I wondered about my own physical condition. But when I saw that all the others, including “Sprouts,” who was teaching us the art of broadsliding, also panted I began to get wise that the new sport was a lot harder than it looked.
We raced at White Sox Speedway and due to a combination of inexperience, improper equipment and track the spills were many. Speed fought to throw us off the track and the hind wheel driving at right angles to the pole tried to send us into the infield. Somewhere in between was a perfect balance, but at first we would not have believed it had not “Sprouts” demonstrated that such was the case.
I rode just about every make of machine, including an imported two-stroke, the German D.K.W. It had a radiator and all the trimmings.
Possibly my dirt track experience stood me in good stead, for during the first couple of years I managed to get my share of victories. Then followed one year where everything seemed to go wrong. I guess it was just sort of a transition of some kind. Anyhow, I snapped out of it and now on a Comerford J.A.P. seem to feel more like I wanted to feel all along.
Many funny things have happened to me in night speedway racing just as they did in other types of racing. I recall one night at Long Beach, California, when a brother rider, “Lammy” Lamoreaux, drifted out on a new machine until his handle bars forced against mine. I was caught between him on one side and the crash wall on the other. What happened after that I know only through what others have told me. I guess I flipped over the bars when the machine hesitated and then after “Lammy” had passed by I got up and crawled over the fence to get my breath. When I looked around my motor was gone. It had hooked onto “Lammy” and he had carried it as far as the next turn before he went down with two machines. I had no motorcycle-he had too many!
The greatest surprise came during an event at Fresno in 1935. I was in a match with Rogers from Australia. We both felt pretty good and were sliding around shoulder to shoulder. As we went through the turn I seemed to get just a slight lead on him. But I noticed my motor began pulling very hard. Any moment I expected to see Rogers come by. I didn’t dare take time to look around and was busy trying to figure why my motor was slowing down. Then something landed on my back and something else circled my neck about half strangling me. I partly lost control and veered into the infield. There I lost control altogether, due to the heavy weight on my back, which by that time I had discovered was Rogers, and we went down together.
What had happened was that my foot rest had caught in his front wheel. My machine had been dragging his for nearly half the back stretch. How he had kept up was a miracle. They said that from the stands they could see his front tire smoking. He saw there was no chance to get loose so he made a tremendous dive onto my back and put his arms around and under my chin. If you don’t think that is a treat in the middle of a race, try it sometime.
This year I expect to ride in Northern California. The championship? Well-that is another story-one that will have to be told later in the year, when the championships are over.