Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cotati Speedway



     My little town has some interesting history. Cotati, the smallest city in Sonoma County, California, once had a board track speedway.
 
     Cotati Speedway was built in 1921. It was a 1-1/4 mile banked oval. The grand opening and first car race was August 14, 1921. The speedway had two grandstands that each held 5000 race fans and the infield was packed with an additional 10,000 spectators. Eddie Hearne, driving a Duesenberg won and set a record with an average speed of 110.85 mph for the 150 mile race.
     The first motorcycle race was held on September 4. Otto Walker won the 25 mile race on a Harley Davidson and set a record of 106 mph average speed. Walker set the first speed record of over 100 mph earlier that year at a board track in Fresno, California. Walker survived the tremendously dangerous sport of board track racing and retired from racing in 1922. He ran a sport fishing outfit on the Sacramento River and died in 1963 at 73 years old.
     The track was opened in 1921 and closed in 1922. There are many opinions on why the Cotati Speedway only lasted two years. The tracks builder Jack S. Prince had a paralyzing stroke, the weather in the Cotati area was too cool and damp, the transportation to the area was poor, the board tracks required too much expensive maintenance and the terrible injuries at board tracks are all listed as reasons that the Cotati track lasted such a short time. The truth is that all these things contributed to, not only the Cotati tracks demise but to the eventual end of all the motordromes.
      Today, there is no trace of the speedway with only one exception. After the close of the speedway the track was dismantled and the lumber was sold. 

     The floor of the Redwood Cafe in downtown Cotati was the racing surface of the Cotati Speedway.

2 comments:

Ned Travaglini said...

Just took a special trip to have lunch and see the "board track" lumber. Very cool place. Worth the trip. Does anyone know where it may have been located? Just curious. Thanks.

Ray Watson said...

Ned, When it comes to the Cotati board track there are different opinions as to where it actually was. I have scrutinized the aerial photo and I can't be sure. Are the two white buildings at the lower left on the rail road? I can't tell. My best guess is that the board track was located east of the current rail line and north of East Cotati Ave. I read one writer that believed it it was south of East Cotati Ave.

Further when I initially did the research on the Cotati Board Track, I found that a lot of sources credited famous riders with riding that first motorcycle race on September 4, 1921. I intended to give a little information on each of the more famous riders, but as I did more research I found that each the riders I had listed as being at that initial race were also listed elsewhere as racing someplace else on that same day. So it seems that as the years go by the story of the board track racers becomes less history and more legend.