By Linda Emley
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of previously published stories about Richmond’s NASCAR track and local drivers.
The Richmond News, Jan. 18, 1954: “Bill Davis, a Richmond driver, has been officially named the Missouri State Champion of the 1953 season.” Davis was the NASCAR state champion with 552 points.
Following Davis were, Aaron Teegarden, James Stafford, James Martin, Kenneth Schooley, H. McGinnis, Charles Howard, Marvin Seek, James Galle, and Dick Rodgers. The top 10 were all from the Richmond Speedway. Many of the drivers had nicknames. Since NASCAR submitted this article to the Richmond News, it was fun to see their real names as they were written on their NASCAR membership cards.
The Richmond fans knew them as Little Willie Davis, Alvis Teegarden who used his middle name, Smiling Jack (J.B.) Martin, Bert Schooley, Katzy Seek and Squire Galle. Some of the nicknames were easy to figure out, but others will forever remain a secret between friends.
The 1954 season opened in Richmond on April 25, but things were about to change because there was a new track being built. On May 21, 1954, the Excelsior Springs Jaycee Stadium opened. It was located north of Excelsior on land that is currently a pasta factory.
It was also a NASCAR track, but it had something the Richmond track didn’t have: lights. Races were held on Friday nights, so you could race in Excelsior on Friday and Richmond on Sunday.
I know the wives really enjoyed having their whole weekend dedicated to racing. You watched them race on Friday night and then waited for them to fix their cars on Saturday so they could do it all over again on Sunday.
Everyone went to the Richmond Speedway because it was the place to go and be seen. The drivers were treated like celebrities. Ron Sadler’s father Wilmer was one of the drivers, so Ron spent many Sunday afternoons at the track. He remembers putting on his best jeans and a white long sleeve button down shirt because everyone dressed up for the races. It was hot in long sleeves, but an ice-cold Double Cola or Vess Cola could always cool you down.
The highlight of the race on June 13 was when Jim Stafford lost a wheel. It rolled into a lake that was around 50 feet from the track. Jim jumped in and rescued his tire, while the crowd cheered him on.
On June 20, Bert Schooley won the main event. Bill Davis won the trophy dash and the time trials with a time of 19.8 seconds. Jim Strafford lost another tire, but this one didn’t end up in the lake. After this race, the Richmond track closed. The owners, Howard White and Paul Griffin Jr., said there were only 12 cars and 197 paid admissions so the track wasn’t making a profit.
Albert Kalberloh and his son Ralph bought the Richmond track and reopened it Aug. 22. They dropped out of NASCAR and the Ray-Clay Association was formed. There were 270 people at the Richmond Speedway for this event, but several of the local drivers were missing because they were in Sedalia racing at the Missouri State Fair.
On Aug. 29, some of the drivers’ wives got in on the action with a powder puff derby to try and draw a bigger crowd to the track. Mrs. Delores Davis won the derby.
It looked like the powder puff derby was helping because on Sept. 5, 367 people attended. Mrs. Delores Davis once again won the derby. It was a bad day for the drivers because 19 cars started out, but only 4 were still running at the end of the day.
In 1954, a track opened in Marshall and some of the local drivers raced there. On Sept. 5, John Nolker – the Ray County Recorder – was seriously injured at the Marshall track. On Sept. 12, the folks at the Richmond Speedway passed a hat and collected $37.07 for John, who was still in the hospital in Marshall.
Another new event was featured at the Richmond track on Sept. 26. A horse race was held before the regular stock car races. I’m sure it was fun trying to keep the horses calm with all the loud race cars running around. “Uncle Henry,” owned by Woody Rose, was ridden by Sparky Davis and won the first horse race. A few weeks later, Sparky Davis and “Uncle Henry” were matched up with a racecar as a special feature. Rumor has it that the horse won.
When the points were all counted for 1954, Kenneth “Bert” Schooley was the Missouri state NASCAR champion.
The 1955 season started with new owners. Five local drivers, Bill Sloan, Katsy Seek, Frank Nolker, Raymond Dye and Bill Davis bought the racetrack from the Kalberlohs. A meeting was held at Sloan’s service station with eight to 10 active members present. It was decided to change the name to the Ray-Clay Racing Association and to continue the races on Sundays at 2 p.m. until the fall.
Due to inclement weather on April 24, there were only 11 cars and 180 paid admissions on opening day. Bill Chenault of Kansas City won the main event.
On May 1, the second race of the season turned out to be the last stock car race at the Richmond Speedway. Bill Davis won the main event, followed by Alvis Teegarden, Dan Fitzpatrick and Burt Schooley.
The Richmond News, May 2, 1955: “No more stock car races until further notice, it was announced today. More cars are needed before reopening.” Seven cars and 204 spectators were not enough to keep the track open.
The local drivers didn’t give up because they could still race in Excelsior Springs. Their season opener on Friday night May 20 drew 19 cars and 596 spectators. Several drivers from Richmond were on hand and won all the events. Howard McGinnis won the main event. Bill Davis won the trophy dash. The slow heat winner was Dick Sloan and the fast heat went to Alvis Teegarden.
The racetrack in Excelsior Springs had around 600 people each week for the rest of 1955. The Richmond drivers continued to win many of the races, so the fans in Excelsior knew those Richmond boys were serious about racing. Some of them also raced at the Missouri State Fair in 1955.
The Richmond track was later used for go- kart races, but the days of NASCAR were over in Richmond. The Excelsior Springs track soon followed the Richmond track and also closed.
Thanks to Lee Petty‘s connections, J.B. Martin got a 1955 special factory Dodge and was running the late model stock car IMCA circuit in 1955.
When Lee’s mechanic had to do some time for running moonshine, Lee called J.B. On Christmas Day 1959, the Martin family packed up and left for South Carolina. I was the 3-year -old in the back seat asking, “ Are we there yet?”
Coming next is,“The story of Lee and J.B.”
You can write Linda at rayc...@aol.com