Chicago Racing In 1950

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During his championship, Eddie Russo was involved in a high-speed flip at Raceway Park in early August of 1950. Rex Easton and Bud Koehler (77) try to stay out of the crash.
During his championship, Eddie Russo was involved in a high-speed flip at Raceway Park in early August of 1950. Rex Easton and Bud Koehler (77) try to stay out of the crash. (Stan Kalwasinski Collection Photo)

CHICAGO — The 1950 racing season in the Chicagoland area began with four midget racing programs held indoors at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre.

Under the promotion of Art Folz and his Chicago Auto Racing Ass’n, the Amphitheatre was the scene of the opening indoor show on Saturday night, Jan. 14, with Ohio’s Jack Kabat in his Pollock Offy winning the 30-lap headliner over local favorite Ray Richards.

The second event of the season was held on Jan. 21 with 23-year-old Gene Hartley capturing the 30-lap main event in his Drtina Offy. Hartley made his first of 10 Indianapolis 500 starts later in May. Frank Burany and Mike O’Halloran finished second and third.  Sixty-nine cars showed up for the event at the one-eighth mile dirt oval.

Ray Richards was the overall indoor midget champion at Chicago’s International Amphithetre in 1950. (Bob Sheldon Collection Photo)
Ray Richards was the overall indoor midget champion at Chicago’s International Amphithetre in 1950. (Bob Sheldon Collection Photo)

A resident of Highland Park, Richards and his Ulmer Special, claimed victory in the Jan. 28 show at the Amphitheatre while also claiming the series title.

The 100-lap championship race was held on Feb. 2 and Kabat came back to score his second win of the season in the AAA-sanctioned contest. A standing-room-only crowd of 8,595 fans watched Kabat defeat O’Halloran, Paul Russo, Aaron Woodard and Jimmy Knight. Earlier in the evening, Ralph Pratt grabbed fast time with a lap of 9.11 seconds. A field of 74 entries was on hand.

Originally from the St. Louis area, Hal Ruyle, was the 1950 stock car champion at Raceway Park. “Farmer Boy” Ruyle won nine feature races during the year, wheeling a 1946 Packard. Ruyle bested Bud Koehler, Don Odell, Bob Meyers, Bob Pronger and Bill Van Allen in the standings.

One of Ruyle’s victories was the speedway’s third annual 300-lap Classic as Ruyle took top honors over Koehler and his ’49 Ford.

Raceway Park opened its 1950 midget racing season on May 6 with Charley Russell, of Detroit, winning the 25-lap midget feature.  Midget racing was held under the sanction of the Midwest Car Owners and Drivers Ass’n.

Eddie Russo and Mike O’Halloran battled for the midget championship at Raceway with Chicagoan Russo coming out on top. The 25-yer-old Russo and O’Halloran both won four features. Local racer Johnny Roberts won three features, including the annual Wally Zale Memorial and the 100-lap season finale.

Other midget feature winners were Rex Easton (two), Bud Swanson (two), Jimmy Caris (two), Mike King, Byron Fisher, Koehler and Russell. Besides his success at Raceway, Roberts was the midget driving champion at Walsh Stadium in St. Louis. Raceway hosted 78 racing programs (57 stock cars and 21 midgets).

Soldier Field kicked off its season on May 7, with Gilbert “Skippy” Michaels, of Cicero, winning the 25-lap Hurricane Hot Rod Ass’n stock car chase in his 1950 Ford.

Turning 22 during the summer, Jim Rathmann scored five feature wins to grab the Soldier Field stock car title. Rathmann used a Cadillac to get the job done. Tens of thousands of fans jammed the Chicago lakefront arena for the twice-a-week stock car action.

Other stock car winners included Pat Flaherty, Kenny Netzel, Al Swenson, Nick Karelas, Keith Custer, Lou Fegers, Herman Jordan, Don Freeland and Irv Kerbel. Flaherty and Herb Hill won hot rod features.

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