If you had lived in Lakewood in the 1920s you would have been able to attend one of the country’s biggest and best car race tracks without traveling outside the city. The Tacoma Speedway operated from 1912 to 1922 at what today is the Clover Park Technical College campus on Steilacoom Boulevard.
According to historian Wayne Herstad, all the big name racers of the day competed at the track. Herstad will speak on the history of the track Nov. 10 at 7 pm at the Lakewood Library. The Lakewood Historical Society is hosting the meeting as its monthly program, according to Becky Huber, president of the organization.
Herstad will augment his talk with photos of the track, the races and the race-car drivers. Originally created as a dirt track, the organizers converted it to a split-wood track in 1915. The 2X4-inch planking was placed end to end, with the narrow side facing the ground. Gaps between each board were stuffed with gravel to economize on lumber. The track required 15 tons of 20-penny nails and two million board feet. Its corners were banked 18 feet to allow faster turns. Unfortunately, the track had constant problems with splinters and gravel shooting into the cars behind the leader and popping tires. “There was a saying that all board tracks were awful, and then there was Tacoma,” Herstad noted.