Dr. Wayne Herstad recounted the history of the Tacoma Speedway to an audience attending the November program of the Lakewood Historical Society, held at the Lakewood Library, Tuesday evening.
The auto racetrack, which operated from 1912 to 1922 at what is today Clover Park Technical College, attracted some of the country’s most famous racers of the day, Herstad explained. “The race purses topped $25,000,” he said, explaining how the track promoters were able to get such participation.
Included among the more famous drivers of the day were Eddie Rickenbacker and Barney Oldfield.
The speaker explained that in the first year or two the races were run as a street contest with a course covering five miles. Later races were reduced to three miles and then the speedway itself was built. It contained 2 million board feet of lumber and a grandstand to hold 50,000 people.
Unfortunately, the grandstand burned to the ground in what investigators termed arson. By 1922 the heyday of the Tacoma track was over, hurt by WWI, low attendance as well as other factors.
The track was bulldozed after it closed and the rebuilt grandstands was dismantled and the lumber was sold for use in other projects.
Herstad augmented his talk with about 100 of the nearly 1,000 slides in his collection.