The new build ‘Wrecking Crew’ Harley Davidson engined board track racer is coming on really well now, most of the fabrication is done so the tins will be off to paint soon. Terry’s dream is nearly a reality
Board track, or motordrome, racing was popular in the US in the early years of the 20th century. Races were held on oval race tracks made of wooden planks. The first board track opened at the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordome near Playa del Rey, California, on April 8, 1910. By 1931 there were 24 operating board tracks, including tracks in Beverly Hills, California, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York, and Laurel, Maryland. Many fatalities occurred – often involving spectators. On September 8, 1912, Eddie Hasha was killed at the New Jersey Motordrome near Atlantic City. The accident killed 4 boys and injured 10 more people. The deaths made the front page of the New York Times. The press started calling the short 1/4 and 1/3 mile circuits “murderdromes”. Board tracks slowly faded away in the 1920s and 1930s, though racing continued into 1940 at Coney Island Velodrome, Nutley, and Castle Hill Speedway in the Bronx. The oval layout led to the development of the 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and Mile dirt tracks – less expensive to maintain and safer as the body count of riders and drivers had been climbing as speeds increased. These dirt tracks became the basis for the modern Flat Track, Indy and NASCAR race tracks.
A few years later, Harley-Davidson added speed to the equation by setting a new record at the 1912 Bakersfield Road Race in California. Whether it was an endurance test through muddy back roads, or speed races on the wooden board tracks popular at the time, Harley-Davidson-supported racers – eventually known as the “Wrecking Crew” – were untouchable. The onset of World War I suspended the racing schedule, but by the 1920s the company was back in the winner’s circle. And not only did the “Wrecking Crew” win, but they shattered speed records as they did it. In 1921, the Harley-Davidson team became the first to win a motorcycle race at an average speed of more than 100 mph.
PETRALI – THE NAME MEANT VICTORY – Through the 20th century, several riders would uphold the tradition and pride of Harley-Davidson Racing, but the man who laid the groundwork for it all was Joe Petrali. In a six-year stretch between 1931 and 1936, Petrali amassed the most National points five times. In 1935 he won every race on the 13-stop National schedule. In 1937, Petrali set a speed record of 136.183 mph by piloting the 1937 Model E Streamliner at Daytona Beach. He also won the National Hillclimb Championship eight years running, beginning in 1929.