CARC Automobile Racing Since 1946
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The Cars (Hover and Click too enlarge)
The Colorado Automobile Racing Club (CARC) was formed in 1946 to bring the exciting sport of auto racing to the Denver, Colorado metro area. Fourteen charter members, mostly of the "Top Hats" hot rod car club, formed the CARC. These men returned from World War II after having been fighter pilots and they knew that a calm and sedentary existence would not be exciting enough for them. They began racing, what were known as, roadsters at local venues including north Table Top mountain, DuPont Speedway, and Adams County Fairgrounds. In 1949, they found a more permanent location at Englewood Speedway, on a 1/3 mile dirt track in a southern Denver suburb (Englewood) and raced there for three years. Popular drivers of the roadster era included Keith Andrews, Willie Young, and Sonny Coleman.
1952 saw the CARC begin racing at north Denver's Lakeside Speedway, adjacent to the popular Lakeside Amusement Park. It was a tight 1/5 mile paved oval that made for close quarter racing and crowded fields. In this era, over 100 cars were listed and most nights saw a turnout of 65-75 cars. The Lakeside years are mostly considered the CARC's Golden Era, when the grandstands were packed every Sunday night. An attempt was made to race twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays to fulfill the spectator demand for more action. At that time, there was very little competition for the Denver sports dollar and the CARC was a large drawing card. A late model class made up of more contemporary cars was developed in the mid-1950's but wasn't as popular as the "semi-modified stock cars" that made the CARC famous. Well-known drivers during the 1950's included Sam Gallo, Bill Starks and Fritz Wilson.
Success for the CARC continued into the 60’s. Competition was still fierce for the semi-modifieds and the large crowds continued to fill the stands. The venerable Ford Flat-head V-8, which had been the main power plant through the 50's was finally replaced by the Ford straight six. Lap times continued to fall at a rapid rate as chassis development caught up to engine modifications. Popular drivers of the early 60's included Jack Thoms, Jim Malloy, and Sam Sauer.
Following the trend of automobile manufactures of that era a new division for "compact cars" was added in the mid-1960's to inflate the racing program. Ford Falcons and Plymouth Valiant’s were the heavy hitters for the first couple of years. The semi-modifieds were now referred to as "fully modified stock cars", which by this time, had very little that was stock remaining on the cars. Speeds continued to climb and though fields were somewhat smaller, the competition was still keen. After just a couple of years, the compact class became a true late model class with Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs providing the meat for the division. Car counts in this division expanded rapidly and drivers from other nearby speedways came to Lakeside to race with the CARC, the premier racing club in Colorado. Many would race at Englewood (which had been paved in 1961) on Saturdays and race at Lakeside on Sundays. The CARC still held the reputation as a local heavyweight in the racing fraternity. Popular modified drivers in the late 1960's included Don Wilson, Bill Vaughn, and Wayne Stallsworth. Making their marks in the late models were Don Carelli, Lloyd Land and Clarence Krieger.
In the early 1970's, overhead valve V-8s replaced the straight sixes, this time with Chevrolet being the mainstay power plant. The late models continued their success and other classes were added including a "mini-stock" class for small American and imported cars such as the Ford Pinto, Volkswagen Bug, and Datsun 510. There was a lot of variety in the CARC fields during this time frame. Modified fields represented a smaller portion of the total field as it became vastly more expensive to race the specialty cars. Early car bodies were getting hard to find so a short lived move to later style bodies that were placed over the modified chassis was made. Popular drivers of the early 1970's modifieds were Blu Plemons, Jack Graham, and Don Wilson, who was constructing his impressive CARC record of seven club championships.
The late 1970's continued to see the expansion of the other classes from street stocks to super stocks, as the modified field continued to shrink. Racing in general became more of a specialty hobby and costs were escalating at a rapid rate. Costs of highly sophisticated suspensions and powerful engines were coupled with the expense of newly-developed safety equipment. Additionally, other sports venues were catching hold and the competition for the spectator dollar was making it tougher to fill the stands. Popular modified drivers of this era included Terry Daniels, Rick Carelli and Pat Petrie.
As racing moved into the 1980's much remained the same, speeds continued to climb as the club raced on at Lakeside Speedway. Rick Carelli, who in later years moved onto the national racing stage, became the force to deal with as only Frank Denning II was able to interject himself into the championship title during Carelli's reign, which included six club championships. A serious crash in 1988 resulted in a spectator fatality and several injuries as the old facility showed signs of wear. The decision was made by the track owner to close the facility, a sad day for Denver's racing community and the CARC had to find another home. A few races were run at nearby Colorado National Speedway but track management wanted more cars than the club could produce at the time, which almost led to the demise of the CARC.
The club did fall dormant for a few years but started racing again, when several dedicated CARC members took it upon themselves to rescue it and work with a local promoter to build a small oval at Second Creek Raceway in Commerce City located on the northeast corner of the city. This track was improvised, in that a very tight oval was created by closing one end of a hairpin turn of an existing road course. The Club raced there from 1994 through 1999, whereupon that track was closed. The club, at that time, still carried several divisions and raced on Friday nights so they didn't have to compete with the other local tracks' schedules. All classes were comparatively small and Second Creek's "oval" was barely a 1/5 mile with one tight turn on the south end and virtually no banking. However, camaraderie was strong and the CARC was building itself back up from some lean years. Popular drivers during this time were Bob Land, Jim Beckley, and Ronnie Lee. Starting in 2000, the CARC, now consisting only of what are now called modcoupes started alternating races at Cheyenne's Big Country Speedway (a 1/5 mile paved oval nearly identical to Lakeside) and Pueblo's I-25 (nee Beacon Hill) Speedway (a 1/4 mile well-banked paved oval. Fields were small but the racing was good and the word soon got out that the CARC was a friendly bunch to race with and the competition was good. Starting in 2004, full-time racing at Colorado National was added to the CARC race card and continues to this day. Popular drivers of this era include Bruce Rhoades, Frank Denning III, and Gary Land. CARC fields are growing once again, as the club now focuses entirely on their modified coupe class. The current race cars are a blend of vintage history and modern race technology, which are unique in today's "Cookie Cutter" race car world. Thru all the years and the variety of classes and cars the CARC has maintained its strong racing heritage thru competitive racing, fair competition and a close knit racing family. Hopefully this wonderful racing venue will survive the tuff local racing times the country has fallen on!!
Colorado Automobile Racing Club
By Paul Bredenberg