Friday, January 7, 2011

What ever happened to Midget Car Racing?

I grew up going to stock car racing. BUT, I remember going to the Iowa State Fair as a lad walking by the grandstand one day and there were these amazing looking little race cars.  I did not know what they were. It was not until my adult years that I understood that I had my first encounter with a midget racing automobile.

Now midget racing cars, don't carry midget people.  They were driven by adults men mostly in their day of extreme popularity.  In the 1930's through 1950's they were very very very popular. Huge crowds and many racing tracks featured midgets.   Now there are different sized midget racing cars. Full sized midgets, 3/4 midgets and 1/2 midgets.  Full sized midgets were powered by many different engines. Ford Model A, Ford Model T, small Ford V-8s (called the V8-60), Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycle engines, Elto marine two stroke engines, Ford tractor engines, and of course Offenhauser ("Offy")  engines were very popular, plus many other engines!  There were midgets raced indoors, and outdoors. There were board tracks and dirt tracks.  Even a board track indoors called the Vellodrome, originally designed to race bicycles, but became very popular for the midgets. The board track was very banked and people sat in the stands right above the race track. The cars could go full throttle and man was it as show!  It was dangerous for the cars and the spectators.

Midgets were a big draw for the crowds. There was midget racing in the Cedar Rapids area in the 1940's and 1950's.  But they soon lost popularity.  Today if one wants to see midgets in the midwest you must travel to Illinois where there are a couple of places or to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.  I talked my wife in to making the trip to Sun Prairie 4 or 5 years ago. I was impressed with the crowd, the old fashioned racing program (one class of cars) and the excitement of the racing.   I would like to go back again.  Midgets are just about as quick as sprint car, they can race close together and work well on smaller tracks.

Midget racing is still very exciting to see. But sadly many racing fans have never been to a midget race.  The Chili Bowl is going on this month I believe.  It would be fun to go to also. But I would of loved to see the races of the 40's and 50's.  Some of the best racing drivers ever, had experience in a midget seat. I have often thought it would be neat for someone to start a midget racing track with vinage midget type cars, (with roll cages of course for modern safety) and modern engines in them.

A great website is by Brian Darby from Australia on midgets-

This is a great website with lots of photos and information on it.


  1. Here is few more interesting links:
    Photos and history of an old midget racing master-

    Some more history on Midget racing-

    still more-

  2. The Nutley (N.J.) Velodrome was built as a showplace for bicycle racing. The one-sixth mile board track featured 45 degrees of banking in the turns and had seating for 12,000 spectators! It was dangerous and some deaths happened there causing it to be closed to midget racing.