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Motorcycles at Winchester Speedway

It all started for Winchester Speedway a century ago with the activities of a western Indiana farmer by the name of Frank Funk.

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History Takes a Twist at Legendary Race Track

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t all started for Winchester Speedway a century ago with the activities of a western Indiana farmer by the name of Frank Funk. His fertile mind had some ideas for making more money. It evolved in the form of a significant amusement park that brought huge crowds to
his acreage.

And here is where history takes a twist to form a legendary racetrack. The location had the advantage of having an interurban stop for its amusement park. But it was a fairly long walk to the park, which a lot of young ladies had to walk. The story goes that a number of young motorcycle riders would show off to the girls by racing their bikes up and down the lane amongst them.

So after receiving a lot of complaints about the two-wheel activity, Funk told the bikers to move their activity into a nearby field where the bikers cut out a short track and started having races. An increasing number of spectators were beginning to watch those races drawing paying customers away from his amusement park.

Paul Anderson (left) was one of Harley’s heavy hitters and won many races at the western  Indiana half mile track. (Right) One example of how motorcycle manufacturers would use records set at Winchester on their bikes in advertisements.  Photos from Phil Kunz
Paul Anderson (left) was one of Harley’s heavy hitters and won many races at the western
Indiana half mile track. (Right) One example of how motorcycle manufacturers would use records set at Winchester on their bikes in advertisements.
Photos by Phil Kunz)

Funk saw the chance to introduce the bike racing sport and laid out a half-mile dirt track in his hay field, set up some bleachers, built concession stands and advertised a bike racing event. And the rest was history when it became one of top national bike tracks in the country.

There was a lot of area participation at the track starting in the late teens through the ‘20s and ‘30s. In particular, the Dayton Motorcycle Club brought numerous drivers to the vaunted high banks. The speedway also benefited from the heavy motorcycle interest in Indiana, which had a number of bike tracks besides Winchester.

Through the late teens to at least the mid-1930s, there were motorcycles running at Winchester. And as those years went by, there were a number of national-level drivers that competed. Also, it probably isn’t surprising to learn that there were numerous records set at the track. It wasn’t uncommon for some period motorcycle companies to use Winchester records made by their bike brand in national advertisements.

One of the amazing aspects of the track, which certainly benefited from its banking, was that three national records were set in 1923 and 1925. They were for distances of one, five, and 10 miles. In 1931, all of those records were still in place! The last mention of motorcycle racing at Winchester was in 1937. By that time, the interest had turned to car racing.

A measure of the level of respect the track had was the fact that both the Indian and Harley-Davidson factory teams competed there. A number of those drivers had outstanding careers at Winchester.

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