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History of Marchbanks Speedway/Hanford Motor Speedway

RELATED STORIES: Read more about Marchbanks Speedway and Hanford Motor Speedway in my Marchbanks section, including the regularly updated "History of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Hanford Motor Speedway."



Program from 1964 CRA 'Big Car' race

I found a 16-page program (PDF download here) from the Sept. 5, 1964, California Racing Association "Big Car" race at Hanford Speedway on eBay and while most of the program is light on good stuff, it does contain one gem: an article that finally sheds light on the first events and races at the track. 

The "History of the Track" article said Marchbanks Stadium, as it was then called, opened with rodeo events in February 1950 and quarter-horse racing on a half-mile track with a quarter-mile straightaway. The first auto races followed "on about May 10, 1951," when jalopies hit the track. 

From 1950 to the September 1964 race, events at the track included "hardtops vs. jalopies, stock car racing, sprint cars, midgets, and event boat racing on a small lake built in the center of the stadium. At one time bull fights could be enjoyed here." 

According to the article, 20,000 people jammed the track on July 4, 1961, to watch the Blue Angels perform overhead as part of an air show at the nearby Lemoore Naval Air Station.

The article said the track was renamed Hanford Speedway "a few weeks ago," in conjunction with the new ownership group involving Kal Simon, Tommy Francis and others. It also mentioned a 1955 NASCAR Magazine article on Marchbanks Stadium, so that's something I'll try to trace down. 

As for the September 1964 CRA race, Hal Minyard picked up his ninth win of the season in a long 100-lap event that drew at least 44 entries. Hanford hosted a second 100-mile CRA Big Car race a month later, on Oct. 11. Minyard won that race too. 


Table of contents 

I've posted several dozen different "chapters" on the history of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Marchbanks Stadium and Hanford Motor Speedway, so have decided to put together a Table of Contents to help readers find topics of interest, particularly the interviews with racers who knew the track first-hand, including legends like Andretti, Unser and Kenyon.

These are listed in the order I originally posted them (some, particularly the main history, have been updated multiple times). 

  1. History of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Hanford Motor Speedway
  2. 1967 Champ Car race program
  3. More photos from the 1967 Champ Car race
  4. 1970 stock plan tried to keep Hanford Motor Speedway alive
  5. March 1968 Champ Car race program
  6. Second death at Marchbanks/Hanford speedway
  7. November 1968 Champ Car race program
  8. April 1969 Champ Car race program
  9. Additions to Marchbanks Speedway history
  10. "The Fabulous Mr. Marchbanks"
  11. Cool photos of the Marchbanks road course
  12. Reader: Hanford 250 "the best auto race I have ever seen"
  13. My interview with Gary Marchbanks
  14. My interview with Tommy Trader
  15. Details of 1957 death at Marchbanks
  16. Updates to Marchbanks history
  17. Readers share recollections of racing at Marchbanks, Hanford
  18. My chat with racing legend Mel Kenyon
  19. My chat with Bobby Unser
  20. My interview with George Benson
  21. My interview with Mario Andretti
  22. Hanford through the lens of a teenager
  23. More great photos from 1968-69 Champ Car races
  24. Fresh updates to Marchbanks Speedway/Hanford Motor Speedway history 
  25. 1967 George Snider feature story
  26. Marchbanks inducted into West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame
  27. Video of 1968 Champ Car race at Hanford
  28. Map of Marchbanks road course, circa 1960
  29. Sept. 1960 Road Race Program
  30. Interviewed by "Valley Edition"
  31. Poster from 1964 USAC stock car race
  32. Video from 1961 NASCAR race
  33. Photo of 1951 NASCAR race
  34. John Isom photos from 1967-68 Champ Car races
  35. More John Isom photos from 1967-68 Champ Car races
  36. Local news video of March 1968 Champ Car race
  37. Program from 1964 CRA 'Big Car' race

Local news video of March 1968 Champ Car race

Here's a short local-news video previewing the California 200 race in March 1968. 

The video featuring longtime Fresno newscaster Gus Zernial is short on any real information, but there are two highlights for me:

1) The sound of the No. 15 Gerhardt Offy as Mel Kenyon pulls onto the track. 

2) A quick shot of a full grandstand. Throughout my reporting on Marchbanks' history, good shots of the stands have been hard to come by. 

I don't know whether the video was part of a local newscast (Zernial worked for Channel 30 in Fresno for years) or whether it was part of a network telecast. Can anyone share some insight into that question or anything else about TV coverage from the track in those days?