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« Cool photos of Marchbanks road course | Main | Additions to Marchbanks Speedway history »

"The Fabulous Mr. Marchbanks"

Reader Richard Hodges wrote to me from the United Kingdom and shared some copies of MotoRacing that chronicled several California Sports Car Club races at Marchbanks in September 1960 and July 1961. I'll add that info to the Marchbanks history when I get a few minutes.

Of particular interest in the 1960 MotoRacing coverage of the Cal Club's race was a nice feature story on track owner B.L. "Bircha" Marchbanks, of which I've been hard-pressed to find good information. MotoRacing said Marchbanks ran the track with the help of son B.L. Marchbanks Jr.

The feature titled "The Fabulous Mr. Marchbanks" includes a photo of Marchbanks, looking ever the hardworking farmer with worn work boots and ever-present cowboy hat.

"A cattleman at heart, the lean, angular Texan today has 300 head of cattle on his land, and, at 65, he is still breaking in his own horses," MotoRacing's Gus V. Vignolle reported.

The story continued:

"He came to Kings County, Calif., from Littlefield, Texas, in 1924 after going broke in the cattle business. He arrived with $100 in his kick, and now Marchbanks and his son own 100 acres, of which a park and the racing plan take up 160.

"The original idea was to build a horse racing track, but when the pari-mutuel plan failed to go through, he sailed for an automobile speed plant.

"That was 12 years ago. He started with a half-mile oval and, later, with a third-mile within the other one. Jalopies, hardtops, midgets, sprint cars and roadsters raced on the 2 circuits." Marchbanks and his son also promoted races in Bakersfield, Atascadero and Fresno. 

This September 1960 issue of MotoRacing said Marchbanks began work on the road-course layout "seven years ago," indicating work on the road course began in 1953-54. Cost was listed at $700,000.

Good info, yes, but I have even more questions to be answered. Can anyone help me fill in the gaps between 1951 and 1960? 

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."

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