Westfield-Mayville Rotary Session Features Coon Road Speedway Program
What do jalopies, flatheads, an oval, racing and lots of dirt have in common? They were all part of the excitement of auto racing at the Coon Road Speedway in Westfield and other area dirt tracks during the late 1950’s and into the early 1960’s. Giving an interesting account of the now defunct tracks and stories about some of the top drivers at the May 29 meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville were guest presenters Randy Sweeney, Randy Anderson and Greg Peterson. Mary Swanson, this Rotary Club’s President-Elect, was the sponsor of this program, which was held at The Parkview in Westfield.
The Coon Road Speedway, which was a half-mile dirt oval track, was located off of the Westfield/Sherman Road in Westfield. The track, which is now defunct, was started in September of 1956 by Joel Swarthout. Floyd Thomas, who ran a local gas station, was the winner of its first race.
Anderson said, “Racing was held on Sunday afternoons. Most of the tracks were the same. There were ones in Sherman, Findley Lake, Dunkirk, Fredonia, Frewsburg, Arkwright and Watts Flats. There was tremendous competition among the drivers, who all had a following in their respective communities.” Anderson, who is President of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame, spent weekends for decades at Stateline Speedway Racetrack, as part of Dick Barton’s crew.
In May of 1959, driver Joel Swarthout had a tragic accident at the Coon Road Speedway, so the track did not open that year. In 1960, the Hartfield Volunteer Fire Department leased the track for a fundraiser, and jalopy racing continued until 1961.
Anderson noted that after several successful years, most of the dirt tracks, including the Coon Road one, went out of business because of the success of Stateline Speedway, which had lights and paid out more money to the winners. Anderson said, “Stateline had racing on Saturday nights. It had the best drivers and best cars, and it was the best track.”
Randy Sweeney, who served 20 years as the Executive Director of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, has been working with Randy Anderson and Greg Peterson to document the history of local auto racing. In September of 2009 the three of them set out to interview the top 10 drivers of Stateline Speedway. After conducting over 60 interviews, they learned more about the area dirt tracks and the top drivers. In the fall of 2010, they began to work on a documentary film on the topic. Sweeney had lived in Panama, near the Roll-O-Bowl Speedway, which was located between Watts Flats and Panama.
Greg Peterson is a Jamestown area attorney and partner with the firm of Phillips Lytle, who has an interest in local history. He is a cofounder of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown and he serves on its board of directors. He stated, “We have contacted the current owner of the property where the Coon Road Speedway was and he is willing to brush hog the area to better show where the track was. It’s been very exciting for us to explore this topic and to help to preserve the history of local racing.”
After much research of documents about race results and many drivers, plus personal interviews of the drivers and their family members, when available, Peterson, Sweeney and Anderson now have a draft of a documentary film about the Coon Road Speedway.
Sweeney, Anderson and Peterson invite those who have more information to attend the Westfield Fire Department Ox Roast on July 8 at Ottaway Park on Route 5 in Westfield, where racing fans and representatives from the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame will be present from 1-3 p.m. to talk about Coon Road Speedway. Folks are encouraged to bring photos, movies and other racing memorabilia. Contact Randy Sweeney at email@example.com or contact Randy Anderson at 640-6219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.