The history of the first superspeedway west of the Mississippi capable of hosting NASCAR and USAC Indy type car races will be celebrated in an exhibition presented by the Carnegie Museum of Kings County beginning Nov. 12 and ending Dec. 19.
Marchbanks Speedway, later known as Hanford Motor Speedway, started out in the early 1950s as a ½ mile dirt oval track built by farmer B.L. Marchbanks in the middle of sage brush, cotton and corn fields south of Hanford. The track initially attracted local racers such as Tommy Trader, Norm Balzer, Al Pombo and Johnny Mello and helped to turn them into household names.
In the late 1950s, the track was expanded to include a 1.4 mile tri-oval track with Monza turns. The expansion allowed the speedway to host NASCAR, Formula Racing Association and USAC races in the 1960s. The races drew some of the greatest names in racing. Fireball Roberts, Gordon Johncock, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti all won races there.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Central Valley had a robust racing culture. Marchbanks Speedway capitalized on this by hosting races featuring jalopies, midget, sprint, stock and open-wheel cars. Boat races were held on a 22-acre lake in the track’s infield.
In addition to highlighting big-name races and racers hosted at the speedway, the exhibition will showcase racing innovations from the 1950s to the present with artifacts loaned by the Peterson Automotive Museum of Los Angeles, the Woodland Auto Display of Paso Robles and Parsons Racing of Hanford. A special feature of the exhibition is a 1936 midget racer. Jack Schwartz, lead curator of the exhibition and president of the Carnegie Museum of Kings County’s board of directors, said the classic sprint car shows a baseline for how racing has progressed through the years.
The opening of the exhibition will be celebrated with a car show on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The entry fee is $25 per car. Funds raised from the event, which will be held in front of the museum, will be used to support the mission of the Carnegie Museum of Kings County. Entrants can register at www.carnegiemuseumofkingscounty.org.
The Carnegie Museum of Kings County is located at 109 E. Eighth St. in Hanford. The Marchbanks Speedway exhibition will be open to the public Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. Visitors are encouraged to bring a new unwrapped toy to the support the Marine Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.