Photos from Meadowdale, the Ghost Track of Motorsports

Ron NelsonGuest ColumnistOctober 10, 2011

Photos from Meadowdale, the Ghost Track of Motorsports

0 of 17

    Back in 1958, a new road course was opened in Carpentersville, Ill. Built by Leonard Besinger, a Chicago area developer, the track was famous for the Monza Wall and its long straight away.

    Also, the majority of road racers in those days were used to drive off areas and escape roads. Not here. If you put a wheel off course you were in big trouble. You either hit a dirt embankment or a guard rail. No forgiving grassy area to turn around and get back on the course. 

    The pros really liked the track and the amateur drivers hated it. The fans loved it, but for all the efforts to make it work, it closed in the late '60s.

    Here are some photographs of some of the famous drivers of the era that raced there.

Jim Jeffords in the '58 Corvette

1 of 17

    Jim Jeffords was from Milwaukee and ended up driving for Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago. He was an early winner at Meadowdale, driving the Purple People Eater Corvette to the BP SCCA Championship in 1959. Later, he drove the Scarab to many victories and was hard to beat at Meadowdale.

The Long Straight and the Pits

2 of 17

    The track is getting ready for open practice. This is the long straight after the Monza Wall and the pit area. Notice the drop-off at the end of the straight. This was followed with an uphill section followed by a right-hand corner.

Chuck Daigh and Lance Reventow in the Scarabs

3 of 17

    During the inaugural race, the two Scarabs came to Meadowdale, and Chuck Daigh was the winner. Later, one of the Scarabs was purchased for Jim Jeffords to drive for Nickey Chevrolet of Chicago. Then, the Meister Brau Brewery purchased two of the cars, and they were campaigned by Harry Heuer, Augie Pabst and Don Devine to numerous victories around the country. Meadowdale was their home track.

Curt Gonstead and the Elva

4 of 17

    Curt Gonstead was a tough competitor and loved Meadowdale. He had several wins there in open-wheel Elvas and Elva sports cars.

The Famous Monza Wall

5 of 17

    Here is Ernie Erickson in his Porsche RSK entering the Monza Wall. It was not that fast because of the bumpy surface. It did give you a pretty good run to hit the long straight, one of the longest around. The wall still added to the track and its challenge.

The Long Straight and the Drop to the Next Corner

6 of 17

    After the green flag, Harry Heuer in the Scarab leads Roger Penske in the Maserati Typo 60 down that long straight. Followed by Augie Pabst in his Ferrari, Bill Wuesthoff in the Porsche and Allen Connell. 

Roger Penske and Peter Ryan

7 of 17

    Here is Roger Penske in the Typo 60 Birdcage leading the Sadler cars around Turn 2. Peter Ryan the young Canadian Driver is in one of the Sadlers.

Rodger Ward and the Midget

8 of 17

    Ward was entered in a Midget for one of the Formula Libre races early in the tracks history. In order to attract fans to the new course, just about everything was tried. Not sure where he finished, but he sure was fast around the course. I am sure a fan of Meadowdale can fill in the details.

The Leader Card Midget

9 of 17

    Rodger was always very accessible to photographers and fans alike. Here he is just before going out on the track for a practice session. It took some real driving skill to throw that car around a course like Meadowdale.

The Sting Ray with John Fitch Driving

10 of 17

    The Sting Ray made several appearances around the Midwest. Usually Dick Thompson or John Fitch would drive. Here the car is at Meadowdale, and I am not sure if this is Thompson or Fitch. Thompson did flip the car coming around the Silo and was put back on its wheels and continued.

Heuer and the Wall

11 of 17

    Harry did a great job at Meadowdale as the lead driver for the Meister-Brauser team. For the 1961 season the the Board of Directors at Meister Brau decided that the Beer that made Pabst Famous could not have him on the team so Augie was released from the Scarab and Meister Brauser Team. Heuer sold Scarab chassis #3 at end of 1960 season to Harry Woodnorth. Harry drove Scarab chassis #2 in 1961 and had ordered a Chaparral for 1962 season. Harry selected a young upcoming driver to join him, and Don Devine filled the seat very well. The cars were very hard to beat, and Meadowdale was considered home for the team. Always well prepared and ready to go, the Meister-Brausers were fan favorites.Bill Wuestoff was given several rides in Scarab in 1962. Augie drove for Briggs Cunningham in 1961-62.

Ricardo Rodriguez in the RSK

12 of 17

    Ricardo Rodriguez was only 17 when he drove the RSK at Meadowdale in 1959. After a race long battle with Jim Jeffords in the Scarab, he flipped the Porsche on the up hill after the silo esses. He was not hurt, but it was an impressive drive, and anyone who saw it was witness to an exceptional talent.

    Rodríguez was given a guest drive by Ferrari for the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, qualifying a surprise second and becoming the youngest driver in history to start from front row. In the race, he exchanged the lead with Phil Hill and Richie Ginther many times, until a fuel pump failure ended his race.

    1962 saw a full works drive with Ferrari, who used him sparingly considering his age and rough edges. Whenever used, Rodríguez shone, taking second at the Pau Grand Prix, fourth at the Belgian Grand Prix and sixth at the German Grand Prix in a tough year in Formula One for Ferrari. He also won the Targa Florio with Olivier Gendebien and Willy Mairesse.

    Rodríguez was considered a potential future champion already, but was left without a drive when Ferrari opted not to enter the non-Championship 1962 Mexican Grand Prix. He signed to drive Rob Walker's Lotus, but died during the first day of practice, when the Lotus' rear right suspension failed at the fearsome Peraltada corner, and it hit the barrier, killing him on impact. He was 20 years old and his death provoked national mourning in Mexico (copy courtesy of Wikepedia).

    Just wanted to bring some of you up to date on his brief career.

The Formula Libre Front Row

13 of 17

    A real variety of Iron. Lloyd Ruby in a large Maserati, Jim Jeffords in the Scarab and Roger Ward in the Leader Card Midget. Behind Ward is Augie Pabst in another Scarab, and further back, John Fitch in a Cooper. A good time was had by drivers and fans alike.

    From Wikepedia on Lloyd Ruby:

    Ruby raced in the USAC Championship Car series in the 1958-1977 seasons, with 177 career starts, including every Indianapolis 500 race during 1960-1977. He finished in the top 10 88 times, with seven victories. His best Indy finish was third in 1964. In 1966, he led the Indy 500 for 68 laps.

    Ruby won seven times on the USAC Championship Car Series in his career and also had endurance racing victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the United States Grand Prix. He was booked to drive in the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hour Race; however, did not start, as he suffered spinal injuries in a plane crash after taking off from Indianapolis Motor Speed Way Airport. [2]

The Meister-Brauser Scarab and Harry Heuer

14 of 17

    All of you Meadowdale fans remember the Meister-Brauser Scarabs. Not much to say except they always were well prepared, ran a class team and were always in the hunt.

Zora Duntov

15 of 17

    Here is Zora Duntov in the 250 Maserati. An interesting car, but no match for some of the current sports cars that were entered.

The Other Scarab Driver

16 of 17

    Augie Pabst really backed up Harry Heuer very strongly as a teammate. Later driving a Scarab at a Pro-race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, he beat a strong field to a victory in the Harry Woodnorth entered car.

The Parade Lap and the Silo

17 of 17

    Harry Heuer and Don Devine lead the filed on the parade lap. Two Grand Sport corvettes are directly behind them, followed by some hot Porsches and a Lotus 23 with Curt Gonstead.

    For more photographs, visit my web site and for more on Meadowdale, see here.