Lakeland Speedbowl

Try not to cringe at the sight of perfectly good 50's cruisers being wadded up like so much garbage. It's just part of what happened at the mostly forgotten Lakeland Speedbowl. The Speedbowl sat just north of I-40 before there was an I-40. It was a tiny 1/4 mile bullring that hosted open wheel sprints, as well as other types of roundy round competitors. The photo above shows the crash and crunch action from the Joie Chitwood 'Tournament of Thrills' daredevil stunt driving show that appeared at the track.

The Speedbowl opened in 1960, just a few months after the opening of Lakeland Dragstrip, but I'm not sure when it closed or why. (Maybe someone who reads this can enlighten me?) Evidence of it's existence was still visible about ten years ago in the overgrown hollow off Canada Rd. where the track once thrived. Today, it's the site of a luxury home with landscaped acreage that leaves no hint of it's past life as a battleground of homemade speed.

Riverside Speedway has been around since almost the dawn of time and has a grand history all it's own, but this place seemed to serve a most basic need for speed as homemade race cars competed on this almost flat circle of a racetrack. It was home to racing that produced modest speeds, but demanded constant attention from the drivers. Looks like a lot of good hot rod material was sacrificed to the grueling nature of the close wheel to wheel competition that such tracks tend to produce. The photo above shows a lot of early Ford & Chevy coupes cut down into raw racers that might have seen another use as street rods a little later in the 20th century had they not been repurposed into the rough and tumble jalopies seen here.

The evidence above of Speedbowl racers gone every which way but the right way attests to the volatile nature of short track auto racing. I think the wheels are supposed to point toward the ground. This shot looks like it may have been made at a race from the later part of the 1960's after the Speedbowl became a part of the Speedway inc. circuit that contested races throughout the south.

The photos in this posting were found among the Memphis Press Scimitar photo morgue leftovers that are stashed at the University of Memphis library. A few more as Speed Scoop News clippings can be seen on this
Fotki Gallery. The history of this racetrack is both interesting, and a big grey area for me as I just don't know enough about this place. Apparently, many well known area racers spent time on this track from Hooker Hood, to Sam Swindell Sr. The track even has the dubious distinction of seeing a fatal accident at it's first ever race. A grim reminder that racing has always been a dangerous activity, even on short race tracks.

These few photos, and the rare tidbits of information gathered from Google searches, are pretty much all the info I have on this long lost speed stadium. So regard this post as a call for information. I'm pretty sure that some of you who read this blog with any regularity have some stories about the Speedbowl, so consider making a comment and add some real history to this story. The Speedbowl is a place that is no more and has left no trace of itself, so it's time to gather some information from anyone who was there. After all, it's all part of the bigger story of how these hot rods and their drivers became the seriously organized racing scene that exists today, and it's also a part of what was a diverse array of racing competition that was contested around the Memphis area in past years.