Onteora Speedway

This abandoned, overgrown former racetrack located near the Ashokan Reservoir in the foothills of the Catskills, operated throughout most of the 1960s.  I used to work at a nearby establishment to the site and took these photos while biking home one day had been curious about it for awhile because the remnants of the track, slowly getting overtaken by nature, was visible from various aerial photos.

Bleachers

Foundation of stands

I had asked a co-worker of mine, Jack Skerritt, who had lived in the area since birth and is an avid local dirt-track racer if he knew anything about the track:

The Backstretch

The Backstretch

“My father used to take me there as a kid every week. In fact, I watched a guy flip his car over to his death one night.”

“His name was Danny Harris–Daniel Duncan “Rebel” Harris. He was the best driver that track ever saw and drove a Model A Ford Coup to many feature wins. I would watch as he would round the curves, allowing the right rear corner of his car to make contact with the wall (a board rail fence which one board overlapped another around the turns) thus causing a ‘FWAP, FWAP, FWAP, FWAP . . .’ noise every lap.

Steering wheel

One of many cars left behind.

“Well one night, I happened to be sitting alongside his son who was about my age at the time (about 7 years old). Prior to the race, all of the drivers had lined their cars onto the race track and D.D. Harris walked across the track with the fence between the stands and him. It was his son’s birthday. D.D. approached his son, and said, ‘What I win tonight is yours.’

“Those were the last words his son ever heard from his father. Soon after I watched as D.D. “Rebel” Harris flipped his car over…and over…and over…and over…was ejected from the car and then run over by another driver’s car. D.D. passed away fifteen minutes after reaching the hospital

Around the bend

Around the bend

“By the time his car finished flipping, all of the other race cars had stopped on the track and everyone in the stands was completely silent–except for his wife who sat a few seats behind me. She screamed through the whole incident. To this day, I can still hear the sound of her scream…clear as day.”

Speaker pole

Last remaining speaker pole.

“Their flag man, Tex Enright “Crazy Indian” used to start the races by standing in the middle of the front stretch, waving the green flag, and jumping high in the air. The race cars would have to stay in line and would roar past him on each side. Then he would run off the track and flag from a flagstand as would any other flagger.

Wreck

Car wreck

For more about the Onteora Speedway:

http://www.racingthroughtime.com/ARCHIVES/APR09/4-29-09.htm

http://www.town.olive.ny.us/quilt/html/speedway.htm

http://www.dirttrackdigest.com/forums/topic/30605-pics-of-onteora-olive-bridge-speedway/

More about D. D. “Rebel” Harris:

http://www.lebanonvalleyclassics.com/HTM/Rebel_Harris.htm

More about Tex Enright:

http://www.trackforum.com/forums/showthread.php?104165-NJ-Speedways-Yet-Another-One-Bites-The-Dust/page2

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