Shown is the Warsaw Speedway display at Warsaw Community Public Library. Photo provided.
Shown is the Warsaw Speedway display at Warsaw Community Public Library. Photo provided.
During the month of July, a collection of memorabilia from the Warsaw Speedway will be on display at the Warsaw Community Public Library across from the circulation desk.

A collection of Speedway-related photos is also featured in the hallway to the left of the circulation desk.

The collection includes a diverse set of items from the Speedway’s 41-year history, including helmets, uniforms, racing gloves, championship jackets, photos, trophies and other pieces. The items featured have ties to from some of the most popular racers to compete at the Speedway, including Les Bills, Jimmie and Tony Elliott, Denny England, Dick Heeter, Bruce Hogue and Randy Woodling.

During its years of operation, the Speedway was arguably Warsaw’s biggest attraction. Running from 1949 to 1990 along the shores of Winona Lake at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds, the track closed due to conflict with lakeside homeowners. Although races are no longer run there, the Speedway has made its mark on the city of Warsaw and in the lives of local families who cherished the races held there.

“Unlike a lot of similar tracks, the Warsaw Speedway was always a family-friendly atmosphere, and it advertised itself as such,” says Kim Baney, the Speedway’s historian. The Speedway was one of the few racing venues that was alcohol-free. “It brought in racers and race fans alike from all across the Midwest, which was great for entertainment and for business.”

During its heyday, the Speedway brought in 2,000 to 4,000 fans every weekend.

“Even on nights it was raining, you could count on 1,000 spectators,” Baney said. “It was like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Originally used as a horseracing track, the Speedway transitioned to auto racing in 1949, beginning with midget cars. The sport drew in both local racers and racers from across the Midwest. Within a year, Hot Rod racing was added the venue, adding variety and increasing fan excitement for the track.

“I’ve already heard of people who went into the library exhibit and got emotional seeing the pieces there,” said Baney. “I think that this display reminds people of the great times they had and the people they met at the Speedway; I love that people are so passionate about the track and the memories it evokes. Lots of people grew up attending. It was a part of their childhoods and their lives that they really valued.”

The library is at 310 E. Main St., Warsaw, and is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information on the Speedway and its background, visit angelfire.com/in3/warsawspeedway/.