Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sanatoga Speedway

Sanatoga Speedway

Always the showman, George Marshman, in1954 began the spectacle called Demolition Derby which was not a race but it was truly a survival of  attrition through luck. When the field of cars starting the event got down to only one still functioning, that one was declared the winner. 

Though run inside the fence dividing spectator from the oval action, this was not an oval race. The infield as well as the oval track was in use by the driver contestants. Their instructions were to begin racing in a figure eight pattern crisscrossing the infield in a manner to excite the crowd with near misses at first, then later cause crashes targeted to disable a car while keeping your own going. It was immaterial whether you ran in reverse or forward. Those who were adept at driving in reverse seemed to be the better survivors of the spectacle.

The crowds just loved the garish nature of Demolition Derby. Race fans were used to getting some what dirty from dust but this event which used the clay infield churned hardened clay into fine particles blanketing everything. George Marshman saw this problem early and turned to chemistry to solve it.

This is where I entered the picture. I was a young infrequent spectator working for a landscape contractor operating from a Sanatoga location. George found out this firm had a hydro seeder normally used in spraying grass seed and fertilizer on  disturbed ground along newly built highways. He contracted us each race day to spray a tank load of water spiked with a chemical that made water wetter on the infield which penetrated the clay and reduced the amount of dust occurring. I was the operator perched up on the pump platform spraying away. 

The Speedway's endurance seemed to be fading away around then and George, it seems to me, lost some interest in the Sanatoga operation. Remember, this was the coming of his son's heyday in the big arena. Sadly Bobby Marshman, after leaving his mark on racing, left this life. The images of both George and his son Bobby Marshman along with the Sanatoga Speedway fade into history as all things etched in memory eventually do.

Ronald C. Downie

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