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Sep 18

Racing at Exposition Park

Racing legend Ralph DePalma raced at Exposition Park in the 1920s.

Barney Oldfield came here as well.

Think automotive racing history and cities like Indianapolis or Daytona Beach come to mind. How about San Luis Obispo?
For three years the town was a hot stop on the racing tour. Exposition Park opened in 1922 with a large grandstand overlooking a dirt oval next to today’s South Street where Meadow Park and condos are located today.
Racing legend Barny Oldfield once made a personal appearance here though he had retired from racing in 1918 according to Wikipedia. His fame was such he could command fees up to $4,000 to grace a stage. He was the first man to clock a 100 mile-per-hour lap in Indianapolis history.
Another racing legend, Ralph DePalma, broke a dirt track speed record at Exposition Park. He had solid credentials having won the 1915 Indianapolis 500.
In California races were held in Santa Monica and San Jose so a stop in San Luis Obispo made sense. The Daily Telegram regularly carried front page stories about local racers, the growing market for automobile advertising made the topic more than an an academic interest for the astute editor/owner C.L. Day.
In 1923 local driver Fred Luelling won two races in San Jose as reported in the September 24, 1923 Daily Telegram. Two other local racers made good showings, H. Fredrickson placed second in a preliminary race. Horace Wallace had bad luck with a broken connecting rod. A 1950s article published in the Telegram-Tribune said Wallace was killed in an accident at Exposition Park in September 1923 but I could not find the article in the microfilm. Over the next few months we will revisit some of the racing moments at Exposition Park.

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