On April 11th 2009, one year ago today Phoenix, Arizona’s Manzanita Speedway, one of the top 3 dirt tracks in the country was sold and subsequently closed after 58 years of operation. Also known as “Manzy” this track was instrumental in the early careers of Al Unser Jr., JJ Yeley, Billy Boat to include Hall of Fame racers such as Roger McCluskey, Mario Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen and AJ Foyt also raced and won here.
Roe Mounts celebrated victory in what was the first auto race held on 25 August, 1951 after disgruntled drivers from the “South Mountain” track convinced owners Lawrence Meskimens and Rudy Everett to convert their failing Greyhound dog race track into a stock car track. At seasons end they honored the very first champion, Avery Doyle racing in the Jalopies. Later in 1954 they added what became the famous and lightning fast ½ mile. Arizona race drivers, team owners, sponsors and fans were proud of the reputation they built together as being one of the top race tracks in the country and often hosted World of Outlaw (WoO), California Racing Association (CRA), United States Auto Club (USAC) sanctioned events. Manzanita offered 18 different divisions at the facilities two tracks.
Mel Marin and his son Bobby took a lot of heat last year for buying the facility and then turning around and selling it. The county has had a stack of complaints against the track for noise and dust by surrounding businesses and homes, what really irks me is that people would choose to move next to a race facility only to file complaints about noise and dust. I don’t know what the final sale was and could care less but I am sure they more than recouped the 1 million they said they invested in the race track before finally giving way to commercial development. Many are still sad, mad and frustrated but life goes on.
I wanted to share these images I took back in 2006, of course at the time it was not known that the track would close 4 years later but I sure regret not taking the time and taking artistic shots of the facility. After hearing an interview that Mark Rebilas gave recently to www.lensflare35.com you can listen to here when he spoke about just that very thing, taking artistic photos of the event, fans and facilities. Lessoned learned…. One improvement I’ll make with my work in the future.
Robert Butterfield - Butterfield Photography - Sierra Vista, Arizona