Apr 16 2011

Midget Auto Racing at Roosevelt Raceway in 1939

Only two major road races were ever held at the Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury- the 1936 and 1937 Vanderbilt Cup Races. As described in Joel E. Finn's book American Road Racing The 1930s, "there was no future for Roosevelt Raceway as an automobile racing facility... two strikes and out". However, this Fairchild aerial looking southeast shows that auto racing was not quite dead at Roosevelt Raceway in 1939.


Joel E. Finn: "A number of midget races were also run there ...with one held on August 12, 1939 , drawing 55,000 fans for a 150-mile race."


Joel E. Finn: "The track was a half-mile long, utilizing the wide grandstand straightaway to create an odd oval, as the traffic went in both directions separated by a fence down the center. The 180-degree turns at each end were very sharp and consequently slow, reducing the average speeds of the racers to 50 mph or less."


Joel E. Finn: "The layout inhibited the midget drivers from doing what they did best and what the fans came to see, cars sliding through curves at high speeds and drivers exhibiting their skills."


An unidentified winner of a Roosevelt Raceway midget race accepting his trophy.


The 1939 Fairchild aerial also provides some additional gems. The Long Island Motor Parkway can be seen in the diagonal of this image, south of Roosevelt Raceway. The Meadowbrook Polo Club is to the right.


This close-up showed the Motor Parkway bridge over Merrick Avenue.


The Long Island Motor Parkway bridge over Newbridge Avenue (not Newbridge Road) in East Meadow.


North of Roosevelt Raceway, the Northern State Parkway was being constructed in 1939, running parallel to Jericho Turnpike in Westbury.

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

A Treasure Box of Long Island Auto Racing Discovered by the Cradle of Aviation

1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race: Photos from the Nassau County Division of Museum Services

Book "American Road Racing the 1930s"

Archives: 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Archives: 1937 Vanderbilt Cup Race

Featured Upcoming Automotive Events:

SCCA Annual Tech Day, Hauppauge, NY Saturday, April 23, 2011

56th Annual Easter Sunday Vintage Car Parade, Garden City, Sunday, April 24, 2011

Calendar of 2011 Long Island Automotive Events


Presentation “The Long Island Motor Parkway, the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Race & Central Park” 7:30 pm, Bethpage Public Library, Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Apr 17 2011 Art 8:54 AM

Great pic Howard - my house is there somewhere a bit east of Roosevelt Raceway.  I do want to make a correction - the close-up of the bridge in East Meadow is actually over Newbridge Ave (today’s Salisbury Park Drive), not Newbridge Road.  Newbridge Road is further east, past the Wantagh Parkway that is shown running across the top of the main pic.  Looking at a 1939 Atlas, I see Newbridge Ave. running south through Salisbury Park and crossing Hempstead Turnpike. Interestingly, a 1950 Atlas shows it named Bellmore Westbury Road and ending where it meets the Motor Parkway (i.e., not continuing through the Park).  I know Newbridge Avenue extended south of Hempstead Turnpike through East Meadow, but probably around 20 years ago it was renamed East Meadow Avenue, to ease the confusion between it and Newbridge Road.  Hope this makes sense.

Apr 17 2011 Frank Femenias 9:51 AM

Nice aerial shots. It’s amazing how much the place has changed that keeps me analyzing ‘em. Howard, are there any aerial pics in the New Hyde Park area of the elusive LIMP bridge that crossed the NSP and NHP Road which was approx .75 mile east of the Lake Success double bridges? Thanks again for the interesting pics.

Apr 17 2011 Howard Kroplick 6:12 PM

From Ron L.
“Great stuff Howard. Keep’em coming!”

Apr 17 2011 Howard Kroplick 6:14 PM

From Wendy:

“cool aerial shot. also liked that pix of the bull hotel on northern & glen cove rd.”

Apr 17 2011 Howard Kroplick 6:16 PM

From JD:

“That aerial view is terrific.”

Apr 19 2011 Tom 1:47 PM

Indeed great aerial shots. Why did the Roosevelt Raceway only last for 2 “road races”?
Development creeping in already at that point?

Apr 20 2011 Howard Kroplick 11:08 PM


The track was losing money on each race. In addition, American and European drivers disliked the road racing course.


Apr 29 2011 Howard Kroplick 11:18 PM

Hi Frank:

There were two Motor Parkway bridges over Northern State Parkway built by Robert Moses:

In upcoming posts, I will post new images and aerials of the Motor Parkway bridges.


May 18 2014 Wayne Feulner 1:08 PM

In regards to the unidentified midget race car driver pictured, the driver should be Morris “Babe” Bower, a top notch midget race driver from Philadelphia PA. Three National Midget Championship Races were held during 1939. The first was a 100-lap event, staged on a specially constructed quarter-mile banked board track on June 25 at Soldier Field, Chicago. A 150-mile race, held on a half-mile track at Roosevelt Raceway, Long Island, N. Y., on August 12, was won by Morris “Babe” Bower; second, Joe Garson and third, Perry Grimm. The final championship race was a 150-lap event held on the quarter-mile Gilmore Stadium track, in Los Angeles. The winners in each of the above races drove Offenhauser midget cars.”
According to brief information at the website posted below, Bower was a very small man which fits your website photo well. Thanks for your time, Wayne http://midgetcarpanorama.proboards.com/thread/550/midget-racer?page=1#scrollTo=1716

Aug 09 2014 Wayne Feulner 4:37 PM

Sometimes we all have to eat crow and I am no exception. In regards to the photo on the Roosevelt Raceway 1939 midget racing page entitled “An unidentified winner of a Roosevelt Raceway midget race accepting his trophy”, I previously posted on this and thought it to be Morris “Bade” Bower. I will refer to this photo hereon as “unknown”. It is well documented that “Babe” won the Roosevelt segment of the three race championship series on August 12, 1939 followed by Joe Garson and Perry Grimm respectively. After doing more research on “Babe” I found no photos of Babe Bower or Midget racers he drove from that time frame that looked even remotely similar to the website “unknown” photo. So who is in the photo? After a few months pondering this mystery I stumbled across a photo in Jack Fox’s book “The Mighty Midgets” of an un-helmeted Wesley Saegesser sitting in the Arnold Krause Offenhauser midget. The Krause Offys were used by Wes when racing in the northeast during this period. Both Saegesser and the midget racer look eerily similar, if not exactly the same as the mystery “unknown” photo. I must mention that Wesley had a birth defect and his left arm only extended a few inches past the elbow. This is apparent in the “unknown” photo as well and is not a photographic illusion. Now I knew the driver and the car owner in the “unknown” photo, but not the link to Roosevelt Raceway. Race enthusiast Tom Avenengo was kind enough to provide a document with the race win statistics for Wes Saegesser. Wes raced the Midwest as far as Texas and the Northeast, traveling a lot and being hailed as coming from multiple different cities. The data shows a banner year for Wes in 1939, racing and winning in the northeast including many Long Island races. He was a threat to many hot local Long Island Midget drivers but was well known and liked by the public. Ok, so what about Roosevelt Raceway and the Trophy being presented in the “unknown” photo to Wes? Scanning newspaper articles at Fultonhistory.com I found an article about Saegesser being well enough to race at Roosevelt Raceway (Hempstead Sentinel 8/2/1939). He had a previous bad accident in June according to the win data document provided by Tom and was getting back on form. After multiple dead end searches I finally hit the jackpot. An article from the Long Island Daily press dated Thurs. 6/15 1939 has the identical photo as the “unknown” and is titled: “Collecting the season’s first big prize”. The caption reads: “Wes Saegesser, one-armed daredevil from St. Louis, receives the Lou Stone trophy from Promoter Walter C Stebbins after he had won the first big race for the Eastern States championship at the Cedarhurst Speedway last night. On the other side of the car is Arnold Krause, owner of the racer”.  The Saegesser win data document confirms the win on Wed. 6/14/1939 at Cedarhurst. Now we know who the driver is, the car owner, about the trophy presented as well as where and when the “unknown” photo was taken. I don’t know if the recuperating Wesley Saegesser did compete in the August 12 championship race or not. That is irrelevant. It is fact that Wesley did not win at Roosevelt Raceway at any time. I believe it a good guess to say that if the “unknown” photo was used in conjunction with Roosevelt Raceway in any way, it was probably a promotional ploy using Saegesser’s immense popularity as a ticket draw.  I feel it is time to either correct the “unknown” photo caption on the VanderbiltCupRaces.com website page or replace it with a photo of the Raceway’s true 1939 championship driver, Morris “Babe” Bower.  I have photographed documentation to back up everything stated in this comment post. Unfortunately, this post does not allow attachments. I will be glad to provide this documentation upon request. Thanks for your time, Wayne Feulner

Oct 15 2017 wendy halle 12:05 PM

I have an official program with Henry Renard on cover. There were 9 races with bingo.  Not sure the date. This was my dad’s. The feature event was won by Johnny Peterson - Garson came in 3rd. Doesn’t appear in driver list that Bower or Grimm were driving that night. My dad filled in all the events.  Pretty cool.

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