Get Ready to Race!

Posted by Anita on March 22, 2019

(written by Anita Taylor Doering, Archives Staff)


Ad from the La Crosse Tribune dated July 21, 1956

If you’re into stock car racing or racing in general, you may have known or heard about the North Side Speed Bowl.  It was in operation from approximately 1955-1972 and was located directly east of Campbell Cemetery on La Crosse’s North Side.  Contemporaries of the North Side Speed Bowl included the South Side Speed Bowl and the La Crosse Interstate Fairgrounds Speedway.


Looking from the pits over the track and into the stands, circa 1956; photo courtesy of Paul Wier

The eastern side of Campbell Cemetery was wooded and formed a natural crescent shape bowl, perfect for shading concessions, judges and race fans on hot days and evenings. It was a one-third-mile oval clay track.


Unidentified men, circa 1956-1957; photo courtesy of Paul Wier

Billed as family entertainment, races were held Sunday afternoon and on holidays.  Local folks were encouraged to come and try their hand at racing, but the management adhered to strict rules.


Track rules for the 1958 season; courtesy of Paul Wier


Arnold "Arnie" Baumgartner, circa 1957; photo courtesy of Paul Wier

Most drivers were from the area – Winona, Rochester, Tomah, La Crosse – and were considered semi-professional competing for purses.


Looking from the stands onto the track, circa 1958; photo courtesy of Paul Wier

By the mid 1960s, the track was renovated to a quarter-mile paved track and was part of the Central Wisconsin Speedway Association circuit.  Races were held at the North Side Speed Bowl on Wednesday nights and brought in close to the 3,000 spectator capacity. La Crosse was the highest paying track on the circuit.  Probably the most notable driver on this track was Dick Trickle from Wisconsin Rapids who routinely won the La Crosse feature each week during the season.


Unidentified men associated with the North Side Speed Bowl, circa 1956-1958; photo courtesy of Paul Wier

The La Crosse Interstate Fairgrounds Speedway made major improvements for the 1970 racing season with a one-half mile paved track. When the Speed Bowl closed down in 1972, the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway took over the Wednesday night race spot in the circuit.

Little is known about the South Side Speed Bowl so if readers have photos and other material about any car or motorcycle culture in La Crosse, please contact the La Crosse Public Library Archives.