Recently, I had a chance to read The Ghosts of Jungle Park after attending the Jungle Park Reunion on October 9th.
Author Tom W. Williams does an outstanding job of sharing the story of this half-mile track on US 41 in western Indiana. The track presented interesting events from 1926 to 1960. Over 60 drivers from the Indianapolis 500 like Bill Cummings, Al Miller, Mauri Rose, and Wilbur Shaw, competed at Jungle Park during this time frame.
Earl Padgett built the track on 72-acres of land just south of Sugar Creek on US 41. Over 5,000 spectators attended the first race on July 5, 1926, with a $1,000 purse. Most of the crowd came from Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Danville, Illinois.
The track enjoyed much success in the late 1920’s. With the Depression in the early 1930’s, the track thrived during most of the period. In August 16, 1930, the track debuted a new lighting system to present night racing. On May 3, 1936, the Central States Racing Association began sanctioning races at the Park. This led to larger fields for the races.
With the advent of World War II, there were only two races at Jungle Park in 1942, before the U.S. government banded racing. Full-scale racing didn’t return until late 1945 when the Midwest Dirt Track Association began sanctioning races. There were 17 cars entered for the last race in 1945.
The 1950’s brought an abundance of hot rod and stock car races to Jungle Park. With CSRA now sanctioning the races there were six races in 1950. There was a good number of races from 1950 to 1953, but then interest began to wane. In 1960, there were two races sanctioned by the Car Owners Racing Association. In the last race in October, a spectator was killed, causing racing to end at Jungle Park.
In the recent years, there have been several Jungle Park Reunions were racers and spectators get together to celebrate the drivers, cars, car owners, and the track. This is how I became aware of this interesting facility.
Author Williams has done a great job researching the races, cars, and car owners. His story takes you all the way from the beginning to the end of the story. I invite you to pick up a copy of The Ghosts of Jungle Park and enjoy the saga of this track in western Indiana.
For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.