Monte Race Tracks
Through the years we've raced at many tracks. We started out on the Monte tracks and expanded our horizons to Appleton, Milbank, Watertown, Renville, Madison and many others. Here is how it all started. Right here in good, old Montevideo. I tried to find a picture of the track as it was back in 1959, but could find nothing. If you have one or have any pictures of early Monte racing, please let me know at
Click on pictures for larger images.

Speedy Acres

Where it all started…


Speedy Acres. Was there ever a better name for a race track that was located IN a field, IN the country?

Speedy Acres was the first automobile race track in Montevideo. The track at the fairgrounds was used only for harness racing and baseball.

Speedy Acres was located in a gravel pit between Montevideo and Wegdahl. In 1957 Gilbert Schmidgall, Vic Lindrud and Don Dobie decided to open a race track. The track was at the bottom of the pit and the spectators sat on board bleachers cut into the side of the hill. You've heard about the dust bowl days? This was it. It was hot and dirty and dangerous. There was a steep dropoff on the back straightaway. Lose it there, and you disappeared from sight. Plus there were lots of rocks in the bleacher ground so if the fans got upset with a driver, they had plenty of ammunition right at their feet. Yes, spectators were known at times to throw rocks at the race cars.

There are lots of stories from those days. One driver, who wore dentures, didn't want to risk damaging them, so he took them out and put them on a fence post by the grandstand. Unluckily for him, he had an accident on the track, hit the post, and lost his car and his teeth all in one quick spin.

Clayton Johnson, a Monte auctioneer, lived right next to the track and since he couldn't beat them, he joined them as the announcer. And what an announcer he was. He could make a slow race sound exciting.

Jim Ryman was the flagman and evidently liked to live dangerously because he was right out there on the track with the cars.

At the end of the season in 1958, after two years in operation, Speedy Acres shut down. A deal was made with the Chippewa County Fairboard and in 1959 the races moved to the fairgrounds and took on the name "Fiesta City Speedway." Clayton Johnson continued to be the announcer and was soon known as "The Voice of the Fiesta City Speedway."

Jim Ryman

The Man of Steel

Jimmy Ryman,
Flagman Extraordinaire

When Speedy Acres first started, Jimmy Ryman was the flagman. They had what was called a standing start. He went back and checked each driver's seat belt and then went to the front of the lineup. When he dropped the green flag, the pedals hit the metal and he stood there as they drove by him on each side. As Lyle said, "He had a lot of guts to stand out there in the middle of the track with all the cars heading straight for him." He wasn't afraid to stand almost in front of your moving car with the black flag either. And when it came to the checkered flag, there he was, out in the traffic again, giving the honors to the winners. You know what they said about mothers telling their children not to play in traffic? Well, I think if his mother did tell him that, it went in one ear and out the other. Standing amid those roaring engines would just about clean out the inside of your ear canal anyway.

Besides being a fair flagman, Jim was also a nice guy and if he black-flagged you, you knew you had it coming and there was no argument. Well, maybe there was an argument. This was competition, after all.

Racing Program


In 1959 the Speedy Acres drivers negotiated to get the races set up on the Chippewa County Fairgrounds. Working with Henning Swanson and the other fair-board members, they came to an agreement. The track had been used for harness racing for many years so early that spring the fair association revamped the track to make both harness racing and stock car racing possible. The turns were banked and the drivers donated their time and money to build a 435-foot cement retaining wall in front of the covered grandstand. All the facilities of a completely modern race track were put in and it was made into one of the finest dirt tracks in Minnesota.

On the south end of the pit area was the baseball field for the Montevideo Spartans. Part of the deal was that NO ONE drove on the field. There were outfield fences on the south end and lots of barricades down the track. The drivers tried, but through the years, every once in awhile a car would slide off and the baseball people would scramble across the field to check the damage. They paced like caged lions during the races because they had games on Sunday afternoons and that didn't give them a lot of time to get the field repaired.

It was called a half-mile track, but many of us tested the distance by driving around the inside of the track with our cars and it came out to about 3/4 mile. Through the years the track has been shortened and changed. Originally the north end of the track ran right up to the ditch on Highway 212. Blading that big track was quite a job and often resulted in a ridge on the inside that caused a lot of accidents.

Other things have changed, too. Back in those days the heat winners started in the back of the pack for the features. That led to exciting races as they finagled their way through the slower traffic. Today the fast cars go up to pole position and it may be faster racing, but not nearly as entertaining. And though the cars of today look like they're moving much faster, if you figure that the guys in the old days were racing on an almost three-quarter-mile track, their times looked pretty darn fast.

Today everybody and their brothers are in the pit area. Back then the driver and just a couple of pitmen could go in. We women had to get out at the gate to the track and sit in the grandstand until the races started. Believe me, that wasn't exciting. For Sunday afternoon races we arrived a couple of hours before the races started. That meant the women had to trudge in the hot sun and sit in the stands, waiting until the races started. Most of the stands didn't have roofs either.

Try looking across the pit area today and you'll see big semis with mobile garages hooked on the back. If you look at these pictures, you'll note that most of the drivers had a couple five-gallon cans of gas, a can of water, a small tool box, and some bald tires. Got us through. I love what Norm Milbrandt said at the 1994 reunion. He said that most of the tires had NO HUNTING on the sidewalls. Oh, we were not big-time racers, but we had a lot of fun and nobody lost the farm over expensive cars. We pretty much had junk yard specials.

First Race on the New Track
The first stock race on the new track was on June 13, 1959. Gene Neises was the acting track manager and Clayton Johnson, the announcer. Jim Ryman continued to be the flagman. The races started at 8 PM and there were drivers from Montevideo, Renville, Sacred Heart, Marshall, Appleton, Dawson and Madison. They had over 30 cars and the grandstands were full.

One of the things that I don't think the fair board thought about was the harness-racing horses. They were stabled in a barn that was only a few feet from the track. The barn was located just past the number four corner. When the cars came out of the turn and onto the straightaway, they hit it full bore. It really scared the horses. You could hear the commotion in the barn and the horses neighing and squealing all the way down in the grandstand. Kind of a spooky situation. Don't remember, but I think they moved the horses later. I hope so.

Fair Chippewa County Fair, August 1959
There was a lot of excitement for the county fair that first year of racing on the new track. It would be the first time in the fair's 78-year history that stock car racing became part of the county fair program. (I looked for the results of this big event in the Monte paper, but couldn't find them.)

Through the years the track has been run by different people and organizations and there were a few years with no racing, but the program is up and running again and in 2016 was stronger than ever.

floating money

$100 TOTAL

In 1962 Al Deville and Les Schultz, racing promoters from Watertown, SD, introduced a new audience participation game called $100 Total. The game offered $100 to the person or persons who could correctly pick the first five placers in the A Feature, but they had to be in the proper order.

It went over well and the fans knew their drivers. The first week three persons picked the proper combination. The next week 17 fans split the $100. If I did the math correctly, that would amount to $5.88 per person. Almost as profitable as racing!

The 17 winners were: Sharon Lutz, Jim Larson, Carol Brandriet, Mike Simonson, Ken Davis, Avis Nygaard, Shirley McClure, Lowell Birhanzl, Joyce Hildahl, Janice Dahl, Charles Haugen, and Steve Zaiser, all of Montevideo. John Maroney, Maynard; Mrs. Charles Prekyl, Marshall; Paul Nelson, Taunton; David Lovering, Granite Falls, and Irene Heemeyer, Aberdeen, South Dakota.

An Open Invitation

Racing Invitation

This is the invitation sent out in 1959 by Paul Phillips, Secretary of the Tri-County Racing Association. Area drivers were invited to the first ever car race at the Montevideo Speedway. If you click on the picture, you can read it. It wasn't until 1961 that Les Schultz and Al DeVille took over the management of the track and it became the Fiesta City Speedway.

It must have worked because here is a picture of the pit area in 1959.
Track in 1959

This page updated on December 17, 2016.

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