LEGION ASCOT SPEEDWAY
1924-1936
Los Angeles, California
Technically not in Lincoln Heights but should be noted for its proximity and historical importance.

It opened in 1924, and met its demise after the main grandstand burned in 1936.

Aerial pictures from lapl.org

1924-1925
1924-1925
The racetrack was located along Soto Street from Valley Blvd. to Multnomah St.
The racetrack turn on bottom center of either picture is Hatfield Place.
Now Multnomah Elementary School and a housing tract is built on top the racetrack.
The five-eighths mile Ascot Speedway began life as the New Ascot Speedway on January 20, 1924. The banked oval that was originally dirt but constant applications of road oil soon produced a surface that was similar to pavement. The cars that raced at Ascot throughout the years were the ancestors of what we today call "sprint cars".

From 1924 to 1927 the track was only moderately successful under the promotion of several groups. In 1928 the Glendale American Legion Post took over the promotion and brought in the cars and drivers of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The AAA was the leading racing organization in the country and controlled all the major speedways including Indianapolis. The soon to be legendary Legion Ascot Speedway was born!

The hard working Legionnaires did an excellent job of race promotion and soon crowds of 10,000 and more were flocking to races held on Sundays in the winter and under the lights on Wednesday nights. The big crowds brought big purses and torrid competition.
1934 Race Program
The races attracted the best drivers in the country and Legion Ascot was creating its own stars. Men like Bill Cummings, Al Gordon, Ernie Triplett, Kelly Petillo, Wilbur Shaw and Rex Mays tangled in hard fought and crowd pleasing races.
1932
Winning a feature race at Legion Ascot could pay up to $800---a figure that would come close to buying a house in Los Angeles in the 1920s and '30s.
 

Sketch of Clark Gable was by 1928 AAA Pacific Southwest champion, Jack Buxton.
Legion Ascot, at a time when top movie celebrities had
     their pictures taken with their racing heroes.
Movie stars rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous and
served in honorary capacities.....they sought the honor.

The speed and competition came with a price. From 1924 to 1936 some two dozen drivers lost their lives in spectacular crashes. The death toll was one reason the Glendale American Legion bowed out of race promotion in early 1935---the other reason was that the emergence of midget auto racing that was cutting into the crowds at Ascot.

The track became Ascot Motor Speedway and racing continued. On January 25, 1936 the final tragedy struck during a race for two man Indianapolis cars as Al Gordon and riding mechanic Spider Matlock were both killed in a crash.

This ended racing at Ascot.

Eight months later the grandstands of the abandoned speedway burned down. Ascot was gone.
Description and blue-bordered photos above by Don Radbruch a former racer, noted racing historian, and author.

 
Legion Ascot was definitely big and unique to Lincoln Heights and the surrounding areas during the racing era.
And known worldwide!

Today this defunct racetrack is in the community of El Sereno.

More action photos below!

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More new photos!
1927
 

Maurice Holladay writes in about Ascot!
7/28/2005

Al Gordon was our postman when I was about 18-19 living at home with my parents.  I was at the track on the day Al Gordon and Spider Matlock died.  I had a girl friend with me that I had met on a blind date the previous New Year's Eve.  I remember that the announcer never reported the condition of the two, although I'm sure it was known before we left that they had died.  While on our way home to Long Beach we were in a drive-in for refreshments when my parents came by, saw our car, stopped to tell us the sad news they heard on the car radio. A day or two later I was along with my parents when they called upon Helen Gordon and her two boys to express our condolences.  My Mother and I drove to the funeral home in LA to view Gordon before the services.  Many years later, I met Helen Gordon, remarried, who was in the clothing business with her husband.  When I told her who I was she grabbed and hugged me, then introduced one of her sons, now an adult, who was also working in the business.  I passed several Ascot Programs on to my son that I had saved.  I have told him to save them in good condition as they are likely to now be collectors items of some value. 

I wish I could find the pictures I had of Al Gordon, but haven't located them so far.

No doubt you have guessed that I must be pretty well along in years.  I turned 90 last December.

Keep up the good work on preserving Old Ascot records.

Maurice Holladay
Pacific Grove, CA

Thanks Maurice!
Anyone have any pictures or stories?
I would be happy to include it here.
Your contribution will be recognized.
Please let me know


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