John H. Gay bought the Lakeside Inn in 1904. He fenced
the park and claimed it as part of the estate. He laid out a 60-foot
wide racetrack that was especially adapted for automobile and horse
racing. The track circled the lake. Many famous race drivers
participated there, including Barney Oldfield in his well known "Green
Dragon." T. P. Bernereli "Barney" Oldfield began his racing
career on a bicycle. Oldfield was born June 3, 1878, in Wauseon, Ohio. He
quit school at age 12 and worked as a bellhop in a hotel in Toledo. He
learned to drive a car in a week -- no simple thing in those
days!. Ford's big four-cylinder machine had no clutch or gears.
The steering wheel was a straight iron bar, similar to a tiller on a
boat. The car made so much noise that they named it after a famous steam
locomotive, the "999." He won his first race in Detroit by
half a mile in 1902. On the heals of this publicity, the Ford Motor
Company was born.
Lakeside Racetrack c.1915
In October, 1901, a race was scheduled at Old Grosse
Point Blue Ribbon Track in Michigan. As a special feature attraction,
there was to be an exhibition of a tandem racing bicycle ridden by the
team of Barney Oldfield and Tom Cooper. Oldfield was a large, strong
professional bicycle racer. His early life was very hard. He began work
as a water boy on a construction crew, and moonlighted as a bellhop. He
started bicycle racing at age sixteen, won his first race and found he
could sell his gold medal back to the promoter for cash. After an
unsuccessful venture in coal mining in Colorado, he resumed his bicycle
racing career in Salt Lake City, Utah. He again became associated with
Cooper in Detroit where Cooper had convinced Henry Ford to build him a
race car. Oldfield learned the intricacies of automobile racing and
having driven only one car in his life, he raced it at the Old Grosse
Point Blue Ribbon Track, and completed the five miles in a world's
record time of five minutes and twenty-eight seconds.
in Pre-1900 Phillion
(Top speed 7 mph)
later drove a Peerless automobile which became known as the "Green
Dragon." This was a successful race car which he purchased and used
to barnstorm his way across the country, racing and giving exhibitions
when he could. In 1907, he came to the new racetrack in Lakeside. Often
another car and driver traveled with him to compete against him in
exhibitions. These were usually a series of timed laps with each car
taking a turn on the track alone, running against the clock. On April 7,
1907,The San Diego Union announced the first event to open the new
racetrack. Barney Oldfield in his "Green Dragon" was to be
featured in a match against Bruno Seibel in the "Red Devil" on
Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21, 1907. Special excursion trains
would run from San Diego to Lakeside and return after races. The Union
said that the largest crowd in Lakeside's history was expected. Both
Oldfield and Seibel pronounced the track as being excellent and without
a peer anywhere in the world. According to the April 22 issue of the
Union, Oldfield had set a new record of 51 4/5 seconds for the mile.
Barney Oldfield excites the crowd at the Lakeside Speedway
by setting a new land speed record for the mile.
For about ten years, regular weekly auto and
motorcycle races were held at the dirt circular track. Many old-timers
recalled spending Sunday afternoons at the track, even testing their own
driving and mechanical skills. The appearance of Barney Oldfield was an
outstanding highlight in the history of the Lakeside Track. Oldfield
retired a wealthy man in 1918, but lost his money in the depression. In
later years, he ran a saloon in California. Henry Ford once visited him
and they joked about how each helped to make the other. In 1946, at the
age of 68, Oldfield died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Speedway Centennial Celebration
The Lakeside Auto Speedway
as it appeared in 1912 with the luxurious Lakeside Inn in the background.
Track with the Lakeside
Inn and Community Church in the background.