On September 17, 1957, the historic half-mile racetrack at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas, hosted six sprint car races contested by nineteen excited drivers and crew. Five thousand fans were in attendance for three qualifying heats of seven laps, a fast car dash of four laps, a six-lap consolation race, and the featured final race of fifteen laps. Drivers from nine states – Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, Florida, California, and Minnesota – gathered for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) event. Winners of the qualifying heats were Pete Folse of Tampa, Florida, Dale Reed of Wichita, Kansas, and Al “Cotton” Farmer of Ft. Worth, Texas. Farmer also came in first in the fast car dash and featured final race; Johnny Pouelson of Gardena, California won the consolation event.
Sprint cars are small, powerful race cars with high power-to-weight ratios designed to run on short oval or circular tracks. Sprint car racing began shortly after World War I, and by the ’50s some sprint cars racers were using larger flathead V8 Ford or Mercury engines, rather than the pre-World War II vintage 4-cylinders of the ’40s. Featured race champion Farmer was driving a Les Vaughn Offy, #24. Les Vaughn owned many frontrunning midget, sprint, and stock racecars from 1948 to 1960. Young A.J. Foyt got his big break in an Offy, winning his first sprint car race in Minot, North Dakota in 1956.
Final-winning racer Al “Cotton” Farmer was 29 on this warm, sunny day in Hutchinson. His nickname came from the full white head of hair he sported from boyhood until his death in 2004 in his hometown of Ft. Worth. He was an automobile chemical salesman, active in local professional and charitable organizations throughout his life, the father of four and grandfather of ten.
Image Credit: L.A.Wood/”Big Car Thunder” by Bob Mays/Kansas Racing History website