Race Track Memories

by Michael R Dougherty

The fast and furious racing in Anchorage -

There I was on a warm summer day in Anchorage, Alaska, hammer in hand, pounding away on the vitals of a race car's engine.

Now before you think they should arrest me, lock me up and throw away the key, I should explain that I was only 5 years old.

Back in about 1952, my dad, Ray Dougherty, was a mechanic for a man who raced a 1940s modified stock car on an oval dirt track located way out on the Seward highway.

My dad kept the race car in the yard next to our log home on Fairbanks street in Anchorage.

One Saturday my dad was working on the race car's engine. Before he was finished with the car, he went to get something at the store and left the hood of the car up and a small box of tools next to the left front tire.

It occurred to my 5 year old brain that I could help my dad by "working" on the race car's engine. I opened the tool box and spotted a small hammer. Just the right size for a 5 year old mechanic guy.

Moments later I was standing on a bench in front of the car with my head under the hood. I looked over the engine for things to "fix" and when I found them, I gave the part a whack with the hammer.

As I stood there pounding away at the race car's vital organs, my dad returned from the store and saw what I was doing. I proudly told him that I was helping him "fix" the engine. My dad responded by telling me in no uncertain terms that the race car was off limits and that if I aspired to be a mechanic, I was to let him know first.

Fortunately for me, I had not broken anything while "fixing" the engine with a hammer.

Every Sunday our family would head on down the Seward highway for a day at the race track. I always thought it was cool that while me, mom, my sister Anna and little brother Tom sat in the grandstands, my dad was down there in the pit area in the middle of the track.

One Sunday, they had a mechanic's race and my dad agreed to be the driver for his car. My sister and brother and I were excited and proud, but our mom, Louise Dougherty, was very nervous.

As the cars drove a lap around the track and the flagman jumped into the air waving the green flag, all the cars started speeding down the track with a thunderous roar and it was so exciting. There was our dad, racing like the wind down that old dirt track.

But about the 3rd or 4th lap, dad was in a collision as he went into the second turn and he ended up skidding off the track, crashing through the wooden fence and disappearing on the other side.

Our family was terrified -

Was dad OK? Would they need to use the stand-by ambulance to transport him to the hospital?

As we all sat there for what seemed like forever, watching our mom about to jump out of her skin, someone by the fence gave the sign that our dad was alright.

Later, dad made his way up into the grandstands. He was walking with a limp as he made his way to us. Mom gave dad a big hug and then said, "Ray Dougherty, no more of that. You can fix the car, but no more racing." Dad agreed.

All these years later I can still see my dad roaring down the track in that race car, the collision and his car skidding off the track and crashing through the fence.

Some years later, the Alaska Speedway, a paved, oval track opened up on Debarr and Bragaw. Our family used to enjoy watching the races at that track, and our dad knew some of the mechanics and drivers.

I remember Don Howell, Bud Borders, Blackie Keister, David "Fuzzy" Sprinkle and dad's good friend Hank Langman.

When I was in my teens, Hank langman built a race car and asked me, my brother Tom and our good friend Paul Stoner if we wanted to be part of his pit crew. Well none of us knew beans about cars, but the idea of being part of Hank's pit crew was incredibly exciting.

We would get to wear our own white pit crew overalls and would look ultra cool for the girls whenever we walked from the pits into the grandstands.

On our first day in Hank's garage, Hank stationed us near his race car and gave my brother Tom a fire extinguisher. Hank then started up the engine for the very first time and huge blue flames flew out of the exhaust pipes as the engine roared like a monster.

My brother Tom got scared, pulled the trigger and shot me in the left leg with the fire extinguisher causing me to nearly jump out of my brand new white pit crew overalls.

The first Sunday that Hank raced the new car, me, Tom and Paul mostly handed him the tools Hank asked for as he went about prepping the car for it's first race.

When it was race time, we all watched intently as our race car went through it's paces with Hank ending up somewhere in the last third of the cars. At the end of the race, Hank pulled the car into the pits and said he needed to adjust the suspension.

While were were all concentrating on our race car, another race was going strong.

Suddenly a car went out of control on the track and came skidding into the pits, throwing gravel everywhere. Tom and I and Paul yelled at Hank that a car was about to crash into us. Hank came out from under the car while Tom and I and Paul took off running for our lives.

Someone across the track had a camera and took the perfect picture at just the right time.

There was the car crashing into the pits, dirt and gravel flying high into the air, and there was Hank watching. As for me, Tom and Paul, we were caught by the camera in mid-flight at a dead run, getting as far away as our legs would carry us.

At the end of that racing season, my brother and I and our friend Paul decided to hang up our nifty white pit crew overalls for good.

I'll never forget the many Sunday's we spent at those two race tracks. And today it's fun to tell people that I was once a member of an Anchorage, Alaska pit crew for a race car - even though I didn't know beans about cars.

Hey, my wife just told me that our car needs some work. Does anybody have a small hammer I can borrow?

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Race Track Memories

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Jul 08, 2021
The Old Seward Track
by: Tony F

I grew up off O'Malley in the 60s.

We used to ride our bikes to the race track off the old Seward highway. Once in a while our neighbor would take a few laps around the track with his 69 Impala.

Jul 04, 2021
Good Times from Old
by: Anonymous

Great memories.

My brother and I each had a car at the DeBarr race track the last 2 years it was open.

It was the thing to do on a Sunday for us. We used to be called the Rice brothers and it was some of the best times in anchorage for us.

Jun 16, 2021
Raced in Anchorage 1950’s and 1960s
by: Ken Nix

I knew all of the guys, Bud Borders, Don Howell, Johnny Delozier and many more I cannot recall names.

I raced under #88. A 32 Ford coupe with a flat head V-8. I have newspaper clippings of Bud Borders and me racing on opening day of the Anchorage Speedway on Bragraw Street.

During those days I was racing, I lived on Fairbanks Street.

I am now 86 years old and glad to see there are people still interested in the old racing days.

Sadly, I was racing the day our flag man was killed at Turnagain Racetrack.

In 1965, I was working at Anchorage Chrysler as a mechanic. The owner gave us a brand new HEMI powered Dodge Charger. We were to strip down and race. We pretty much won every race and Don Howell was the driver.

Thanks for bringing back great memories.

Jun 15, 2021
My Experience at the Alaska Race Tracks ~ circa: Late 1960's
by: Anonymous

That was a great story and wonderful history.

I too grew up going to both racetracks, on the Seward Highway and near my neighborhood off Bragaw to the north.

As a young teen it was so exciting to go to the races with my parents and eat peanuts while watching all the great racing and always waiting for the next big crash.

When we moved to Mt. View, it was only a fifteen minute drive south to the Debarr and Bragaw track.

There were times my parents couldn't, or didn't want to go. So I got my mom to take me there and drop me off with a few bucks to get in and buy a hot dog, some peanuts and soda pop. Well, I learned early on that kids 13 an under with their parents got in for free. So from then on, I would find couples that could be my parents and get me in for free. That way I could spend more money on refreshments. Did that many times and spent those race days there by myself, exploring and moving to different seats to get closer to the action.

Just wonderful memories, except for those "strict" pseudo parents that wanted me to stay with them since they got me in, and felt responsible for me.

Great memories, none the less.

Jun 14, 2021
by: MIke Hankins

Attended many races there.

I remember Chuck Higgins most. Him and dad were friends.

Apr 07, 2021
Anchorage Race Track
by: Anonymous

I do remember the Debarr and Bragaw track.

Thanks for reviving my memory.

Dec 21, 2020
Childhood Memories of the Race Track
by: Gregory Newton

I loved going to the racetrack as a little kid with my dad and younger brother.

Dad always took us to the one south on the (old) Seward Highway (around Huffman?). Am I remembering that one correctly as the Turnagain Speedway?

We lived just off Boniface between Debarr and Northern Lights, but I don't think we ever went to the track on Debarr.

Dad had friends who owned/built cars or who drove at the other track, so we went there. So exciting! Over half a century later, I can still hear the loud and powerful race car engines!

Aug 18, 2020
Hoppy Williams #77 1952-1959 Anchorage Racetrack
by: Howard L. Williams

My father was Howard "Hoppy" Williams , #77.

He raced in anchorage at the track off the Seward Highway.

He died at the track in the middle of a test run in a car.

He raced against Don Howell and Oren Johnson.

I was 3 when he died.

I have a picture of one of his cars, including my mom and even one of me "pushing" it!

A Note from Anchorage Memories


First of all, we are so sorry for your loss.

Our website visitors love reading about early Anchorage Race Track drivers.

We saw the pictures you sent to us, but have no way of publishing them with this comment.

Thank you


Thank you

May 19, 2020
Thank You
by: Jamie Langman Koop

I would love to see the pictures of you and Paul running away from the pit.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one out of the hundreds of pictures we have of dad racing!

Thank you, gotta go now I’m starting to cry 🥰

Note from Mike


Somewhere in your families picture albums you have the picture of me, Tom and Paul running away from the race car that was crashing into the pit.

I can well understand your emotional attachment to this story. Hank was a great guy (and Norma was a great lady) and they were both wonderful and long-time friends of our family.

Great hearing from you.

Oct 01, 2019
Great Memories
by: Frank

I used to go down and watch (the races) every chance I got.

I worked on the pipeline so it wasn't as often as I liked.

A friend of mine had an old Nash and they would have open demolition races. he asked if he could enter as the race paid more than his car was worth.

Needless to say he won with no problem.

He later found a couple more car bodies with no engines and after about the third win they outlawed unit bodies. brings back memories

Aug 30, 2019
I Raced There
by: Linda (Major) Miller

I was there every time there was a race.

Our car was Number 50.

Chuck Higgins of Northwest Auto Parts drove number 55.

Bert Shaw who owned Shaw Tool Rental raced. I have some photos and a list of names somewhere. I kept time a few Sundays when one of the regulars couldn't make it.

We always wore red and white stripped shirts. The car was white with red lettering.

Lots of memories.

Jun 02, 2019
My Race Day Memories
by: Alan R Morgan

My parents took me to the race course in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I loved watching Don Howell race. I remember him rounding turn four and swooping down to cross the finish line first on many occasions. So fun to watch.

Race day was great family time.

Jun 02, 2019
Race Track Memories
by: Diana Isaacs

I too fondly remember the speedway on DeBarr Road.

My dad, brother and I were faithful followers every Sunday. The one driver I still remember was Dirty Bud Borders. He was a rather handsome man. Reminded me of Clark Gable.

Does anyone else remember him?

Jan 28, 2018
Anchoraqe Race Track Memories
by: Mike Collier

My family was transferred to Elmendorf in the late spring of 1965.

My father discovered the speedway and every Sunday took me and my brother to watch the races.

I remember, I was only 15, Don Howell in the 5 car, the 88, Fuzzy and the flagman Blacky. I was there when Blacky got run over by the 5 car when the right front spindle broke. That was a sad day.

That accident took the starch out of watching the races for awhile. However, I am 68 now and I think back to the good times at the car races. Both my Dad and Brother are gone now but boy those were the days.

Jul 09, 2016
Little Helpers are Wonderful!
by: Anonymous

I love your Anchorage Race Track Memories story!

My dad was a cabinet-maker/carpenter who was always building things for other families, and sometimes for us, as well (grin).

I remember my brother Frank "helping" Daddy with his smaller versions of the same tools, also. He was very carefully supervised, but even then there were a few "fixed" things that got him into trouble.

Later, though, he because a very good carpenter and craftsman, himself. He specialized in using mini-lathes, most of which he built himself.

Unfortunately, both Daddy Frank and Frankie Jay are now gone from us, but those memories always warm my heart.

Thanks for evoking them!

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