Just north of intersection of Calumet and Sheffield Avenues on the west side of U.S Route 41
Hammond , Indiana
The one-mile, sand surface, Wolf Lake Speedway opened on Sunday afternoon, July 16, 1933 and was described as “the World’s Most Unique Automobile Race Course” and was part of the $1 million Wolf Lake development. The track was described as being surrounded completely by water ( Wolf Lake ) and built on man—made land with no fences or guardrails. The track was located west of the small island that still exists today at about 122nd Street. An ad in the Hammond Times newspaper in 1933 called it the only auto race track in the world where you can wear white clothes and have them stay white – Clean, Cool, Comfortable! No Dust, No Dirt! Louis Brown of Champaign , Ill. won the 15-mile race car event with Emil Andres of Chicago capturing the five-mile event for race cars on that July afternoon. Charlie Engle of Dayton , Ohio was the winner of both the five-mile and 15-mile races for stock cars. Approximately 5,000 people attended the inaugural event, which also featured speed boat races. As reported in the Hammond Times newspaper, Engle came back on August 6 and won a 100-mile stock car race, defeating Forest Hart, Bob Slazek, Les Crippen and “Cowboy” O’Rourke.
Very little, if any, racing activity can be documented regarding the one-mile track for the balance of 1933 and years after.
In the May 16, 1935 edition of the National Auto Racing News Edition of The Bergen Herald, H.B. Overstreet wrote, “C.L. Worthington of Hammond has leased a portion of Wolf Lake , which is located in Hammond , to a syndicate for the construction of a 1/5 of a mile midget track. Work will start immediately under the supervision of Bill Both.” The new midget speedway was located northwest of the intersection of Calumet Ave. and Sheffield Ave. , east of where the old one-mile track was and on property that made up the shoreline of Wolf Lake at the time. The track was described as an oiled surface with long straightaways and narrow turns. The midget track was located in the vicinity of the Wolf Lake Festival Pavilion, which was built in 2010, and the pier area, southeast of the existing small island.
Jimmy Snyder of Chicago won the inaugural 25-lap midget feature race on Sunday night, June 9, 1935, defeating Milwaukee drivers Tudy Marchese and Tony Willman before an estimated crowd of 3,000 people. Pat Warren ( Los Angeles ), Harold Shaw ( Indianapolis ), Marshall Lewis ( Los Angeles ), Gale Lower ( Fort Wayne ), Curly Mills ( Los Angeles ), Jimmy Rogers (Melrose Park) and Fred Barney ( Chicago ) also were in competition. In addition to Snyder and Marchese, Wally Mitchell, Ronnie Householder, Duke Nalon, Wally Zale and Ted Tetterton were documented feature winners during the ’35 season.
With Worthington handling the managerial duties and American Legion Posts 16 and 168 of Hammond and 266 in East Chicago sponsoring the races, the fifth of a mile track reopened for competition in June of 1936 with fans paying a 50 cent general admission charge. Chuck Neisel and Wally Zale were among the winners in June, but the track was closed after Zale swept four out of six races on June 28. The reconstruction of the track was the reason given for the interruption of the season with 100 loads of clay being brought in to work into the turns.
With the west portion of the track rebuilt, the first of six 100 lappers was scheduled for the “season reopener” on July 19, but a small field of cars appeared and the feature was reduced to 25 laps with Tony Willman defeating Jimmy Snyder and Emil Andres. Snyder won on July 24 and won twin 25-lap features on July 26 with the afternoon of racing being referred to as the “Pot of Gold Sweepstakes” or “American Legion Sweepstakes.”
Thirty-year-old Johnny Wasem was seriously injured in a crash on July 26 and passed away on July 30 at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hammond – becoming the Chicago area’s first midget racing fatality. A resident of the southside of Chicago , Wasem had been racing for only about a year and was given the nickname “The Professor” as he wore eyeglasses. On July 31, the Hammond Times newspaper reported that the track was closed till September, citing hot weather and poor attendance.
After the July 26 event, there is no record of any additional race programs at the Wolf Lake site. Local racing writer Art Zuiker mentioned in his column in the June 24, 1937 issue of the National Auto Racing News newspaper that the half-mile track might start up again.