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Oklahoma City stock car racing-memories from a young fan……

Herb Lobdell was my favorite…….

Fair Grounds Speedway OKC, OK. Was demolished a few years ago for political reasons as the current Mayor and city fathers of the city are not racing fans. OKC currently has NO major structure/track to have car racing in the city.



Stock car racing in Oklahoma City was very popular back in the middle 1960’s as crowds as large as ten thousand fans would attend the popular races at the State Fairgrounds Speedway.  Names such as Wayne Cox, Melvin Rogers, Bobby Reynolds, David Brotherton Jr.,  Carl Ferguson, Bobby Laden, and Bob Eichor (just to mention a few of over 25 great race car drivers) were on the big half mile track every Friday night from the spring through the end of the summer.


As a youth and teen during this time, more often than not I would be in the historic, and now torn down grandstand, on those hot Friday evenings.  Having my father involved as a pit member of one of the youngest, and best drivers in the super-modified classification in the Oklahoma/Kansas/Texas area of the country, Herb Lobdell,  I was as personally and emotionally involved in racing as any young person could be.  Not only did I live dirt car racing in OKC, I followed NASCAR, watching anything on the tube.  The Grand Prix circuit, Formula 1, was also special, with drivers Jim Clark and Graham Hill my personal favorites driving the Nürburgring in Germany or the streets of Monaco.


My Dad, Fred Pahlke Sr. was not only a member of the pit crew of Herbie’s number five race car, he was also a very close friend of the twenty something driver who made a significant mark on racing in Oklahoma City of the time.  My Dad also was the man that put the iconic number five on Herb’s race cars, with a trademark arrow that shot out of the number.  My Dad, known as a sign painter, was as an expert in painting numbers and letters.  Because of my Dad’s expertise, Lobdell always raced a beautiful car, striking and visual from the stands,  like the bright orange Shakey’s Pizza Wagon, a 1934 sedan body with a large V-8 racing motor that could take the half mile speedway at over 120 miles an hour.   Herb’s car’s large racing tires were not like drag strip tires, but rubber that gave the look of a stock car with speed and traction.  I will always remember that the Lobdell cars always had the newest and best on the wheels. Tires were a big deal and I heard many conversations on them through the years between pit crew members.  Be it OKC, Tulsa, Hutchinson, KS, or Enid, OK, Herb Lobdell was right up there with the best  and was as good as they come during this time period.  Just ask Wayne Cox in the 1967 race season.


Stock car racing was very important to Oklahoma City from the days the Friday night show was staged at Taft Stadium on North May.  Various drivers of the time showed their skills at the dirt track that circled the grass playing area of the largest and best stadium in the city for the better part of the history of the city.  The races moved from Taft Stadium in the early 1960’s and most of the drivers in the 60’s transferred their skills to the outstanding facility at the State Fair Grounds at Northwest 10th and May.  The Fair Grounds speedway was just a little over a mile south of Taft.  Some might remember the Indianapolis 500 driver from Oklahoma, Lloyd Ruby, started his successful racing career driving the oval at Taft, but didn’t drive at the new venue.  The Fair Ground was also used as the racing oval in the movie State Fair staring Pat Boone.


Herb Lobdell and the Ye old pizza wagon

My first remembrances of Herb Lobdell and car racing was when I would be with my Dad on his visits to Herb home in a near OKC neighborhood.  I do not know how my Dad met Herb for the first time but I was soon to know that he cared about the future driver that lived close to Northwest 10th and Indiana.  My Dad would have been in his early forties and Herb in his early twenties if that.  From their friendship, my Dad was always on Herb’s pit crew when he raced in OKC and in Enid.  To note, boat racing was my Dad interest in the 1940’s and 1950’s in around Oklahoma and Texas, and he was among the very best.  My Pop did not race for a lot of money, but he garnered many trophies during his time.  He. was a master woodworker, and he built the speed boats he raced.  My Dad’s first notoriety in boat building was when he was just twelve, when his boat (actually an intricate raft), sank in the Belle Isle lake in 1929.  A picture of him and his best friend was published in the Oklahoma Times (the evening paper from the Daily Oklahoman).  The photo showed the boys laughing for the Oklahoman photographer, standing in a foot of water/mud, with the raft next to them, half way submerged.  They were covered with the mud and my Dad’s pearly white teeth stood out from his tanned and dirty face. My Dad had big, straight, teeth that was always noticeable. As of his gene pool, he never had a cavity, and neither did I, or my two sons. The picture noted my Dad’s attempt to float the lake. (I would post the picture but I do not have access to the Oklahoma Times archive (if there is one).  Later in life my Dad built boats for his personal pleasure to fish, including his favorite construction, a twenty-two foot fiber glassed cabin cruiser, and as nice a home made boat can be.




As I attended races most Friday nights during racing season, the family always pulled for Herb to win his races.  But it was a sport with no animosity toward any other drivers, that I could tell.  Good racing, outstanding drivers, fast cars and always competitive. The track at the Fairgrounds for the veteran drivers, a half-mile with two straight-a-ways, was dirt.  Being a large track, the best drivers in Oklahoma and Kansas were in OKC on Friday nights.  The track in OKC was fast.  Accidents were not numerous on that half mile, but the danger was ever present.  From my memories, deaths occurred often in stock car racing, and OKC was blessed not to have any (that I can remember).



Herb Lobdell’s coupe, first car in OKC to use a wing on top.

Herb, from newspaper articles, raced for pleasure, especially when he drove for an owner and not “his” car that he had to build and finance. With that, Lobdell would always be the master mechanic on his machine, as he was the most knowledgeable man in his pits.  A savant mechanic from his early teens, Lobdell’s skill with a motor is of legend, as he became the head mechanic for Fretwell’s Motors in Oklahoma City at a young age.  Fretwells was the place in OKC where you would buy a Jaguar, or MG, or other foreign cars.  Want the newest Jag, you would go to Fretwells.  As a man that did not fear speed, Mr. Fretwell would have Herb test drive the new Jags that came off the truck at their location on South Western, close to the Air Park.  Mr. Fretwell wanted to make sure that the Jag could perform at high speeds before they were turned over to their new owners.  Point in fact, Herb became a test driver. I will not tell you where Herb did his test driving but some of those Jags were considered the fastest production line cars on the market and Herb would put his foot down to see what they could do.  In later life Herb was known as the best MG mechanic in the country, and he opened his own specialty MG shop where the now Chesapeake offices are located at Northwest 63rd and Western.




As for racing, the 1967 season was one I remember most.  Wayne Cox (best driver in OKC with respect to Harold Leep) was challenged by Herb Lobdell for the racing championship.  Not that Herb was going to beat Mr. Cox, as the #141 had pretty much wrapped up the title in the first half of the season, Lobdell’s second half was so successful that the #5 car make it’s way to second in the point standings and gave Herb his first “feature” wins, beating Cox to the finish line on more than one occasion.  Point in fact, the 1967 season’s second half was so competitive that any one of six or seven cars were likely to win the night, and the racing in OKC for super-modified cars was as good as any in the country.






As the years passed, I became entrenched in other sports as I entered junior high and as is with most things, interests change. Not that I did not go to the races, other things started to occupy my time.  As for Herb Lobdell,  already the best foreign car mechanic in Oklahoma City, a bad Saturday night at the Tulsa Speedway was telling.  He was pushing his machine to win a race when a rock that had become embedded in the clay track at the Tulsa Speedway came loose and fiipped into his driving cage and cold knocked the driver into a spectacular flip, nine rotations of the car before it finally rested on the track in a heap of bent metal.  Herb, from my remembrance, does not have any recollection of the accident.  He retired that night from racing.


Feature Photo:  Photographer:AbandonedOK TeamBilly Dixon


About Fred Pahlke

Fred Pahlke, an Oklahoma native has viewed over 10,000 sporting events in his 65 years. A season ticket holder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former season tickect holder for the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma City University Chiefs/Stars, he is an expert in both professional and college basketball and football. A high school athlete at Classen High School in basketball and tennis, he played amateur tennis after high school in the Missouri Valley Tennis Association. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, he taught in the public schools for 6 years before becoming a building administrator in the Oklahoma City Public Schools for 31 years, 28 as the Principal of various schools in the district. He has guided various high school and college athletes in his time as an educator and coach. Fredsportsextra has recorded 101, 410 article views in its first ten months, from August 2015 through May 2016.

37 Responses to “Oklahoma City stock car racing-memories from a young fan……”

  1. Al Williams
    February 7, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Good story and great memories for me. My dad, Nick Williams and his partner in racing, Jay Hughes raced at Taft, the fair grounds and at Tulsa each week in the mid to late 50s. We had mostly 39/40 Ford sedans with the Ford flat head engines. They raced 2 cars. Number 100, which my dad sponsored and John Hollinsworth drove and number 101 that Jay sponsored and Bob Eichor drove.

    • February 8, 2017 at 6:04 pm

      I was born in 53 but I surely remember Bob Eichor’s 101 in the 60’s when my Dad was involved with Herb Lobdell and his racing. My Dad was more of a positive person with regard to the younger Herbie. My Did did get hurt one night when the jack handle got out-of-control and it hit him in the wrong place. My Dad had to have a hernia operation but was back in the pits after a couple of weeks. Exciting times for sure.

      • Jack Durham
        August 30, 2020 at 8:16 pm

        I’m here after searching for my favorite driver, Carl Ferguson. Loved watching them in the older cars they raced.

        • August 30, 2020 at 11:28 pm

          In my memories, Carl Ferguson was a little older driver if I remember…#10.

          • Michael Thompson
            January 20, 2021 at 3:33 am

            Do you remember Todd Coker? My Dad was boyhood friends with him! I knew his sons Terry and Tommy!

          • January 20, 2021 at 12:21 pm

            the name, yes. I personally never met the man. Thanks for reading my blog.

    • Phil hughes
      January 16, 2021 at 9:49 am

      Al, There are some great stories that have never been heard out there. First I’m Jay’s oldest son, Phil Hughes.
      I bought my first racing uniform used from Herb Lobdell.
      I drove IMCA for my dad in the early 70’s car # 101, 70 Maverick and 69 Mustang ( we bought from Holman Moody that Sam Posey had driven)
      Now for a great Taft Stadium story about my dad.
      They were having a long race one Saturday ( I believe it was 100 laps)
      Bob Eichor was driving for my dad at that time. They had figure the gas out, but they still had a problem. They were running a 248 flat head engine that had some blow by (oil). They were worried about it running to low on oil an possibility blowing up. So, my dad install a rack on the dash that held three quarts of oil. Attached to the rack on the dash was a funnel, hose attach to the funnel running down to the oil intake. All three quarts of oil already had a spout stuck in them. So after about 30 laps or so Bob poor one of them in. Several engines give in that day and some run out of gas. They manage to over come both those problems that day and won the race. Very creative

      • January 16, 2021 at 12:50 pm

        thanks for reading my stuff…..I only remember TAFT racing a little bit….I think my Dad took me one time but I was so young I have little to remember….I do remember him telling me that Lloyd Ruby raced at Taft and as I soon discovered the Indy 500 that impressed me…..I got into Formula One as a ten year old and NASCAR also. Not a mechanic sort of person, I still follow Formula One and I enjoy the new documentaries that are being made currently…..I did an article on two movies (on this site), Grand Prix and RUSH, and I hope you got to read it….again thanks for the comments and please comment anytime….Fred

  2. Deb
    February 7, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    A very good read. Brought back a lot of memories for my family

  3. February 13, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Great article.

  4. Shane CarsonMar-Car Promotions
    February 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

    great story Fred,
    I don’t have your background in all sports, but it seems like you and a lot of us grew up at Taft and the Fairgrounds Speedway, my dad, Bud Carson was Mar-Car and I keep that company goin today….
    I brought the big shows coming to OKC from 1980-2002 but now we have no place to bring em….
    Our passion is still there, and we do a annual OK race reunion at the Pole Position Karting center in January, at least till we grow out of it, we have done it for 8 years….would like it if you could make the next one and come say hi…
    It’s cool when I get to see one of the stories like this one, it lakes me back and reminds me of the popularity of the dirt track races in OKC….
    ALL of my hero’s growing up were race car drivers…….

    • February 13, 2017 at 8:34 am

      I will work at making the next reunion. I remember you Dad very much. Twice I made model cars for Herbie and presented them on the stage at the Fairgrounds and your Dad was on the stage too. Thank you for the invitation.

  5. Rick Fortune
    March 9, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Dear Sir

    the race car on the pole was my fathers car. If at all possible i would like to buy a copy of this picture. WE sat on the pole and won that night. OKC was my favorite track to come to. Because of the people. The car is presently in the museum where Rick Hood works in Phoenix AZ.

    • March 10, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      I do not know the copyrights of the photo but I would download it and if you have access to a color printer that does good work with photos make your own copy on high quality photo paper…..

  6. Tony Bookout
    July 2, 2017 at 4:35 am

    I love to read these racing stories as the good old days. Many days I spent at my dad’s shop listening. To the old racing stories. I do miss them days. As a kid, I too, have seen many of super races in Wichita and in Oklahoma city. And, of course, Enid Oklahoma many good times. Thank you for writing this story. Love the good old days.

  7. Richard
    July 25, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Didn’t herb drive a pat suchy car with automatic tranny

    • July 26, 2017 at 7:10 am

      I do not know. He might have used a suchy transmission….but he owned his own car. It has been almost 50 years ago.

  8. Tom Wright
    April 2, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Don’t forget the Prell Jeep. It was there for many years. Good article – good memories of both tracks. Sure miss local racing. Thanks

  9. Bill Hellams
    April 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Great story Fred. Thank you for that. I have a 71 MGB and of course Herb was my mechanic. I knew nothing of his racing history until I read your article. Here I thought he was just an incredible mechanic.

    My MG has been sitting for the last 10 or 15 years. Ever since Herb rehabbed the engine and front in. I think it is about time I passed it along to someone else. I would like to connect with Herb before I sell it to make sure I start it up again properly. Do you have any idea how I might get in touch with Herb?

    Thanks Fred,

    Bill Hellams

    • April 14, 2018 at 11:57 pm

      I am sure he is in the phone book….he lives in OKC. Thank you for your comments….appreciated.

  10. Dan Gallion
    November 16, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Iz right there along with you in your early years. I checked in the supers their 1st year they ran as the Oklahoma Racing Assn. at the fairgrounds. We ran Tuesdays. Mar-Car still had Gridays. The next year we had Fridays, and I was blessed to be the announcer over the 6-cyl. modifieds. Woody Woodard had the Supets and street stocks. Others may disagree, but I thought Woody and I were as good a duo as there could have been. Woody had more experience, I’d been to a wider number of tracks and could add color. In your reminiencing article you mentioned Lloyd Ruby from Okla. He was actually from Wichita Falls, Texas. He was my 2nd childhood hero. Have had the great pleasure of meeting his daughter within this last year. Jimmy Reece was earlier, and my 1st. Like you, my buddy Phil and I both cheered for Herb Lobdell. I recall the turquiose, later yellow, sedan. He often carried a Mercedes radiator cover, which always looked good. Very big thanks for recalling all my memories of those days. OKC needs to rebuild a dirt track of 3/8ths length. Run races again.

    • November 17, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks for the comment Dan. I can remember much of what you have posted. I never go to see Ruby drive in person but the conversations my Dad had with me and others told me he was a hell-of-a-driver. I remember the Mercedes radiator and because my Dad painted the numbers did the lettering on Herb’s cars I can visually see those nice looking colors and such on his cars. Great memories.

  11. David Keeler
    May 27, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Hey there!
    Herb is my uncle and my twin brother and I spent many night at the fairgrounds watching the great racing and Eastin the dirt in the stands. My favorite night was when he swept every race that night and no one could come close to him.

    • June 18, 2020 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks for the post….Appreciated.

  12. Harry
    June 18, 2020 at 12:33 am

    I remember the races. We lived in Tulsa, but my grandmother lived in OKC. Whenever we went to OKC we always tried to make the stock car races. We always cheered for Melvin Rogers. He was a relative , so it was always nice to cheer for someone you know. Melvin was always very nice to me, even after flipping his car 8 times. Bow was his eyes red. I was born in 1951. Last time I was there was when I was about 14. I loved the thundering sounds of the cars coming around the track.

    • June 18, 2020 at 11:27 am

      Thanks for the message. Rogers was not my favorite (Herb Lobdell #5 was) but his #3 was a great looking machine and I know my Dad liked Melvin a lot. My Dad was on the pit crew of Lobdell and did all the paint lettering and such on the Lobdell cars. He painted the “Shakeys Pizza” on the orange car that was very striking. Rogers golden looking car was very nice. Thanks again.

  13. David Botts
    July 7, 2020 at 5:17 am

    my dad had a racing accident in 1967 or 68 i was 10. i remember his jacket said marcar super modified racing okla city. i know he built motors in a shop in del city owned by a man named max miller.mom had left dad about that time so i was not allowed to contact him until i was 18.dad survived the accident it happened in lawton i was told. dad was in a nursing home until he passed in2000 as a result of the accident.i moved my dad to mcalester where i live the day i was 18.he did well as possible i spent alot of time with him and i was with him when he passed. i have no photos of him or any of his cars.nobody i know has any info about him. do you know anyone who may remember anything?please i need something i can leave for my grandson toknow about. TOM BOTTS MARCAR RACING

    • July 7, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      I am sorry but I do not remember you Dad. But maybe someone will read your post and have some thing for you. Thank you for posting.

  14. Ronny Roberts
    July 18, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    My name is Ronny Roberts, my family raced in all of those races from taft to the fairgrounds until the end, great story i love the memories.

    • July 19, 2020 at 3:07 am

      thanks Ronny…..it was a great time for us all.

  15. Charlie Weeks
    December 29, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Fred, great article on OKC racing and Herb. I’m a friend of Herb’s and would like to visit with you about Herb and preserving his racing history.

    My inspiration came from my last reading ” When The Flag Drops” by Jack Brabham.



    • December 29, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks for reading my stuff. My sister and brother-in-law have more knowledge about Herbie for hte past years than I do. I don’t even know where he is living today. My sister might have some memorabilia of those days as she keeps everything. As for your last reading, I will check it out.

      • March 21, 2021 at 3:15 pm


        My novel Trophy Girl–centering on the 1957 first Grand National for Jalopies, will launch September 30, and because it’s historical fiction (and Frankie Lies–who later became m y stepfather–won it) I’m building a small back section of photos and looking for cover ideas. The picture of Melvin Rodgers and his daughter is fabulous, but I have no contacts for getting permission to use it. Also, I’m still looking for the perfect long shot of Taft Stadium for the cover background. Any chance you can help me out with reaching the Rodgers family and/or historic photos/

        Thanks much,


  16. March 21, 2021 at 3:50 pm


    I’ve written to Shane Carson, whose parents ran MAR CAR, to see if he has any information about Tom Botts for his son David. If he has, Perhaps you can help them connect off line via David’s email. I’ll let you know what I find out.

    Thanks much,


    • March 21, 2021 at 10:18 pm

      I will try.

      • March 22, 2021 at 12:54 pm

        Hi, Fred. I heard from Shane Carson that he has all the photos from Mar-Car racing days and should be able to find materials on Tom Botts. If you send my email address to David Botts, I’ll be happy to connect the two of them.



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