Start Your Engines

Louis Brown in race car, circa 1930’s

Louis Brown circa 1930

Urbana had its own Memorial Day dirt track races at the Crystal Lake Park dirt track, also known as the Champaign County Fair Grounds. Louis Brown, of Speedway Garage, Champaign, was one of the Memorial Day racers in 1930. According to articles found in the Daily Illini, Brown raced at various state fairs and other events all over the county. It was reported that his car had a top speed of around 110 miles per hour.

Brown didn’t win the 1930 Memorial Day race. He had motor trouble and was forced to drop out about half way through the race. He continued his racing career becoming one of the best know dirt track drivers in the country. He died on December 6, 1936 after an accident at the time trials of the Chatham Association auto races in Savannah, Georgia. Brown is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign, Illinois.

Some articles I found related to Louis Brown include: “Auto Races Will Feature Holiday Celebration Here,” Daily Illini, July 4, 1929, page 2; “Famous Dirt Track Drivers Will Race on Decoration Day,” Daily Illini, May 25, 1930; “Champaign Driver Will Enter Car In Memorial Day Races at Urbana," Daily Illini, May 27, 1930, page 8; “Art Fenno Cops 15 Mile Feature of Urbana Race,” Daily Illini, June 1, 1930, page 8; ‘Louie Brown Places High in Auto Races,” Urbana Daily Courier, August 15, 1933, page 8; ‘Louis Brown, Racer, Obtains License to Wed,” Daily Illini, June 11, 1936; “Louis Brown Hurt When Racers Tangle At Iowa State Fair,” Daily Illini, June 18, 1936, page 1; “Louis Brown, 28, Fatally Hurt On Race Track,” The News Gazette, Monday, December 7, 1936, page 3.

The Daily Illini and the Urbana Daily Courier articles can be accessed through the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection.   

- Karla, Archives Assistant