Elgin Road Races
Image Courtesy of Karen Kruse
The marker is on the far west side of Elgin on the southeast corner of the junction of Nesler Road and US 20. It is on the property of The National Bank, Elgin, 3151 US 20.
The Elgin Area Historical Society and The Illinois State Historical Society
This marker is along the "south leg" of the Elgin road races. Beginning in 1910, many leading drivers and mechanics competed here in grueling tests of speed and endurance that contributed to the development of the modern automobile.
Manufacturers were attracted to these races because the course had no cross roads, steep hills, railroad tracks, or population centers to reduce the car's speed. The race's success was enhanced by proximity to Chicago and the cooperation of area farmers.
The 8-1/2 mile route consisted of oil-soaked dirt and gravel roads. From here, the course extended east onto Larkin Avenue, north on McLean Boulevard, west on Highland Avenue, south on Coombs Road, then east again on Galena Road - now route 20.
The first entries were factory stock models with the fenders and windshields removed. Beginning in 1911, race cars designed for the Indianapolis 500 were allowed to compete.Thousands of spectators attended each year as racing continued from 1911 through 1915. After being suspended during World War I, the contests resumed in 1919 and 1920 - a period when cars took on a more streamlined appearance.
The Elgin Races lost favor as motorists and farmers objected to road closures. For safety reasons, open road courses like these were replaced by closed track racing. After a revival in 1933 to coincide with the Chicago World's Fair, the Elgin Road races passed into automotive history.
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