Today I drove my sick self to Salina and back to drop off some parts at the galvanizer. On my way back I saw a sign that said “Kansas Auto Racing Museum” and my curiosity got the better of me. It was... interesting.
The Kansas Auto Racing Museum is located off of highway I-70 in Chapman, Kansas, a booming metropolis with a population 1,393 and the hometown of astronaut Joe Henry Engle.
But before we get into the museum itself let me clarify something. The name “Kansas Auto Racing Museum” is rather misleading. The company/team is called Kansas Auto Racing (or Kansas Racing Products, it changed throughout the place) and this is their “museum”.
Walking up to the museum, I started to notice some things, but it wasn’t until I opened the door that my fears were confirmed.
They love Jesus… A LOT.
Too late, I’m committed, and the receptionist/owner’s wife had already seen me. She greeted me and after a short conversation told me that admission was $5. Eh, whatever, could be worse. She walked ahead of me down a short hallway and told me the tour was, unsurprisingly, self guided but she needed to turn on the T.V.s.
The first thing I saw to my right was an Ardun headed Ford V8 90 with a three deuce manifold. Neat, that’s a fairly rare combination and a neat piece of hot rod history (later found out it was a replica)
Next to that was a Pontiac Super Duty 4 cylinder race motor. Again, pretty neat, it’s an oddball motor that they still use to this day in dirt track racing. This is a series II motor designed and built by KRP, apparently they own the molds to make the motor, not GM.
I milled around a bit realizing there wasn’t much to look at that didn’t require a ton of reading. There are hundreds of framed newspaper clippings in the place, although I quickly became aware that about 50% of them were evangelical stuff, not racing. The cars on display were primarily old dirt cars. As you might imagine, they are not in great shape or particularly interesting.
I do always find it fascinating to stand next to sprint cars, they are way bigger in person than they look in video.
The seating position is also surprisingly upright.
The atmosphere of the place was strange. I was alone, in a room where there were 5 or 6 tube TVs w/VCRs running simultaneously. Most noticeably one playing a 1990’s ad for Hobby Lobby on loop while a speaker somewhere else played Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark”. Strange.
Zoom and enhance!
Somebody else’s name is clearly covered by a piece of tape... WTF?
After 4 or 5 laps around the place I heard someone walking behind me, who turned out to be the owner. The experience got much better at this point. We walked around and he pointed out different things throughout the museum. He was a super nice guy, sharing stories about building engines for the Goodies Runoff and ARCA series back in the day, racing against Rusty Wallace, Kenny Schrader, and beating 16 year old Kurt Busch in an ARCA truck (which was a thing apparently). We talked about the Super Duty motors which they build parts for, and how he modified the original motor to accept the small-block chevy bellhousing pattern thus creating the series II.
There was also this neat 3/4 midget he didn’t talk about.
Then things got weird again, because he claims to have the first NASCAR trophy & the first NHRA trophy… Yeah, both of ‘em. The NHRA trophy was on display, unfortunately I didn’t take a good picture because he was talking to me. A “replica” of the first NASCAR trophy was also on display, because, according to him they “can’t just leave that sitting out”. I use the word replica pretty generously, as it looked like a very generic thing from a bad trophy shop. I didn’t ask if I could see the real one as he was getting pretty cagey and rambling about how the NASCAR Hall of Fame calls him every 3 weeks asking to borrow the trophy.
Overall, it was an interesting fever dream of an experience, somewhat literally as I think I’m running a fever.
Bonus Trucks at Fort Riley!