San Jose — THE Mile

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courtesy Dain Gingerelli Collection

From 1946 through 1953 a single race, the Springfield Mile, decided who would be crowned the AMA’s seasonal champion. Winning Springfield also determined who wore the coveted Number One plate the following year.

Then, in 1954, the AMA changed the National Championship format into a season-long series of points-paying races. Competition took place on dirt tracks including Shorttrack, Half-Mile and Mile ovals, plus TT (dirt steeple chase) and Road Races on pavement. Each event paid points toward the seasonal championship.

The first series champion was Joe Leonard who topped the field with seven race wins (of 18 events) for 1954. Ironically, the Springfield Mile was among his wins.

Regardless of who won what and where, the racing remained as exciting as before, but it was the Mile races in particular that offered the most thrills and chills, and for good reason. Mile racetracks’ two long straightaways, connected at both ends by seemingly endless sweeping left-hand turns, translated to close racing, a reality that remains to this day.

Among the Mile races that enthusiasts favored most was the San Jose Mile, run at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds in San Jose, California, from 1957 through 1993 (some years the Mile was joined by a companion points-paying race at one of the fairground’s two smaller tracks, the Half-Mile and Shorttrack ovals).

  • Updated on Aug 11, 2023
  • Originally Published on Aug 5, 2023
Tagged with: AMA, Dain Gingerelli, Parting Shots, San Jose, track racing
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