The fairgrounds had a full one-half mile dirt track, which was left over from the old horse racing days along with a cover grandstand, which seated 1,500 people. These same stands mysteriously burned down in 1973. There is a recurring rumor that they were torched but no one wants to talk about who might be the person responsible.
In 1947-48 a group of racers who called themselves the Track Masters, raced roadsters on the half-mile dirt. Some of the racers at that time running there were Joe Bisocky, Les Williams, Gene Farber, Dick Peoples, Tommy Lane, Glen Rocky and Wild Bill Wiltse.
Under Mysliwiecs promotion in the early fifties the cars that were running at Berlin Raceway were primarily 1932 Fords utilizing flathead V8 engines. Some of the racers of that era were Ping Pong Rinner in the Mutual Auto Parts C-1, Jack Cummifords blue # 24, Bill Shermans white #9, Bill Wiltse in the #32 owned by Lefty Terrhar, Gordy VanderLaans #2 owned by first Mike Brouche and then Jerry Rose, Tommy Lanes #4 owned by Erv Finkler. As the 1950s rolled on at Berlin Raceway the stock cars began to evolve into modifieds. The bodies were chopped down for a lover silhouette so as to take some weight off the cars for more speed. The flathead engines were being souped up with racing modifications and began burning alcohol instead of gasoline. The engines, frames, and body changes now came rapidly as speeds dramatically increased.
In 1957 Johnny Roberts brought to Berlin Raceway what would then come to be known as a super modified. Roberts #1 consisted of a cut down Crosley body and a Studebaker V8 overhead valve engine. His new race car was so small that Roberts could barely squeeze into the cockpit.
The fifth-mile dirt track soon became too confining for the new and faster breed of super modifieds and Chet began eyeing the big one-half mile dirt track. Soon, the super modifieds were turned loose on the bigger track. The half-mile track proved so successful that the lighting system was purchased from Bigelow Field when that facility closed up and installed in Berlins half-mile track so that racing could be run after dark.
The names of racers in the super modifieds on Berlins half-mile are legendary in Michigan auto racing. Johnny Roberts, Dick Carter, Bob Knight, Glen Rocky, Nolan Johncock, Johnny Logan, Ralph Baker, Norm Brown, Gordy VanderLaan, Eddie VanderLaan, Jimmy Nelson, Johnny Johnson, and Tommy Lane. Each of these racers have been inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
There are some who will argue that Berlins dirt half-mile was the best dirt track in the Midwest. It was said that if you could do well on that track, you could do well anywhere. The track was always worked to perfection during the week so as to be in excellent condition for race day. It was not the traditional dirt track of its time which was dry and dusty.
In 1961 Audie Swartz, from Indiana, brought the first super modified to Berlin Raceway with a wing attached to its roof. Swartz won the feature on his third attempt. It did not take long for the regular Berlin drivers to realize the benefits of installing a wing on their cars and they all sported wings.
Through the years many nationally famous race drivers visited Berlin Raceway to compete. Four time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, Dick Trickle, and Daytona 500 winner Bobby Allison. Allison would fly in with his own plane and do a barrel roll over the track on his way to the airfield to land. The first time Bobby Allison raced at Berlin the traffic was backed up four miles deep on the expressway according to the state police.
In the early 1960s a new twist in racing was taking place. Auto racing has always been an evolutionary sport and where dirt tracks had been prevalent up till then, the pendulum was now swinging to paved tracks. The Grand Rapids Speedrome which was located less than ten miles from Berlin paved its half-mile track and was running the lighting fast super modifieds to large crowds. Berlin field of cars was decreasing and crowd attendance was dwindling. The handwriting was on the wall and the dirt half-mile was replaced by a 7/16s paved track soon after the 1965 racing season finished. Duane Knoll won the last feature run on the dirt half-mile on September 6, 1965. The following year, Norm Rust of Novi, MI won the first feature on the newly paved track. Some of the super modified drivers who competed on Berlins pavement at that time were Jackie Lindhoudt, Cy Fairchild, Art Bennett, Eddie VanderLaan, Duane Knoll, and Johnny Benson, Sr.
Who at that time would ever guess that as midgets had their day and died, now it was also true of the super modifieds. Auto racing was now going in a different direction again. A new type of race car came on the scene called semi-late model stock cars. It would be difficult to envision this class of car evolving into the present day late models, but they did. Some of the racers who excelled in this class were Randy Sweet, Rich Senneker, Bob Senneker, Jim Adema, and Gail Cobb.
As the seventies came on the scene, the semi-late model stock cars evolved into late models. As the years wore on the late models became more sophisticated, faster and more expensive. John Benson, Sr. dominated the seventies at Berlin Raceway, going on to win the season point championship seven times. During the eighties, drivers such as Fred Campbell, Randy Sweet, Bruce VanderLaan, and Johnny Benson, Jr. came along to win track championships.
When the age of the nineties was reached we found drivers such as Fred Campbell, Joe Bush, Randy Sweet, and Bob Holley as champions. One of the ways to measure the success of Berlin Raceway is to look at the race drivers who got their start at Berlin and were launched their racing careers onto the national level. Norm Brown, Bob Senneker, Butch Miller, Jack Sprague, Mike Garvey, and of course, Johnny Benson, Jr. A complete roster of the workers who staffed Berlin Raceway for fifty-one years would not be feasible however we would be remiss not to mention those who stood out in terms of longevity and quality of service thy performed. Mrs Allen who kept the season points for many years in the early history of the track. Electricians, Ray Kalkovan, George Volkema, Harold "Putt" Popma. Photographers, Lewis Branch, Ray Rogers, Tom Devette. Sound system, Doug Taylor. Announcers, Hank Heald, Big Bud Lindeman, John Shipman, Norm Jelsma. Flagmen, Bob Davis, Ben Crampton, Dick Zimmerman, Jimmy Meyer, Bobby Galloway, Duane Hoffman. Head of maintenance, Bill Mysliwiec. Scorers, Stader Timing, Don and Margie Sollenberger, Chet and Shirley Hall. Pit steward staff, Bob Marz, A.J. Stewhouwer, Forrest House, Russ Dodge, Ross Conran, Bob Marz, Jr., Don and John Zimmerman, Roger Hoerling, John Potts. The three Mysliwiec brothers, Chet who promoted the track till his passing. Chuck in charge of ticket sales and payoff. Dick, public relations.
Currently we find three divisions of stock cars running at Berlin Raceway, late models, super stocks and sportsman cars. Berlin also runs specials such as the American Speed Association, (ASA), Auto Club of America, (ARCA), Auto Value Sprint Cars, and super modifieds from the International Super Modified Association, ( ISMA). All varieties of race cars blister the Berlin Raceway oval so that all racing fans may find their tastes satisfied.
After all of these years we find Berlin Raceway as being the fastest, most competitive short track in the state of Michigan. So enjoy the current racing, hold the past in reverence, and look expectantly towards the future because it will be exciting in whatever form in manifests itself.