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The Corona Road Races

History of the 1913, 1914 and 1916 Grand Boulevard Speedway of Corona, California

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APRIL 3, 2024 • 6PM - 7:30PM


Frances Aldama Martinez Community Room


Corona Heritage Park presents: an historic presentation and discussion about the famous Grand Boulevard Races of our very own Circle City. Learn Corona's Road Race History. A free presentation and light refreshments. 

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Grand Blvd: Corona's First Road Race

Following the invention of the automobile, there was great interest in testing its speed. The notion of turning the circular Grand Boulevard into a racecourse took hold. The Corona Automobile Club was formed to promote the acceptance of the idea by the city Trustees, the American Auto Association, and the local residents. 

The date for Corona’s first road race was set for September 9, 1913. People were lined up at each of the cities four entrances long before the race began. Spectator were given an admittance badge after paying the 50 cent fee. Driver’s in attendance were Earl Cooper, Barney Oldfield, Felix Magone, Ralph de Palma, “Terrible Teddy Tetxlaff, Tony Jeannete and others.  

The first race was for “light cars, included 37 laps, and the prize was a purse of $70. The second race combined the “medium” and “free-for-all” car classes. Medium car drivers completed 91 total laps for a $3000 purse prize. Drivers in the free-for-all class continued  another 19 laps to win the grand prize of $5,250. 

The Winners & Public Response 

Ed Waterman won the race in the 37th lap clocked at one hour, thirty-seven minutes and twelve seconds, breaking the world record at the time. Earl Cooper won both segments of the race. He drove the 309.89-mile race in four hours, two minutes and thirty-eight seconds – averaging better than 74 miles per hour.

In spite of three wrecks and five injuries along the oiled dirt track, Corona’ first road race was deemed a huge success. Crowd estimates ranged from 65,000 to 100,000 people. Almost immediately, plans were underway for another race.

Crowd at Corona Road Race Starting Line, 1913.

Crowd at Corona Road Race, 1913. Courtesy Marie Eder and Corona Public Library: The WD Addison Heritage Room – Corona Road Race Collection. RAC.GRA.055.


Corona's Second Road Race

The second Corona road race was set for Thursday, November 16, 1914. The directors of the Corona Racing Association decided to have only one 300-mile “Free-for-all” race that day with a purse of $12,000. First prize was $4,000 and the remainder of the purse would be awarded to the 2nd through 6th place winners. 


As in the previous year, the 1914 race attracted the attention of many famous race car drivers:  Eddie Pullen, Huntley Gofdon, Bob Burman, Eddie Rickenbacker, Barney Oldfield, Eddie O’Donnel, and Ralph DePalma were just some of the drivers who signed on. In all, there were 19 starters but because of blown tires, engine trouble or other mishaps, only seven cars finished the race.


The Winners & Public Response 

Eddie Pullen flashed across the finish line in three hours, twenty-six minutes and two seconds to win the race. He also set a new world record with an average speed of 87.76 mph. Thanks to the improved track and extra safety measures, there were no major injuries to either drivers or fans.


Grand Boulevard "Speedway"

In 1915, the American Auto Association ruled that Grand Boulevard was not a road, but was a speedway. This meant that the Association had to abide by speedway rules. They also had to budget for increased costs which included larger prizes.


However, flooding that Spring caused washed out roads unable to be repaired in time for the races. Considering these two issues, the Association decided to abandon plans for a 1915 race and wait until 1916. 


Driver and Mechanic Lineup, 1914. Photograph by HE Roberts. CHP – Corona Road Race Collection.


Corona's Final Road Race

The Circle City was ready to reinstate itself as the “Indianapolis of the West.” The week prior to the race consisted of speed trials for potential drivers; any car that couldn't hit and roughly average a speed of 100mph was considered a non-contender. 


On the day of the race, April 8, 1916, twelve cars/drivers were contenders. Start time was 1pm. Not long after the start, cars began to drop out of the race due to exploding tires from the heat. 

Tragedy and Race Results 

With only 12 laps remaining, Bob Burman lost control of his Peugeot and slammed into the crowd. One of the guards hired to watch the racecourse, William Speer, was killed instantly. Burman later died at Riverside County Hospital. His mechanic, Erick Schroeder, died at the hospital in the Corona City Hall. At least five spectators suffered serious injuries. 


The race was won by Eddie O’ Donnel in slightly less than three and half hours. His average speed was 87.5 mph.


The End of an Era

The tragedy of Burman’s crash was a major factor in Corona’s decision to stop auto racing. Overall, the race was a disappointment – no world records had been set, crowds were smaller than expected, and many of the fast cars had dropped out early. Financially, the race was a dismal failure. Thus road racing in Corona came to an end. It is recalled, however, as part of the city’s glorious past.


Driver and Mechanic Lineup, 1916. Photograph by GL Prince. CHP – Corona Road Race Collection. AN HP055-61.

Corona Road Race, driver mechanic lineup, 1916

Driver and Mechanic Lineup, 1916. Courtesy Corona Public Library: The WD Addison Heritage Room – Corona Road Race Collection. RAC.GRA.186a.

Museum Exhibit

On display at Heritage Park Museum Year-round

At the Corona Heritage Museum, we have an evergreen exhibit for the Corona Road Races of 1913, 1914, 1916. On view, are photographs from the races, and a life-size panoramic image of the starting line.

More Resources

Learn more about Corona Road Races Online:

  1. A Short Film, Corona Public Library via Internet Archive 

  2. A Brief History, City of Corona

  3. Corona Road Race photographs, Corona Public Library – Heritage Online

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