CB Harris was heartbroken when the final Lake Garnett Grand Prix race under the auspices of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) took place in 1972.
From 1959 to 1972, the 2.8-mile road course at Lake Garnett brought in cars from all of the major automakers including Ferrari, Maserati, Shelby, Chevrolet and Austin-Healey.
“I fell in love with foreign cars about the same time,” Harris said.
Crowds of 60,000 to 70,000 attended some of the races during the 1960s, and in 1963, Lake Garnett Grand Prix hit a peak attendance record of an estimated 75,000 people. The population of Garnett, Kan., which is about 25 miles south of Ottawa, was 3,200.
The track’s popularity played a role in why the races ended. Because of the difficulty of handling such a large crowd and safety concerns, the race ended in 1972.
Those were fond days for Harris.
“I always wished they could do something and get something going out there again,” Harris said.
When Harris retired, he had time to take action. Because of the efforts of Harris, his wife, Cheryl, eight car clubs in and around Kansas City, 30 to 40 volunteers and the city of Garnett, the Second Annual Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival will take place Oct. 10 and 11.
Unlike the race days of the 1960s at the Lake Garnett road course, this is not a race.
“We don’t compete with each other,” said Denny Hale, treasurer and registration chairman for the Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival. “We go out on the track and drive at speed. We let each other pass each other. We have fun on the track.
“We have five different groups out there. They are by speed. We want people to go approximately the same speed on the track so nobody is running over anybody.
The first class starts off at 60 miles per hour or less. The next class is 80, then 100 and finally 120. The fifth group is for cars that are not street legal.
“They are track cars,” Hale said. “They go out there and make a lot of noise and have a lot of fun.”
Hale figures about 80 percent of the participants are from the Kansas City area. But it has also attracted cars from as far away as California, Harris said.
“It has been successful,” Harris said. “We are seeing more exotic cars. It means a lot, but the thing that has been most gratifying for my wife and I is to see the smiles on these guys’ faces. When they get out of their cars, they are grinning from ear to ear. They obviously have enjoyed the track and the day.”
Even though this is the Second Annual Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival, it is actually the third year. The first year, 2013, it was Harris and his wife, plus the help of eight car clubs that put the event on.
“Most people in Garnett witnessed the actual races or heard about them,” Harris said. “They are very receptive of supporting this car event.”
They were expecting 30 cars, but 69 participated in the event.
“It was more than twice than we expected,” Harris said.
That is when Harris and his wife decided to take this event to another level and that was how the Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival was born as an organization with a committee.
“We have a wonderful relationship with the city of Garnett,” Hale said. “We went to them and asked, ‘What will you need to have the park shut down so we can run our cars around the track for a day?’ Their answer was, ‘What can we do for you?’ They helped us out any way possible.”
The first official Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival had 169 registered cars, of which 116 were on the track and the rest were show only.
The history of the Lake Garnett road course is a big part of the attraction. The 2.8-mile road course is part of the North Lake Park in Garnett and was redone in 2007 with a new track surface and other amenities.
“When Carroll Shelby first came out with the Cobra in 1962, the first place he brought the Cobra to compete with Corvettes was at Lake Garnett,” Hale said. “There is a lot of history at this track, and the track is the same now as it was then.”
Last year’s show was so successful that this year it is a two-day event.
“Everybody complained that there was so much to do and they didn’t have time to do it all,” Hale said.
“This year we have 205 cars registered. We do limit the number of cars on the track at one time for safety. We filled up all the classes and had to shut off registration a couple of weeks ago.”
The Lake Garnett Grand Prix Revival has turned out better than Harris imagined. He is looking forward to this year’s event.
“I am very excited,” Harris said. “There are some cars coming that I haven’t seen before.”
Do you have a car cruise or a car show you would like to see featured in At The Show? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com