Cycle News

Cycle News 2022 Issue 09 March 1

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 124 of 133

E d "Iron Man" Kretz was undoubtedly the great- est motorcycle racer of his day and the first major star of AMA Class C racing. Among his considerable accomplishments were victories at nearly all of the major national events of the late 1930s and 1940s, including the Savannah 200-mile road race, the inaugural Daytona 200 in 1937, the Langhorne 100 Mile, and the Laconia Classic. Only one major race eluded Kretz over the years—the Springfield Mile. Kretz was considered in such high regard that many of the old-time racers from the teens and '20s called Kretz the best they'd ever seen, a senti- ment many of Kretz's contempo- raries also shared. Kretz was born September 24, 1911, in San Diego. Unlike many top motorcycle racers who often began riding at a young age, Kretz didn't start riding until he was 20. According to his son Ed Jr., it was out of necessity. In the middle of the Depression, a motorcycle was the only form of transportation that Kretz Sr. could afford. Ed Jr. said he remem- bered times when he, his mom and dad all loaded onto their well-worn Harley-Davidson to go somewhere. Kretz was driving a truck trans- porting produce from the farms of the Imperial Valley to Los Ange- les when he began attending Southern California motorcycle field meets as a spectator. He entered some races, and despite his inferior equipment, he quickly became one of the area's top riders. Kretz stood at 5-foot-8 but was a muscular 185 pounds. He used his strength to ride in a style that was described by many as bullying his bike around the track. One fellow competitor named Bill Cummings said that Kretz, "...didn't ride the corners, he straightened them out." Floyd Clymer, who was promot- ing many of the races in which Kretz competed, saw Kretz's raw talent and got him a new Indian to race. With the new machine, Kretz began winning Southern California races on a regular basis. Kretz's big breakthrough win came at the 1936 200- mile road-race National Championship in Savan- nah, Georgia, where he beat the best riders from across the nation. Kretz was suddenly one of the best-known racers in the country. He was given a contract with Indian that paid him $200 per month (a princely sum during the Depression), as well as travel and expense money. The ride that Kretz will forever be remembered for was his vic- tory in the inaugural Daytona 200 in 1937. Even in its first year, the Daytona 200 was one of the most important races on the calendar. It would go on to become the single most important motorcycle race in America, and Kretz's win at the very first race earned him a significant place in the history of the sport. Kretz fell twice at Daytona that year coming out of the south turn, but both times he was able to pick up his Indian and get back on the gas. By the time starter Jim Davis waved the checkered flag, Kretz had lapped the entire 86-rider field. It was one of the most dominating performances in CN III ARCHIVES P124 Iron Man Kretz talent and got him a new winning Southern California win came at the 1936 200- across the nation. Kretz was suddenly one of the country. He was given a contract with Indian that (a princely sum during the travel and expense money. BY LARRY LAWRENCE Ed "Iron Man" Kretz after winning the first Daytona 200 in 1937.

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