Previously Unknown Racer Wins the 1938 Daytona 200, Sparking Controversy

When Ben Campanale pulled up to the starting line on his Harley-Davidson WLDR at the 1938 Daytona 200, he was a relative nobody in the world of motorcycle racing.  That soon changed when he was the first rider to cross the finish line at the end of the race.  Of course a newcomer can't beat 100 seasoned veteran riders without causing a bit of a stir.

During the race, Campanale found himself running neck and neck with Lester Hillbish who raced for Indian.  Whether it was because Campanale was on a Harley or he was just in the way is not known, but it is known that Hillbish forced Campanale off the track.  Somehow, Campanale was able to get back on the track and catch up with Hillbish.  This time he wanted to show Hillbish that he wasn't going to be pushed around and made kicking motions at Hillbish's front tire.  Hillbish got the message and backed off, leaving Campanale open to win the race.

After the race, Hillbish and his crew tried to protest Campanale's win.  Luckily, racing legend Jim Davis was one of the race officials and had seen Hillbish run Campanale off the track.  The protest was denied, but the controversy seemed to continue as is evidenced by this letter from H.A. Devine, the manager of Harley's Parts and Accessories Department.

To show that his 1938 win was not a fluke, Campanale went on to win the Daytona 200 again in 1939.  This time he was on a factory racer given to him by Harley-Davidson.


KNUCKLE BUSTER 1939 said...

Just read this story yesterday morning and loved it. I went to my friend Gary's shop last night for a party and in his collection is Hillbish's Indian Scout racer...what a coincidence!