Minard H. “Miny” Waln, was known in the short-track racing world as the "Mighty Mite.” Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Nov. 20, 1901, he spent most of his boyhood at the family country estate, hunting, fishing and hiking.
Waln’s racing career began in 1918 at the age of 16.
"I rode a Pope at Cedar Rapids my first race," he said. "The favorite was a scrappy guy named Peanuts Spurgeon, of Marion, Iowa. He was taking bets he would lap me. I chased him down to the finish line and almost nosed him out."
In his first year of racing, Waln won the Iowa State Championship.
He went to Los Angeles, Calif., in 1924 and raced on the 5/8 mile Ascot track along with other venues such as the Beverly Hills mile board track, and tracks at Long Beach, Emeryville and San Diego.
Waln was the first to introduce the Comerford JAP machine into the U.S. Over the course of his career he rode a variety or motorcycles, including Indian, Douglas, Crocker and Harley-Davidson machines.
The biggest crowd he ever appeared before was in 1930 in Syracuse, N.Y., where 90,000 fans saw him win. At that time, the Syracuse event was central to bike racing. The major factory teams were there: men like Jim Davis, Joe Petrali, Freddie Ludlow and Andy Hader. Waln had also won the Syracuse race in 1929.
In 1931 only fellow Hall of Famer Sprouts Elder could challenge Waln on the track. They ran neck-and-neck for a while before Waln took the lead. Elder retired and for a couple of years Waln ruled the tracks, winning two national titles at the Richmond Virginia Decoration Day race meet.
Waln continued to race in California, setting records and thrilling speedway fans there. He held records at nearly every track on the western circuit. Among his records were the Oakland, 4-lap handicap record; the Fresno 4-lap scratch; the Gilmore Stadium 4-lap handicap; the Atlantic Stadium 2-lap; the San Diego 1-lap title, and the Bakersfield 5-mile record.
Waln retired from racing in 1938 and went work for Lockheed, where he was in charge of a hydraulic crew and later worked as a test mechanic. In the late 1930s Waln built midget cars and earned prize money with Louie Foy behind the wheel of the Dale Drake Special.
Waln held 15 national title medals and was a three-time National Champion from 1930-32. Sprouts Elder’s former mechanic Joe Walker, who watched Waln race for years, observed, “Miny was one of the all-time greats. He was such a mild mannered, soft-spoken gentleman, nobody would suspect he was such a tiger in action and tough enough to take such a battering over two decades and quit in one piece.”
In his later years, Waln purchased some land in a Hemet, Calif., east of Los Angeles. He raised two daughters and remained close to them and his grandchildren. He frequented the local tracks and shared in many reunions, seeing his old friends and fellow racers at tracks such as the Costa Mesa Speedway.
Throughout Waln’s career his wife Gwynie was ever-present at the races. She was immensely popular with the motorcycle fraternity. The great tragedy of Waln’s life was when Gwynie, his inseparable partner of 37 years, succumbed to a brain tumor in 1963. Minard “Miny” Waln died in 1991.
Waln was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in 1998.