Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wally & Ray

Joe Macfarlan of 3WidesPictureVault.com grabbed this shot of Ray Evernham (right) pointing out a detail on his Modified to Wally Dallenbach, Senior (left) and Wally Dallenbach, Junior (center) at Wall Stadium's Turkey Derby this past Saturday.

What does this have to do with the ATQMRA? Plenty.

Ray Evernham, of course, achieved national fame as a championship-winning crew chief for Jeff Gordon in NASCAR, and then shepherded the re-introduction of the Dodge brand to NASCAR racing. But as most people in our region know, Evernham got his start in racing in the stock cars at Wall Stadium.

Wally Dallenbach, Sr., got his start on the short tracks of New Jersey before making it to the Indy 500, where he competed on 13 occasions with a best finish of fourth in both 1976 and 1977. Before Indy, Dallenbach raced not only at Wall Stadium but at long-gone tracks such as Old Bridge, and he raced both stock cars and open-cockpit cars. After retiring from competition, the senior Dallenbach forged a solid reputation as the Chief Steward for the Indy cars under the CART banner.

But what these two gentlemen also have in common is that they raced with the ATQMRA, Dallenbach in the early 1960s and Evernham in the late 1980s.

Both men were on hand at Wall Stadium for the unveiling of the restored XL-1 Modified, which Evernham resuscitated because of the memories he had of watching Dallenbach and others race the car. It was quite an event, with a huge throng gathered around, and once the car was revealed Dallenbach couldn’t take his eyes off it. We saw him more than once simply touch the car with his fingers, as if to confirm that it was really there.

The photo below is beautifully evocative, as Dallenbach, wearing his signature hat, took some slow laps around Wall Stadium in the restored car.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Victorious Vintage Vehicle

Last year, the oldest driver in the field won the Turkey Derby. This year, it was the oldest car.

In this photo, Greg and Kyle McGowan flank Joe Payne, Jr., after Joe won Saturday’s ATQMRA Turkey Derby feature at Wall Stadium... driving a car that is old enough to be Vintage Club eligible!

Alan Mollot’s #51 was built in 1981, and a car needs to be 30 years old to be eligible to participate with the Vintage Club. Trouble is, a car also needs to be retired from active competition to be eligible to participate with the Vintage Club, and as long as this car continues to win what motivation does Alan have to retire it?

I am sure that there are plenty of other racers who wish Alan would retire the car... so that they could have a better chance at winning!

By the way, Joe Payne came verrrry close to winning the main event for the Dirt-style modifieds later in the afternoon, finishing a hard-fought second in a ride he picked up for the day.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wall Weekend

But with the ATQMRA's annual appearance at Wall Stadium's "Turkey Derby" upon us, it seemed appropriate to post this Ace Lane photo from last year's event.  The Turkey Derby is an ATQMRA tradition that goes back 35 years.

While for many years the TQs were relegated to a supporting role on Friday, since Cliff Krause has taken over the management of the speedway the ATQMRA has enjoyed a starring role on Saturday, in the sunshine before an overflow crowd.  Mr Krause loves the speed and the competitiveness of the TQs, and he has continued and enhanced the ATQMRA's long history at the track.  The ATQMRA has raced every year at Wall Stadium for well over 50 years!

If, however, you think that there is not enough "Vintage" in this photo, just remember that the 2011 race pictured was won by the oldest driver in the field.  Robin Johnston, who himself dates back to the mid-1950s, bested all the young 'uns last year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Full House

Jim Smith sent along this photo from the awards banquet this past Sunday, and as you can see, combining the banquets of the contemporary ATQMRA and the Vintage Club resulted in a full house!

It was cool too, to acknowledge the pioneers of TQ racing while at the same time honoring the young drivers of today.  Ryan Tidman repeated as ATQMRA champion for 2012, driving a car owned by Lenny and Donna Boyd.  Lenny's father, was a top car owner in the ATQMRA decades ago, and Lenny himself is a past TQ and Midget champion.

Jim Hempfill, who owns the restored car that was campaigned by Lenny's father, was on hand, making another connection between the past and the present.

A.J. Fuge was named the 2012 Rookie of the Year, in the presence of retired greats such as Hank Rogers, Jr., and Jim Maguire.  Mike Casario received the Vintage Club's Norm Smizer Preservation Award, with Norm's son, Ed Smizer, making the presentation.

There is a long unbroken line between the ATQMRA of a half-century ago and the ATQMRA of today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

An Old Friend Drops By

Championship-winning driver Nick Fornoro, Jr. – "Noki" to all his friends – was able to slip in to the ATQMRA banquet this Sunday almost unnoticed, thanks this disguise: Bald head, and silver facial hair that could earn him a spot with ZZ Top.

Despite not being recognized right away by many who have known him for years, Noki was warmly greeted, as was his son, Lanson. Lanson has followed in the family tradition, racing midgets, primarily with Northeastern Midget Association. Lanson’s father is a nationally-known midget racing champion, and his grandfather was as well.

Our thanks to another father & son combination, Ace Lane and John-John Lane, for the photo.

And speaking of Ace Lane, whose birthday fell on the day of the banquet and for whom a large birthday cake was prepared, he and John-John also provided us with this photo of all the award recipients on this day, both with the Vintage Club and the modern ATQMRA:

And here, ATQMRA President Mike Roselli, left, and Vintage Club President Gary Mondschein share a light moment.

It was an excellent banquet – nice place, good food, and great company.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Riddle is Solved (Mostly)

A few weeks ago we posted this photo, identifying it as containing a puzzle.

The puzzle in our original post concerned the silver car. It was brand-new on that October afternoon at Pine Brook in 1967 when the photo was taken, and it was unpainted, with a masking-tape "X" for a number. At best it made only a limited number of laps in warmups and it did not race. Most significantly, and why we were interested all these years later, it was front wheel drive.

We asked, who built it? Who owned it? Who was the driver on this day? What became of it?

Well, Vintage Division member Ben Trimble remembers the car well, and has identified it as having been built by Jon Fick, the car owner for who Trimble drove for many years and for whom Trimble built engines. Trimble remembers that the front wheel drive components were taken from a foreign car of some sort.  Trimble remembers the car making only a few laps, but he does not recall who was driving it on this day – it was not himself.

We have the vaguest recollection that Joe Kidd may have been in it that day.

He remembers the story behind the car having never appeared again. Apparently, the car was somewhat controversial within the ranks of the ATQMRA. Jon Fick had been inspired by the front wheel drive Indy cars and perhaps also by the recent introduction of General Motors’ Oldsmobile Toronado, but the ATQMRA was not prepared to embrace the concept. There was talk of banning the car. Jon Fick, annoyed by this, took the car home, pushed it into the back of the shop, and that was that.

Years later, the car changed hands, but it still never again appeared on-track. It’s final fate, after parts had been harvested from it, was burial!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Pioneer

Shown in his TQ Midget more than 50 years ago is Norm Smizer, one of the founding fathers of the ATQMRA and the organization’s first president. We are posting this picture this week because Smizer will be remembered at the ATQMRA banquet this Sunday, November 18.

At the banquet the Vintage Club will be presenting the Norm Smizer Preservation Award. The award will be presented to an individual who by his efforts and actions exemplified the Vintage Club’s goals of documenting, preserving, and displaying the history of TQ Midget racing. The award is named in memory of Norm Smizer in recognition of Smizer’s dedication, his craftsmanship, and his inspiring personal story.

In addition to being a driver, Smizer was a skilled craftsman and a talented engine builder. When he was no longer driving, he built engines for others, including four-time ATQMRA champion Doug Craig. But it is nothing short of inspirational to realize that the greatest of Smizer’s achievements as a engine builder came following the loss of his eyesight due to complications from cataract surgery in 1967. Terming his blindness as no more than "an inconvenience," Smizer continuing building engines – engines which won countless races and numerous championships.

But Norm Smizer will not be the only ATQMRA pioneer whom we recall at the banquet. The Vintage Club will also be presenting the Dick Marlow Participation Award, named in memory of the founder of Pine Brook Stadium and the ATQMRA’s first full-time traveling announcer. This award will be presented to teams who demonstrated outstanding participation and support of Vintage Club events during 2012.

Two additional awards are named in honor of individuals who are still very much with us. The Jim English Sportsmanship Award, named in honor of one of the finest gentlemen you’ll meet, will be presented to an individual who exemplifies amiability, a spirit of camaraderie and a positive attitude towards the Vintage Club and it's members.

The Robert Noll Service Appreciation Award is named in honor of auto racing's most dignified and dedicated supporter, and it will be presented to an individual whose efforts exceeded expectations for the betterment of the Vintage Club.

The banquet is this Sunday, November 18.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Smith Crosley

This car should be considered to be the first vintage TQ.

It’s not the oldest car, but to our knowledge it is the first ATQMRA car to be restored following its retirement from active competition. It has appeared in the restored condition shown in this photo for well over 20 years.

The "Smith Crosley," as lettered on the hood, was campaigned by New Jersey-based owner Charlie Smith, with a variety of top drivers at the wheel through the years. It raced, and won, both with a roll bar as seen here, and with a roll cage fitted when cages became mandatory.

When it was retired from the track it was acquired by Pennsylvanian Jay Young, who restored it to the configuration shown and who still owns the car today. Young has participated with the car in Vintage Club events, but long prior to the formation of the Vintage Club in 2011 Young displayed the car as part of many vintage racing activities.

Back when the annual midwinter "Motorsports" show was still being conducted at the Valley Forge Convention Center, prior to outgrowing that facility, this restored car was part of a "then and now" display in the ATQMRA booth – that’s how long this car has been a restored classic.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fort Dix

We are finally back with a new old photo, delayed due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

This photo is from a race track not far from the hard-hit areas along the Jersey shore: Fort Dix Speedway, which today is a dirt track named New Egypt Speedway but which was a paved track when this photo was taken in the late 1960s. The track is on Route 539 in Ocean County, not quite 20 miles inland from the storm’s oceanfront devastation.

In the photo are Bobby Courtwright, in the Ted Seiz Crosley #56, and Ben Trimble, in the Jon Fick Triumph #11. The shot is turn one at Fort Dix, on the original – and very abrasive – paved surface before the track was re-paved and enlarged in the early 1970s.

Bobby Courtwright has been gone for many years now, but Ben Trimble is alive and well at age 85, and is an active participant with the Vintage Club, as is the #11.