Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Garden Party

With the TQs making their first appearance in Baltimore’s First Mariner Arena this weekend, we decided to post an indoor racing photo from 40 years ago. This photo features two of the best to ever turn a wheel, and it was taken in what is likely the most famous indoor arena in the world.

The drivers are Johnny Coy, in #18, and Tony Romit, alongside in the #02. The arena is New York City’s Madison Square Garden, where the ATQMRA raced once – and only once – in 1972.

Coy was a multi-time champion in the American Racing Drivers Club by this time and later won two ATQMRA championships as well.  Romit was a top driver in both midgets and sprints before settling on TQs because his wife feared the dangers of the bigger cars. Romit won countless races in the late 1960s and the early 1970s driving the car in which he is pictured, and he too is credited with a pair of ATQMRA championships.

The Madison Square Garden race was an interesting affair. The participants were determined by time trials that took place at Pine Brook several weeks beforehand. The track was tiny and slick – and made more slick when the crew at the Garden turned on the ice-making equipment before the races were completed, so as to be ready to make ice for the next night’s hockey game. The race track was on the fifth floor of the building as compared with street level, and the Mountain Garage Jeep got a workout pushing race cars up the spiral ramp that led from the street to the arena floor.  Driver Joe Lacy and official Jim Yates had a confrontation that had the Garden staffers thinking that they might have to break out the boxing ring.

Jack Duffy, at the wheel of the Zrinski "Six Bits," won the main event.

The race made the evening television newscasts in New York and was on the back page of the New York Daily News, but New York was not and is not a racing town, and the spectator count was not enough to justify a return engagement.