We Remember...

Rudy Boetticher

October 13, 2023:  We lost another Pine Brooker with the passing of Rudy Boetticher (Jr).  Rudy was one of a generation of drivers who came to Pine Brook throughout his formative years and began driving relatively late in the track’s existence.  Rudy’s entire family had a passion for racing – his brother, Robert Boetticher, was also a driver, and their father, Rudy Boetticher, Sr., was himself a driver in the early years of the ATQMRA.  Sister Karolee and mother Carolyn were always at the track, Carolyn most often acting as a “den mother” to everyone.  Only 58 years old at the time of his passing, Rudy is gone too soon.

Drew Fornoro

May 1, 2023:  Drew Fornoro was much, much more than a winning driver with the ATQMRA.   Inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 2013 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2017, Drew was the winner of over 100 races and a nine-time champion in the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA).  But more than a racer, Drew had a gregarious and outgoing personality with countless friends, and was a man for whom family always came first.

In recent years Drew had been active with the vintage TQs, and his passing leaves an immense hole in the sport, and in the hearts of all who knew him.

Bruce Kindberg

Bruce Kindberg grew up at Pine Brook, where his dad Carl Kindberg was a longtime car owner and official with the ATQMRA.  Bruce was successful as a driver and owner; and as the proprietor Bruce’s Speed Shop in Parsippany, in partnership with his wife of 43 years.

Bruce won his first feature at Pine Brook on June 16, 1978, finishing just ahead of Lenny Boyd.  He won at least three additional Pine Brook features, in 1979 and two in 1981. In the photo Bruce is enjoying a Pine Brook victory along with his wife and father.

Bruce added his name to the list of winter Indoor TQ winners at Atlantic City Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) in 1981.

The year before, Bruce won a non-ATQMRA TQ race at Autodrome Mont-Laurier in Quebec, Canada; and he also lent his TQ to Tom Bigelow for an indoor event at the Indianapolis Speedrome.

His TQ driving career wound down in the mid-1980s, but Bruce became busier than ever with the speed shop and as a car builder and crew chief. He became active in regional dirt Sprint Car racing, driving successfully in New Jersey Limited Sprint Car events, and providing a ride for then-newcomer Kyle Reinhardt. 

Boisterous and full of life, Bruce was always quick with a quip and often crass, sardonic, inappropriate, and riotously funny.  As naughty as an adolescent boy, he was a joyful adult who cared deeply for Margaret, his partner in business, in racing, and in life.

Jim Rieder

April 2, 2023: From Pat Sullivan we have learned of the passing of Jim Riemenschneider, better known to the racing world as Jim Rieder. Shown here with a rear-engine TQ midget of his construction, Jim was instrumental in the careers of a host of Hall of Fame drivers.

For many, Jim Rieder will always be associated with Pancho Carter and Noki Fornoro. Pancho won the Night Before the 500 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds with Jim in 1972 and his Rieder prepared car took the Hut Hundred. Noki would wax the field in the Night Before in 1985 & 1987. 

When Jim turned his attention to TQs, his Rieder Racers TQs hastened the transformation of the ATQMRA from the conventional and mostly Crosley-powered cars to the exterior-engine, radically offset cars that are clearly the design ancestors to today’s cars.  Rieder TQs won everywhere the ATQMRA raced, as well as with the Can-Am TQ organization and even at the Indianapolis Speedrome.

A member of the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame, Jim won numerous awards including the Ken Hickey award from ARDC. He was the ARDC President in 1971. In 1985 with Noki he captured the ARDC, Super Midget Racing Association and Eastern States midget championships. In 1986 Noki won 23 times and repeated as ARDC champ. All told he won 46 ARDC and 14 USAC midget mains. 

Jim started building cars in the basement of his home New Jersey in 1974. He later moved to Indiana and worked on all forms of open wheel cars and was the Mechanic of the Year in USAC's regional series. In retirement he moved to Henderson, Nevada, although he returned to New Jersey for an ARDC reunion in Warren, New Jersey. 

Smart, talented, capable, personable and a true racing competitor, Jim Rieder had a lasting effect on racing.

Bob Watkins

January 17, 2023:  We learned toady of the passing of Robert William Watkins, who we all knew as Bob, a winning ATQMRA driver in the 1970s and for two years, 1972 and 1973, a very effective President of the organization.  A tough but compassionate leader, the ATQMRA thrived during his tenure.

Shown here in his signature #91 in Atlantic City Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall), it was in A.C. that Bob scored the biggest victory of his racing career.  On March 1, 1975, Bob won the final of four indoor races that winter, claiming what was at that time the largest first-place payout in TQ history, $1000.

A Marine, Bob was a Korean War veteran, and after his service he opened a service station in Levittown, Pennsylvania.  He operated the service station for more than 50 years before retiring to Florida.  Bob was also an avid pilot, owning several airplanes.

In 2007, his son Robert, Jr., claimed the ATQMRA championship, also driving a car bearing the number 91.  Whether ironic or serendipitous, at the time of his passing Bob Watkins was 91 years of age.

Harry Macy

May 24, 2014: For so many people associated with TQ racing over the past 45+ years, the name "Harry" was all that was necessary to identify Harry Macy, the bedrock of TQ racing in the western New York and southern Ontario region.

We lost Harry this week.

Harry Macy was one of the founding fathers of the Can-Am Midget Racing Club in 1966, and from 1966 to 2013 he was immersed in TQ racing.  He was present in Atlantic City this past winter as the owner of, as always, car number 9.

But Harry was much more than a racer.  He was a tireless promoter of his favorite form of racing.  "Tireless" may in fact be a word that was invented to describe Harry Macy.  At an age when many men retire to a rocking chair, and with physical setbacks that would sap the spirit of most people, Harry did not slow down at all.

We are glad to have known him, and to have known him for so many years.

Bob Tidaback

December 18, 2012: The news came today of the passing of Bob Tidaback.  These days he is perhaps remembered best as the father of current ATQMRA racer Mike Tidaback but he should be remembered for his longstanding devotion to TQ racing and, more importantly, for his gentlemanly conduct.

He was a constant presence at Pine Brook and elsewhere long before Mike began to race, and he always had a smile and a warm greeting for everyone.

In racing, where emotions can run high and opinions can be strongly-held, Bob Tidaback was a rare person who approached all matters with an open mind and who treated the viewpoints of others with respect.

Chris Economaki

September 29, 2012:  Around the world -- literally -- today people are noting the passing of Chris Economaki, certainly the most influential person in the history of racing.  There is a bit of irony in that he was not a driver, car owner, engineer or designer, and yet it is entirely correct to describe him as the most infuential person in racing.

Chris Economaki covered racing from the grassroots to the highest levels of the sport, and he treated all forms of racing, including small regional segments such as the ATQMRA, with the same level of respect and professionalism.  It is no stretch to credit Chris Economaki with a good measure of the success enjoyed by the ATQMRA.

Here is the formal obituary released by the family:

Chris Economaki, an Appreciation
by Leo Levine

Whoever you are, wherever you are, take a moment to think of Chris. Make it your personal tribute, however brief, to this grand old man of auto racing journalists because he left us the today at the age of 91, and he left a hole in the motorsports firmament that can never be filled.

Whether or not you have ever read National Speed Sport News before or are a long-time subscriber, whether you realize it or not, a portion of your outlook regarding automobile racing was formed by his weekly column. It was required reading for any serious racing journalist in this country, and his opinions invariably had some influence on all of us. We knew that he knew. He may have been a pedestrian writer, but as a reporter, commentator and interpreter of events, he had no peer.

What is perhaps even more important is that he knew how to evaluate motorsports as a reflection of the social conditions of a particular era. It was a rare talent that would normally require someone with a doctorate in sociology. Chris didn’t have a college degree, but he was more erudite and more knowledgeable about the world around him than most people who have letters after their name.

The use of superlatives is inherently dangerous, as someone always seems to come along who knows of one bigger, or faster, or whatever, but in the case of Chris it is a safe bet to say he was the most knowledgeable racing authority of all time, having spent nearly eight decades involved in – and in love with – a sport that he saw grow from a county fair attraction to a staple of television programming on a worldwide basis.

To look at it one way, his passing was inevitable; all of us shall accomplish this sooner or later. What was important is how he lived, and that was spectacular. He was one of a kind – brash, funny, marvelously articulate, a great story teller, and in his 80’s he could still outwork the younger competition.  He had connections with anyone – and seemingly everyone – involved in it, from the top to the bottom of the racing food chain, from the smallest back-country dirt track to Indianapolis and Daytona.

Chris left behind two daughters, two grandchildren, a host of friends and admirers all over the globe, and left NSSN, of which he was the heart and soul. He was here at the beginning in 1934, when as a 13-year-old he stumbled across its first issue being printed in a storefront in Ridgewood, N.J. He did everything from delivering it, to hawking it at race tracks, to becoming a correspondent, then editor in 1950 and later publisher, part owner, and eventually editor and publisher emeritus, of this country’s premier newspaper devoted strictly to competitive motorsports.

For the breadth of his career, try this: In 1936, while still in high school in Ridgewood, he hitchhiked to Long Island to watch Tazio Nuvolari win the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup. And he was still with us when Dario Franchitti won this year’s Indianapolis 500. He saw his first 500, incidentally, in 1938. 

He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1920 as a child of well-to-do parents whose fortunes were wiped out in the stock market crash of 1929, and who more or less came apart at the seams during the ’30s. As such he grew up on his own during the Depression, and although he went on to become successful financially, there was a side, hidden for the most part, that showed he never forgot the hard times of his youth. When he would leave a room, he would turn out the lights. It was a small thing, but it was indicative.

Economaki spent his teenage years in north Jersey, and after a five-year move to North Carolina  for the sake of his newspaper, yet went back to Bergen County in 2003, leaving day-to-day management of his creation behind. It was time to go home.

He covered races all over the world, but his heart lay with the eastern dirt tracks of his youth – when as he used to point out, before World War II there were only two paved ovals in America of more than a half mile, Indianapolis being one and Thompson, Conn.  -- five-eighths of a mile – the other (who else would know this?)

In the 1930s racing cars were primitive creations, and their ability to win lay more with their drivers than with their designers. As a consequence, although he understood the advance of technology better than 90 percent of his colleagues, he always preferred the two-leaf spring, three-spring, four-spring single seaters of the ’30s, cars that made the driver the determining factor, as opposed to the technical marvels of today that effectively rule out all but one or two entries in almost every event.

He worked with ABC’s Wide World of Sports, he was with CBS and ESPN, and it can be said he was one of the catalysts in bringing television to racing. It is not an oversimplification to say he knew racing and knew how to speak about it, and when the networks began paying attention, he was there.

In one sense, when you think of it, he was everywhere. From being an errand boy at Paterson, New Jersey’s “Gasoline Alley” in the ’30’s, when garages could be rented for one dollar a month, to the Avus in Berlin, when Sergeant Economaki of the 2nd Armored Division took his Jeep around the German circuit in the week after VE Day, to Havana when Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped in 1960, to hundreds of those minor-league dirt ovals.

After all, there was always the chance he might find another Bob Swanson, who was always on his list of the finest drivers he had ever seen. Swanson was a midget driver in the 1930s, who ran wheel to wheel with Nuvolari at the Vanderbilt Cup, and who was killed in a race at Toledo, Ohio in 1940.

But Chris never forgot him.

Chris won’t be forgotten either.

As a young man, Chris Economaki tries on a race car.