Introduction and Background
Flemington Fair Speedway Memories
I was born in Freeport, NY on Long Island. My fathers hobby was racing photography. He knew Ace Lane and Ace Lane Jr. As a child, the speedways that I most frequently attended were Freeport and Islip Speedways on Long Island. I also saw sprint cars race at the old West Hampton, NY speedway in the days when there were no roll cages or wings (and no corporate sponsors!). The first time I ever went to the Flemington Fair Speedway was Labor Day 1964 to see the URC sprint car race. I was seven years old. My dad was in the infield taking pictures and 8mm movies. I still have the movies including footage that he took from the push truck. I immediately fell in love with the track and asked my dad when we could come back. Unfortunately, I had to wait six more years to return to Flemington. My dad was transferred out of New York to Pennsylvania in March 1970 and we settled in Bucks County. What was one of the first things we did after we moved? We went to Flemington to see a race!
Overall Memories Of Flemington Fair Speedway
- The drive to the speedway. We would drive over the Scudders Falls Bridge and take Route 579 to Route 31 and then to the speedway. It was (and still is) a pleasing, picturesque drive through woods, farms, rolling fields and hills, and a few historical sites. The anticipation would build as we would get closer to the speedway and we would speculate about the evenings race activities. Who would win the features? How bad would the flips be? Would someone be debuting a new car? How many invaders from other tracks would show up?
- During the drive to the speedway, we would frequently pass racecars being hauled to the speedway. It always added to the mounting anticipation of the nights racing activities.
- Passing by Howards Kart Shop a few blocks before the speedway on Route 31 and seeing the #9c Falcon or Mustang of Howie Cronce raring to go for the nights activities. I really loved all of Cronces cars. His orginal Falcon bodied car which he debuted in 1972 as a sportsman car (remember that it was originally yellow!), painted it in his trademark black and silver color scheme when he made his modified debut in 1973 and ran through the 1974 season. His beautiful and sleek looking John Burnett built Mustangs that he ran in the mid to late 1970s.
- The grandstands. I sat in two different sections in the 20 years I attended races at Flemington. From 1970 to 1981, I sat with my father between the first and second turns. He wanted to sit there because there was always a lot of action there, between the cars broadsliding to pass one another, the slingshot moves through the second turn, and all of the flips that took place there. In the 1970s, you knew you were running well at Flemington if the right rear tire touched the old wooden guard rail as you slid out of the first turn into the short chute between turns 1 and 2. I remember seeing splinters in the right rear tires of many cars. However, you had to be careful with this technique because if you didnt get it right, you wound up climbing the wall and going for a hell of a ride. There were some nights when six, seven, eight flips would occur between the first and second turns. Unbelievable. You always were full of dust and dirt after a race. But you didnt mind because you were so close to the action. After my father died in 1981, I couldnt sit there any more. Too many memories. I moved to the main grandstand and sat with an older gentleman (he was in his late 40s) and his father. Our seats were about halfway up and in the section of the grandstand right behind the flag stand. We always had a great view. The noise from the engines, the stinging smell of the racing fuel, and the panoramic view of the pits jammed with racecars. It was fabulous.
- The pits. Sitting in the main grandstand, you had a panoramic view of the pits. As an adult, I would arrive at the speedway when the gates opened at 4:00 and watch the cars come in the back entrance of the pits. There were some nights in the 70s where there were 140, 150 cars in the pits when the URC sprint cars were in. You always knew where each team was parked. You know where to look for the Norcia 81, the Brenn 24, the Pauch 15, the Trenton Mack 74, Hartman 24, Horton Sr. 43 etc. It was great watching the teams work on the cars throughout the evening. It was also fun watching the crews get into "discussions" when two cars banged wheels or tangled. Remember going into the pits after the races? I loved looking at the cars, talking to the drivers, owners and crewmembers, taking pictures, etc. What a great way to cap off a memorable evening.
- The photo stand. Ace Lane Sr. and Jr. ran this for years. I spent a lot of money there over the years buying photos of the cars. I couldnt wait to buy pictures of the cars for my collection. I also made a lot of money there, too. As an amateur artist, I would draw pictures of the cars and have my dad photocopy them. I would then color them in with marking pens. The old woman running the photo stand for the Lanes gave me a dollar for each picture and sold them for $3.00. There were some nights were I walked away with close to $100. Of course, I spent some of it buying more photos! I loved it. I stopped doing this after I graduated from high school in 1975. P.S. In early 1977, I submitted some of my work (pen and ink drawings of Ken Brenn Jr., Stan Ploski, Gerald Chamberlain, Glenn Fitzcharles, et al) to Area Auto Racing News, who used it for some of their columnists banners, advertisements, and even one annual cover (the 1977 annual, and the picture was a pen and ink drawing of Glenn Fitzcharles brodsliding in the Verona-McCabe 23 Gremlin.)
- The Flagmen Who could forget Tex Enright and Harry Dee? Two different style of flagmen, but both added to the excitement and drama of the evening.
- The announcer Bill Singer. To me, Bill is to Flemington Fair Speedway what Bob Sheppard is to Yankee Stadium. He helped symbolize the place, give it a voice, a flavor, an energy that I have never seen duplicated. I compared every race announcer to him and so far none has measured up. Another class act.
- The promoter Paul Kuhl. I have such mixed feelings about him. He resurrected the place in 1971. Without him, Flemington would not have risen to the heights it did in the 70s and 80s. Some of his ideas were hokey (backwards races, motorcycle races, run whatcha brung shows) and some (double, triple and four twenty lap features, DIRT affiliation, replacing the wood guardrails with steel ones, bringing back the URC and adding the World Of Outlaws) were excellent. He moved Flemington into the regional limelight in the late 70s and early 80s. But I always had the feeling that Flemington could have been even more renowned than Reading, even another Eldora or Knoxville. It had all of the attributes of those speedways. Flemington was worthy of national attention. However, Kuhl seemed reluctant to take it to that level. I remember talking to him about this several times in the early 80s. He just thanked me for my suggestions and did his own thing. Unfortunately, the two things that I will never forgive Kuhl for is (1) paving the track, and (2) closing it. As far as I was concerned, paving the track sealed its fate. I knew a lot of the fan base would not return. You can watch asphalt racing on TV. The only dirt track racing on TV is the World Of Outlaws. Plus, the town of Flemington, like Reading, was being built up around the speedway, but I think that Kuhl could have made a dirt track work in Flemington if he really wanted to. I dont buy his arguments about NASCAR killing weekly short tracks. New Egypt, Bridgeport, East Windsor are still going strong. Plus central Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Ohio have a lot of dirt tracks. Their weekly dirt tracks are strong. I think that Kuhl just got tired of the work involved in running a speedway from week-to-week. The accelerating value of the land the speedway sits on didnt help, either. I wrote him a strong letter when the track was paved and told him I was never returning for another race until he converted the surface back to dirt. Last year, when I heard he was closing the place, I sent him another letter to the effect of thanks for the memories, but that he was responsible for the demise of a once great speedway. As you can tell, I still have strong feelings about this.
- The programs. Program Dynamics did a great job of producing Flemingtons programs. The cover, with color photos of a modified and sportsman driver, ere fabulous. I always love the last page with the historical photos.
- Concession stands. The food wasnt as bad as everyone said. You just needed to know what to get. I always loved the Joanna Farms orange drink.
- The mens rest room. Nuff said!
- The annual Flemington Fair. We always enjoyed the combination of the fair activities and the racing. Through 1975, I attended all of the Fair racing events. After that, I only attended the modified and URC events. It was something, walking through the fair, looking at the hokey two headed alligator exhibits, checking out the livestock and farming exhibits, eating all of the different types of food, going on the rides, etc. Basically, just killing time until the races. But it was fun spending the whole day at the Fairgrounds.
70's - 80's Flemington Question & Answer with Brian