1970 - 74
"Brian's Story" (continued)
Flemington Fair Speedway Memories
- Starting off the decade with home-built coupes and coaches and ending it with Gremlin bodied Tobias, Olsen and Kreitz chassis cars with Gremlin bodies.
- 1970 Dick Havens in the #93 winning a feature that was called after 13 laps due to the excessive dust. You really could not see anything farther than ten feet in front of you.
- 1970 - Len Duncans #63 ARDC midget flipping so high in the air. I later learned that the photos of that flip were printed in papers all over the country
- 1970. I only saw Joe Kelly race once. I never got to fully appreciate how loved he was by the fans. I liked the look of his #13 coupe. I also saw him a few times at the track after his accident. I remember the benefit event they held for him in 1971 to help with his expenses after his accident.
- 1970 - Al Tasnady. I saw Al race in the Ruberti 97 coupe (a metallic brown color, I believe), the Schloder K46 Valiant and the Piscopo #39 coupe in 1972, his last year racing. I talked to him a few times in the pits after the races and as a teenager I could see he was a nice guy and a class act.
- 1971 Mike Grbac racing the King Chevrolet coach #7. The purple and yellow color combination was wild. I remember the night in 1971 when Mike rode over the wheel of another car, flew through the air, landed on all fours and kept going as if nothing happened. Whether he was competing for the win or was struggling to keep an ill-handling car in the racing groove at the back end of the field, Mike always gave 150 percent.
- 1971 The Ace Lane memorial race. To the best of my knowledge, there arent too many races that were named in honor of a photographer. Ace was a gentleman.
- 1971 1972 - Remember Chip Cregar? His green and white #31 coupe in 1971 and a sleek blue and gold 1939 Chevy coupe bodied car in 1972. Beautiful cars. Too bad he was never a top runner. Those cars would have looked great in victory lane.
- 1970 1972 Oliver Butler in the red Al Silliman #4 coupe. What a beautifully simple car. And the crew was the neatest one in the pits, with their white pants and red and white striped shirts. Butler was "Mr. Consistency." He was always in the top ten. This helped him win the 1972 New Jersey Modified championship. I remember a bad flip that Oliver took in the car late in the 1971 season. What amazed me was how the team was able to fix the car and make it look spotless in one week. It was like the crash never happened.
- 1971 - Newt Hartman flipping his gorgeous metallic blue #24 sportsman coach down the front stretch during a sportsman feature.
- Fuzzy Fussedm (what a name!) flipping his blue 31/31 sportsman coach. Fuzzy sold the car to Frank Kelly, who campaigned it as the 31k in 1972 and thereafter.
- Lenny Martin in the Olden Carpet Special #4 Falcon in 1970 and 1971. Lenny was a quiet guy and raced without a lot of fanfare, but as a kid I always found him approachable. The car was always clean and sharp.
- The powder puff derby races. They always provided some interesting action.
- Stan Ploski in Paul Deaseys Big Donkey #707 coupe in 1970 and 1971. Stan was able to harness the power of that 429 c.i. Ford. When that engine was on, he was unstoppable. I remember a number of times in the 1971 season where Stan would win his heat and drop out of the feature. Sammy Beavers had a great year in 1971 in winning the track championship, but he was helped somewhat by the 707s lack of reliability.
- 1971 - Sammy Beavers in the Jim Horton Sr. 43 coupe. When I first saw the car, I wondered why they copied Richard Pettys number and colors. Sammy was fast and consistent in 1971. I remember him winning the Pocono Qualifying race (remember those?) As a Ploski fan, it was frustrating watching this (I had the same feeling in 1974 with Gerald Chamberlain) but I couldnt help but admire his dominance. He is such a nice man and a class act.
- 1971 Bob McCullogh in his beat-up looking #89 sportsman coupe winning the sportsman championship. Pat McBride in his black and red #11 Falcon. Lee McBride in the #90 Falcon. Ronnie Darr in the #55 coupe. Ron Terlitz in the #53 coupe. Hank Goranson in the yellow #36jr coach. John Chemidlin in the white #747 coupe. Bob Lineman in the USA1 coupe. Jack Edell in the gold #77 coach. Remember them? Racers like this dont exist anymore.
- 1971 - As dominant as Beavers was in the first 2/3rds of the season, Ploski was even more dominant in the final 1/3rd of the season. Ploskis change in fortunes coincided with Stan leaving the Deasey #707 and joining Ken Brenns new modified team in late August 1971. Brenn purchased a modified built by Budd Olsen and gave it the number 24. To me, this car was the best looking of all of the Brenn coupe modifieds that Ploski drove. Ploski was unstoppable when he got into that car. He won four consecutive features until late September when the streak was broken. However, it took a flat tire, hanging brakes and an engine running on seven cylinders to break the winning streak. In the final event of the season, Stan won the feature by coming from sixth to first on the final lap, including the pass for the lead coming out of the fourth turn for the checkered flag. What a finish!
- 1971 The Saturday and Monday afternoon URC sprint car races. The Saturday race was memorable for the double flip in the second turn involving Bucky Barkers V8 sprinter and a yellow # 4 whose driver I dont remember. The #4 rolled over several times, but Barker ran over his wheel and flipped end over end several times. I was amazed how high in the air his car flipped. Remember, Barker was a 450+ pound guy. Fortunately, both drivers were OK. I would love to see how URC or the World of Outlaws rule makers would deal with a doublewide sprint car like Bucky drove in the 70s. The Monday race was memorable for the battle between Leroy Felty in his #17 and Buck Buckley in his red #2. Buckley lead and Felty stalked him. The race was decided when Felty climbed the wall between the first and second turns and rolled over twice, breaking the front axle. Buckley won easily. Both of their wings were made of sheet plywood! Boy, have sprint cars come a long way in 30 years! And Buckley, what a talented driver and car builder. Few people remember that he built modifieds for Stan Ploski (his #27 Ford Fiesta he drove from 1978 to 1980), Bruce Thompson (before he went on to URC fame), Mark Fuscos ma4 and Sammy Beavers when he drove the Jim Horton 33 in the late 70s to early 80s.
- 1972 Corky Cookman in the #17 coupe modified barrel rolling 10 times from the first turn to the second turn during the Memorial Day 100 lapper. Billy Osmun was dominant in that race, easily winning it.
- 1972 Billy Osmuns maturing as a driver and becoming a consistent feature event winner. The Norcia #81 coupes were never the most technically sophisticated cars on the track, but they always looked good in their black, gold and white colors and Osmun always had them up front. Remember the statement on the teams trailer "Billy O and the best damn crew in town."
- 1972 The Ploski & Osmun battles for feature event wins and the track championship. Those battles overshadowed everything that went on at Flemington that year. Ploski would win one week and Osmun the next. Neither one could get the upper hand until late in the season when Osmun s performance tapered off due to mechanical and handling problems. Ploski won the track championship. You bet I was happy that year.
- 1972 Ploski driving Brenns midget in ARDC races at Flemington
- Some sportsman drivers; remember them? Dean Applegate in the 9a coupe. Ed Czech in the 21 coach. Les Katonas K3 Falcon. Newt Hartmans 1939 Chevy coupe #24 (this car and his Burnett built Mustang from 1977-78, were my favorite Hartman cars). Bob Matera in his #6 coupe.
- 1972 The premier of the Rookie Division. This was a great idea. The rookies were always visibly slower than the regular sportsman drivers (except for someone named Billy Pauch in 1975). Ken Brenn Jr. was dominant, winning all of the rookie features that year. Im sure it helped have a car owner like Ken Brenn Sr. for his father and driving the car that Stan Ploski was so dominant with in late 1971. I do remember one sportsman feature that summer where Brenn Jr. was involved in a wreck, went over a wheel sailed over the fence and landed in the grass between the wood guardrail and chain link fencing just In front of the grandstands. Ill bet he still hasnt forgotten that one.
- 1972 As dominant as Sammy Beavers was in 1971, he was way off the pace in 1972. He started the year in the Deasey 707, but the car was unreliable and ran poorly when it held together. He switched to the Joe King Chevrolet #121 and performed better, but his performance was far below what it was in 1971.
- 1972 The Jim Horton Sr. #43 that Mike Grbac drove that season. What a beautiful car. It was a 1940 Ford coupe that was shiny black with chrome numbers outlined in red. The car didnt run well, but it sure looked great. Plus, Horton Sr. debuted the first Gremlin bodied modified at Flemington during the Memorial Day 100 lapper in 1972. It was blue. Sammy Beavers drove the care on a limited basis.
- 1972 Del George, a Nazareth regular, winning the Trenton qualifier in the Ege #9 coupe in a major upset.
- 1972 The Schloder K46 Valiant that was driven by Al Tasnady and Mike Grbac. Strange choice for the body on the car. I thought Don Kreitzs 1973-1977 Valiant modifieds looked better.
- 1972 - Remember sportsman driver Lou Drastals violent flip that tore down the wooden guardrail?
- 1972 The Taylor brothers, Lee and Larry in their #1 and X5 coupes.
- 1972 Craig McCaughey winning a 100-lap feature in a purple #4 coach bodied modified. Ploski, Osmun, Beavers, Grbac, they all fell out, but McCaughey was smooth and reliable and won a popular victory.
- 1972 Upstate New York invader Jack Johnson winning the Flemington 200 in an upset driving his orange and white #12a coupe. Johnson was a consistent winner at Fonda and Weedsport, but invaders always had trouble negotiating Flemington. Johnson ran an excellent race and the Flemington regulars each had problems that prevented them from winning.
- 1973 The Pete Chesson #76 Pinto modified. Stan Ploski and Billy Osmun drove the car part-time during the year. The car was relatively conventional except for two things: (1) it used an injected 350 c.i. Chevy engine in an era when virtually all modifieds used 427 c.i. big blocks, and (2) it had independent front suspension. Osmun drove the car occasionally throughout the year, while Ploski drove it late in the year after he left the Ken Brenn #24. I remember seeing Ploski win two features at Flemington in the car. The first win was the final regular season race, which was held a week before the Flemington 200. Ploski was behind Osmun in the championship race and needed a victory and an Osmun DNF to win the championship. Stan sped out to an early lead in the feature and was pulling away when the cars engine stopped running in the first turn. Stan was so far in front you could see and hear his frantic attempts to restart the car. He was able to get it started and maintain his lead. Osmun dropped out with engine problems, Stan won the feature and won the championship. Today, Chesson is still a car owner, but now he campaigns World of Outlaws sprint cars for his sons James and PJ.
- 1973 Ploski leaving the Brenn team after the Labor Day weekend. The team hit a slump in the summer, rebounded with a couple of wins but then failed to finish the Saturday and Monday night features. Maybe it was time for Ploski and Brenn to go their separate ways. Ken Brenn Jr. moved to the modifieds in 1974, so it probably was a matter of time before Ploski left the team anyway. It seemed strange for a championship challenger to leave his ride in the thick of a points race. History proved that it was the correct decision as Ploski won the modified championship in 1973.
- 1973 The much-heralded arrival of several Reading Fairgrounds Speedway drivers as regulars at Flemington. Their arrival as regulars added to Flemingtons prestige. It was great to see Gerald Chamberlain in the Bullock #76 coupe, Freddie Adam in his orange and white #8 mustang, Red Coffin in his white and blue #26 coupe, Don Kreitz Sr. in his Valiant bodied #69, Glenn Fitzcharles in the Kennedy #56 Falcon and several others racing each week at Flemington. Kenny Brightbill only raced a few races at Flemington that year.
- 1973 Remember Larry Honey flipping his #1 coach in the Rookie Division? Remember Ron Terlitz flipping the #118 Falcon modified end over end seven times between the first and second turns? My dad took movie footage of this flip on 8mm film. I still have it today.
- 1973 - Gerald Chamberlain in the Joe Bullock #76 coupe struggling to learn how to drive Flemington in 1973. I remember a modified feature in August 1973 where Gerald and Stan Ploski fought for almost three-quarters of the race. Ploski was the defending track champion and was working on repeating as track champ. He was the acknowledged master of the "Square" in the early 70's. Gerald had the lead and Stan stalked him. It was breathtaking. With about eight laps to go, Gerald got a little high between turns one and two and Stan pounced. He slingshot underneath Gerald and into the lead. Stan won the feature pulling away, but that was the night that Gerald learned how to drive Flemington. In 1974, Gerald put those lessons to work and won 12 features and the track championship in Bullock's Pinto and Falcon modifieds.
- 1973 Larry Taylor driving the Wally Marks #1 coupe. That car was the ugliest dirt modified in the entire existence of the sport. It was painted primer red (the kind they use on the bottoms of ships) with a white roof and it always looked like it had just been in a wreck. But Larry could make that car run fast. He was always a contender for heat wins and nearly won a couple of features.
- 1973 It was amazing how shabby the Kennedy #56 looked for weeks after Glenn Fitzcharles barrel rolled the car. The team put a Mustang body on it but left it in dark primer gray with a taped 56 on it for weeks. The car was not repainted orange until late in the season. But Fitz really drove the wheels off of that car. You could see then that he was going to be a great driver.
- 1973 The opening night race. Ploski blew the engine in the Brenn #24 coupe and picked up a ride in Bob Rossells sleek # 56 orange and black coupe. The feature was a wild battle between Ploski, Osmun, Sammy Beavers in the King Chevrolet #121 coach, and Mike Grbac in the Horton #43 Gremlin. Coming down for the checkered flag, several of the cars tangled and Oliver Butler in the Menschner #21 won the race (I think, my memory is fuzzy on the winner.)
- 1973 Newt Hartmans sleek red #24 Pinto and Les Katonas white #K3 coupe in the sportsman division. They had some terrific battles. This was the year that several modified and sportsman cars had extremely narrow coupe bodies and Katonas car probably had the narrowest body.
- 1973 The interesting mid-season driver swap between the Inzeo and Horton teams. Bob Pickell started the year driving Lou Inzeos sleek metallic orange # 80 coach and Mike Grbac drove Jim Horton Srs maroon and white #43 Gremlin. Both had sub par years that season and the teams switched drivers in August. Ironically, Pickell and Grbac crashed into each other on the front stretch during the Labor Day feature and flipped. I can still see the Horton 43 lying on its side with the motor still running and blue methanol flames coming out of the exhaust.
- 1973 The emergence of Bob Torecky as a top ten driver. In previous seasons, Torecky was a journeyman driver just making the field. Before the start of the 1973, Torecky bought one of Kenny Brightbills coach bodied modifieds and that seemed to make a big difference. He was now able to run up front and challenge for feature event wins.
- 1974 The season opener. The competition was real tough that year. There were at least 20 Reading regulars there. Dick Qualio in the #4 Mustang. Earl Derr in the 260 coupe. Toby Tobias in his own # 17 Super Dog Special Mustang. Gerald Chamberlain made a shambles of the feature. He won going away. Glenn Fitzcharles in the Rio Brothers R10 coach and Tom Hager in his own #43 Mustang followed far behind. Ploski was in the Norcia #81 Mustang and Osmun drove the Statewide #3 Pinto. Ploski was way off the pace and finished sixth. Osmun dropped out of the race about halfway through by crashing over the third turn wall after a tangle with some other cars. The race was a microcosm of the year, with Chamberlain dominating in the Bullock #76 Pinto and Falcon bodied cars and the top Flemington runners (except Sammy Beavers) off the pace. I always liked Chamberlains cars, particularly the Falcon bodied car. The Ford engine, the independent front suspension, the neat compact nature of the cars. Chamberlain won 12 feature events and the track championship that year. He was a very nice man and a true gentleman, win or lose.
- 1974 What an up and down season the Norcia brothers had with their modified team. They started the year with Stan Ploski as their driver in their new Mustang and their coupe bodied car from 1973. Neither car ran well. Ploski flipped ten times down the backstretch in the Mustang early in the season. He left the ride not too long after that. Paul Fitzcharles drove the car next and had little success with it. The Norcias realized that they needed a new car, so they ordered a new coupe bodied, Whip Mulligan chassis car. Mulligan cars were the top modifieds of 1974. Sammy Beavers joined the team late in the season after he won the Flemington and New Jersey modified championships in the Horton Sr. #43 Mustang and Gremlin cars. Sammy won the 1974 Flemington 200 in the Norcias Mulligan car.
- 1974 What an up and down season Stan Ploski had. After leaving the Norcia #81, Ploski temporarily took over the Emmitt Alfrey #47 Gremlin modified. This was another Whip Mulligan car, but with an independent front suspension. Tom Carberry was the mechanic on the car. Ploski drove the car for only three months because Mike Grbac, the cars regular driver, broke his arm and he was scheduled to return to the car in August. Stan ran real well in the car, won several features and was able to challenge Chamberlain week after week. However, he flipped the car in July 1974 and it caught fire after it was hit by another car and the fuel tank punctured. No serious injuries, just a burn on his chin (he was still wearing a dust mask, not a full face helmet). When Ploski left the Alfrey #47, he began driving his own car, a yellow Mustang bodied #27. Although he was able to run up front in the car, it was not a consistent winner. He was driving the Jim Horton Sr. #43 Gremlin in the last points race of the year when the throttle stuck and he hit the first turn wall hard, breaking his arm. His fan club made an appeal for contributions because Ploski was a heavy equipment operator and could not work with a broken arm. I was 17 years old working at a lousy hamburger joint after school, there was a recession and a gasoline crisis, but I sent Stan $20 to help. It was the least I could do for all of the racing enjoyment he had given me over the previous five years.
- 1974 Ploskis first win of the season came in the Alfrey #47 and followed a memorable battle with Gerald Champberlain in the Bullock #76 Pinto. Gerald had the early lead and Ploski caught up with him about halfway through. For about ten laps they jockeyed for positions until Stan passed Gerald between turns one and two. But Gerald stayed right on Stans bumper waiting for a mistake. It never came and Ploski won his first 1974 feature. What a race!
- 1974 Seeing Dick Tobias Super Dog Special #17 Mustang racing at Flemington.
- 1974 Remember the X-15 that Larry Taylor drove? Remember the Chevy Nova body that it had, which was almost as unusual as a Valiant body?
- 1974 What an up and down season Billy Osmun had. Driving for the Statewide #3 team, Osmun under performed in the teams Pinto modified. Osmuns performances did not improve until the team obtained a new Whip Mulligan Gremlin modified. Osmun won the Schafer 100 at Syracuse and became much more competitive after that. He only won one modified feature at Flemington in 1974.
- 1974 Remember Jay Aten? He always had some of the sleekest, lowest slung dirt modifieds Ive ever seen. His 1974 car was unique because it was so low, it needed a hatch on the roof for Jay to get into and out of the car. The cars may have looked sleek, but they were mid pack to back marker runners.
- 1974 Pete Chessons revolutionary Pinto #76. Chessons 1974 car was a sleek, beautiful dirt modified with independent front and rear suspension. The car was featured in a 1974 issue of Hot Rod magazine. Stan Ploski drove the car on a part time basis. As beautiful as the car looked, it ran horribly and was never competitive
- 1974 Joe Hall, the 1974 sportsman champion. Joes 06 cars were always interesting. Whether it was a Corvair body (1971 1973), Pinto Body (1974) or a Mustang body (1975), Hall always ran flat out and with wild abandon. Remember his trademark clenched fist salute that the fans responded to with a clenched fist salute? Joe was a character. His battles in 1974 with Les Katona and Ray Liss were more intense and competitive than many modified races that year.
- 1974 ARDC midget driver Jim McGuire giving the sportsman ranks a try. Two things were unique about this. First, McGuire drove one of the former Brenn #24 modifieds. Second, McGuire had one hand and no driver to date had driven at Flemington with one hand.
- 1974 The spectacular end-over-end flip that Roger Altemose in his #667 coupe took down the front stretch.
- 1974 Sportsman driver Casey Hoff flipping his #19h sportsman between the first and second turns and the car catching fire. I never saw as much flame and smoke in a racecar fire as this one. Hoff received some pretty severe burns. It amazed me at the time that the speedway had no regulation in place requiring drivers to wear flameproof underwear, socks, gloves and helmet baklavas. How times have changed.
- 1974 Al Michaelchuk in the modifieds. Watching him race his #292 in the sportsman ranks in 1973, I thought he would become a star. He seemed to have a knack for getting a car around the track, but he was never consistent. He would either crash or win. I thought all he needed was some track time. Going to the modifieds was probably not the best move. He should have seasoned himself as a sportsman driver. Unfortunately, he never matured as a driver and drifted away from the scene. Too bad because he was fun to watch.
- 1974 The night that the KARS (Central Pennsylvania) sprint cars came to Flemington. Steve Smith Sr., Bobby Allen, Lynn Paxton, all the greats of Central PA were there. Paul Pitzer, in the Wieckert #92, won the event.
- 1974 - The Labor Day URC race in which Harry Benjamin in the Fiore #8 sprinter held off young Steve Howard in the MK Foreign Car #71. Steve would have been a great talent if he had not been killed in a crash in 1978.
- 1974 I remember another afternoon URC race in 1974 where Jay Myers in his #35 won the feature. I remember Jay running Flemington almost as well as Buck Buckley and Harry Benjamin.
- 1974 Remember George Ault in his 7-11 Pinto winning his first sportsman feature?
- 1974 Some sportsman names to remember Rich Varone in the B Falcon, Dick Apgar in the #20 coupe, Pete Madsens #82 Pinto (which John Poliachek, filling in for Madsen, wrecked in a crash between turns 3 and 4 during the summer), Charlie Voorhees in the #705 coupe.
- 1974 Some modified names to remember Tom Gilman in the #8 Mustang, Phil Meisner in the #71 coupe, Kerry Schloders #k46 coupe, Fred Dmchowski in the #303 Pinto, Oliver Butler in the #45 Pinto, Leon Harrison in the #76a Pinto, Jay Stongs #50 coupe.
- 1974 Although he didnt win the track championship, Sammy Beavers had a great season in the Horton #43 and won the New Jersey Modified Championship. Beavers switched to the Norcia #81 late in the year. The Norcias bought a Whip Mulligan chassis coupe and Beavers drove it to victory in the Flemington 200.
70's - 80's Flemington Question & Answer with Brian