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GREASE! Hosted By:  Cemetery Jim


50 years ago in Modifieds! June 24, 2004

Well, it's 2004, so lets go back 50 years in time to 1954

I must say that it certainly doesn't seem like 50 years ago I was sitting at speedways watching the stock cars race...but I was.

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Let's take a quick look at what was happening in 1954. 

First of all, keep in mind that in those days the Modifieds and Sportsmen ran together. If you were driving a Sportsman and finished 5th, lets say, behind 4 modifieds, you were paid for 5th place, AND you were paid first sportsman money as well. At times, both Jackie McLaughlin, and Al Tasnady would run sportsman cars and make a little extra money. Often they even won features in the sportsman cars.

1954 was the year that Ford finally replaced their 22 year old "Flathead" V8 with a brand new "Overhead" V8. Chevrolet didn't have a V8 yet, even though corvette was in it's 2nd year, all were powered by the "Blue Flame" in line 6. The first Chevy V8 wouldn't arrive until 1955. I was a 9 year old motorhead.



On Friday night, 6/25/54, at Alcyon Speedway, in Pitman NJ, a great dirt track that was configured similarly tho the present New Egypt Speedway, with a "Dogleg" on the backstretch,

Otto Harwi was going for his third feature win in a row, but it wasn't to be.Some nights things just don't go your way, and for Harwi this was one of them. On the 9th lap of the feature, Harwi collided with Jackie McLaughlin, and Harwi's car caught on fire.

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Miraculously, both Harwi and the car were OK, and restarted the race.Harwi had to restart last, but drove with all the skill and talent he had, and worked his way through the pack like a man on a mission, getting all the way to the front in no time at all, it was quite a piece of driving.

By the time Harwi worked his way back to the front, Al Tanady was leading. Lap after lap, "Tas" and Otto ran neck and neck untill, with just 4 laps to go, Harwi's engine went south, and Tasnady won. 5000 fans were on hand that night, and although it was the end of June, it was Tasnady's first win at Alcyon that year.

Following Tasnady accross the line were:  2nd, Freddy Fehr - 3rd Steve Elias - 4th Jackie McLaughlin -  (Oddly enough, both 1st place Tasnady, and 2nd place Freddy Fehr had to qualify through the consi).

Besides driving the modifieds in 1954, Brothers in law Budd Olsen, and Jackie McLaughlin drove as many URC Big Car, (Now called Sprint car ), races as possible. Budd finshed 6th in the final point standings for the URC that year, and Jackie McLaughlin finished 13th, and was awarded the URC Rookie of the year award !


What Else was Happening in 1954?

bulletThe Supreme Court rules 9 to 0 in Brown v. Board of Education that racial
bulletSegregation in public schools is unconstitutional
bulletWall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Averages closes the year above 404, highest since November, 1929.
bulletU.S. gasoline prices average 294 per gallon.
bulletHarvard physicians perform the world’s first successful kidney transplant.
bulletDramatic evidence emerges that smoking is hazardous to health.
bulletElectronic computers are applied for the first time to business uses.
bulletRCA introduces the first U.S. color television set.
bulletSports Illustrated begin publication
bulletHit songs include: "Three Coins in the Fountain", "Mister Sandman", Sh-Boom" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
bulletElvis Presley makes his first commercial recording at age of 19 and achieves some success with "That’s All Right, Mama"
bulletThe oral contraceptive pill is developed.
bulletVeteran’s Day becomes a national holiday to replace Armistice Day.


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From:  Richard Libensperger - Ahh those were the days. But don't forget SMITTY'S STEEL PACS and BELOND GLASS PACS.   Remember 2 hot 52 ols with them on from Hamilton Twp, NJ back then.    Jimmy Bruno and Big Ralph Patterson ran them.




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