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GREASE! Hosted By:  Cemetery Jim


PARANORMAL RACING  by Cemetery Jim       August 8, 2004

You know, sometimes I find so called "coincidence" to borderline on the paranormal.

During the period that I was working on this column about the 1962 season at Flemington (how wild it was, how many fights there were and how Jackie McLaughlin played such a large part in all of this) two separate comments arrive, one concerning Jackie McLaughlin, and one concerning pit fights.  Coincidence? or is Rod Serling a racing enthusiast? You decide.

Just about everything that could possibly happen did, at Flemington in '62 and most of them happened several times, it was really one wild year.

Before we start, I want to thank Russ Dodge, Ralph Richards, and especially Bill Skinner for reams of data that they have supplied me with, to help me with my memories of those wonderful days of yesteryear.

The season opened up fairly mildly for all that would be happening later.  Of course, the track was still dirt at that time and much, much narrower than it would later become.   Accidents therefore were rampant.  In fact, many owners towed all the way to Middletown on Saturday because they figured there cars would be torn up at Flemington.   It was never a track for the faint of heart.

WEEK 1 4/28/62

It didn't take long for the "wild things" Flemington was famous for to begin.   On opening nite, on the last lap of the first heat a car dropped a lot of water in the forth corner, causing almost the whole field to stack up there.  Jackie McLaughlin (who was leading) hit the fence, bounced off, didn't lift and won the race.   However the damage done to McLaughlin's car was not repairable and he sat out the feature.
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Al Tasnady took the feature win.  (By the way, Billy Pauch's dad Roy was 9th.)

WEEK 2 5/5/62

Keep in mind that in those days, all the cars were stopped on the main straight during what would now be a caution.  They didn't continue to circle the track behind the pace car as they do today.  In the second feature of the year, last weeks winner Al Tasnady got mad after a spin involving himself, Hoop Schaible, and Vince Conrad.   None of the cars were badly damaged and all were able to drive back to the frontstretch and were to restart.  When they were all told they would have to start in the rear, however, Tas walked into the pits and just left his car on the track.  A wrecker finally pulled his car into the pits and the race resumed, minus a hot headed Tasnady.
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The feature was won by Jackie McLaughlin, in Lucky Jordan's "Deuce", followed by Charlie Cregar, Bob Malzahn, Spud Murphy, and Roy Pauch.


WEEK 3, 5/12/62
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Bob Malzahn and Tas ran side by side lap after lap, with Malzahn just nosing out Tasnady for the win at the checker, and a totally enraged Tasnady flying into the pits and leaving the track.

WEEK 4 5/ 19/62

Jackie McLaughlin wins the closest and wildest finish in the entire 8 years the speedway has been running the Modifieds.  McLaughlin (who started 11th) led by almost a full straightaway by midway.  But that lead dwindled quickly as Tasnady, Malzahn and Ed Farley running together kept gaining on the flying McLaughlin.  They all caught him and the 4 flew under the checker in one 4 car pack, but McLaughlin was able to hold on for the win.

WEEK 5 5/ 26/62

Budd Olsen won his first Flemington feature of the year followed by McLaughlin, Malzahn, Tasnady and Conrad.  It must have been Rod Serling's week off as no "Twilight Zone" type things seemed to happen.

WEEK 6 6/2/62

It's another McLaughlin win, as he battles Tasnady for the lead for several laps, then passes Tas on lap 20, and stayed there.  3rd through 5th were Malzahn, Olsen, and Bobby Pickell

WEEK 7 6/9/62

Jackie McLaughlin takes his 4th win of the season, and second in a row.  Sammy Beavers was second, and Al Tasnady finished 3rd thanks to Lee Hendrickson, (Wade's Dad), who loaned Tas the rocker arm assembly off his street car to run the feature with after Tas had a major problem on his, and no spare.  Olsen and Cregar rounded out the top 5.
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WEEK 8 6/16/62

McLaughlin makes it 3 in a row and 5 for the season as he beat Tasnady, Conrad, Lee Hendrickson and Cregar to the line.  Young Florida Ace Herbie Tillman made his first trip this far north with what was left of the "Sweet 16" car he had left Florida with a few weeks ago.  He had been racing his way north and it showed on the car.   He put on such a spectacular show of driving, however that he developed a solid fan base in one night chanting "Herbie, Herbie, Herbie".  Unfortunately his throw caution to the wind style also wound up with him hitting the guardrail and flipping three times, sending him to Hunterdon Medical Center for a visit.  He was back shortly, after a quick check over and received rousing applause from the crowd when he announced he would be back next week !
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WEEK 9 6/30/62

Guess who???? Yep, McLaughlin won his 4th in a row and 6th of the year. The other news this week was car owner Sterling Learch arrived as usual and unloaded Tasnady's #44 and got it ready to race, BUT Tasnady failed to show up. Learch took the car out himself in the consi, but failed to qualify.  Clyde Suydam, and Spud Murphy's cars both caught fire, but both drivers were OK.  Cregar, Ed Farley, Olsen and Beavers followed MAC to the checkered.

WEEK 10 7/7/62

Okay, okay, I know you think I'm making this up, but, McLaughlin won again - his 5th in a row, and 7th of the 10 races so far.  I can't help it, that's why he's a legend - he was spectacular.  This time he was followed by Tasnady, Pickell, Beavers, and Olsen
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WEEK 11 7/21/62 (rain out previous week)

And the winner is........... Jackie McLaughlin!  His 6th in a row and 8th out of 11 features so far this year.  Nuff said?  2nd through 5th were: Beavers, Ed Farley, Cregar, and Pickell

WEEK 12 7/28/62

Okay, now... here it gets a bit more interesting, folks. Why you ask?  Didn't McLaughlin win again?  Well that's one of the interesting things, see he did... but, maybe he didn't.  See, here's the skinny... The feature ran 25 laps with a restart on lap 13. McLaughlin was first across the finish line and everyone assumed he won, except starter Joe McGowan.  See, although he had let the restart go as was, and although the last 12 laps were run as usual, at the end McGowan suddenly refuses to give the checker to McLaughlin, claiming he jumped the restart back on lap 13.  Just to make things even more of a turmoil, the second place finisher, (If McLaughlin was first), Ed Farley was protested by several owners claiming his engine was Illegal.

Well as far as the jumping the restart was concerned NASCAR HQ had to make that decision.   As far as Farley's engine protest, the chief steward tore the engine down on the spot, while State Troopers surrounded the pagoda where they kept McLaughlin and Farley safe from the mob of fans.  The engine was 100% Legal. Now the only question was McLaughlin and the lap 13 restart  . The purse monies were held until NASCAR could make a ruling.  By the following week, they had made it.  McLaughlin had won.   Since the start was let go, and no black flag was displayed, you can't come back at the end and say it was a bad start.  The official finish: McLaughlin, E. Farley, Pat Wohlgemuth, Beavers, and Charlie Cregar.  Jackie had won his 7th feature in a row, his 9th out of the 12 run so far.
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WEEK 13 8/4/62

MAC WRECKS finally somebody else wins. McLaughlin was running 9th when a spinout started the chain reaction that took McLaughlin out. The only other two cars sidelined in this mess were oddly enough, (Serling again), Pat Wohlgemuth, and Ed Farley. So the 3 cars that finished 1, 2 and 3 last week were the only three wrecked in that accident. Finishing order: Vince Conrad, Charlie Cregar, Bobby Pickell, Tasnady, and Sammy Beavers.

Well I could go on and on, but you get the idea. There were fights a plenty (mostly the fans coming into the pits after the races).  There were weird happenings, a strange starter, drivers who just don't show up, or leave their car on the speedway and go home ...  It was quite a year, but that was Flemington, God love it.  They set new attendance records almost every week, and the purses followed suit.

Jackie McLaughlin finished out the year with 12 feature wins, Jackie Hamilton flipped about ten times down the main straight, was taken to the hospital, one or two radio stations reported him killed that night, Nat Klinefield reported him as still hospitalized with back injuries and a concussion the next morning as I stood at Sonny Dornberger's shop talking and laughing with Hamilton, who was fine and had just driven up, as we looked over his car.  I don't know what went wrong that year but nothing seemed to be quite normal at Flemington.

Come to think of it, nothing was ever normal at Flemington!   
Cemetery Jim


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08/14/04  From Ned Stites III:  I was just reading the Grease column about 1962.  I remember alot of  those things and I used to have a picture of Jackie Hamilton's wrecked  car.  I think my German Shepherd ate that one when I was a kid.  I've  been trying to find that picture again also.  That really was quite a  wreck.  It was the worst I ever saw until Bob Pickell flipped the  A2A.      Ned Stites III
08/21/04  From Cemetery Jim: Ned, You're right, that was one really bad wreck. It started in turn 4 and I think Hamilton's #69 did about 4 end over ends, then about 5 or 6 fast side over sides before coming to rest just before the starter's stand. The car wound up on it's side with the driver's side up. Hamilton was able to unbuckle himself and pull himself about halfway out of the driver's window, then collapsed into the car and had to be removed and taken to the hospital.

The reports of his death were slightly exagerated as he was treated and released later that night, and, as I said, arrived at Sonny Dornberger's race shop where somebody had taken the #69 for him, early the following morning, looking great, and laughing and clowning. The #69, as you say, was a total, (and then some), and never ran again.

We were pretty good friends, so I told him he looked good for a dead man. He said what do you mean? I told him that on the way home from Flemington the night before the radio had reported him killed in the wreck, he got a big kick out of that. - Cemetery Jim

08/14/04  From John Stover:  Hard to believe but this Aug 23 marks the 40th anniversary of Jackie's (McLaughlin) death at Nazareth.  Had he lived, one has to wonder if he, and not Tas, would be second on the All -Time Flemington win list?   Thank you, John Stover                      

08/21/04  From Cemetery Jim:  John;  Thanks for the comment. If you cosider that Jackie McLaughlin only raced from 1955 to 1964, and was killed at age 31, I think there is no doubt that, had he continued to run Flemington he would have been the all time top winner there.

Most of the top drivers today, (Kenny Brightbill, Jimmy Horton, Billy Pouch, Brett Hearn ) are all up in their 40s, he had a lot more features to win.

He was great everywhere on dirt or asphalt, but he was amazing at Flemington. Sam Nunis, of Steel Pier, and Trenton Speedway fame came there to see him run because he had heard so much about how fantastic he was at Flemington, and when Jackie's car blew up in the heat, Nunis rented Leon Manchester's car for Jackie to drive in the feature. That's how good Jackie was. -

03/25/05  From Bill Skinner:  Tas won at least 36 features at Alcyon; he won five in 1954, not four.  Thanks, Bill Skinner


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