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GREASE! Hosted By:  Cemetery Jim

November 26th, 2006

By: Cemeteryjim


A couple weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of doing an interview with one of my childhood idols, Lee Hendrickson. As a kid, and young adult, Lee was one of my very favorite drivers/owners/ builders...   Hell, he was a one man show !

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Known then, as his son Wade Hendrickson is now as "The Flying Farmer", Lee built and drove some of the best looking, and in many cases most innovative cars around. And if that wasn't enough, he built some of the fastest and most powerful engines as well. Oh yeah, and at the same time he also ran a dairy farm in his spare time.

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He also built and raced what I still to this day, consider the most beautiful modified ever built; the beautiful pin striped white 07 which he ran in 1960, and 1961. (see below)

It's a shame, but no picture can possibly do this car justice.  To me, this is the most beautiful modified I've ever seen.  Most of the pin striping and detail doesn't show up in photos, but this car was gorgeous.  Lee had several #07 cars, but this was the last and best of them.  After this car, Lee turned to building lighter cars and changed his # to "Z1".

After that the trend went to very light race cars, and Lee followed suit with a new #Z1 and later #Z07.  I always looked anxiously to see what Lee had built and brought to the track each week. Whatever he brought it was always beautiful,and innovative (at least when it was new).

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Lee, and his wife Penny are really great people, and I'm planning a trip to their farm in Lawrenceville after Thanksgiving.  I'll try to get some pictures of the race shops.   Lee still builds racing engines, and he and Wade are going to build a new Z1 car this winter.  Right now, the #2W at Bridgeport is running one of Lee's engines as well.

Penny loaned me all of her photo albums of Lee and his cars. She said it was the first time she had ever let them out of the house, so I hope you enjoy looking at them, and I thank Penny very sincerely for her trust in me to take good care of them.

Lee told me he started racing because his father used to take him to Flemington, and after watching the races he decided he could do that. Well he certainly proved he could. When I asked him why he retired from racing at a relatively young age, he told me that he and his brother ran the dairy farm, and his brother wanted out. Without his brother, he didn't have time to race anymore.

During his career, Lee won 3 at Nazareth, 4 or 5 at Harmony, 7 or 8 at East Windsor, and 2 at Flemington.

As most of you already know, when I was a kid, Saturday night meant Flemington - period, end quote!!! No, not just in the season, but year round.

If it was Saturday during the season, I was there. If it was Saturday in the winter, I was wishing they were running. It was a magic time, it was a magic place.

Flemington was about an hour and a half or more from our home town. I wasn't old enough to drive when I first started going there, but an older friend would drive, and we would roll up to the entrance gate about an hour or so before it would be opened in his V8 Ford, with Mercury skirts, Continental Kit, and Duals, with Douglass Steel pack mufflers.

Usually we weren't the first to arrive, but generally we were one of the first half dozen. I could run fast, so as soon as they opened the gates, I ran as fast as I could to the Grandstand. Although the Grandstand seats cost more than the bleacher seats, the box seats in the grandstand cost no more than any other grandstand seat, and that's where we wanted to be - 8' up in the air, 10' from the outside guardrail - where you could really see the cars and drivers. I always got there first and took the box two down from the starter's stand.

Now came half of the fun.  Watching the race cars come in, and unload and set up their pit.  When the #44 of Tasnady came in, a big cheer would go up, along with a lot of boos. The same with the McLaughlin 026, or deuce.  A little later in would come Hoop Schiable towing on an old hearse, and releasing some kind of fluid into the exhaust pipe of the hearse once he was in sight of the grandstand which sent billowing blue smoke out the back.

I always pick 2 or 3 drivers to watch in each race. Lee Hendrickson was always one of them. Smooth, and a yet daredevil - can't get a better combination than that !  I went to a lot of tracks in those days, but one of my strongest memories is still watching Lee Hendrickson drive, and being mesmerized by that beautiful pin striped white number 07 pulling onto the track at Flemington.

- Cemeteryjim


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11/26/06 Todd Lewis My dad Craig Lewis was a crew member for Lee in the 60's and was helping Wade when he first started out too. The picture of the car on the trailer I have somewhere in an album too. I never got to see Lee race but just down the road from their farm is Bob's Auto Service a garage that is owned by my Uncle Bob Hullfish who raced the J-61 at Flemington and various other Northeast tracks. My uncle and Lee are longtime friends in fact my uncle still goes to Bridgeport from time to time to help Wade.
GREAT PIECE - Todd Lewis
11/27/06 Greg Collins Lee had 4 modified feature wins at Harmony Speedway: September 6, 1969; September 19, 1970; June 27, 1971; April 29, 1972.
11/27/06 Ralph Richards I always thought of Lou Mood from Mullica Hill, NJ as the original " Flying Farmer". I guess Jim is talking about more recent drivers.  Thanks, Ralph Richards
11/28/06 Barry Pursell Wow when I think of green and fast I always think of the Z1.  Lee was one of my favorites as a kid.  Great pictures Jim.
11/28/06 Cemetery Jim In answer to my buddy, Ralph Richards comment, I'm sure there were hundreds of drivers all over the country known as "The Flying Farmer" at their local tracks long before Lou Mood, who, as you know, Ralph, I knew pretty well, and am aware that, in this area, Lou was known as "The Flying Farmer", prior to Lee Hendirickson.

Since there have been speedways since the early 1900s, and many farm owners have also driven race cars on them, AND anouncers, and idiotic writers, like myself, are always trying to come up with cute names to call them, I'm sure there have been "Flying Farmers" on speedways all over the country for about 100 years.

As you will see in the article, I was referring to Lee as the original "Flying Farmer" of the Hendrickson Family, because that's a title that now, in this area, belongs to Lee's son, Wade.
11/28/06 Cemetery Jim Thanks go out to Greg Collins for his Harmony info. Believe it or not, Lee never kept records of his wins, so he was just guessing from memory of how many wins he had anywhere.

Also, Thanks to Barry Pursell for his comments, and praise of the pictures, but all thanks for those beautiful pictures I will pass along to Penny Hendrickson for kindly allowed me to have all of her pictures to choose from.
11/28/06 3-Wide Let's not forget that the "Farmer" thing crosses over to other forms of Motorsports...  I don't think he was ever called "The Flying Farmer", but one of my favorite drag racers when I was a kid was Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick.  Think he race Pontiacs.  (I wonder if Grand National racer Red Farmer was ever referred to as "The Flying Farmer...")

Actually, this sounds like a good topic for Cemetery Jim to tackle in the future...   "Flying Farmer", "The Outlaw", "The Kid", "The Professor", The Doctor"... I'm sure you guys could probably come up with at least 2 or 3 examples for each!
11/28/06 Cemeteryjim Well, I can start it off with one I started myself. In some of my other columns where I talk about current racing, I have dubbed Steve Durand "The Flying Frenchman". Steve was born and raised in France, came here as a teenager speaking no English, and never having seen an oval dirt track before. A few years later he spoke fluent English, and was racing at Middletown.

Now I dare anyone who talks to him to get any inkling that he wasn't born here, no accent at all, and he's one of the top Big Block drivers at Bridgeport, finishing third to Pauch and Horton last week, and giving Horton quite a tussel.

Of course there was "The Wild Man" Elton Hildreth, The Iron Man, Bill Wark, Bill "Popcorn" Lewis, Stan,"the man" Ploski, "The Doctor", Danny Johnson, "A.J. Slideways", (Allan Johnson)
"The King", Steve Kinser, "The Intimidator" Dale Earnhardt, and on, and on. I'll work on that some more.
11/28/06 3 Wide Yea Jim, but here's the twist...  Can we think of other examples where the 2 drivers (possibly from 2 different eras) shared the same nickname?  

Regarding the Z-1's pictured above, by favorite was the little coupe.  You had to see this thing in person.  Tiny little body with this huge motor sticking out the front of it!  Check out the injector stacks sticking straight up and the exhaust tubes sticking straight out.

No frills here... this particular coupe was all business.
11/28/06 Barry Pursell The 07 is not only a beauty Jim but she is a 4 door beauty.   The extra side glass really sets her off.
11/28/06 3-Wide Jim, if you can get me a higher resolution scan of the #07(without any text), I'll post a clearer picture of it.
11/28/06 Cemeteryjim Well, Rip, I'd like to say I didn't start driving till after I died, and I used to be known as "The Flying Corpse", but actually I ran Cemetries, mausoleums, and crematories for many years, and my name is Jim, Hence... Cemeteryjim.

Maybe I should have used your name, R.I.P. LOL
11/29/06 Barry hey jim go to the 60s page 13a.  There's a great shot of the z1 coach next to Rags in the 44.
12/25/06 Ken Johnson I think that the Flying Farmer name was big in the 30's, 40's and 50's with a guy from up our way named Tommy Hinnershitz. He was Ok.

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