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GREASE! Hosted By:  Cemetery Jim

June 18th, 2005


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One of the questions I'm often asked, (having been around modified racing since the early '50s), is how do I think drivers of different eras would do if switched to another era, (One of the dangers of getting old).

Specifically, they are curious of how the legends of the past would fare against today's hot shoes if they were racing now. What would Jackie McLaughlin, Al Tasnady, Budd Olsen, Frankie Schneider, and other legends of the '50s and '60s be like in a new Teo, or Bicknell, (etc.), today.

By the same token, how would Jimmy Horton, Billy Pauch, Brett Hearn and the like perform in the '50s and '60s Modifieds.

It has long been my contention that the best drivers, the real stars and legends, do not climb into a race car, and go through the motions of driving a mechanical device, but, in fact, once inside a race car, their brain,( somehow), accepts that car as part of their body. They do not have to decide what to do next, their brain just does it automatically. Their brain operates the car as though it were an arm or leg.

When we want to walk from here to there, we don't have to think about how to do it. You don't think, OK I'll lift my left leg a little, move it forward about 2 feet, and set it down, then do the same with the right, Etc. You just walk automatically, because your brain takes care of it for you automatically. That's how, I believe, the greats became the greats. Their brain, for some reason, accepts a race car as just as much a part of their body as their arm, leg, fingers, etc.


Now, let's talk about the cars themselves. OK, back in the '50s I built my first car, and at that time the cars had to be almost showroom stock, except for the engine.

Mine was a '37 ford, flatback sedan, and we put a 312 cu in Ford engine in it. The engine had to be placed in the original position, right over the front axle, You basically couldn't do anything to the original Ford frame. We replaced the mechanical brakes with "juice" brakes, and replaced the "knee action" shocks with tube shocks. We ran a Model A cross member front end which was a single leaf spring that ran left to right between the two front wheels, and we switched out the transmission for a slightly stronger '39 unit.

For tires, we ran drag slicks as there were no tires made for modifieds at the time, so we had to groove them ourselves with a tire groover. They were only 6 inches wide.

Now... compared to a new Bicknell, or Teo, or Dirt Wheels, or whatever, with the way set back engines, fully adjustable weight distribution, tube chassis, and interior wing and roof downforce, plus the giant dirt tires, I don't think there's much difference in driving one of those with a full race 467, than driving a '50s car with a 312.

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So, in conclusion, (bet you're glad to hear that), If Jackie McLaughlin, Tas, and Olsen walked out of a corn field as in "if you build it, they will come" I think McLaughlin could hop in the 911, Tas in the Pauch # 1, and Olsen in the Bud #3... while Jimmy Horton climbed into Jackie McLaughlin's 026, and Billy Pauch got into the Tasnady 44, and Brett Hearn into the Olsen #98, they would all turn pretty much the same lap times as the driver they were replacing.

There is one more thing I feel I need to say here. When Jackie McLaughlin was racing he was absolutely amazing. Sam Nunis, the promoter at Trenton Speedway which ran Indy cars and what are now Nextel Cup Cars, came to Flemington one Saturday night just to see him run, he had heard so much about this spectacular driver named McLaughlin at Flemington. Jackie's car was wiped out in the heat race, so Nunis actually rented Leon Manchester's car for Jackie to drive in the feature. That's how much he wanted to see this phenomenon.

Paul "Pops" Whiteman, TV star, Orchestra leader, and composer, came all the way from Florida to see Jackie race. McLaughlin was nothing short of amazing !

In all the years, and all the races I've seen since 1964, when Jackie got killed, there have only been 2 drivers who even reminded me of Jackie: Stan Ploski, and Jimmy Horton, but even as good as they both are/were, they were never quite in a class with the unbelievable Jackie McLaughlin.

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