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GREASE! Hosted By:  Cemetery Jim

Jan 21st, 2009

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So far the big news for the 2009 racing season is - PETTY ENTERPRISES...GONE!!!

Richard Petty will remain a prominent figure in the garage. However, Petty Enterprises -- a 60-year staple in the Cup Series -- has closed its doors.

According to an email from NASCAR,

“Richard Petty and Petty Holdings will continue to own and operate the Richard Petty Driving Experience as an independent entity."  I want to get back to winning and together we will bring the resources, technology and infrastructure to do that," Petty said.  The team will field four Dodge entries in the 2009 Cup season: Nos. 9, 10, 19 and 43. NASCAR.COM's David Caraviello says a change to the team name, which will reflect Petty's, will come at a later date."

"This was a big decision for us but it's something we really wanted to do," said Petty, a seven-time champion and owner of 200 Cup victories. "We hope everyone in the sport embraces what [GEM co-owner] George [Gillett] and I are doing."  Nothing is going to change for me. I'm going to be at the track every weekend and really involved with the teams and drivers back at the shop. We are very happy. George and I have a lot of work to do, but we have a plan and we'll be ready for Daytona."Petty Enterprises is the winningest team in NASCAR history with 268 Cup victories since 1949.Gillett said it is a privilege to help write a new chapter in the Petty family history.”

As the Daytona 500 peripherals begin this month, I'm thinking back to the '60s, when I spent every annual “Speed Weeks” at the Daytona Speedway watching the legends of the sport in action. I remember one year in the early '60s, Richard Petty's car got airborne between turns 1 and 2, and literally sailed over the fence like a glider, and landed in the parking lot, in one of the 100 mile preliminary races. In the other hundred mile race, his dad, Lee Petty, had a major crash in turn 4. A bad day for the Pettys.

It's a shame that MONEY has become the more important than race cars, drivers, mechanics, crew chiefs, or anything else in NASCAR racing, as well as most other racing these days.

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Jackie McLaughlin – Al Tasnady – and Budd Olsen

Back in the '50s and '60s, these three men dominated the Tri-State racing scene, as well as the National NASCAR Modified circuit. The irony was that they spent most weekends racing each other at the same tracks. That was a wonderful and somewhat miraculous treat for the race fans. Every Friday night an the late fifties, we had the pleasure of watching these three Phenoms racing each other, as well as several other NASCAR National Modified Champions at the Fabulous Alcyon Speedway, in Pitman NJ. Included in the field each Friday were Glen Guthrie, Johnny Roberts, Ed Lindsey, Reds Kagle, Ken Marriott, and others from MD. - Pee Wee Pobletts, and others from VA., and almost all the top drivers from Jersey, Pa., and De. On Saturday Nights, the trio raced each other at Flemington Speedway, and on Sunday, at Nazareth Speedway.

This time we'll talk about one of the best, and most talented race drivers of all time. Jackie McLaughlin. Jackie was so good, he actually made the cars he drove legendary!  In the late fifties, Jackie made the #300, Case Tractors modified, the Pete Ambrosia # 026 modified famous, and the Lucky Jordan #2(Deuce) more famous than it already was.

A master behind the wheel, Jackie often drove two, or even all three heat races, in different cars. The reason for that was that many owners of cars that didn't always go fast enough to qualify for the feature asked Jackie to qualify their car for them. Jackie loved to race, and so, if he was starting in the third heat in his regular ride, he would qualify other cars in the first and second heats. Very seldom did he fail to qualify any car he took out, no matter how slow a car it may have been. Nobody that I have ever seen had the ability to make a car go so much faster than anyone else could!

Perhaps the best example of that is the fact that for a brief period of time, he drove a USAC sprint car that was powered by a Dodge engine. He raced this low budget Dodge car against the top Indy Car drivers several times and always was the talk of everyone who saw him. He actually raced this low budget Dodge car into the top five regularly against the Indy drivers in their powerful and super expensive Drake, and Offenhouser powered cars, in one case running side by side for the lead for many laps against the driver who had won the Indianapolis 500 two weeks before! Unfortunately, the race was rained out with McLaughlin still side by side for the lead when the race ended.

Whether racing to 30 plus feature wins in one of the modifieds mentioned above, or winning multiple features in the #95A Modified, on the pavement at Vineland Speedway, or at the wheel of a URC, or USAC Sprint car, Jackie was as close to impossible to beat as any driver there ever was.

On the downside... Many owners would not hire Jack to drive their cars because he was extremely hard on equipment. First of all, the words “slow down” were mysteriously missing from his vocabulary. If he was leading by ¾ of a lap, with 3 laps to go, he still ran the car just as fast as he could make it go. Wide open, and then a little more, was the only way he ever drove. Don't get me wrong, he was as smooth as silk, and and never even slightly out of control, he just tried to turn the fastest smoothest lap he could every single lap. Another way he was tough on cars was his reputation for driving the fastest line around the speedway, even if that meant running through massive pot holes every lap. He refused to give up the fast line just to avoid a hole. At Flemington, back in the days when it was totally square and tremendously narrow, you had 4 90% super sharp corners to negotiate. Jack had found that the fastest way around was to throw the car sideways about half way down each straight, apply lots of power to the spinning rear wheels to push the car away from the outside rail and down to the inside guardrail in the apex, or middle of the turn, then wide open coming out and letting the rear bumper tap the outside guardrail to straighten the car out. This maneuver was so famous that people such as Orchestra leader, Paul, (Pops) Whiteman, a big NASCAR fan, drove his Corvette all the way from his home in Daytona Beach to see him run. Sam Nunis, owner of the Steel Pier at the time, and promoter of the Trenton Speedway, a one mile paved speedway host to Indy car races came to see him run, and when Jack's engine blew in his heat, Nunis rented Leon Manchester's, (Jack's Brother in Law), for Jack to drive in the feature.

Jackie left school at the age of 17 to become a race car driver. Each year his career seemed to shine brighter as his victory total increased. He died at the age of 31, in a crash at the Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway. In the weeks just before his accident he had won 9 races in a 14 day period at tracks in New York and Pennsylvania. He was driving the #83 car, owned and built by 1958 NASCAR National Modified Champion, Budd Olsen. Budd, who was married to Jackie's sister, had built the #83 to drive himself, however, Shortly before the season started, he was offered a ride in the Piscopo #39 car, and decided to accept the offer. He called Jack and offered him the ride in the 83 car, which McLaughlin accepted.

Jackie was married to Sandy Johnson, widow of Van Johnson, who had died racing a sprint car at Williams Grove, Pennsylvania. Jackie adopted Van and Sandy's son, Van, and Jackie and Sandy had a daughter, Nancy. Nancy, was on the U.S. Olympic team the year that the U.S. boycotted the Olympics. Sadly, she never got to participate.

Sandy was a lovely, vibrant lady who had racing in her blood, much like Jackie. They were a delightful couple who had a brief but very happy life together. After being married to two young race drivers who were both killed in racing accidents, Sandy later married a third driver, Walt Kinsley.

Kinsley had been the owner/driver of the modified #325. He had driven under the name of Walt Donald, (Donald was actually his middle name). Walt had retired from driving race cars, and was quite wealthy due to selling the infamous “Kinsley Land Fill”, shortly before marrying Sandy. He and Sandy moved to a horse farm they bought, and Walt started the famous “WD Stables”, a legend in breeding and racing horses.

Next time, an AL TASNADY Profile

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I'm thinking that, on the local racing level, I'd like to see a new class of Modifieds.  Perhaps we could call them something like “Gold Crown Modifieds', or “Top Gun Modifieds”, or some other name that denotes a pure, fast, powerful racing machine.

The rules would dictate that tube frames are OK, however, only stock American car bodies would be allowed. NO FACTORY RACE CARS! No aero modifications would be allowed. No wings, spoilers, etc. You just take a stock American street car body, cut it down a little, and plunk it on a homebuilt, or factory built tube chassis. Any American production car engine would be allowed, whether big block or small block, and any internal modifications would be OK. Engines would be allowed to run gas or alcohol, and carburetors or injectors would be fine.

These cars would be awesome, potent and exciting race cars, and yet a talented guy, or group of guys, could build a competitive one from scratch in the backyard garage! Money would no longer be the main determining factor in who wins and who brings up the rear.

The peripheral, but most important benefit would be increased crowd interest. I hear fans complaining all the time that they don't like the “Cookie Cutter” cars of today's Modified racing. Whether a Troyer, Teo, Bicknell, or whatever, they all look almost identical. These cars have absolutely NO CHARACTER! Virtually nobody in the stands likes them. If even the people who do come, don't like the cars, then how many others don't come because they don't like them?

These cars would all be different from each other, and a lot more interesting to watch than the the current ones that all look exactly alike. In addition, the Chevy , Ford, and Mopar people, would have their favorite brand cars out there to root for.

The lower cost would also promote higher car counts, and therefore full fields for each heat race, (and the ability to run all three heats with full fields). Essentially, this would bring Modified racing back to the days of the late 60s, and the 70s when pits bulging with fast and interesting looking race cars went into battle in front of full grandstands of shouting, happy, devoted fans! Would we fill the stands today just by running these cars? Probably not, but, I really believe that with proper advertising, other attractions such as thrill shows, live bands, fireworks, cheaper “General Admission” tickets for the less desirable seats, more reasonable food prices, and shorter shows by limiting the number of different divisions that run in a given night, as well as working with other speedways to run on DIFFERENT nights would, together, produce a sizable increase in front gate money.

If, for example, Bridgeport and New Egypt would get together a little more and run on different nights, the top cars and drivers from each track would run both of them. Big fields of fast cars, combined with low cost General admission tickets would definitely give a big boost to fan attendance. Run the big block Modified shows at Bridgeport on FRIDAY nights, and leave New Egypt their Saturday night shows. Form a combined points fund for the two tracks together. Announce race results and promotional announcements at each track, for the other one. Once every few weeks run a big 50 lap Sunday afternoon show, alternating the Sunday shows between the two speedways. LETS SAVE RACING IN NJ!!!!!!


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