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1948 AAA National Championship


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#1 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 16:13

HISTORY OF 1948 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACING by John G. Printz and Ken M. McMaken. For 1948 one gets a clear sense of more activity, many newcomers, new money, new cars, and much more hustle and bustle. The U.S. was pulling out of the immediate post- World War II doldrums. The 1948 season had a total of twelve races, one more than in 1947, so it again was a very busy year. Eleven drivers participated in at least eight Championship contests during 1948. These were Emil Andres, Myron Fohr, Mel Hansen, Ted Horn, Johnny Mantz, Rex Mays, Duke Nalon, Paul Russo, Bill Sheffler, Lee Wallard, and Charles Van Acker. Tony Bettenhausen and Trevis Leon "Spider" Webb were in eight events for the year. The twelve 1948 AAA Championship races run and their winners were:

1. April 25 Arlington Downs 100, Horn, Ted, Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek (1947), 78.64 mph D

2. May 31 Indianapolis 500, Rose, Mauri, Offenhauser/Deidt FD (1947), 119.81 mph, PO NTR

3. June 6 Milwaukee 100, Andres, Emil, Offenhauser/Kurtis (1948), 85.31 mph, D

4. June 20 Langhorne 100, Brown, Walt, Offenhauser/Kurtis (1948), 89.62 mph, D

5. August 15 Milwaukee 100, Mantz, Johnny, Offenhauser/Kurtis (1948), 85.32 mph D

6. August 21 Springfield 100, Horn, Ted, Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek (1947), 90.52 mph D

7. August 29 Milwaukee 200, Fohr, Myron-Bettenhausen, Tony, Offenhauser/Marchese (1938), 86.73 mph D

8. Sept. 4 Du Quoin 100, Wallard, Lee, Offenhauser/Meyer (1936), 88.38 mph D

9. Sept. 6 Atlanta 100, Hansen, Mel, Offenhauser/Wetteroth (1939), 79.27 mph D

10. Sept. 6 Pikes Peak 12.42, Rogers, Al, Offenhauser/Coniff, 47.07 mph H

11. Sept. 19 Springfield 100, Fohr, Myron, Offenhauser/Marchese (1938), 88.69 mph D

12. Oct. 10 Du Quoin 100, Parsons, Johnnie, Offenhauser/Kurtis (1948), 83.57 mph D

Edited by john glenn printz, 26 August 2012 - 19:54.


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#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 18:03

I'm sure I'm not the only one who'll be a most interested follower of this thread, but in the meantime let me assist with a couple of minor amendments:

8. Sept. 4 DuQuoin 100, Wallard, Lee, Offenhauser/Meyer, 88.38 mph D

10. Sept. 6 Pikes Peak 12.42, Rogers, Al, Offenhauser, 47.07 mph H

The "Iddings Special" (Offenhauser/Meyer) of Lee Wallard was apparently built in 1936, and the "Coniff Special" (Offenhauser) of Al Rogers in 1939, if I'm not mistaken.

#3 ovfi

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 19:23

Michael, good to see you back. As a frequent reader (but scarce contributor) of this forum, I was missing your presence on threads of historic relevance, like this one.

#4 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 21:04

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-1) 1. ARLINGTON DOWNS 100, APRIL 25, 1948. Since 1928, the Indianapolis 500 had always begun the AAA Championship season, with the one exception of 1930 when the Langhorne 100, run on May 3, opened the schedule. However in 1948 a 100 miler at Arlington Downs opened the official AAA Championship season. Arlington Downs had staged the last Championship contest for 1947 and now, back to back, held the first Championship race for 1948. The race was billed as an "Indianapolis Preview". In any case the thinking of Stapp and Lockwood was that they would also run another Championship 100 miler event here, scheduled for September 12, 1948. Harry Hartz (1894-1974), the 1926 AAA National Championship Titlist, was here as the honorary referee. The race winner would receive the H. H. Wheler Memorial Cup, which was donated by his widow Virgina. The deceased Mr. Wheler was said to have been an automobile executive and sportsman.

The 1925 and 1927 AAA National Champion, Peter DePaolo (1898-1980), was present also as a correspondant for a Los Angeles newspaper. DePaolo reminisced (quote), "Auto racing is the one sport in which there isn't the money to be made by the competitor that was his for success two or three decades ago. When I won at Indianapolis in 1925 I carried off $52,000. Last year Mauri Rose got around $33,000. I grossed $162,000 in 1925. A substantial part of my reward in the 500 miler was won in lap prizes. I just about swept the boards. But drivers today can't approach my figure for the year. Even if they could, they wouldn't have anywhere near as much as I had to take home. Income taxes were relatively small then."

"The boys can't make any big money in these dirt track races. When I was racing we had at least ten or a dozen board tracks in the United States. The promoters put on some great meets. They attracted tremendous crowds and the purses were big. A good man in a good machine could mop up then. Some of the tracks staged several races a year. Others had only one or two big ones like Altoona, Pa., and Atlantic City, N.J.''

"It took a lot of money to built and maintain these board tracks. Somehow, they all faded out. Today there isn't a single one in the United States. The bottom really fell out of the racing in the late twenties. The game hasn't been built back up. Facilities aren't available. That's why the present drivers can't make the kind of money we used to rake in."

DePaolo, who served in the aviation corps in both World War I and II, talked about how he got into racing. "I was wild about engines of all kinds and especially automobiles as a kid growing up at Roseland, N.J. My uncle, Ralph DePalma, winner of the Indianapolis classic in 1915, was my idol. I enlisted and became an airplane mechanic because uncle promised he'd consider allowing me to be his mechanic if I'd pass the course. I worked like everything to do it. After the war I rode with him as his mechanic for two years."

There were 22 entries and the fastest 18 would be allowed to start. Six brand new race cars were entered but not all of these showed up. Among the new cars here at Arlington Downs was a six wheeled Offenhauser/Kurtis owned by Pat Clancy, a trucking executive from Memphis, TN. Clancy's idea was that having a four wheel drive mechanism in the back of a car would greatly increase the vehicle's traction and thus the acceleration out of the turns, resulting in more speed. Another new innovative feature of the Clancy Special No. 19 was that all six wheels, manufactured by Ted Halibrand (1916-1991), were of solid magnesium, instead of the traditional spoke type. This car was piloted by Louis "Billy" DeVore (1910-1985), who was the son of Francis "Earl" DeVore (1889-1928) who had driven in many major AAA races during 1912 to 1928. Earl, along with fellow driver Norman K. Batten (1893-1928), had both drowned at sea in November 1928, in the "S. S. Vestris" disaster, while on their way to race and promote automobile contests in South America. Batten had relieved DePaolo at Indianapolis in 1925 for laps 106-127, in what would be a winning effort.

Billy DeVore himself had been a riding mechanic at Indianapolis for Deacon Litz in 1931, Wilbur Shaw in 1933, and Doc MacKenzie in 1935, during the two-man car AAA Championship era. Billy began driving in the Championship division in 1936. After taking the six wheeler out for very first time on April 19, here at Arlington Downs, Billy said, "l believe that, with all four wheels driving, the car will out perform conventional cars. It certainly handles like a good race car." Billy's best placement in the AAA National Championship standings was 6th in 1938; for 1946 DeVore was listed 36th and for 1947, 17th. Immediately after the war, i.e. 1946-1950, DeVore was desperately trying to keep his AAA driving career alive.

Louis "Lou" J. Fageol (d. 1961 at age 54) had a new car here powered by a 273 cubic inch modified 6 cylinder bus engine, with Bill Holland finally nominated as its chauffeur. The motor was all aluminum and had three down draft carburetors. The machine had no springs but was suspended by rubber "torsolastic" mountings. Holland said, "I hope it will go. But all owners tell you their cars will run. You don't know how well until you get them in competition." Fageol was much more active and successful in power boat racing, an activity he had been engaged in since 1928 as an active driver. Fageol however had owned midgets before World War II (1939-1945) and even had an entry and starter at Indianapolis in 1941 with pilot Mel Hansen. In late 1938 Art Sparks had begun designing and constructing a Land Speed Record car for Joel Thorne (1914-1955), but when Thorne needed a little extra pocket money in 1941, he sold the car to Fageol for a measly $2500. Sparks was very upset over this transaction, as Art had put a lot of work into this project. In 1946 Fageol had partly financed Paul Weirick's twin midget engined Offenhauser powered, Indianapolis machine, with Paul Russo at the wheel. In 1948 Fageol was the head of the Twin Coach Company, located in Kent, OH.

Racing chassis constructor and designer Frank Kurtis (real name Frank Peter Kuretich, 1908-1987) and Edward "Ed" J. Walsh (1909-1991) of Saint Louis, MO had formed a business partnership during 1947 when Frank wanted to relocate, and enlarge his shop and work facility. At the time Kurtis was mostly building midgets, but had already put together a Championship car for Walsh in 1941 and another Championship level racer for Ross Page in 1946. Of Walsh, it was said, that he came from a family of great wealth who owned apartment houses and department stores in Saint Louis. Walsh's first venture into Championship racing was a joint sponsorship of Billy DeVore at Indianapolis in 1938 with an Offenhauser/Stevens car, still owned by Joel Thorne.

Both of the Novi front drive chassis were constructed by Kurtis but in this specific case Frank had not designed them. That task had been assigned to Leo Goossen, under the watchful eye of Bud Winfield. Here Frank just followed Leo's drawings and didn't have much say in the project. In early 1947 Frank had also built a new chassis for the Charles E. Bowes' 1938 Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen straight 8 179 cubic inch supercharged engine, replacing the older chassis made by Myron Stevens in 1938. Here at the April 1948 Arlington Downs 100, Kurtis and Walsh first appeared with their new factory or "works" car, i.e. the 1948 Kurtis Kraft Special No. 7. It featured a tubular space frame, torsion bar independent suspension on all four wheels, and a De Dion type rear end. The car was assigned to Walt Brown. This was a radical new design and was Kurtis' idea of what a modern AAA Championship racing car should be and look like

Edited by john glenn printz, 09 June 2010 - 11:31.


#5 john glenn printz

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 16:40

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-2) There was some shuffling in the original driver-car combinations. At first Bill Holland was to drive the Gabby Hall Special No. 2, which would explain how the car came to have the number "2", but then Holland jumped to the Lou Fageol No. 36 entry. However Bill stepped out of the Fageol car also, after trying it out, citing it as too slow to be competitive. Bill was then replaced in it by Henry Banks (1913-1994). Art Hartsfield (1909-1970), a local Detroit area midget pilot, turned his already qualified Corley Special over to Joie Chitwood for the race itself. Art had qualified 5th fastest in it, at 44.90 seconds. Although often sited in the contemporary source material as Hartsfield, his real last name was Hartsfeld. Chitwood had spun his first mount, the Nyquist Offy Special No. 55, on April 24 in a practice accident. Hartfield, in early 1948, was trying to move up and join the AAA Championship division. Two new names here, trying both to qualify, were Manuel Ayulo (1921-1955) and Jack McGrath (1919-1955). Jack and Manuel were very good friends and often travelled together. Both had previously raced hot rods or roadsters in California. Both also made the Arlington Downs lineup, for their very first AAA Championship starts. Neither Emil Andres or Tony Bettenhausen, nor the Belanger team had entered. Duke Nalon was again using Paul Weirick's "Poison Lil", which was now powered by a 171 cubic inch supercharged Offenhauser.

Walt Brown, in the new Kurtis Kraft No. 7, was a non-qualifier. As Frank Kurtis remembered it (quote), "We finished up our own car taking to Arlington Downs track in Texas and hired Walt Brown to drive it, prior to the Indy 500. I was anxious to see how it might work, and although the track was a one mile dirt course, a far cry from Indianapolis, we got Walt out in it and he looked great during practice however on his second qualifying lap a very special casting on the right rear wheel support failed so that ended our debut. This part had been magnafluxed, properly heat-treated , etc., but when it broke, on our car, it reflected on our design and you can bet there was a lot of tongues wagging, all unfavorable for us, from some of the jealous racing people. We brought the car back to L.A. and replaced the castings with fabricated assembles, no more problems after this. We had many features in this car, four wheel full independent suspension (torsion bars) tubular frame, limited slip rear axle, rubber fuel tank, and many other refinements." The car's first appearance ever was on April 22, with Brown in it.

The qualification results were: Paul Russo in Norm Olson's machine was the fastest at 42.85 seconds (89.265 mph); 2. Red Hodges at 43.27; 3. Rex Mays 43.29; and 4. Ted Horn 43.44. There were 17 starters, with McGrath in Bill Sheffler's car No. 52, in the last position because Jack had posted no qualification time. William Ben "Red" Hodges (1907-1996) was from Dallas and was a popular and local midget driver. This appearance at Arlington Downs was apparently his only try in the AAA Champ cars. Hodges was piloting the Gabby Hall Special No. 2, an Offenhauser/Bromme, recently purchased directly from Louis Bromme of Los Angeles, by Gabby Hall and Charlie Brown who were both from Dallas.

E. Paul Waggoner, the actual owner of Arlington Downs, was the honorary starter. The management said they expected 40,000 to 50,000 (!) spectators, and had enlarged the seating capacity up to 14,418. A heavy rain the night before the race made the track slow and sloppy.

At the start Russo jumped into the front spot and led laps 1-8, then Paul encountered engine problems and had to pit. Russo's problems gave the lead to Joie Chitwood, who led circuits 9-48. Horn had moved into 2nd on lap 12. Chitwood began having a steering gear problem and had to slow his pace, which allowed Horn to take over the front postion for laps 49-95. Chitwood continued on, but had to drive very cautiously in the turns. On his 10th lap, Steve Truchan (1913-1998), went through the fence on the backstretch but was not injured. The top five finishers were: 1. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek); 2. Duke Dinsmore (Offenhauser/Wetteroth); 3. Duke Nalon (Offenhauser/Adams); 4. Joie Chitwood (Offenhauser/Wetteroth), and 5. Manuel Ayulo (Offenhauser/Weidell). Horn at the end was three laps ahead of Dinsmore. Horn was very happy with the win and remarked, "I think the 500 mile race at Indianapolis is going to be mine this time. I'm getting old, you know, and I need to win it pretty soon if ever." Horn had picked up 200 Championship points and moved into 1st place in the AAA National Championship rankings.

The total purse was $10,000, of which Horn collected $2,478. The winning time was 1:17:00.56 (78.644 mph). Red Hodges had done well. Hodges ran in 3rd for four laps, then slipped to 4th. He was riding in 5th place when the car went out of the contest after 59 laps, because of motor trouble.

Edited by john glenn printz, 08 January 2010 - 18:20.


#6 ReWind

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 18:49

Art Hartfield (1909-1970)

Just for the sake of accuracy: He was Art Hartsfeld.


#7 john glenn printz

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 21:21

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-3) 2. INDIANAPOLIS 500, MAY 31, 1948. There was a record total of 80 entries for the 500. As Bill Holland summed it up on April 24 at Arlington Downs (quote), "This year's 500-miler should be the greatest ever staged. The race has attracted more cars than ever before. There'll be better machines and the cream of the driving crop. There's no reason why, barring accidents, that would prevent continuous running, that a lot of records will not be smashed May 30." Later a driver at the Speedway in early May quipped (quote), "Yeah, 80 entries, 15 of which won't even get here, another 15 who shouldn't be here, and there you have 50 entries left to qualify." The four lap qualification trials were scheduled for May 15, 16, 22, 23, 26, and 29.

At first it may have seemed that the situation was largely the same as obtained in 1947. The main contenders for 1948, which numbered seven cars, appeared to be exactly the same vehicles as in 1947. The seven were the two front drive Novis, now placed in the hands of Cliff Bergere and Chet Miller. Lou Moore's two front drives were returning with Bill Holland and Mauri Rose. Ted Horn was again entered in the old 1939 type 8CTF Maserati, owned by Cotton Henning. Rex Mays was back with mechanic Pete Clark and had stuck with the Bowes Seal Fast team, using the same 1947 Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen/Kurtis. And lastly Tommy Lee's 1939 V12 Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz was on the entry list but no driver had been nominated as yet. These were probably the top seven 1948 contenders. In addition, Lou Moore now had a third car, a conventional rear drive dirt car, which he had built, powered by a 220 cubic inch Offenhauser. It was constructed for Bill Holland's later use in the regional Eastern AAA "big-car" races for 1948, but Mack Hellings (1915-1951) was now slated to be its temporary chauffeur here at Indianapolis.

Jimmy Jackson (1910-1984) who had placed 2nd in 1946 and 5th in 1947 with his own car, was now linked up with a wealthy California oil man, Howard B. Keck. This was Keck's first year at the Speedway and Keck had had Emil Deidt built a classy new, one off, front drive chassis. Jackson was in 1948, in very high regard as a Speedway driver at Indianapolis, and Keck wanted the best. Keck brought to the Speedway two new "rookie" mechanics, Frank Coon and Jim Travers, soon to be known as the "Rich Kids". Both of Murrell Belanger's two 1947 Champ cars were shipped to California in early 1948, and were worked on, rebuilt, revamped and revised by Emil Deidt and Lujie Lesovsky. Lesovsky, before World War II, had worked and served his apprenticeship, with Curly Wetteroth. Murrell's two pilots were now Tony Bettenhausen and Duke Nalon, as Emil Andres was no longer on the Belanger team.

Another new car owner in 1948, here at the Speedway for the first time as an entrant, was J. C. Agajanian. The middle iniitial "C." in his name came from a nickname of his, i.e., "Jacie". Joshua James "Aggie" or "J. C." Agajanian (1913-1984), had been a fan at the 5/8's mile Ascot speedway in the early 1930's and made the acquaintance of a regular Ascot pilot, i.e. Lester Spangler (1906-1933). Lester encouraged Agajanian's desire to be a race driver. In 1932 Aggie purchased a two port Cragar racer for $1,500. But Agajanian's father, when he found out about it, objected to his son racing. The father, James T. Agajanian, told his son, that if he was going racing, to move out of the house, and in addition to change his last name! A compromise was reached. Aggie could keep the car but would have to find another man to drive it. That's how a very young J. C. Agajanian, originally became a race car sponsor and owner, but not a driver.

The AAA Contest Board's clout and influence on the West Coast's "big car" racing, went practically down to zero quickly in 1936. All Championship level activity here had really disappeared with the demise of the board tracks in the late 1920s. The last California AAA Championship board oval event was the March 6, 1927 Culver City 250, won by Leon Duray (1894-1956) in a front drive 90 cubic inch Miller at a clip of 124.71 mph. With the sole exception of the December 24, 1934 Mines Field (Los Angeles) 200, won by Petillo, there wasn't another West Coast AAA Championship contest until the October 30, 1949 Sacramento 100. The AAA also lost its control of "big car" racing in the West also, when Ascot staged its last race on January 26, 1936 and the Oakland Speedway bolted from the AAA in March 1936. But "big car" racing continued to be run here, but not by the AAA. In the absence of AAA supervision other sanctioning bodies soon sprang up.

It should be pointed out however that the AAA ran midget races at the 1/4 mile Gilmore Studium during 1939, 1940, and 1941, and the AAA had revived their West Coast midget racing activities in 1947. The western AAA zone supervisor was at first, and had been, Arthur C. Pillsbury (d. 1966, at age 87), a man always inordinately praised by racing historian Russ Catlin. However in actuality Pillsbury seems to have been somewhat of a prig. At some point during 1946, J. Gordon Betz (1918-2009) took over Pillsbury's AAA supervisory position.

In 1937 Agajanian helped organize the Western Racing Association (WRA) to hold "big car" races. Naturally the WRA was regarded as an outlaw and splinter group, by the AAA. The WRA ran races at South Gate (South Ascot), Oakland, Phoenix, and later at Carrell. At first Aggie was the Treasurer of the WRA, but later became its President. Both before and after World War II, Agajanian was both a WRA race organizer and a WRA "big car" owner. In October 1947 Agajanian became the new promotor of the 1/2 mile Carrell speedway, located in Gardena, CA, replacing "Hollywood" Bill White. Carrell was then being managed by Emmett Malloy, a leasee of the oval, under the Carrell estate. But Agajanian was looking ahead in 1947 and early 1948, for higher aims and challenges. J.C. wanted to run a car at Indianapolis, which meant he would have to make some accomodation with the AAA Contest Board. In the meantime Art Pillsbury himself and Gordon Betz too, wanted to bring an AAA regional "big car" circuit, back to the west coast.

Mechanic Clay Smith (d. 1954), with speed boat and midget car experience behind him, was hired by Aggie in 1947. Clay started as an assistant to Al Henly but Al quit in early 1948 and Smith suddenly found himself in charge of the whole mechanical operation, as well as having to prepare a car for Indianapolis. Agajanian had ordered a new Championship car chassis from Frank Kurtis, for entry at the 1948 Indianapolis 500. And as he was still technically connected with the WRA, an outlaw outfit, Aggie had the car, just as a precaution, entered by the "Smith and Jones Co.", i. e. Clay Smith and Danny Jones. Smith and Jones then operated a Speed Shop in Long Beach. The entry here was however allowed to pass and ran as the "Agajanian Special No. 98". Meanwhile Aggie had quit the WRA in April 1948 and at some point joined forces with the AAA, Betz, and Pillsbury. On November 14, 1948 at Carrell, the first Pacific Coast AAA "big car" races in California since January 26, 1936, were run under Agajanian's promotion. It was, believe it or not, the first time that Rex Mays (1913-1949) had raced in the state of California, since the January 26, 1936 Ascot 100 event, in which Al Gordon (1903-1936) and Spider Matlock had been killed.

For his first foray at Indianapolis, Agajanian chose Johnny Mantz (1918-1972) as his designated driver. Mantz, a native born Californian, began racing in midgets in 1939 at San Bernardino. In 1940 and 1941 he raced midgets under the sanction of the United Midget Association and then enlisted into the Canadian Royal Air Force in September 1941. Immediately after the war, in late 1945, Johnny began racing the "doodle bugs" again. In early 1948 Mantz moved into the WRA big cars, driving for owner Al Morales. Mantz was very successful in the WRA big cars and had now caught the eye of J. C. Agajanian. So all three of these Indianapolis rookies, i.e. car owner Agajanian, mechanic Clay Smith, and pilot Mantz, headed off for their first Indianapolis race.

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 February 2012 - 13:29.


#8 john glenn printz

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 18:48

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-4) In 1946 a new Lincoln-Mercury automobile franchise was started in Inglewood, CA by Robert "Bob" Stewart Estes (1913-2002). In 1948 Bob apparently put up some money to assist the No. 88 "Weidel Mercury" machine taken to Indianapolis and powered by a modified-souped up 268 cubic inch Mercury V8. Manuel Ayulo (1921-1955) was its driver. Among the car's crew was Abraham Joseph "A. J." Watson (b. 1924). Both Estes and Watson were newcomers to the Speedway in 1948.

The three Granatelli brothers from Chicago, IL had entered four cars in all, two of which (i.e. Nos 39 and 59) were powered by souped up stock block Mercury V8's placed in the older 1935 Miller front drive chassis. The car numbers on their four vehicles were 39, 59, 69 (Maserati), and 85 (Offenhauser/Kurtis).

Although chassis constructor Frank Kurtis was mostly manufacturing midgets in 1948, he managed to produce six or seven new Championship cars before the Indianapolis event. Four of these were designated the KK2000 model. The KK2000 chassis was not as advanced in concept or as technically innovative as the Championship Kurtis "works" car, i. e.the "Kurtis Kraft Special No. 7", which Walt Brown was to drive at Indianapolis.The KK2000 type still retained two distinct frame rails, howbeit of a lighter tubular type. The KK2000 in its overall design was similar to the Kurtis midgets. The KK2000 type was a duo purpose machine made for effective use both at Indianapolis and on the dirt tracks.

The four new KK2000's were sold to (1.) Leo Dobry of Tacoma, WA for Hal Cole's (1912-1970) use, the "City of Tacoma Special No. 63"; (2.) Carmine George "Babe" Tuffanelli, a south side Chicago mobster and gang leader. Babe's car "Tuffy's Offy No. 8" would be driven by Emil Andres, and (3.-4.) two Californians, i.e. J. C. Agajanian and Thomas S. Lee. Johnny Mantz would pilot Aggie's new car "Agajanian Special No. 98", but Lee for his "Don Lee Special No. 35" had not yet nominated a driver. The six-wheeled "Pat Clancy Special No. 19" could be regarded as a modified KK2000. In addition Frank also built a car for driver-owner Les Anderson which was of a more conventional design, i.e. the "Kennedy Tank Special No. 34".

Neither Mr. Shermeister"s three wheeler or the Kuehl-Osborne steamer was nominated for the 1948 "500", but the Pat Clancy six wheeler, piloted by Billy DeVore. was an entrant. However the six wheeler was not the strangest vehicle in the official Indy 1948 entry list. That honor belonged to the "Suttle Steamer Special No. 84" entered by Lawrence D. Suttle, a Ford Motor Company engineer from Detroit. Suttle's car was described as a front drive and steam powered by a two cylinder engine with a bore of 4 inches and a stroke of 5. The motor consisted of just 36 moving parts. Suttle claimed the total weight of his car was just 1270 pounds and would have a top straightaway speed of 200 mph. The "steam generator" consisted of 68 feet of coiled three quarter inch stainless steel. An automatic water pump injects water into the tubing and a constant pressure of 750 pounds is maintained. Suttle commented (quote), "We will not have the usual headaches such as gear ratio, fuel blends, spark plugs and other problems associated with race cars. Lots of running will not harm the car a bit because the only thing which will show much wear will be the tires." It was however noticed in mid-April 1948, that Suttle's car had not been tested and perhaps had not yet been put together and/or even assembled.

Engine makes at Indianapolis in 1948 were still quite varied with the foreign Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz on hand, along with the U.S. built Clemons, Duesenberg, Duray, Fageol, Ford, Lencki, Mercury. Harry Miller, Ralph S. Miller, Offenhauser, Sparks, Voelker, and Winfield. Most of the competitors however had to settle for an Offenhauser four cylinder "270" as it was easily available, reasonably priced, and still seemingly as competitive as any of the other makes. The Offy "four banger" had already won the 500 in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1941, and 1947. The first day of qualifications was scheduled for May 14

Edited by john glenn printz, 15 February 2010 - 13:21.


#9 Michael Ferner

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 19:16

On November 14, 1948 at Carrell, the first Pacific Coast AAA "big car" races in California since January 26, 1936, were run under Agajanian's promotion. It was, believe it or not, the first time that Rex Mays (1913-1949) had raced in the state of California, since the January 26, 1936 Ascot 100 event, in which Al Gordon (1903-1936) and Spider Matlock had been killed.

No, I don't believe it! ;)

I have Rex Mays competing at El Centro/Imperial County Fairgrounds on March 8 in 1936 (winner over Shorty Cantlon, Floyd Roberts etc.), March 7 in 1937 (winner over Bob Swanson, Frank McGurk etc.) and March 6 in 1938 (apparently 2nd behind Ted Horn)! All those events were over a distance of 40 laps/40 miles. :)

#10 john glenn printz

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Posted 08 January 2010 - 16:40

To ReWind;

In the contemporay sources, the name is almost always given as Hartsfield, even in the official Indianapolis 500 program for 1948. The 1948 Arlington Downs writeups also always give the name uniformly as Hartsfield, and I just followed and copied my sources. In a recheck I do find that very, very occasionally, the name is spelled Hartsfeld.

I will alter my text to avoid any further confusion.

To Michael;

My mistake. With both to my ignorance of AAA sprint car history and a misread of my source, such was the result. In researching for material about Agajanian I came upon the following in a LOS ANGELES TIMES, Nov. 14, 1948 article, entitled AAA BIG CARS RACE TODAY AT GARDENS (quote), "Big time automobile racing comes back to the Southland this afternoon after a lapse of some 12 years." After two paragrafts it resumes, "Rex Mays, who won an Armistice Day go at Phoenix, has been established the prerace favorite. It'll mark his return to local racing since he won the last race at old Legion Ascot in 1936."

Edited by john glenn printz, 08 January 2010 - 21:34.


#11 ReWind

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Posted 08 January 2010 - 16:51

@John: I hope you noticed the link to the wonderful Al Blixt website in my post. There you'll find his name handwritten as Hartsfeld: Posted Image

#12 Jim Thurman

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Posted 08 January 2010 - 18:57

Mr. Printz, as always, thank you for your outstanding season reviews. I greatly enjoy them.

Re: the November 1948 race at Carrell being the first in California for Mays since January 1936. This plays into something you and Michael probably aren't familiar with, namely regional terminology. "Southland" was usually used by Los Angeles area newspapers and television as a term for the local area and usually applied only to the immediate area - Los Angeles and perhaps Orange Counties, while "Southern California" usually includes the outlying counties (San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura), even with that, sometimes Imperial County is left out (which is should not be - it is in Southern California).

So, it's down to semantics, regional geography and use/misuse of terminology. So, when the Los Angeles Times touted racing's return to "the Southland" for the November 1948 race at Carrell, they were referring to locally - in the Los Angeles area.

And, of course, the area of San Bernardino/Riverside is referred to as "The Inland Empire".

Unfortunately, with today's ever sloppier media, Los Angeles media outlets often use "Southern California" as applying only to the Los Angeles' metropolitan area. They routinely use the less defined "Southland" arbitrarily as well. I won't even get into AP's wire errors from afar.

#13 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 20:00

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-5) On May 14, on the day before qualifications trials opened, Bergere spun his No. 12 Novi in the 4th turn and smashed the rear of the car. Bergere and Lew Welch had words over the incident and Cliff either quit and/or was fired by Welch. Bergere claimed that the brakes locked on him, causing the spin. Cliff, in 1951, had this to say about the spin (quote), "The right front universal was throwing out some oil and I believe the oil soaked the break lining. I compained but nothing was done. I was stupid not to have parked the car until it was fixed, but Bud Winfield asked me to warm up the car not over 3000 rpm, after which he wanted to take a ride to check some things."

"I warmed it up and as I turned into the homestretch, kicked it out of gear and cut the switch so the plugs wouldn't foul. I pulled on the hand brake lightly only to discover the right front or both front brakes grabbed, and I spun into the rail."

"I wasn't doing over 80 MPH, but with a dead engine there wasn't a thing I could do about it. When I pulled into the garage, Johnny Moore was asking what happened and Lew Welch said, 'Oh, probably just fooling around,' and I blew my stack. I told him where he could put that car; that I wouldn't drive it for 200% and a lot of other things that don't look well in print. Ralph Hepburn was killed in that same car several days later." Explanation: In 1948 the mechanics were still allowed to drive the cars on the track to test them and Johnny Moore was the Firestone racing tire representative.

In another accident Peter "Pete" Romcevich (1907-1952) wrapped Norm Olsen's car around a utility pole in the south shute, while a rookie, one Anthony "Andy" Granatelli (b. 1923), lost the brakes on his machine and coasted around the track for a mile and a half. The veteran Ralph Hepburn was to take out Lee's 1939 Mercedes-Benz V12 on trial test runs but the car never took to the track because of fuel feed problems and had to be towed back to the garages. Immediately after Bergere left the Welch team he was hired by Andy Granatelli to pilot their Offenhauser powered No. 85 machine. Here Cliff may have jumped from the best car to the worst team.

The next day witnessed Rex Mays win the pole with a speed of 130.577 mph. This was the fourth occasion that Rex won the pole at Indianapolis for he had sat on the pole in both 1935 and 1936 when running for Art Sparks and Paul Weirick; and in 1940 for the Bowes Seal Fast team, when the crew chief was Bud Winfield. The next two fastest cars on May 15 were the two front drives of Lou Moore. Holland got in with a 129.510 mph and Rose with 129.120 mph. Jackson in the new Howard Keck car was 4th with a clocking of 127.510. Nine cars total moved into lineup including Ted Horn in the 1939 Maserati at 126.560 mph and Johnny Mantz in Agajanian's new Kurtis. Mantz posted a rather low 122.790 mph but would start 8th. Neither of the two Novis qualified on the first day. Hepburn now had his pick of either of Tommy Lee's 1939 Mercedes-Benz or Bergere's vacated Novi. Ralph took several laps in his 1946 record setter and it was the first time in two years that Ralph had sat in a race car. Hepburn still held the four lap qualification record at 133.944 mph, made in this very same car. It had been quickly repaired after Bergere's shunt but its back tail remained unpainted.

Later that night at a downtown Indianapolis Athetic Club confab among his friend and reporters Ralph talked about old times and his past racing career. It was Tommy Milton who introduced Ralph to automobile racing back in 1923. Ralph talked about Milton (quote), "I had only one difference with Tommy and that was over my girl. I was working for him on his car and one night I told him I wanted off because I had a date. He was mad. He said, 'Listen, Hep, either you are going to be a race car man or you are going to be having dates. Make up your mind'."

"I did. I kept the date with my girl and I married her. After that I went back to work for Tommy and he was grand. He hadn't known I was serious about my girl. We're still married and she'd be here with me now except that my father, who is 85, is very sick and she stayed home to take care of him."

"Milton was swell to me. He put me on my first car, gave me my start and taught me a lot about racing cars. We've been the closest of friends ever since."

Hepburn added, "I crashed in a race at Oakland, Calif., 16 years ago. I fractured my skull, broke a jaw and both legs."

Hepburn mentioned that he didn't like the way the Novi was handling on the straightaways but thought its faults could be fixed and corrected. Ralph added, "If it don't wheel to my satisfaction I won't drive it-after all it's my neck." At 9:30 p.m. Hepburn was getting up to leave, to go to bed and said, "I'm 52 now, you know and I gotta get that rest. I feel fine, though."

May 16 was another qualifing day and Joie Chitwood (1912-1988) moved into field by posting a 124.610 mph. At about 1 p.m. Hepburn went out in the No. 12 Novi for a few practice laps. Luigi Chinetti (1901-1994) from Milan, Italy, and later a famous advocate and New York importer of Ferrari vehicles to the U.S., had just taken to the track for the very first time. Chinetti said the Hepburn passed him on the backstretch while he himself was travelling about 80 mph and seemed to be in full control of the car. But the Novi began "fish tailing", then swerved into the inside grass on the 3rd turn, plunged back onto the asphalt surface, shot across the track, and then, almost head on, gave the outside concrete retaining wall a mighty clout. The car then skidded against the wall for about 50 feet. Hepburn died instantly of a fractured skull and crushed chest.

Chet Miller (1902-1953), two hours after Hepburn's crash. resigned as the pilot of the other Novi saying, "Hep was a friend of mine and he knew those Novis better than I or anyone else. My car didn't have me worried but that was because I knew my 'ceiling' on it. I simply felt my speed might not be satisfactory." Miller was quickly replaced on the No. 54 Novi by Dennis Clayton "Duke" Nalon (1913-2001) who had originally come to the Speedway assigned to car No. 16, owned by Murrell Belanger.

Hepburn began his racing career in motocycles in 1915 and was a member of the Harley-Davidson team which had also included Freddy Ludlow, Bill Ottoway, and Otto Walker. It was recalled that Hepburn had placed 2nd in 1937, 3rd in 1931, and 4th in 1941 in the "500", that he still held the one and four lap qualication records here, and had been the President of ASPAR during the 1947 disputes.

The next day of time trials would be May 22. Meanwhile most of the discussions at the Speedway involved the two Novis. The AAA Technical Committee O.K.'d the cars again after Hepburn's wreck and the Indianapolis Chief Stewart, John "Jack" H. Mehan, stated on May 16 (quote), "These cars conform to accepted engineering standards. They do have a new level of power. That power and the delicacy of its application is a matter with which we are not yet familiar. When the new Mercedes cars were built in Germany they found in three years only one man who could actually handle these new creations."

"The car driven by Hepburn is the same car in which Ralph made his record qualifying run. One of the cars finished fourth in last year's race. Now, it is true that Bergere complained about the general handling of these cars and specifically about the brakes. His complaint was a conversational one, not formal. When he says the car is wrong we of the 3-A have to separate personal thoughts and persuasions from actual technical matters. We deal only in engineering matters."

Here what Bergere had to say about the death of Hepburn, again in 1951, (quote), "The day Ralph was killed, I had gone to Toledo to bring back my airplane and when I arrived Shirley (Mrs. Bergere) met me at the door with the bad news."

"Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was a reporter from one of the papers. He asked me a lot of questions and some I shouldn't have answered. He simply caught me when I felt badly over the loss of one of my oldest friends, and the result was a lot of bad publicity, for all concerned."

"I felt then and I stll feel the wreck was no fault of Ralph's. You know, those Novis will turn 170 MPH on the straightaways, and to cut a fast lap you would drive to about half-way between the center of the straightaway and the turn, full on, lift and apply the brakes LIGHTLY to check the speed, then back on the throttle hard to pull it throught the turn."

"One observer stated Ralph started to fishtail at the end of the backstretch. Naturally, that got him into trouble and he hit the dirt coming out of the turn, kept his power on, corrected his front wheels to the right and when his right front wheel hit the pavement, it took hold. Remember, the Novi has a locked front end. The result was the car shot across the track and into the outer wall."

"An inexperienced driver would have lifted his foot when the car hit the dirt and would have spun. The technique of driving a front drive is to stay on the throttle and pull out of a skid."

Edited by john glenn printz, 09 February 2010 - 21:08.


#14 john glenn printz

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 16:46

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-6) On May 16 Bergere was reported as having said (quote), "I don't think the Novi should be allowed to run." Owner Lew Welch was incensed by Cliff's remark. However Bergere mollified his remark of the previous day by stating on May 17, "I wouldn't go that far. I do think the car which Ralph drove should be gone over with a fine tooth comb. Undoubtedly the 3-A has done this. It's up to them to say whether or not the car is right or wrong. My whole complaint is that the owners of these cars treat the driver like idiots. We drive the cars and complain about something. They won't get in the cars and drive them themselves to find out that what we are saying is true. They simpy pay no attention to us."

"I drove one of the cars to fourth place last year. But I had a terrific time doing it, because I had to labor with it through the turns. The wheels were not right, and Bud Winfield admitted after the race that this was the case. I told them the other day that the right front universal joint was leaking oil and that this was getting back on the brake drum. When I spun the other day the car was traveling only 80 miles an hour. The brake grabbed. If I had been going 100 itmight turned end over end. The general handling of the car is what I'm complaining about, but I don't think I'd ask that the cars be kept out of the race".

An AAA official declared on May 17 (quote), "Duke Nalon will attempt to qualify the other Novi Special Saturday and if he succeeds, the Novi will run May 31." Everyone agreed that the Novis were perfectly safe at lap speeds of 125 mph.

Duke "Iron Duke" Nalon was a popular and well known open wheel midget and big car driver. In 1933 Nalon had worked with midget driver Wally Zale (1905-1942) as a follower, helper, and all round grease monkey. Nalon however wanted to drive and started that career in 1934. In 1934 Nalon won two races at Roby, IN, i.e. a 50 miler on Sept. 3 and a 100 miler on Oct. 14. In 1938 Duke won the 1938 AAA Eastern regional title and added the AAA Mid-Western crown to his resume in 1941.

Nalon's first try in the AAA National Championship division was at Indianapolis in 1937. Here Nalon had the old 1932 Sparks-Weirick streamlined "Catfish", but Duke was unable to qualify it. Nalon's first start at Indianapolis was 1938 when he started 33rd with the slowest qualifying speed in the entire field at 113.820 mph. The combination lasted all day and moved up 22 positions to place 11th overall at the end. The car and Nalon was finally flagged off after completing 178 laps. The Duke was also an Indianapolis starter in 1940 and 1941. Nalon had also participated in some genuine AAA Championship ranked 100 milers before the war. For instance he ran at Syracuse in 1937 and 1938 for Floyd "Pop" Dreyer with good results as Duke placed 4th in 1937 and 3rd in 1938. Perhaps Nalon's greatest pre-war achievement was winning two AAA big car 100 milers during 1940 and 1941 at Langhorne for Paul Weirick using the sprint car known as "Poison Lil".

Nalon himself felt that getting the Novi ride now at Indianapolis in 1948 was his big break and his best racing career opportunity yet. However there was still some real apprehension among the many observers because Nalon had never driven a front drive car before, and a front drive vehicle required a different driving technique than the more normal rear drive vehicles. And everyone believed a front drive car with 550 horsepower was a very dangerous animal if pressed too far. Nalon started practicing in the Novi in the 125 mph range and by May 19 he reeled off several laps at 127 mph to the satisfaction of owner, Lew Welch.

By May 15 it was obvious that the Dan Suttle steam car entry was hooey. Suttle himself stated that his financial partner, Russell T. Jones of Cleveland, OH, had the vehicle in his possession and wouldn't release it until the payment of a ransom! Suttle said, "I didn't have the money and I have failed to raise it. I couldn't even find out where the car was or I would have replevined it." Suttle also mentioned that he had just lost his job as an engineer, at the Ford Motor company. Nothing of the Suttle steamer ever arrived at the Speedway.

On May 22 nine more cars qualified but the big story was Nalon and the Novi. In the morning warmup Duke spun the Novi in the first turn on his second lap and wound up in a side ditch. The pair didn't hit anything and the car and driver were completely unscathed but Nalon was blushing and embarrassed. "I'm going in and put on the dunce cap now.", he said. Nalon with his left foot, had stepped on the on the brake petal when he had intended to push in the clutch! The clutch and brake petals being about only 6 inches apart on the car. The Novi No. 54 was quickly inspected by the AAA as O.K. and a new set of tires was put on. Nalon became the first qualifier on May 22 and went out with the intention to beat Rex Mays' present pole speed of 130.577 mph. Duke turned laps at 133.274, 134.008, 131.272, and 128.603, for a four lap average of 131.603. After the run Nalon said, "The Novi still has much more speed than I can handle. When I saw 134 miles an hour on the board after my second lap I let up a little on the throttle."

Among the May 22 qualifiers was a rookie named John James "Jack" McGrath. Jack had come to the Speedway in 1948 as part of a two car team managed by driver-owner, Bayard Taylor "Bill" Sheffler (1917-1949). Sheffler owned two Championship cars built by Louis Bromme of Los Angeles, CA. If there was ever such an entity as a "home made" race car, those constructed by Louis Bromme were it. The first Bromme built vehicle to run at Indianapolis was in 1946, i.e. Sheffler's No. 39. Sheffler had considerable problems that year, but kept moving to complete 139 laps before being flagged off for 9th place overall. Sheffler himself was a pre-war California midget and big car driver who had competed mostly, before the second World War, at the 1/2 mile paved South Gate Ascot Speedway.

And on May 22 Luigi Chinetti (1901-1994) was barred from the race by the AAA. The Chief Observer, L. W. "Ike" Welch, said Chinetti was unable to alter his "road racing habits" and "was a menace to the other drivers."

Edited by john glenn printz, 08 December 2011 - 21:45.


#15 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 21:06

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-7) May 23 witnessed four more entries move into the tentative starting lineup. Two of these included the 3 litre 483 horsepower Mercedes-Benz driven by Chet Miller, in at 127.249 mph, and the six wheeled "Pat Clancy Special" wheeled by Billy DeVore. The Mercedes-Benz V12 motor was constantly overheating at racing speed and the mechanic Mel Ord did not know how to solve the problem. The Mercedes-Benz was fast but was not competitive because of its heating malady. Miller's first qualifying lap was 128.884 mph, but then he had to slow his pace on the next three circuits, to 127.732, 126.814, and 125.611 respectively, to avoid possibly melting the pistons. DeVore posted a 123.976 mph average, surely fast enough to be safely in the show.

Mack Hellings was replaced with Mike Salay (1909-1973, real name Michael Szalai), by Lou Moore, in the new rear drive machine, but a qualifying attempt on May 23 by Salay was waved off after three laps in the 119 mph bracket, as being too slow. On May 25 Hellings was put into Tommy Lee's new KK2000 and he quickly started turning practice laps of 125 mph.

Although almost one third of the starting field remained to be determined, but the fans, pundits, and odds makers, had already selected the pre race favorites to win. The very top picks were Bill Holland and Mauri Rose on the two Lou Moore owned front drives, and Duke Nalon on the Novi. A little behind these three came Rex Mays and Ted Horn. Outside of these five no one else was given much of a chance, i.e. any other victor outside these five would be an "upset" of a rather high and/or improbable order.

Nalon himself was confident of victory and was very talkative on May 26 about the Novi (quote), "I've learned how to drive it and I'm sure I can win Monday's race."

"About his spin on May 22 Duke said, "I must have been looking for the dunce cap for as I went into it I said to myself : 'What an ass you've been!' I had ridiculously kicked the brake instead of the clutch, causing the tail to come around and the car to go out of control. That is one thing I won't do again. There was nothing wrong with the car and I wanted to take it out right away and qualify but Lou insisted on a complete check and one was made. Welch was badly broken up by Hepburn's accident and he told me to hold it down: not to do more than 123 mph, which would be enough to get us into the race."

"I told him such a speed would be an injustice to the car, because I had driven it 125 mph in a test on the track last September without any trouble. I spent three days last week learning the car, however. I got it up to 125 the first day, 128 the second day and 131 last Thursday. It ran like a clock, held the track perfectly and handled beautifully."

About his May 22 qualification run, made two hours after the spin, Nalon said, "When I took the green flag for my first trial lap I had made up my mind I was going to beat Rex May's pole speed but I didn't intend to go much faster than he did. On the first time around my pit sign showed 133 mph. "That's okay,' I thought. I figured I was holding that speed but the second time around my blackboard showed 134 miles an hour. 'Duke, that's new stuff for you,' and lifted my foot a little. That was why I dropped to an average of 131.603. I had beaten Mays and that's all I wanted to do."

"Really, we've got the fastest car in the race. We plan to make only one stop. I don't see how anyone can beat me- and I'm not bragging because I am on not only the fastest but the finest performing car ever built and I wouldn't give up my seat if I had my choice of every other car that starts. Honestly, I'm in love with that car. I'm going to make a few more runs just to keep my feel of the wheel, and then Monday I'll be ready."

On May 26 seven more cars posted a completed time trial. Mack Hellings in Lee's new KK2000 was the fastest at 127.968 mph. Walt Brown had not been able to get up to speed in the Kurtis-Walsh factory car and had been replaced by sprint and dirt track car ace Thomas "Tommy" Paul Hinnershitz (1902-1999). Hinnershitz had no trouble at all and put the car in the field with a 125.123 mph posting.

Tommy started racing seriously in 1934. His first appearances in the AAA Championship division were at Syracuse in 1937 and 1938. Hinnershitz's first try at Indianapolis was in 1939 but he failed to make the race day lineup. However he was starter at Indianapolis in 1940 and 1941, driving for car owner Joe Marks both years. In both 1946 and 1947 Tommy was entered at the Speedway but failed to qualify. In 1946 he drove a supercharged Maserati owned by Milt Marion (1909-1999), and for 1947 he was entered on Ted Horn's new dirt track Championship car being then put together by Dick Simonek. However Horn's new machine was not completed in time for the 1947 "500". Hinnershitz always preferred dirt tracks and didn't particularly like running on hard or paved surface speedways.

Another new name and rookie here, Johnnie Parsons (1918-1984), tried to put one of Granatelli's front drive 1935 Ford-Miller chassis, now powered by Mercury V8's, into the lineup but had motor trouble after completing one qualification lap. The total number of cars after May 26 in the field, was now up to 30, with just May 29 left as a qualification day. The Granatelli team had yet to qualify one of their four vehicles. With so many unqualified cars at hand it was thought that the bumping process would certainly be in operation on the last qualification day, May 29.

Lou Moore, on May 27, withdrew his new rear drive racing car to concentrate on his two already qualified front drives, piloted by Holland and Rose. Moore now said his new dirt car would make its debut at the Milwaukee 100 on June 6, 1948.

Edited by john glenn printz, 12 July 2012 - 20:22.


#16 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 15:05

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-8) On May 28 mechanic Harry "Cotton" Henning reported that someone had apparently tried to sabotage the already qualified No. 1 Maserati piloted by Ted Horn, by putting a foreign and abrasive substance in the engine's motor oil. The new ingredient was possibly fine sand, dirt, or hand soap. The added grit had collected at the bottom of the oil tank and had been carried to all parts of the motor. The substance, whatever it was, had been added to the crankcase and was discovered by a mechanic during a routine checkup. Henning himself said (quote), "Fine sand, or dust or possibly hand soap was found in the engine oil and it was necessary to replace several damaged parts. If we hadn't noticed it the car wouldn't have run more than 100 miles in the race."

It is very difficult to know what to make of all this, if what Henning said is true. Maybe it was a possible payback for Horn's boycotting of ASPAR in 1947. Horn ran on pole day at the Speedway in 1947 and won the first starting position by posting a rather low speed of 126.564 mph. Wilbur Shaw, President of the Speedway, commented on May 29, "There was a familar touch in this plan to wreck Horn's car. I have seen similar attempts when racing in Europe. If the would-be assassin is found, and there is a big hunt on, it will go hard with him." Although the AAA, the Speedway itself, and the Indianapolis police investigated this matter, nothing further ever turned up. After its total 1947 Indianapolis fiasco, ASPAR quickly faded away and disappeared. It was already just a remote and bygone memory at the Speedway in 1948.

The Horn incident here brought up an inquiry as to when the last previous case of deliberate sabotage in big time AAA racing had occurred. Memories brought up a tire slashing occurrence on Tommy Milton's car, thirty years before. The tires were cut by an instrument so sharp the incisions showed only under a minute examination. Shellac had also been put in the gas tank. Milton himself recalled it all but didn't specify the exact culprit, time, or place. Milton said, "To make it more gruesome, I suspected a man who had been tried and acquitted of the murder of a husband whose widow the suspect married. He was a race driver of sorts and was killed himself in a race." The man Milton suspected was Omar Toft (1886-1921), and the tire slashing occurred at Uniontown on September 2, 1918. Toft was killed in a 50 mile race at Phoenix, AZ on November 12, 1921. Consult the tread "AMERICAN RACING 1894-1920", "U.S. racing 1894-1920 (cont.-57)", posted on June 17, 2008.

May 29 saw the race day lineup completed and four cars bumped in the process. The fastest qualifier was a surprize. It was rookie Lee Wallard (1911-1963), in an old lengthened sprint car powered by a 233 cubic inch Offenhausen. The motor was a 220 cubic inch block Offy enlarged by a special crankshaft supplied by the Meyer-Drake company. The vehicle, the Iddings Special No. 91, had been put together by Henry Meyer and was owned by John Iddings of Greenville, OH. Wallard had just passed his driving test the day before but his qualifying speed was a high 128.420 mph, the 5th fastest of the entire 1948 lineup. Wallard was an eastern midget and big car pilot who was born and lived in Schenectady, NY. Lee began racing in 1932. Although Wallard was a newcomer to Indianapolis in 1948, Lee had his first start in AAA Championship racing at the Syracuse 100 of September 1, 1941. Here Wallard retired after 43 laps completed, to place 12th among the 14 starters. Lee was piloting a car sponsored by Louis Kimmel of Detroit, MI. Kimmel was the owner of a motion picture theater chain in Detroit. Wallard also had one other start in the AAA Championship division. This occurred at Langhorne on June 30, 1946, in an Alfa Romeo owned by Milt Marion. At Langhorne, Lee lasted just 25 laps, to place 12th among the 14 car field.

The second fastest time on May 29 was turned in by Duane Carter (1913-1993) at 126.010 mph in the Belanger No. 16 (modified Offenhauser/Adams), which Duke Nalon had left when he replaced Chet Miller in the Novi No. 34. Both of the Murrell Belanger cars made the field as Tony Bettenhausen had qualified on May 26 (126.390 mph) in the Belanger No. 6 (modified Offenhauser/Stevens). Carter's first try at Championship level AAA racing was at Indianapolis in 1947. Duane was entered on the Studebaker powered "Kuehl-Osborne No. 32", owned by Paul B. Kuehl and David R. Osborne. These are the same two dudes who thought they might enter a steam powered car at Indy in 1948. In any case, Carter did not qualify for the 1947 "500", but made the 1948 race day lineup.

Duane Carter talked later about his 1948 Indy experiences (quote), "Meantime, I'd been trying to get a ride at the Speedway. In the winter of '47-'48 I was based, as usual, at Ted Halibrand's shop in Culver City and Murrell Belanger had his two cars there, also. I got to know Curly Wetteroth pretty well. Curly was rebuilding both the cars, which were to be driven by Nalon and Tony Bettenhausen. Back at the Speedway, Duke got a chance to drive the Novi and he took it, leaving a vacancy in the Belanger ranks. Curly talked Belanger into letting me take a ride-my first-at the Speedway. I qualified on the last day and made the field, starting 29th." Carter began his 24 year old racing career in Fresno, CA during 1930, and moved up to the big cars in 1931. Duane raced extensively before World War II, but the 1948 Indianapolis 500 was his first start in an AAA National Championship contest.

On May 29 Cliff Bergere quit the Granatelli team saying that handling problems and not enough time remained for his getting use to their new Offenhauser No. 85 powered car, forced him to resign. The No. 85 it seems was yet another KK2000 out of the Kurtis shop. It had just arrived at the Speedway and was still unpainted. It now remained for either Johnnie Parsons and/or Andy Granatelli himself, to put a team car into the field. Parsons tried to qualify again in the No. 39, but almost lost the car in the first lap of his attempt. In the mid-day, Andy himself took the green flag for a qualification run. He completed three laps in the 123 mph range, good enough to make the race, but crashed on his fourth circuit in turn two, spinning three times, hitting the outside wall, and breaking his wrist. Andy either lost the car or a right front wheel came off. Although Granatelli was officially entered on No. 39, the vehicle he wrecked was No. 59. In a last ditch effort, Manuel Ayulo was put into car No. 85, and moved to the qualifying line, but was just a bit too late, as when his turn came up to go out, the gun went off, ending the 1948 time trials. So the three Granatelli brothers had to return to Chicago without having put a car in the show. Ayulo had thrice previously tried to put the Mercury powered "Weidel (Estes) Special No. 88" into the race, but had been too slow each time.

There was still a bit more drama to come. Leon "Spider" Webb (1910-1990) had qualified on May 22 in the Anderson Special No. 72 at 121.421 mph, and had now been bumped. Earlier Webb jumped into a new car in which he had never ever sat in before, the Fowle Brothers Special No. 51, both built and owned by Louis Bromme. Because the time was now short the AAA decided to allow two vehicles on the track at the same time during the actual time trials. This procedure had been used at times during the 1930's, when the qualifications consisted of 10 laps instead of the more customary 4. As it happened Louis Durant (1910-1972) was out qualifying in Lou Rassey's Automobile Shippers No. 29 at the same time as Webb was also running his four lap qualifying attempt. The contemporary source material differ in what happened next.

In most of the contemporary accounts, it is said that Durants' lap times somehow became mixed up with those of Webb's. It was announced that Webb had completed his first two circuits in the 117 mph bracket, so Webb was flagged off by his disappointed crew, came in, and returned to his pit. But it was soon revealed that those low 117 mph times were actually Louis Durant's laps, not those of Webb. Indeed Webb had run two laps at 125 mph! In the second version of the story, during Durant's trial, a fuel pump handle from Durant's car had fallen on the track, and so immediately after Durant's completed his four laps, the yellow flag came out while Webb was still on lap three of his qualification trial. So Webb seeing the yellow light, backed off, and came in. Durant had averaged 117.666 mph, way too slow to move into the already full lineup of 33 vehicles. After the 6:00 deadline it was still being argued that Webb should rightfully be allowed to complete his earlier and aborted two lap qualification attempt.

Finally at about 6:10, Webb was allowed to run two more qualifying laps and he immediately moved into the race day lineup by posting an average speed of 125.540 mph for the four circuits. Johnny H. Shackleford (1913-1948), who was then on the bubble with an 121,745 mph posting, was bumped out. So the 33 car starting field for 1948 was finally set. It was the fastest lineup in history. The 1948 average was 125.113 mph, which compared with 122.416 mph in 1946, and 121.672 mph for 1947. The slowest 1948 qualifier was Johnny Mauro (1910-2003) at 121.790 mph in an Alfa Romeo. Three long time veterans who failed to make the 1948 race lineup were Bergere (16 races), Russ Snowberger (15 races), and Al Miller (11 races). There were nine rookie starters in 1948 and they were Carter, Cantrell, Hellings, McGrath, Mantz, Mauro, Salay, Wallard, and Webb.

Edited by john glenn printz, 08 May 2012 - 16:56.


#17 john glenn printz

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 19:08

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-9) Among the actual competitors, 21 cars were using the familar four cylinder Offenhauser engine. The other dozen powerplants in use were divided among 3 Maseratis, 2 Sparks, and one each of Alfa Romeo, Bowes straight 8, Duray, Fageol, Mercedes-Benz, Miller, and the Novi (Winfield V8). It was expected that Floyd Roberts' (1904-1939) race record of 117.200 mph, set in 1938, would now be bettered.

Rex Mays, who had been in ten previous "500"'s, viewed his 1948 prospects much more cautiously than Duke Nalon. Mays said on May 29 (quote), "I know a lot of people say I drive too hard, ruin my car and throw away my chances to win. With such thought I can't agree. I've started in the last row, in the middle and in the front row. I've paced my car, trying to save it for the last 100 miles, and I've stepped on it from the start. It hasn't made any difference. Something always has occurred to keep me from winning."

"Long ago I came to the conclusion the whole race is a gamble, from start to the finish. That is why I have always tried to win the pole. That is why I have gone after the lap money. I believe in taking it when you can get it. There's no use nursing your car. If it is going to stand up for the full 500 miles it will. If it isn't, it just won't. I'm going after the lap money Monday and after I have won all the 100 dollar bills that I can I expect to win the race, if my car stands up."

Holland, Rose, and Nalon were all using a one stop race day strategy. Nalon's Novi could hold 112 gallons of fuel (700 pounds of fuel!). Apparently Nalon was going to take things a bit easy until his first and only stop at about 300 miles, and then "pore on the coal" for the last 200 miles of the race.

Rex Mays, from the pole position, started collecting all the $100 dollar bills and led the first 17 laps. Ted Horn, in the ten year old Maserati 8CTF, passed Mays on circuit 18 and Ted then led rounds 18 to 72 before he himself came in on lap 73. Holland came in on lap 75 and Bill was in for one minute and fifty seconds. Rose thereby passed Holland and remained in front of Holland for the rest of the day. At 20 laps (50 miles) the running order was Horn, Mays, Holland, Rose, Nalon, and Jackson. Nalon had moved up from his 11th starting position. At 50 laps (125 miles) it was Horn, Mays, Holland, Rose, Nalon, and Jackson. After Horn pitted on lap 73 Mays regained the lead and held it for circuits 73 to 91. Mays made his first stop on circuit 92.

When Mays pitted, Nalon moved into the front position for laps 92-100. Nalon stopped for fuel and tires on his lap 101 and was in for one minute and fifty seconds. It was supposed to be Nalon's only scheduled stop, as he taking on enough fuel for the remaining 250 miles. Rose didn't pit until lap 124, getting fuel and new tires. Mauri was in for one minute and nineteen seconds. Rose's stop gave the front position back to Ted Horn again, who then led circuits 124-142.

In a Speedway scoring mixup, beginning about lap 140, one of Rose's laps was incorrectly given to Bill Holland. So from about lap 140 to lap 185, the Speedway's Public Address system blared out that Nalon and the No. 54 Novi was the race leader. At first Lou Moore was not very seriously disturbed as his crew scored Rose in first place. But after continued PA reports that Nalon had the lead, Moore got more concerned. Meanwhile Nalon himself and Lew Welch thought Nalon was in the lead and out in front.

Rex Mays retired on lap 130 with a leaking fuel tank. When Horn stopped for a 2nd time (lap 143), his motor's oil pressure was very low and he had now to back off for the remaining portion of the race to save the engine. Apparently not all of the abrasive grit had gotten removed, and some of it had worked itself loose, causing damage to the connecting rod bearings. Ted returned to the track in 4th position which is where he remained. The actual running order at 400 miles (160 laps) was Rose, Nalon, Holland, Horn, and Bettenhausen. Rose had led laps 101-123 and then 143-200. Nalon, while in 2nd place, surprizingly had to pit for fuel on lap 185. A mistake on Nalon's first stop (lap 101) by a pitman, had resulted in a short supply of petrol for the remaining 250 miles of the contest. Nalon was in for two minutes and thirty seconds because the motor stalled and was hard to restart. Meanwhile Holland sped by and moved into the 2nd position, where Bill stayed. At the end Horn and Nalon made two stops to Rose's and Holland's one.

The top five positions at the finish were:

1, Rose, Mauri, Offenhauser/Deidt FD (1947), 4:10:23.33, 119.814 mph NTR

2. Holland, Bill, Offenhauser/Deidt FD (1947), 4:11:47.40, 119.147 mph

3. Nalon, Duke, Winfield/Kurtis FD s/c (1947), 4:14:09.78, 118.034 mph

4. Horn, Ted, Maserati s/c (1939), 4:14:30.47, 117.844 mph

5. Hellings, Mack, Offenhauser/Kurtis (1948), 4:24:38.52, 113.361 mph

The same exact four cars that had filled the top four positions in 1947, had now in 1948 placed one-two-three-four again, although the 1947 Novi had moved up a notch to 3rd, while the 1939 Maserati had lost a position, dropping to 4th. For the first time ever the first three finishing positions were all front drive machines. In 1947 the first two places had been front drives. Front drive cars before 1947, had wins here only in 1930, 1932, and 1934. Rose's 1948 victory put him among the small select group of three time winners, which then included only Louis Meyer (1928, 1933, & 1936) and Wilbur Shaw (1937, 1939, & 1940), besides the 135 pound, 42 year old, Rose (1941, 1947, & 1948) himself. Although Bill Holland placed 2nd overall, he did not lead any laps in 1948. The attendance was estimated at about 175,000 and Rose's win was worth $42,300.

Floyd Roberts' (1904-1939) old 1938 record winning race average of 117.20 mph was now set aside as Rose's 1948 winning speed was 119.814 mph. In fact the first four finishers in 1948 broke Roberts' former speed. There were no serious accidents in 1948. Duane Carter lost a left wheel in turn 2 but was not hurt, while Jimmy Jackson spun on lap 194 when a left spindle let go. Jackson had run with the leaders in the early going but gradually fell back. On lap 60 Jackson had lost 12 minutes and 55 seconds on a pit stop, to have a new magneto installed. In the final listings Jackson was placed 10th. Bettenhausen, after a good drive, was out after 167 laps with a broken clutch shaft in the Belanger No. 6. Bill Holland, near the end of the race, had transmission problems when inexplicably the car car would jump out of gear.

Tommy Hinnershitz in the factory Kurtis "works" car, had started 22nd, and had worked himself up to 8th position by 225 miles. But later he had to replace a magneto, which took all of twenty minutes. Tommy had already made a three minute stop for fuel and a new right rear tire on lap 85. Even so, Hinnershitz placed 9th in the final standings, being flagged off after 198 circuits completed. Lee Wallard, in the Iddings Special No. 91, moved up from 28th at the start to 7th position at the end, and completed all 200 laps. But Wallard was more than 24 minutes behind the winner Rose at the finish. Billy DeVore, in the six wheeled "Clancy Special", ran all day but made no impact. The combination of DeVore plus six wheels finished 12th overall, with 190 laos to its credit.

The front wheel drive V8 Novi design, which everyone in 1946-1948 regarded, without question, as the fastest Speedway mechanisms ever constructed, had fared rather poorly, in the actual races themselves. The design led only laps 12-55 (Hepburn) in 1946, laps 1-23 (Bergere) in 1947, and circuits 92-100 (Nalon) in 1948! It was not just not bad luck. The Novis were overweight, hard to drive, over complicated mechanically, and consummed fuel at an alarming rate. By contrast, Lou Moore's two front drive "Blue Crowns" were simpler, more reliable, and very fuel efficient. Moore's two cars led rounds 24-200 in 1947 and laps 101-123 and 143-200 in 1948. With just two cars total, in both the 1947 and 1948 500's, Lou Moore's vehicles had finished one-two both years, an incredible feat.

Edited by john glenn printz, 23 March 2010 - 12:40.


#18 john glenn printz

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 13:30

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-10) About two weeks after the race more information from the Speedway's chief timer and scorer, Chester S. Ricker, was forthcoming about the scoring mixup that occurred about lap 140, when the race was being run. When on lap 185 Nalon had pitted, Lew Welch and the general Speedway audience, had thought Nalon had had the the front running position. The initial problem was caused by the fact that the two Blue Crown cars, i.e., Holland's No. 2 and Rose's No. 3, were painted and looked exactly the same. Ricker comments were (quote), "The numbers were in silver and hard to see- anyway the upper part of a 3 looks a lot like a 2. As the two cars swept by the scorers had to decide which was which by looking at the drivers rather than at the numbers."

"The error ocurred when Ed Neal, of the technical committee down in the pits, reported to me that Rose had made one less lap than the scoring showed. I assumed Rose had been counted twice and Holland missed once so I took a lap from Rose and gave it to Holland, who was running third behind Nalon. For awhile I sweat blood. Lou Moore came running up to the timer's platform in the pagoda, hotly demanding that Rose was leading, not Nalon. I had to tell him to go back to his pit, that a check was being made and that if an error had been made the check would show it."

"Moore left. Meanwhile the leaders were passing us at the rate of one about every minute and 12 seconds. But the check was progressing and my only fear was that it would not be found before the finish. What a mess I would have been in had that happened! What if we scored Nalon the winner when it was really Rose! I- thought of the radio and its national broadcast of the race, of the newspapers flashing the wrong name, of the wrong car and the wrong man being in Victory Lane, of the newsreels and all the photographers taking the wrong picture, even of Barbara Britton kissing the wrong driver! I've been scoring the race since 1913 but that was the closest I ever came to a breakdown."

"Then Nalon made his second pit stop on his 185th lap and that took off the pressure, for Rose, whether a lap had been taken from him or not, certainly then became the leader. Next we found the error, gave the lap back to Rose and as the race finished on the 200th and final lap it had been scored correctly. I made a mistake, however, in not having the correction published over the amplifying system and to the press and radio."

"I did inform the pits, nevertheless, and that brought Lew Welch to the scorers' stand, insisting that Nalon had been the leader for 45 laps and was entitled to $4,500 in lap money. I told Welch both he and Nalon could sit in with us on another check of the tape, that I was sure he would be satisfied Nalon had not been in the lead. Both Welch and Nalon checked the tape with us. It was clear Rose, not Nalon, was entitled to the lap money and that was the way the Speedway paid off."

"But I don't want my crew to score any more Siamese twins there again, and I have asked for a rule compelling owners to distinguish their cars."

In the middle of June 1948 Nalon was talking to reporter Harry Leduc and two time Indy winner Tommy Milton in Detroit and made the following comments, "Had I not had to make that second pit stop and gone on to the finish I feel sure I would have been declared the winner. Don't forget that, rightly or wrongly, the official announcement that I was leading was flashed to my pit and from my pit to me. That knowledge definitely governed my driving. I knew also that both Mauri Rose and Bill Holland were being signaled to 'get Nalon.' Well, they tried but they didn't get Nalon. I had no trouble staying ahead of both. I just did laps of 124 and 125 m.p.h., while neither did better than 123. If I had to, I could have gone four or five miles an hour faster, could have pressed both and might have either ruined their cars or actually lapped them."

"Those officials could not have denied that they misinformed me, if that actually was the truth, I'm inclined to think they would have stood by their decision that I really was in the lead. At any rate it would have been interesting if I had not been forced to make that second stop."

In early 1949 Lou Moore talked about the past and his current situation (quote), "For the 1938 race I put some of my ideas together and built a car I thought could win. I was right. Floyd Roberts won the race in it. Next year he was killed in a three-cornered crack-up on the track. In 1940 I entered two cars; one placed third, the other broke an oil line. Next year I entered three cars and Mauri Rose won the race in one of them. Since the war we've made a clean sweep of first and second places in the two races that I entered cars. Winning at Indianapolis has won me a lot of money but it costs a lot to win. The drivers and pitmen get part of the purses, the expenses are heavy and race cars cost money to build. Counting my three cars, the shop and my tools, I've invested close to a fifth of a million dollars for the thrill of watching my cars get the checkered flag. That's what I work for, because when you figure up my winnings against the expenses and the time that I put in, it turns out that I make about a dollar an hour."

But enough! It is time to head west to Milwaukee for the 100 miler.

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 February 2012 - 13:35.


#19 john glenn printz

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 20:44

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-11) 3. MILWAUKEE 100, JUNE 6, 1948. All those who now wished to pursue the AAA National Driver's Title for 1948 now assembled at the West Allis, Milwaukee one mile dirt oval. Ted Horn and Rex Mays were actively seeking the year's Title but Mauri Rose, the victor at Indianapolis, had now entirely quit all dirt track racing. Rose only raced annually at Indianapolis where all the big money really was, and where also a seemingly long lasting and glorious fame resided. The Milwaukee 100 attracted a large contingent of 34 cars, of which 30 actually posted a qualification speed. 18 cars were allowed to start.

Bill Holland was in the new Lou Moore dirt car and Duke Nalon had procured the old "Peters Offy", now being wrenched by Frankie Del Roy. This car, the 1941 500 winner, had been entered as No. 15 with Walt Ader at Indianapolis in 1948. But on May 7 the owner, Fred A. Peters, had died which had nullified the entry at Indy. Del Roy and Nalon must had gotten a special dispensation of some sort from the Peters' estate, to run it here at Milwaukee. All four new Kurtis model KK2000s, which had run at Indianapolis, were at hand and were piloted by the same personages as at Indy, i.e. Emil Andres, Hal Cole, Mack Hellings, and Johnny Mantz. Horn was in his familiar "Beauty" and Mays in the big Bowes machine. The Belanger team was represented by Bettenhausen in the No. 16. Walt Brown was back in the cockpit of the Kurtis No. 7 "works" car, replacing Hinnershitz, who had piloted the machine at Indianapolis. Hinnershitz choose rather instead, to compete in the same day sprint car races at Williams Grove Speedway, PA. The fastest qualifier here at Milwaukee was Mantz at 37.48 seconds (96.051 mph), followed by Bettenhausen (37.64), Andres (37.93), Webb (37.90), and Horn (38.36).

When the green flag fell, Mantz from the pole, shot into the lead, followed by Bettenhausen. Duke Dinsmore in the Schoof No. 71, on his 7th lap, slipped too high, hit the loose gravel, and then brushed the south wall with his right rear wheel. The collision with the wall tipped up the front end of the car and tossed Dinsmore out. He then landed in the middle of the track. In a famous incident, the oncoming Mays deliberately swerved into the outside wall, to avoid hitting the prostrate Dinsmore. Mays himself was unhurt but the Bowes car was too damaged to continue. Dinsmore was taken to the Milwaukee County Hospital where his only fracture proved to be a bone in his forearm. Earlier it was feared he might have suffered a fractured skull. Nalon later said (quote), "They could have stopped the race and started it Indian file, according to position. You know Rex Mays wrecked his car rather than hit Duke. I passed Dinsmore six times before they got his body off the track- I thought he was dead. That yellow flag doesn't really slow us up too much. Often position is improved despite the rule that we are to hold our places."

Mantz led laps 1-71 until he had to stop for a new rear tire on lap 72. Earlier Bettenhausen had had to pit for new rubber which relieved the immediate pressure on Mantz. Andres was now running in 2nd, about a lap behind the leader. Bettenhausen was forced out of the race on lap 60 with a leaking crankcase. Andres had taken over the lead on lap 72 while Mantz was in the pits. When Mantz returned to the track, he and Andres fought for the front spot, wheel to wheel, for circuits 72-90. Then on lap 91 Mantz got briefly by Andres, but immediately broke a piston, and dropped out on the backstretch. So Andres led circuits 72-100. At 20 laps the running order had been, Mantz, Bettenhausen, Fohr, Webb, Andres, Brown, and Horn. At 50 laps the order was Mantz, Bettenhausen, Fohr, Webb, Andres, Horn, and Hellings. Both Horn and Webb came in on lap 52, while Fohr stopped on lap 56, all three needed new rubber.

After Mantz retired on lap 91, the interest was focused on who would finish 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Running in tight proximity were Helllings, Fohr, and Horn. Horn got by Fohr on circuit 93, but didn't have quite enough time to catch Hellings, as the contest soon ended. The final top five finishing positions were: 1. Emil Andres (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 2. Mack Hellings (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek), 4. Myron Fohr (Offenhauser/Marchese), and 5. Charles Van Acker (Offenhauser/Stevens). Bill Holland made no impact and placed 9th (flagged after 90 laps), while Nalon was 11th (flagged after 89 laps). This was the first Championship win for the Kurtis model KK2000, which also placed 2nd.

Emil Andres had made his first Championship appearance as a starter at Springfield on August 24, 1935. In the 1935 Springfield classic Emil placed 3rd, piloting a DeBaets Special No. 66 (Miller/Rigling). However his 1948 Milwaukee win was Emil's first victory in the Championship division. Andres' winning Tuffy's Offy No. 8 was owned by Carmine George "Babe" Tuffanelli, a south side Chicago numbers operator and racketeer. Tuffanelli, both in appearance and dress, aped somewhat Alphonse "Al" Gabriel Capone (1899-1947) himself, with whom the Tuffanelli family (it is said) had had some earlier connections. Charles Pritchard was the mechanic on the Tuffanelli's Champ cars.

Myron Fohr was piloting here a rather old vehicle, the Marchese Special No. 32, designed by Tudy Marchese. It had first appeared at Indianapolis, as driven by Harry McQuinn (1905-1986), in 1938. The car was of a very advanced design for its day, and featured a tubular frame and two side mounted radiators. However many and various minor modifications had been made to it since its original 1938 appearance. Fohr had qualified it at Indianapolis in 1948 on May 23, at 121.531 mph, but was bumped from the starting lineup on May 29. But Fohr and this same exact car soon became a major and important force in AAA Championship racing for the remainer of 1948, and the entire 1949 season.

The race attendance for the Milwaukee 100 was put as 29,000. The reserved seats were priced at $4.00, $3.00, and $2.50. General admission was $1.50. The total purse was $29,583

On June 7 Dinsmore was taken off the critical list. From his hospital bed Dinsmore said, "If it weren't for Mays I wouldn't be here. There's a king in everything. Rex is it in auto racing, as any driver will tell you. Lucky for me he was coming behind me when I was thrown out on the track. Nobody but Mays could have avoided running over me. And don't forget he cracked up to do it. A great man. Everybody loves him." The Championship Trail now headed east for another 100 miler at Babcock's Langhorne Speedway.

Johnny Shackleford, Jr. was fatally injured in a 20 lap sprint car event at the 1/2 mile Dayton, OH track on June 13. When Nalon first heard of it he said, "Johnny was with us in the race at Milwaukee and he qualified at Indianapolis but was shoved out of the starting field in the 500 field by faster qualifiers on the last day. He was a grand fellow and an experienced driver." Shackleford managed to get into the 1948 500 just briefly by relieving Joie Chitwood for laps 106-137 in the No. 55 Nyquist Special. Shackleford had been racing for twelve years.

Edited by john glenn printz, 27 February 2010 - 20:29.


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#20 john glenn printz

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 12:22

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-12) 4. LANGHORNE 100, JUNE 20, 1948. The racing fraternity quickly reconverged for the now annual 100 miler at Langhorne. There were 28 entrants. The top five qualifiers were (1) Tony Bettenhausen at 33.84 seconds (106.383 mph); (2) Paul Russo 34.00; (3) Spider Webb 34.22; (4) Emil Andres 34.24; and (5) Johnny Mantz 34.84. In a special trial lap, i.e. not a qualification attempt, Mays set a new Langhorne lap record of 33.768 secords or 106.8 mph in the Bowes Seal Fast No. 5. Although Myron Fohr had qualified in the Marchese No. 32 machine, Duane Carter took over the car and started it in the race because Fohr developed an eye problem.

At the start Mays took the lead, up from his 6th starting position, and led the first twenty circuits until the rear end let go. On his 6th lap Paul Russo lost control and his Olsen Special No. 49 went through the outside barrier, catapulted end over end, and landed in a thick wood, which skirted the track. Russo was thrown clear. The race was stopped and it took one hour to remove Paul's car which was wedged tightly in the trees. Russo was taken to the Mercer Hospital located in Trenton, NJ. Russo had sustained multiple abrasions and contusions, and a lacerated left leg, but his condition was not serious. The race was restarted on lap 7 in a single file format.

After Mays went out on lap 21 Mantz inherited the lead in the Agajanian No. 98 and stayed there until lap 30 when the car broke an axle. Nalon then grapped the front spot, in the Peters No. 15, until the car spilled its rear end onto the track, right in front of the main grandstand on lap 44. The top four at 25 miles had been Mantz, Nalon, Horn, and Ader. Ted Horn was the next leader, in front for circuits 44-66, until a broken throttle put him out. The order at 44 miles had been Horn, Ader, Andres, and Hellings. Bettenhausen was out after 22 laps (broken axle), and Walt Ader after 50 circuits (broken steering). Walt Brown had moved up to 2nd on lap 48. There were four laps run under the caution flag while Ader's Corley Special No. 27 was removed from the middle of the backstretch.

After Horn's retirement Brown led all the rest of the way, i.e. circuits 67-100. When Brown received the checkered flag, it is said he was 7 miles in front of Hellings! The finishing order was 1. Walt Brown (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 2. Mack Hellings (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 3. Emil Andres (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 4. Duane Carter (Offenhauser/Marchese), and 5. George Connor (Offenhauser/Miller). Brown winning time was 1:06:55.66 or 89.628 mph. And once again Kelly Petillo's old 1935 clocking of 1:05:17.5 for the Championship division cars was not bettered. Harry Stephens was the winning mechanic. The attendance was put at 37,204 and the total purse paid was $10,401.91. The winner Brown got $2585.96. This was Walt's first AAA Championship win, his previous best having been 3rd place in the 1947 Langhorne 100, when driving for Lou Rassey.

This also was the first victory for the jointly owned Frank Kurtis-Ed Walsh factory "works" car. From now on, it would play a major role in Championship racing for the rest of 1948 and the 1949-1951 seasons as well. Here at Langhorne in 1948, three new 1948 Kurtis machines placed one-two-three and the Kurtis constructed cars were now beginning to displace, replace, and close out, the older chassis put together before World War II by Clyde Adams, Myron Stevens, and Louis "Curly" Wetteroth.

The Langhorne management had applied for an AAA sanction on a 200 mile Championship race to be staged in August 1948, but this was cancelled and called off because the AAA Contest Board did not think the track surface would hold up for a 200 mile distance.

The 1948 Langhorne 100 had the rather unlikely name of the "National Convention Sweepstakes" and Brown won the National Convention Sweepstakes trophy. 1948 was a U.S. presidential year and both the Democrats and Republicans had their nominating conventions in Philadelphia, PA. The Democrats nominated Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) and the Republicans Thomas E. Dewey (1902-1971). The Democratic convention had run from June 21 to June 25.

The 1948 AAA National Championship point standings after four events were (top five): 1. Mauri Rose 1000; 2. Ted Horn 980; 3. Duke Nalon 860; 4. Bill Holland 840; and 5. Mack Hellings 820. The Championship circuit now travelled back to Milwaukee for another 100 miler.

On July 1, the 1935 AAA National Champion and Indianapolis winner, Kelly Petillo, was in the newspapers again and it was not good. Kelly was sought by police for the attempted murder of his ex-secretary, Mrs. Naomi Shofer, age 25. Petillo had attacked her in an Indianapolis hotel room the day before and her face was slashed from her left ear to her chin. Shofer had worked as Petillo's secretary for two years on the West Coast but had broken off a two year romance with him. Kelly was angry because she refused to return to him. "Twice in letters he threatened to scar me for life", she said. On July 6 Petillo was returned to Indianapolis to face the assault charges and was bound over to a grand jury. Kelly had been held without bail since July 4. On August 14 Kelly pleaded not guilty to the intent to kill charge. Petillo was sentenced on January 18, 1949 to one to ten years and went to prison. Crimial Court Judge William D. Bain said to Kelly, "There can be no question about who inflicted the wound. The only question is whether you did it with intent to kill her." Bain also stated that Petillo's registering at the hotel under an assumed name indicated that Petillo had pre-planned the attack.

Edited by john glenn printz, 07 June 2010 - 15:05.


#21 john glenn printz

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 19:23

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-13) 5. MILWAUKEE 100, AUGUST 15, 1948. There were 23 entries and 18 starters. The top five qualifiers were 1. Myron Fohr at 40.11 seconds or 89.753 mph. (Offenhauser/Marchese); 2. Spider Webb with 40.33 (Offenhauser/Bromme); 3. Johnny Mantz 40.38 (Offenhauser/Kurtis); and 4. Mel Hansen 40.50; and 5. Rex Mays 40.53 (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis) Hansen was in Paul Weirick's "Poison Lil" (Offenhauser s-c/Adams) still using the supercharged Offy.

Myron Fohr, led the first 27 circuits before he pitted, which dropped him down to 11th. Hansen was out after 3 laps with supercharger failure and Webb retired after 34 laps with clutch failure. Mantz ran in first place for laps 28-46 before he had to make a stop at the pits for a new tire. Andres (Offenhauser/Kurtis) then moved into the front position (circuit 47) and held it to lap 99. About lap 70 Andres' Offenhauser motor began to miss and blubber, but then the problem went away until lap 90, when it recurred. Emil just made it to the finish (lap 100) by coasting across the line with a dead engine and couldn't take an extra precautionary lap after the flag dropped. Mantz had moved into 2nd place on circuit 95 and got by Andres on the very last lap.

The AAA officials however had gotten confused and gave Ted Horn the checkered flag as the race winner on Horn's 99th lap, with Andres listed 2nd and Mantz 3rd. But after protests by both Andres and Mantz, and a recheck by stenographers Farabek and O'Brien of two mechanical time recordings tapes, the finishing order was altered to: 1. Johnny Mantz (Offenhauser/Kurtis); 2. Emil Andres (Offenhauser/Kurtis); 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek); 4. Rex Mays (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis); and 5. Lee Wallard (Offenhauser/Meyer). Tom Marchese, President of the Western Racing Association, said he did not know why Horn had been given the checkered flag. Tom added that the victory trophy, originally given to Horn, would now be retrieved and given to Mantz. This was the first Championship win for car owner J. C. Agajanian, mechanic Clay Smith, and driver Johnny Mantz. And this was the first AAA Championship contest since the November 2, 1947, where Rex Mays was still running at the finish.

Two spectators, Mrs. Alma Hodgson 40, and her son Gaylord 10, received minor cuts and bruises when a rear wheel came off a broken axle on Ken Fowler's (1907-1981) No. 54 Anderson Special on lap 34. The wheel jumped an infield retaining wall and crashed through a fence, hitting Alma and her son. Fowler himself was unhurt. The day's attendance was put at 23,913 and the total payout was $16,850.60. The winner Mantz collected $3,978. Mantz's winning time of 1:10:19.08 was not a record. However Horn's 3rd place finish here, gave Ted another 140 Championship points, and the 1946 and 1947 AAA National Championship Driver now moved into the 1948 AAA Championship division point lead with 1120, over the 2nd position, i.e. Mauri Rose's 1000 for his win at Indianapolis. Nalon was now 3rd with 910 points.

The next stop on the tour was the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 March 2010 - 12:49.


#22 ZOOOM

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 01:36

Mr. Glenn...
Great stuff and I am enjoying it thoroughly.
Could you check the figure for attendance for the '48 Indy? I'm sure 750,000 is misleading.
The track has never held more than 400,000 and I'm sure it held far less back in the day. Are you quoting the attendance figures for ALL the qualifying days together with the race, maybe?

ZOOOM

#23 john glenn printz

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:39

To "Zooom";

You are quite correct, a figure of 750,000 is quite impossible. Indeed it is absurb. I don't know how I could have typed it in. The NEW YORK TIMES and the WASHINGTON POST give the race day attendance at 175,000. I will correct the text.

The Speedway, as is well known, never releases their exact attendance figures, so everything is mostly guesswork.

Thanks for your interest!

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 March 2010 - 17:42.


#24 john glenn printz

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 17:28

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-14) 6. SPRINGFIELD 100, AUGUST 21, 1948. There were 27 entries and 18 starters. The top five qualifiers were 1. Myron Fohr (Offenhauser/Marchese) with a run at 36.42 secords (98.847 mph); 2. Lee Wallard (Offenhauser/Meyer) 36.43; 3. Spider Webb (Offenhauser/Bromme) 36.67; 4. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek) 36.80; and Tony Bettenhausen (Offenhauser/Adams) 37.00.

Johnnie Parsons (1918-1984) had been trying to brake into the AAA Championship ranks and had been at Indianapolis in May 1948 as a new rookie. Johnnie had passed the driving test O.K., in a Granatelli owned car, but couldn't land a fast enough vehicle to qualify for the 500. Now in late 1948, Frank Kurtis and Ed Walsh decided to sign up Parsons to pilot their factory car in the remaining 1948 AAA Championship contests. Harry Stephens was the mechanic. Thus Parsons took over the ride from Walt Brown here at Springfield, and it would prove to be Johnnie's very first Championship start. Johnnie was lined up in the 14th starting position here at Springfield. Parsons had long been known as a very handsome and popular pilot of midgets and began his racing career in California during 1940 with the doodlebugs (midgets).

Walt Brown, who had won at Langhorne, had his last ride in the factory Kurtis-Kraft No. 7 machine at the August 15, 1948 Milwaukee 100. Walt now reverted back to driving for Lou Rassey, in Lou's Automobile Shipper's No. 29, here at Springfield and in the upcoming August 29 Milwaukee 200.

On the start, Fohr jumped out in front and led the first three circuits. On the third circuit Wallard lost control and was stuck by Mack Hellings in a new Granatelli owned KK2000 No. 59. The No. 59 Grancor rolled over three times with Hellings in it, while Wallard was thrown clear and was not injured. Both Andres and Nalon brushed against the two wrecked cars, but neither Andres or Nalon was hurt, although their vehicles were out of the event because of car damage. The race was stopped. Hellings had suffered head damage, was thought to be in very serious condition, and was taken to the St. John's Hospital. However on August 22 Hellings was declared resting comfortably and out of danger. After recovering, Mack apparently resumed his racing career in February 1949 at the 1/2 mile paved Carroll Speedway located in Gardena, CA. Hellings was a California driver and began his racing in 1937 with motorcycles and then shifted his attention to midgets in 1939. After the second World War, Hellings again primarily drove midgets. He would resume his now interupted AAA Championship division career at Indianapolis in May 1948 with the Don Lee team.

On the restart, Horn took over the leadership on lap 4 by passing Fohr, and a lap later Webb got around Fohr also. At 10 circuits the running order was Horn, Webb, Bettenhausen, Fohr, Mantz, Connors, Van Acker, and Mays. Horn pitted on lap 35 for a new tire, which took just 21 seconds. Webb, the new leader, was setting a blistering pace ahead of Fohr. Johnnie Parsons had moved up quick and by lap 41 he was threatening Fohr for the second position. Parsons, on lap 46, moved past Fohr. Webb pitted for fuel but just a bit later he had to stop a second time (lap 59) because of a flat tire but, for some reason, never got back out. . Parsons moved to the front when Webb stopped for fuel but Horn passed Johnnie on the 74th circuit. At 75 miles the order was Horn, Parsons, Fohr, Van Acker, Mays, Bettenhausen, and Sheffler. Horn's lead over Parsons was half a lap at the 85 mile mark and Horn was in front for laps 75-100. Van Acker's car began to ail late in the contest and Mays on lap 90 got around Charles to move up to 4th place. Parsons and Fohr ran the entire 100 miles without making a stop. The lap leaders were Fohr 1-3, Horn 4-34, Webb 35-?, Parsons ?-74, and Horn 75-100.

At the finish the top five positions were; 1. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek); 2. Johnnie Parsons (Offenhauser/Kurtis); 3. 3. Myron Fohr (Offenhauser/Marchese); 4. Mays (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis); and 5. Charles Van Acker (Offenhauser/Stevens). Horn's winning time was 1:06:19.03 (90.520 mph), which did not better Tony Bettenhausen's mark of 1:04:51.08 posted in 1947. Parson had done extremely well with his first outing in the Kurtis Kraft Special No. 7. The race attendance was placed at about 30,000 and the track payout was $10,700. However the Championship Spark Plug Company sweetened the kitty considerably by adding another $16,160 in accessary money.

There had been 23 AAA Championship contests staged since World War II and Horn now had the most post-war wins with 5. Mays ranked second with 3, while Bettenhausen, Holland, and Rose had 2 each. Rose and Mays had both won Championship events before the World War II (1939-1945) shut down all Championship racing in 1942, and their complete totals now were 8 for Mays and 5 1/2 for Rose. The "1/2" being Rose's co-win with Floyd Davis (1905-1977) at Indianapolis in 1941.

The 1948 AAA National Championhip point standings at mid-season, i.e. after 6 of the year's 12 events had been run, were: 1. Ted Horn 1320, 2. Mauri Rose 1000, 3. Duke Nalon 910, 4. Bill Holland 840, 5. Mack Hellings 820, 6. Emil Andres 500, 7. Lee Wallard 480, and 8. Charles Van Acker 400.

The action would now move back to Milwaukee for the biggest oval dirt surfaced Championship contest ever staged by the Contest Board, i.e. a 200 miler set for August 29.

Edited by john glenn printz, 07 April 2010 - 11:39.


#25 john glenn printz

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 14:01

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-15) 7. MILWAUKEE 200, AUGUST 29, 1948. The last major AAA 200 mile contest on a dirt oval, went all the way back to July 4, 1913 at Columbus, OH. Its winner was Ralph Mulford in a Mason, with a total time of 3:21:48 (59.4 mph). This was a new AAA record for the 200 mile distance on a dirt surfaced oval, and broke Spencer Wishart's previous posting of 3:28:04 1/2 made on August 28, 1912 in a Mercer, at the same exact track. There were ten starters in this 1913 race, which witnessed the deaths of Harry C. Knight (b. 1889) and his mechanican, Milton Michaelis. A right rear tire blew on their 120th circuit and the car turned over twice, but landed in an upright position. Johnny Jenkins (1875-1945), who was following Knight at close quarters, may have run over Knight after he was thrown from his car. Knight's head was badly smashed and the top part torn off. Michaelis from Clovis, New Mexico, and just 19 years of age, had been thrown out also, and suffered a fractured skull. Milton expired later that evening in a local hospital from a brain concussion.

The first two AAA Championship events run on dirt ovals were 150 milers, i.e. Ascot (Nov. 30, 1916) and Syracuse (September 15, 1924). Eddie Rickenbacker (Duesenberg) won the Ascot race and Phil Shafer (Duesenberg) the one staged at Syracuse. Jimmy Murphy was killed on lap 139 in the 1924 Syracuse contest, while running in 2nd place, trying to catch Shafer. After the 1916 Ascot and 1924 Syracuse races, the next AAA Championship events on dirt ovals were 100 milers held in 1928, at Detroit (June 10) and Syracuse (September 1). After 1928, with the sole exception of the 1932 Oakland 150 (November 13), all the AAA Championship oval dirt races were 100 milers. For the 1946 season five of the six AAA Championship contests were dirt track 100 milers, while in 1947 the number went up to nine of eleven events. So the 1948 Milwaukee 200 was a new adventure and experiment for the Contest Board. And certainly, after the Indianapolis 500, it was the most important AAA race, held in 1948.

The 1948 Milwaukee 200 got more than the usual pre-race publicity, and it was pointed out that in the board track era, there had been many events schedued for a distance of 200 miles. The very first was held at Tacoma on July 5, 1915 and was won by Eddie Pullen (1883-1940) in a Mercer at 84.9 mph. Included among them also was the Fresno inaugural race of October 2, 1920 won by Murphy (Duesenberg) at 96.36 mph. Other board tracks that staged 200 milers were Altoona, Atlantic City, and Salem (Rockingham). The fastest 200 miler ever run on a board speedway occurred on May 7, 1927 at Atlantic City, when Dave Lewis (1881-1928) won at an 130.058 mph average, in a supercharged front drive 91 Miller. Dave's elapsed time was 1:32:15.97. In 1930 Altoona had two 200 milers on tap for June 14 and September 1. Billy Arnold (1905-1976) won both of them in Harry Hartz's 1930 Indianapolis 500 winning front drive Miller/Summers machine. The second 1930 Altoona 200 however had to be curtailed to just 116.25 miles because of rain. These two Altoona 1930 events were the last 200 mile Championship races scheduled by the AAA on an oval track, until the 1948 Milwaukee 200.

The Milwaukee race promotor Tom Marchese (or the Wisconsin Automobile Racing Association) was hoping for a crowd of 35,000, but heat and an epidemic of polio held the attendance down to 19,200. The reserved seating was priced at $6.00 and $4.80, while the bleachers were put at $2.50. The qualifying trials and the race itself were both held on the same day, i.e. August 29. The qualifying started at 1 p.m. and the race itself at 3 p.m. The event would allow 22 starters, the most ever for a genuine dirt oval AAA Championship contest. The guaranted total purse was put at $15,000.

The top six qualifiers were 1. Paul Russo 38.10 seconds or 94.488 mph (Offenhauser/Olsen), 2. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek) 38.32, 3. Myron Fohr 38.55 (Offenhauser/Marchese), 4. Rex Mays 38.74 (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis), 5. Lee Wallard 38.77 (Offenhauser/Meyer), and 6. Spider Webb 38.90 (Offenhauser/Bromme). 21 cars started and the slowest qualifier was Johnny Byrne at 43.62 seconds, in a flathead V8 270 cubic inch Ford powered junker called the Schmidty's Special No. 46. This was a homemade rail frame job and the entrant was Arthur T. Schmidt of Milwaukee.

It was expected by most of the expert strategists and experienced observers that the first 100 miles would be run at an slow and moderate pace, to save the tires and cars for the second and remaining 100 miles.

Edited by john glenn printz, 03 June 2010 - 12:35.


#26 john glenn printz

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 17:29

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-16) Ted Horn took the lead for laps 1-6 before being overhauled by Fohr. Fohr remained in front for just five circuits (7-11) before Mel Hansen in a Joe Lencki car got by him to lead laps 12-38. Then Johnny Mantz took over and led laps 39 through 135. On Mantz's 136th circuit a wheel spindle let go and the No. 98 Agajanian Special (KK2000) hit the southeast wall, but Mantz was not hurt. The pole setter, Paul Russo, was eliminated early as an oil plug worked loose in the crankcase, which resulted in an overlong stop at the pits. At the 50 mile mark the running order had been Mantz, Hansen, Andres, Fohr, Wallard, and Horn. Mantz's elapsed time at 50 laps was 33:33:61.

The race order at 100 circuits was Mantz, Horn, Fohr, Mays, and Hal Robson, with Mantz's chocking being recorded at 1:07:06.20. This was a faster time than any posted in any previous AAA Championship ranked Milwaukee 100 miler. The previous Milwaukee record here for 100 miles had been Bill Holland's win on June 7, 1947 at 1:08:44.60 (82.281 mph). Emil Andres on lap 60, in another KK2000, had also retired due to a broken spindle, but after a slight tag of the wall in turn three, Emil was able to drive the car back to the pits.

Later, in early September 1948, Mantz was rueing about his bad luck for the season. Johnny then pined (quote), "Mechanical trouble has cost me more than $30,000 in prize money so far this year. The breakdowns always occur in worthwhile races. On Aug. 29, at Milwaukee's State Fair Park, a 200 miler was run. In this race at the 30 mile mark I was leading and I set a new Three-A record for 50, 75, and 100 miles. But at 135 miles the spindle arm on my front axle broke and I crashed the wall. The purse for first place was worth exactly $8,000. I still burn about that one."

Johnnie Parsons, who started 10th in the factory No. 7 Kurtis/Walsh Offenhauser machine, gradually moved up. Parsons was 9th on lap 14; 8th on lap 20; 7th on lap 31; 6th on lap 61 and 5th on the 76th. On the 103rd circuit Johnnie passed Van Acker and moved up to 4th. A stop at the pits by Horn on lap 108 moved Parsons into 2nd. Fohr had pitted on his 112th circuit, and Tony Bettenhausen now took over the Marchese owned car, as the relief pilot. Tony had originally started the race in an old 1938 Sparks/Adams machine, but was put out after 20 laps when the axle broke. Bettenhausen was originally entered on the Belanger No. 16 car, but when it was put out in a practice session, Tony took over the Sparks/Adams machine.

After Mantz retired, Bettenhausen moved into the top spot to lead circuits 136-178. The standings at 150 miles were Fohr-Bettenhausen, Horn, Parsons, Van Acker, Ted Duncan, and Bill Sheffer. The elasped time for Bettenhausen at 150 miles was 1:44:56.67. Tony was forced to pit on lap 179 because of a blown right rear tire. At the time of the blowout Bettenhausen had had a one lap lead over over Parsons, who was riding in 2nd place. Tony's stop was very quick, just 24 seconds, but meanwhile Parsons had moved into first. Now Fohr replaced Bettenhausen and climbed back into the car's cockpit. After returning to the track Myron was signaled by the Marchese crew to "Get Parsons". Parsons, who then had a 18 second advantage, however was a sitting duck, as his front right tire was bald and Johnnie feared a blowout. Myron quickly moved up on a hapless Parsons, passed Johnnie on lap 190, and led the rest of the way, i.e circuits 190-200. Fohr's victory margin over Johnnie was 16 seconds. The winning time was 2:18:21.21 (86.75 mph).

Hanson, Mays, and Wallard all encountered magneto problems, which put both Hanson and Mays out, Hanson at 98 laps and Mays at 172. Wallard was in the pits for an inordinately long time to install a new mag but crew chief, Henry Meyer, got Wallard back out and rolling again. Wallard managed to complete 140 laps before being flagged off and it was good enough for an 11th place finish.

The finishing order was (top five): 1. Myron Fohr-Tony Bettenhausen (Offenhauser/Marchese), 2. Johnnie Parsons (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek), 4. Ted Duncan (Offenhauser/Corley), and 5. Bill Sheffer (Offenhauser/Bromme). The winning time was 2:18:21.21 or 86.734 mph. The lap leaders had been: Horn 1-6, Fohr 7-11, Hansen 12-38, Mantz 39-135, Bettenhausen (in relief for Fohr) 136-178, Parsons 179-189, and Fohr 190-200. Parsons and Duncan made one pit stop each, while both Fohr and Sheffler had two, and Horn three. The two winners split the Championship points with Fohr getting 266 and Bettenhausen 134. The total prize money was $26,250 and the winner's share was $6,213.

The winner, Myron W. Fohr (1912-1994), was never a genuinely recognizable name among the general public. Fohr, at 200 pounds, looked more like a professional boxer or prize fighter than a racing car driver. Fohr was heavy set and his arms and legs seem to be pure muscle. Apparently and obviously there was little or no fat in Fohr. His career in racing began in 1932. When the popularity of the midgets moved eastward to the mid-west, Myron raced them, beginning in 1935. After the World War II, Fohr raced stock cars, midgets, sprint cars, and the AAA Championship cars. His AAA Championship debut occurred at Milwaukee on June 8, 1947. With regard to the Championship division proper he almost always ran for the three Marchese brothers, Carl, Tudy, and Tom. Fohr's first try at Indianapolis was in 1948, but he ended up as the second alternate with a posted time of 121.531 mph and was bumped out on the last day of the time trials. Surprisingly it was exactly the same vehicle used at Indianapolis by Fohr, which now had become the Milwaukee 200 winner. The AAA Championship newcomer and rookie, Parsons, after another spectacular drive again placed second, and obviously Frank Kurtis and Ed Walsh had now found the right combination for their car.

The 4th place finish by Ted Duncan, among the 21 starters, represented a great effort. Of Duncan I know nothing. Ted is said to have won minor regional titles in the mid-west before World War II, i.e. at Chicago and St. Louis. He appears to have mostly competed in midgets. Duncan drove in the AAA Championship ranks during 1948-1950, with a total of five starts. Ted Duncan was at Indianapolis in 1949 and 1950 but didn't make the starting lineup either year.

By placing 3rd here at Milwaukee, Ted Horn was getting closer to cinching his third straight AAA National Driving Title, a feat not previousy attained. The only previous consecutive AAA National Titlists were Louie Meyer in 1928-1929, Rex Mays in 1940-1941, and Horn himself in 1946-1947. After the Milwaukee 200, with five races remaining on the 1948 Championship schedule, the point totals were 1. Ted Horn 1600, 2. Mauri Rose 1000, 3. Duke Nalon 910, 4.Bill Holland 840, 5. Mack Hellings 820, 6. Myron Fohr 586, 7 Charles Van Acker 560, and 8. Lee Wallard 524.5. Only the top five AAA point leaders still had a mathematical chance of becoming the 1948 National Driving Titlist. However Horn was now in a very strong postion. Rose, with 1000 counters, would no longer race on dirt, and ran only at Indianapolis. Bill Holland had dropped out of the 1948 AAA title chase after running at Milwaukee on June 6, while Hellings was out the rest of the season with injuries. Only Nalon with 910 points was a possible and theoretical threat, but Duke also quit the 1948 AAA Championship Trial after completing at Springfield on August 21.

The 1948 Milwaukee 200 was evidently a success as the West Allis Milwaukee Mile continued to stage an annual AAA Championship 200 miler every August, until the AAA and its Contest Board ceased to sanction races after late 1955. However for 1955, be it noted, the August AAA Milwaukee race was upped to 250 miles. Even in the mid-1960s, the August Milwaukee classic was ranked second in stature and only behind the Indianapolis 500 in importance, as an contest on the USAC Championship Trail. For instance, when Jimmy Clark won the 1963 Milwaukee 200 in a Ford/Lotus on August 18th, the race still had the acknowledged status as second in rank, i.e. as only behind the much, much larger Indianapolis 500. But the distance, gap, and interval between the importance of the Indianapolis 500 and the Milwaukee 200 was staggering.

The next stop on the AAA Championship schedule was for September 4 (Labor Day) at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, located in southern Illinois. It was the site's first Championship contest.

Edited by john glenn printz, 25 May 2010 - 15:51.


#27 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 13:08

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-17) 8. DU QUOIN 100, SEPTEMBER 4, 1948. During late 1947 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, a new one mile dirt oval was constructed which was to serve a duo-purpose use, both for horse and automobile racing. It replaced a former 1/2 mile oval. The new mile oval was built by the order and instigation of William "Bill" Richard Hayes (1877-1952). The name "Du Quoin State Fairground" was a misnomer however, as the state of Illinois was not directly involved here, and the site was privately owned. The real Illinois State Fairground was located at Springfield, which had staged 100 mile AAA Championship events, dating back to 1934.

The Du Quoin State Fairgrounds was begun in 1923 by Mr. Hayes and several business-investor associates, but by 1939 Hayes had the sole ownership of the plant. It is said that Hayes attended the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, which made a lasting impression on him, and elicited his interest in show business and horse racing. Hayes began his profitable and lucrative business career as a youth selling soda water. By 1913 Bill secured the local and legal franchise for bottling Coca-Cola, and also sold dairy products. His firm, the Midwest Dairy Products Corporation, at its height, had locations in 39 cities and 8 states. Hayes also owned movie and opera houses, legitimate theaters, and a harness racing stable. Bill bought his first harness racing horse, "Kentucky Dude", in 1895.

There 21 entries here, with the fastest 18 to start. The top five qualifiers were 1. Rex Mays (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis) 36.01 seconds (99.972 mph), 2. Tony Bettenhausen (Offenhauser/Adams) 37.30, 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek) 37.64, 4. Paul Russo (Offenhauser/Olsen) 37.68, and 5. Mel Hanson (Lencki) 37.71. Three of these five top qualifiers were the very first cars to retire from the race itself! None of the three got further than the 32nd lap! Russo retired after one lap with clutch shaft failure, Mays completed five laps before his car threw a rod, and on lap 32 Hanson's machine did the same thing as Mays' Bowes Seal Fast No. 5.

In the starting lineup was Floyd Eldon Davis (1905-1977), the 1941 Indianapolis co-winner, who had qualified 19th fastest with a time of 41.92 (85.878 mph), in a 4 cylinder 181 cubic inch supercharged car built and owned by Ralph S. Miller of Dayton, OH. Spider Webb, who was in the race lineup, could not start and Davis replaced him as the first alternate starter. This was Davis' second start in a Championship event since his Indy win of 1941. Floyd's first Championship race start, after World War II, occurred at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds on September 15, 1946.

I can find no description of the race itself but the lap leaders were Bettenhausen 1, Hanson 2-32, and Wallard 33-100. The top five final placements were: 1. Lee Wallard (Offenhauser/Meyer), 2. Myron Fohr (Offenhauser/Marchese), 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek), 4. Charles Van Acker (Offenhauser/Stevens) and 5. Bill Sheffler (Offenhauser/Bromme). Wallard's winning time was 1:07:53.28 (88.381 mph) and the total payout was just $10,000.

Johnnie Parsons in the Kurtis Kraft No. 7 hadn't fared well here. He had started 8th and was out after completing 87 laps. Rex Mays was having a very poor season so far, even worst than that of 1947. In the first eight 1948 Championship contests Rex had only two 4ths (Milwaukee August 15 and Springfield August 20) and one 7th (out at 182 laps Milwaukee August 29).

Du Quoin was the first Championship win for driver Leland "Lee" Wallard (1911-1963) and car owner John Iddings. Iddings owned an automobile parts supply firm in Greensville, OH and had owned sprint cars during the 1930's and 1940's. Back in the 1930's Iddings hired Henry Meyer to do all the mechancial work on the cars. Iddings had moved up and into the AAA Championship division proper with an entry at Indianpolis in 1948. The winning Iddings Special No. 12 was still using the special 233 cubic inch size Offy, which this car had had at Indianapolis when running under the No. 91.

Most drivers were fond of running at Du Quoin, which featured a very fine clay surface. The proper line around the track was more in the shape of a diamond, than that of an squashed circle. The Du Quoin 100 became one of the mainstays of both the AAA and USAC Championship circuits until USAC dropped all dirt races from the Championship Trail proper in 1971. After 1970 USAC gathered together all the former Championship dirt events into a new series called the "Silver Crown" division. The last proper Championship level Du Quoin 100 was won by Al Unser, Sr. (b. 1939) on September 7, 1970 using a Ford/King dirt car. Al's winning time was 1:01:07.66 or 98.155 mph. The total purse was then $30,167 and Al collected $6,250 for his win. The total attendance was put at 13,716.

The 1948 AAA Championship point standings were now (top ten): 1. Ted Horn 1610; 2. Mauri Rose 1000; 3. Duke Nalon 910; 4. Bill Holland 840; 5. Mack Hellings 820; 6. Lee Wallard 774.5; 7. Myron Fohr 746; 8. Bill Sheffler 664.8; 9. Emil Andres 600; and 10. Van Acker 530. Although a maximum of 800 Championship points were still available for a possible winner of all four remaining Championship events, Horn in fact, had now won the 1948 AAA National Driving Title; for it was impossible for anyone to compete at both the Atlanta and Pikes Peak meets, as they were being staged on the same day. So the maximum that Rose with 1000 counters, could now attain was just 600 points, which would still put him 10 points behind Horn's present total of 1610. The only other three time winner of the AAA Title had been Louie Meyer in 1928, 1929, and 1933, but Horn had now accomplished the much more difficult "hat trick" of three titles in a row, i.e 1946, 1947, and 1948.

The action now headed south for a Labor Day 100 mile race at Atlanta, GA.

Edited by john glenn printz, 14 May 2010 - 16:45.


#28 ReWind

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 17:52

William "Bill" Richard Haynes (1877-1952)

Don't you think the correct spelling is HAYES (without "N")?


#29 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 20:28

Don't you think the correct spelling is HAYES (without "N")?


Dear "ReWind":

You are quite correct. I will alter my text.

Thanks!

#30 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 20:25

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont. 18) 9. ATLANTA 100, SEPTEMBER 6, 1948. The third annual Championship Atlanta Lakewood Speedway 100, was promoted by Sam Nunis Speedways. It was said there were 25 entries but that seems to be gross exaggeration. Whatever, the fastest 16 cars were to start. All the main activities were to take place on September 6. The gates opened at 10 a.m., the practice sessions began at 11 a.m., the qualifications were at 12:30 p.m., and the race itself at 3 p.m. The box seats were priced at $3.60 and the reserved grandstand seating was $2.40 each. The pre-race publicity centered mostly around Ted Horn who was said to be moving ever closer to clinching the 1948 AAA National Driving Title. The PR here was actually incorrect as Horn had already won the title. Horn however was made the pre-race favorite.

The top five qualifiers were 1. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek) 39.19 (91.860 mph), 2. Rex Mays (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis) 39.52, 3. Lee Wallard (Offenhauser/Meyer) 39.58, 4. Paul Russo (Offenhauser/Olson) 40.33, and 5. Charles Van Acker (Offenhauser/Stevens) 40.38. Only 12 cars started and only two entrants are listed as not being able to qualify, i.e. Bob Baity and Spider Webb. Seemingly there were only 14 vehicles at hand. Neither Johnnie Parsons, nor the Kurtis-Kraft No. 7, were among the entrants. Floyd Davis was here, in Ralph S. Miller's supercharged job.

This would be Davis' last race in the Championship division. Floyd's AAA Championship career had begun in 1935 and that year he ran at St. Paul, Syracuse, and Altoona. His best Championship finish before World War II was a 4th at Syracuse in 1939, if we exclude his co-win at Indianapolis with Rose in 1941. Davis however had won a non-Championship 100 miler at Langhorne on June 21, 1936 which had included such stars as Connor, Cummings, Gardner, Hinnershitz, Horn, MacKenzie, Mays, Roberts, Rose, etc. Floyd's highest AAA Championship ranking was 4th in 1941. Davis is one of just two men who are official Indianapolis 500 winners, but who never came close to ever leading a lap at the Speedway! The other individual and 500 victor here, is Lora Lawrence Corum (1899-1949), who was the Indianapolis co-winner in 1924 with hot foot Joseph Boyer, Jr. (1889-1924).

Horn, the fastest qualifier, shot out in front for laps 1-15 before the engine's crankshaft broke. Horn was the first contender out. Wallard led for circuits 16-22 and then Mays took over for laps 23-27. Mays retired on lap 28 with a broken fuel tank and Wallard's machine began to suffer from the same malady. Now Van Acker became the new race leader and stayed there for circuits 28-74. For a long while Charles looked like a sure winner but a snapped rear axle eliminated him. Van Acker thrilled the crowd as he completed his 75th lap with the axle completely broken. Van Acker's retirement put Mel Hansen into the front position and Hansen led the rest of the way, i.e. laps 75-100. Wallard had an early and lengthy pit stop to repair the gas tank but got going again.

The final results (top five) were: 1. Mel Hansen (Offenhauser/Wetteroth), 2. Myron Fohr (Offenhauser/Marchese), 3. Bill Sheffler (Offenhauser/Bromme), 4. Hal Robson (Duray s-c/Kurtis), and 5. Emil Andres (Offenhauser/Wetteroth). Eight cars were running at the finish. Davis placed 7th, being ahead of only Wallard, of the cars still running on the track. Hansen's winning time was 1:15:41.00 (79.27 mph). The total track payout was $9,310.87 but Firestone Tire had added a whopping $23.600 in accessory and lap prises. The attendance was put at 28,000.

The victor, Melvin "Mel" Lloyd Hansen (1911-1963), was born in Ridgefields SD on July 7, 1911, but moved to the Los Angeles CA area in 1926. Mel started racing in 1930 in big cars, but during 1934 switched mostly over to the midgets. Hansen's first Championship start was at Indianapolis in 1939 when he drove for Joel Thorne. Mel's 1939 Indianapolis mount was the ex-1935 front drive machine put together by Wilbur Shaw with sponsorship money from Gil Pirrung. In six Indianapolis starts, i.e. 1939, 1940, 1941, 1946, 1947, and 1948, Hansen was running at the finish only in 1940 when he placed 8th. Elsewhere on the AAA Championship Trail his best placement was a 4th at Milwaukee on July 7, 1947 in a car owned by Joe Lencki. After World War II, Hansen raced in all three AAA open wheel divisions, i.e. midgets, sprint cars, and Champ cars.

Harold "Hal" Robson (1911-1996), the 4th place finisher, was a younger brother of the 1946 Indianapolis victor George Robson. Both George and Hal were born in England. Hal began racing in the early 1930's in California and ran both the big cars and midgets. Before World War II the two brothers had competed regularly at the South Gate (Southern Ascot Speedway), CA 1/2 mile dirt track and Hal started winning there in 1936. H. Robson's first Championship race was at the 1940 Syracuse 100 run on September 2. Hal had three Indianapolis starts, i.e. 1946, 1947, and 1948, but his car retired on all three occasions. His best overall Indy placement was 15th in 1948, after his car retired after 164 laps with a valve problem. Hal competed in 11 AAA Championship contests between 1940 and 1948, with his 1948 Atlanta 4th place finish, being his best.

The winning car, the Carter Special No. 15, had just been recently purchased by Ray W. Carter of Atlanta from the estate of the late Fred A. Peters who had died on May 7. At first Carter tried to enlist either Walt Brown or Tommy Hinnershitz as the pilot, but neither showed up. At the last minute Hansen was assigned to the car. Mel had flown in from California with Rex Mays, and had not originally had a ride here, but Carter and Hansen quickly got together. This was somewhat reminiscent of the 1947 Atlanta 100 race winners, i.e, car owner Paul Weirick and driver Walt Ader, who had also gotten together at the last minute.

The winning Offenhauser/Wetteroth had been built for Lou Moore in 1939 as an added "twin" to Lou's 1938 winning Indianapolis Wetteroth vehicle. In 1941 this car was driven to an unexpected victory at Indianapolis by Davis and Rose. It was purchased by Fred Peters of Patterson, NJ in late 1945 from Moore, for use on the 1946 AAA Championship circuit. Ted Horn drove it in all the five 1946 Championship dirt contests. In 1947 Bill Holland used it for most of the 1947 season and won with it at Milwaukee (June 8) and Langhorne (June 22). Peters had entered it in the 1948 Indianapolis 500, with Walt Ader as its chauffeur, but this entry was withdrawn when Peters died. And when the vehicle was still owned by the Peter's estate, Duke Nalon had run it at Milwaukee (June 6) and at Langhorne (June 20) with Frankie Del Roy as the mechanic. After its purchase on August 30 by Ray Carter, Del Roy had to work like the devil to get the car ready for the Atlanta 100. In any case it must have been a good car.

We will note however that this 1948 Atlanta win, was the last Championship victory for a Louis "Curly" Wetteroth constructed chassis. The first Wetteroth machine to win an AAA Championship event occurred at Indianapolis in 1932. Kelly Petillo won the 1935 AAA National Driving Title using a newly constructed Wetteroth. All in all, Wetteroth built cars won eleven AAA Championship events between 1932 and 1948, including four Indianapolis 500's, i.e. 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1941. I have found no evidence that Wetteroth resumed his racing car construction career as such after World War II. Curly did however update and rebuilt the two 1947 Murrell Belanger Championship cars for the 1948 season. And it should be added that Lujie Lesovsky worked for Wetteroth, both before and after World War II, and eventually took over his shop.

The 1948 Atlanta race was the only AAA National Championship contest held at Lakewood Park which actually went the full 100 miles. The 1946 event was halted at 98 miles (wreck) and the 1947 at 77 (stalled car on fire in the center of the track). All three of the Atlanta Lakewood Park 100 mile AAA Championship races were promoted by Floyd Samuel "Sam" Nunis, who later moved his Championship contest promotion activities to Trenton, NJ. Nunis first tried to be a racing driver but a bad spill at the 1/2 mile dirt Concord, NC oval in 1926, laid him up for most of a year. Later Nunis linked himself with promotor Ralph A. Hankinson and worked beside him for over a decade. As Nunis himself recalled in late 1969 (quote), "It was Hankinson who convinced me that I'd be a better promotor than a race car driver and from there on we worked together. We split up in the 30s and when Hankinson died in 1944, he passed his business on to me."

Edited by john glenn printz, 24 February 2012 - 15:44.


#31 john glenn printz

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 17:00

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-19) 10. PIKES PEAK 12.42, SEPTEMBER 6, 1948. On the same day as the running of the Atlanta 100, the famous "Race to the Clouds" i.e. Pikes Peak, was held. The only truely famous Indy drivers at hand were Russell Snowberger and Joel Thorne. However both Snowberger and Thorne were vitually at the end of their driving careers. Thorne never got his driving career back in shape after the war, and at this date, had no Championship starts in the post war era. Snowberger was now, more and more, taking on the sole role as a long time and experienced racing mechanic.

Another entrant was Keith Andrews (1920-1957) of Colorado Springs. Andrews was quite unknown in 1948, but later made the Indianapolis lineup in 1955 and 1956. Keith was killed at Indianapolis on May 15, 1957, driving a test session, for the 1950 World Driving Champion Giuseppe Farina (1906-1966). Although both Andrews and Joel Thorne were entered in the 1948 Pikes Peak contest, it appears that neither actually drove in the event.

The chief rivals of the Pikes Peak hill climb now, of course, were Louis Unser and Al Rogers. Rogers had first competed here in 1936 and had won in 1940. Unser, nicknamed "the Old Man of the Mountain" had already won the climb seven times, including 1946 and 1947. Both Rodgers and Unser were long time Colorado state residents.

The final five placements were 1. Al Rogers 15:49.75 or 47.078 mph (Offenhauser/Coniff); 2. Herb Bryers (Chevrolet/"hot rod") 16:33.50; 3. Johnny Mauro 16:55.83 (Alfa Romeo, Tipo 308); 4. Russ Snowberger ("McDowell") 17:49.03; and 5. Buster Hammond ("McDowell") 17:59.08. Louis Unser had a bad day and finished 7th overall in an Offenhauser/Maserati hybrid and posted a 18:10.45. The winning red and white "Coniff Special No. 9" was specially built and engineered by Joe Coniff for just hill climbing and for the Pikes Peak event in particular.

Unser, Rogers, Bryers, and Hammond were all Pikes Peak specalists and never ran anywhere else on the AAA Championship Trail. John "Johnny" B. Mauro (1910-2003) bought an Alfa Romeo Tipo 308 from Milt Marion in 1948 and entered it at Indianapolis. Mauro, a rookie in 1948, was lucky to make the race as he was the slowest qualifier at 121.790 mph. Mauro placed 8th overall, being flagged off at 198 laps. This 1948 Indianapolis appearance proved to be Mauro's only non-Pikes Peak Championship start. Mauro's Alfa was not suitable for oval dirt track use but Johnny entered it here at Pikes Peak.

The cars were dispatched at 5 minute intervals and so two or three vehicles were often racing on the course at the same time. The official times for each however were not released until every car has run. The variation of 5000 feet in elevation, made the adjustment of the carburetors a trickly business, particularly to the fuel to air ratio. The lower boiling point, at the higher altitudes near the end of each trial, also could cause cooling problems. At the end, the winner Al Rogers was asked if any particular corner gave him trouble. Al replied, "Yes about 165 of them!" The total purse amounted to $10,000 even and Rogers received $5,400. The course record was still 15:28.7, set by Unser in 1946. Unser, in 1946, had broken his own previous record of 15:34.4 made in 1941.

There remained just two more contests on the 1948 AAA Championship schedule, both return trips, i.e. those at Springfield (Sept. 19) and Du Quoin (Oct. 10).

Edited by john glenn printz, 17 May 2010 - 15:08.


#32 ZOOOM

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 00:25

Current record...10.0408

WOW!

ZOOOM

#33 john glenn printz

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 12:26

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-20) 11. SPRINGFIELD 100, SEPTEMBER 19, 1948. The Springfield race obtained 28 entrants, of which 18 would start. Johnnie Parsons was back in the Kurtis Kraft No. 7 car. The top five in the qualification trials were: 1. Lee Wallard (Offenhauser/Meyer) 36.90 (97.561 mph), 2. Spider Webb (Offenhauser/Bromme) 37.42, 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek) 37.44, 4. Johnny Mantz (Offenhauser/Kurtis) 37.78, and 5. Emil Andres (Offenhauser/Kurtis) 37.95. I have no description of the race but the lap leaders were Webb 1-15, Andres 16-55, Hansen, 56-72, and Fohr 73-100.

Parsons was out of it at 50 laps (broken steering arm); Mel Hansen, in the Lencki car, retired at 70 circuits (broken steering gear); and Webb was out after 80 trips around the track (broken rear end). Nine cars were still running at the end. Mantz must have encountered problems as he finished 9th, i.e. last among those cars still moving. The finishing order (top five) were: 1. Myron Fohr (Offenhauser/Marchese), 2. Emil Andres (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 3. Ted Horn (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek), 4. Bill Sheffler (Offenhauser/Bromme), and 5. George Connor (Offenhauser/Wetteroth). The winning time was 1:07:38 (88.697 mph). First place was worth $1,875 of the $7,500 purse. Perfect Circle however added another $450 to the total payout. The attendance was estimated at about 10,000. Tony Bettenhausen's time of 1:05:51.08, set on September 28, 1947, still remained the AAA Championship race record at Springfield for the 100 mile distance.

Fohr's win here, worth 200 points, moved him around Mauri Rose's 1000 (all obtained at Indianapoilis in May) for 2nd place in the AAA Championship point standings, as Fohr's total point was now up to 1106. There remained just one more race on the 1948 AAA Championship schedule, i.e. the Du Quoin 100 for October 10.

Edited by john glenn printz, 19 May 2010 - 12:24.


#34 john glenn printz

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 19:43

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-21) 12. DU QUOIN 100, OCTOBER 10, 1948. The last Championship contest for 1948 gathered 22 entries, with the fastest 18 to start. The qualifying trials were to begin at 12:30 p.m. and the race itself at 3 p.m. The five top qualifiers were: 1. Rex Mays 36.67 or 98.173 mph (Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Kurtis), 2. Mel Hansen 37.22 (Offenhauser/Truchan), 3. Paul Russo 37.45 (Offenhauser/Adams), 4. Ted Horn 37.46 (Offenhauser/Horn-Simonek), and 5. Myron Fohr 37.92.(Offenhauser/Marchese).

Rex Mays led circuits 1-2, but on the 2nd lap the left front wheel spindle on Horn's car snapped, the wheel flew off, and the vehicle slammed into Johnny Mantz's Agajanian No. 98 KK2000. Horn had been pitched onto the track as his car swerved into Mantz's machine. Both Horn and Mantz were quickly taken to the Marshall Browning Hospital. Mantz himself was only slightly injured, suffering only from bruises and a cut on his face, but Horn had sustained a concussion, crushed chest, and a fractured left leg. Horn was pronounced dead two hours, after his admittance to the hospital. Horn was running in fifth place at the time of the accident. Ted's new and second wife, Gerry, whom he had just married 17 days before, was among the spectators. Horn's first wife, Theresa Waber Horn, whom he had divorced earlier in the year, supposedly said she had separated from him because he would not quit racing until he won the "500".

It was not the first time that the year's AAA National Champion had been killed in the season's last Championship contest, i.e. the exact same thing had happened to Gaston Chevrolet, back in 1920.

Although Ted Horn, Rex Mays, and Tony Bettenhausen never won the Indianapolis 500, they have never been forgotten and are always ranked as among the best AAA Championship level pilots, and placed among such illustrious personages as DePalma, Milton, Murphy, DePaolo, Lockhart, Meyer, Shaw, Rose, Vukovich, etc. Horn was certainly "Mr. Consistency". No one else, except Horn, ever managed to win three straight U.S. national driving titles under the AAA, USAC, and CART sponsorships. More recently, Sebastien Bourdais (b. 1979) won four straight Champ Car Titles, i.e. 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, a real feat no doubt but by that time the Indy Racing League (IRL) was the stronger and more important U.S. "open wheel" series.

Horn (1910-1948) is most famous for finishing nine Indianapolis 500's in a row, without ever placing lower than 4th. Ted was 2nd in 1936; 3rd in 1937, 1941, 1946, and 1947; and 4th in 1938, 1939, 1940, and 1948. Immediately after being informed of Horn's death, master mechanic H. C. "Cotton" Henning, who had been very close to major league AAA racing since 1919, summed it all up best with (quote), "Horn undoubtedly was the greatest day-after-day race driver I ever saw".

The race was stopped, and after the track was cleared, the event was resumed. On the restart Hansen took over the leadership for laps 3-13 before being replaced by Fohr who had the front position for circuits 14-23. Parsons, up from his 7th starting position, then led all the rest of the way, i.e. laps 24-100. Fohr after driving laps 1-44 came in and was relieved by George Connor for circuits 45-100. Mays had retired after two laps with mechanical problems and placed 18th. The final results were (top five): 1. Johnnie Parsons (Offenhauser/Kurtis), 2. Paul Russo (Offenhauser/Adams), 3. Bill Sheffler (Offenhauser/Bromme), 4. Myron Fohr/George Connor (Offenhauser/Marchese), and 5. Hal Cole (Offenhauser/Kurtis). Parson's winning time was 1:11:47.70 (83.572 mph). The track payout was $7,500, plus another $1,000 in additional miscellaneous accessory money. The attendance was small and was estimated at somewhere between just 3,500 to 5000.

Ted Horn was originally a product of the Southlands area speedways and other California tracks. For example Horn raced at Ascot before it was permanantly shut down in early 1936. Ted's first AAA Championship try was at Indianapolis in 1934. In 1934 Ted also moved to Paterson, NJ and bought his first "sprinter" in 1936. Thereafter Ted always owned big-cars or sprint cars. Horn however never owned any of the machines he piloted at Indianapolis. At the Speedway he drove for Preston Tucker (1935), Harry Hartz (1936-1938), Mike Boyle (1939-1940, & 1946), Joel Thorne (1941), and Cotton Henning (1947-1948). At his death Horn had already signed to drive Henning's 1939 Maserati at Indy again, for 1949.

From Du Quoin, Horn's body was shipped back to New Jersey, escorted by Lee Wallard. The funeral was on October 15. The pall bearers were half AAA officials and half AAA sprint car drivers. Among the AAA officaldom were Arthur Harrington, James "Jim" Lamb, and Tom Smith. Harrington was the Chairman, Lamb, the Secretary, and Smith, the Assistant Secretary of the AAA Contest Board. Wilbur Shaw represented the Speedway. Among the sprint drivers present were Joie Chitwood, Tommy Hinnershitz, Bill Holland, Tommy Mattson, and Lee Wallard.

Du Quoin was the first Championship victory for Johnnie Parsons (1918-1984). Parsons began his driving career in California during 1940-1942 in midget and sprint cars. His first attempt in Championship racing was at Indy in 1948, where he failed to qualify. Johnnie first joined the AAA Champioship circuit proper, on September 21, 1948 at Springfield, where he made his first actual start. For 1948 Parsons competed in five Championship contests and garnered a total of 700 points for the 1948 AAA season. Johnnie soon became the second entirely post-World War II Championship pilot, to make a big spash in the AAA Championship ranks, the first having been Bill Holland in 1947. Horn had represented the old order of things in 1948, while Parsons was entirely new blood.

The October 10th Du Quoin 100 was the last Championship event that Rex Mays drove for the Bowes Seal Fast team. Louie Meyer drove for the Bowes team in 1938 and 1939 but when Meyer retired in 1939, Rex Mays replaced him. Mays did surpassingly well with the Bowes team in 1940, 1941, and 1946, using the Offenhauser-Meyer-Goossen s-c/Stevens machine, partially designed by Meyer himself. Mays placed 2nd at Indianapolis with it in 1940 and 1941, and won seven Championship races in it during the years 1940-1946. But both the 1947 and 1948 seasons were disastrous for Rex and 1948 proved to be even worst than 1947. Although he won three poles in 1948 (Indianapolis, and at the two Du Quoin races), Mays' best finishes were 4ths at Milwaukee (August 15) and Springfield (August 21). In the final AAA Championship point standings Mays was listed 5th in 1947 and 13th in 1948. Mays would join new teams for 1949.

Edited by john glenn printz, 03 June 2010 - 15:44.


#35 ensign14

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Posted 19 May 2010 - 21:15

Al Rogers made around $340 per minute, according to my rusty maths. More than double the rate of earnings for Mauri Rose at Indianapolis.

#36 john glenn printz

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Posted 03 June 2010 - 17:47

AAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY 1948 (cont.-22) CONCLUDING REMARKS. The death of Ted Horn from a broken wheel spindle led to a more extensive use of the testing process known as magnafluxing. Here all the ferrous or iron based racing car parts are magnatized, which creates a magnetic field wherever an unseen crack happens to be present. By sprinkling the part's surface with small particles the surface crack will show up. Magnafluxing had been used at Indianapolis since 1935 but not often elsewhere on the Championship circuit. Now, after Horn's death, the AAA Contest Board required a more extensive use of it for the other races as well.

Myron Fohr, Johnny Mantz, and Johnnie Parsons were all freshman Championship drivers in 1948, and all won a race. Fohr managed two victories including the big Milwaukee 200 and placed second in the overall final 1948 AAA Championship point standings. Both Manual Ayulo and Jack McGrath were new to the AAA Championship circuit in 1948 but ran only in the first two or three events. Probably they both wanted to run the entire schedule but couldn't arrange a deal that would make it possible. Lou Moore had constructed a dirt car in early 1948, apparently for Bill Holland's use in the Championship dirt races, but both Holland and Moore failed to appear anywhere after the Milwaukee 100 of June 20. It's not quite clear why they ceased their activity. Holland however never showed much enthusiasm for running the AAA Championship dirt races, as he thought the payout was way too small, and Bill always thought he could do much better financially by entering the AAA sprint car contests instead.

Tony Bettenhausen fared poorly in the Championship division for 1948. In both 1946 and 1947 Tony had won Championship events, but in 1948 his best placements were two 6ths, i.e. at Milwaukee (Aug. 15) and at Springfield (Aug. 21). However Bettenhausen had kept his name in the win column by relieving a victorious Myron Fohr for 67 laps in the Milwaukee 200 (Aug. 29).

The most successful Championship teams in 1948 were Ted Horn's, the Marchese brothers, the Kurtis-Walsh factory car, and Bill Sheffler's effort. Of course, we can't forget either, Lou Moore's two front drive cars at Indianapolis. The team owned by Murrell Belanger was seemingly in eclipse in 1948. Murrell and Bettenhausen had won two Championship contests in 1947 with the Stevens chassis car. Although both of Murrell's Champ cars, an Adams and a Stevens, were shipped to California in early 1948, for rebuilding and revamping, their 1948 results were dismal. At Indianapolis both machines had gone out, i.e. at lap 60 Duane Carter in the Adams lost a wheel and Tony Bettenhausen using the Stevens retired with a broken clutch on circuit 168. The remainder of the 1948 AAA Belanger campaign saw Paul Russo take 2nd at Du Quoin (Oct. 10) and Bettenhausen finish 6th at Springfield (Aug. 21) for the team's two best results of the year.

Ted Horn drove his 1947 Dick Simonek built dirt car in all the oval 1948 Championship dirt contests, but Horn's car was not the most successful. That honor belonged to the ancient 1938 Marchese machine which earned and racked up 1480 Championship points, while Horn's Simonek car totaled only 1290. In third place, as driven by Hinnershitz, Brown, and Parsons, came the Kurtis Kraft No. 7, which totaled 1100 points. In 4th was Mauri Rose's Indianapolis front drive Deidt with 1000, while Sheffler's Offenhauser/Bromme landed in 5th with 890 points. It is to be noted that every winning car in 1948 was powered by an unsupercharged four cylinder Offenhauser motor.

Bayard Taylor "Bill" Sheffler (1917-1949), now totally forgotten, with his own Bromme chassis machine, was a starter in eleven of the twelve AAA Championship races for 1948, all but Pikes Peak. Bill finished in the top five, five times, i.e. 3rds at Atlanta (Sept. 9) and Du Quoin (Oct. 10), a 4th at Springfield (Sept. 9), and 5ths at Springfield (Aug. 21) and Du Quoin (Sept. 4). With four other top ten placements Sheffler landed in 4th place overall in the final 1948 Championship tabulations. Bill was a pre-war California pilot who started racing in the late 1930s. He began his Championship division career at Indianapolis in 1946. However for 1947, Sheffler had no AAA Championship starts.

The final AAA 1948 Championship point standings were: 1. Ted Horn 1880; 2. Myron Fohr 1159; 3. Mauri Rose 1000; 4. Bill Sheffler 924.8; 5. Duke Nalon 910; 6. Lee Wallard 865.5; 7. Bill Holland 840; 8. Mack Hellings 820; 9. Emil Andres 810; 10 Charles Van Acker 760; 11. Johnnie Parsons 700; 12. Hal Cole 580; 13 Rex Mays 360; 14. Johnny Mauro 355; 15. Tony Bettenhausen 324; 16. Walt Brown 320; 17. Paul Russo 300; 18. Johnny Mantz 290; 19. George Connor 287; 20. Hal Robson 269; 21. Ted Duncan 240; 22. Mel Hansen 220; 23. Eddie Zalucki 216; 24. Tommy Hinnershitz 200; 25; Al Rogers 200; 26. Duke Dinsmore 172.5; 27. Johnny Byrne 170; 28. Herb Beyers 160; 29. Jimmy Jackson 150; 30. Duane Carter 120; 31. Russell Snowberger 120; 32 Joie Chitwood 120; 33. Spider Webb 116; 34. Bus Hammond 100; 35. Manuel Ayulo 100; 36. Floyd Davis 87.5; 37. Hugh Thomas 80; 38. Ken Fowler 74; 39. George Lynch 60; 40. Bill Cantrell 60; 41. Johnny Shackleford 60; 42. Louis Unser 60; 43. J. C. Shoemaker 50; 44. Mike Salay 50; 45. Billy Devore 50; 46. Wayne Sankey 40; 47. Lewis Durant 35; 48. Red Hodges 30; 49. Walt Ader 30; 50. Delmar Desch 30; 51. Walt Killinger 20; 52. Jackie Holmes 20; 53. Art Hillis 10; 54. Hank Rogers 10; and 55. Jack McGrath 5.2.

On December 8, 1948 the AAA Contest Board voted to establish an Automobile Racing Hall of Fame. A three man committee was appointed to investigate the matter consisting of Arthur C. Pillsbury of Los Angeles, J. Edward Shipper of Detroit, and Ray Sherman of New York. Drivers thought to be ready for immediate inclusion were Boyer, Cooper, DePalma, Horn, Lockhart, Oldfield, Meyer, Milton, Murphy, Rose, and Shaw.

On December 9, 1948 H. C. "Cotton" Henning (1896-1948) died after a long illness from high blood pressure and other complications. Cotton was accredited as the chief mechanic on four Indianapolis 500 winners, in 1925 (DePaolo), 1934 (Cummings), and 1939-1940 (Shaw). Cotton had gotten his start in racing c. 1919, by working in William Wayne "W. W. Cockeyed" Brown's (1886-1958) racing shop located in Kansas City. During 1921 and 1922 Cotton was part of the George L. Wade racing team. Wade was from Kansas City also. In 1931 Henning joined the Mike Boyle racing stable of Chicago, where he stayed until it was disbanded in late 1946. In the early 1920's Henning served as a riding mechanic for Pete DePaolo, Frank Elliott, and Joe Thomas. Henning had been Louis Frontaine's (1882-1960) riding mechanic at Indianapolis in 1921. While on the Boyle racing team Cotton nursed the mounts of such personages as George Connor, Bill Cummings, Ted Horn, Louie Meyer, Al Miller, Chet Miller, Wilbur Shaw, and Russ Snowberger.

"That's all folks!" for 1948. THE END. I believe that the McMaken/Printz AAA Championship surveys for 1946, 1947, and 1948 are the first ever attempted and actually put together.

Edited by john glenn printz, 09 June 2010 - 13:45.


#37 ZOOOM

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 01:29

John, I have enjoyed these immensly.
Please don't stop!
ZOOOM

#38 Jim Thurman

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 17:15

Mr. Printz,

Thank you for doing these season re-caps. Simply outstanding. I greatly enjoy them and appreciate your work on them.

Edited by Jim Thurman, 07 June 2010 - 22:52.


#39 Russ Snyder

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 14:12

Thank you very much Mr Printz. It is a pleasure to read in such detail about these brave men and their exploits.

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#40 mlight9

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Posted 09 June 2010 - 04:13

Thank you very much Mr Printz. It is a pleasure to read in such detail about these brave men and their exploits.



Mr. Printz, thank you so much for all the info on the AAA Championships of 1946 thru 1948. It was a real treat to learn the details that
are never covered in the list of finish positions. I hope 1949 will also be covered in the near future.
mlight9.

#41 john glenn printz

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 14:52

To Everyone;

Well it's very nice to have a few fans. Thank you!

With everyone's blessing, I hope, I think I'll switch gears and post what I have for the AAA Championship season of 1928.

J.G. Printz

#42 Russ Snyder

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 14:16

To Everyone;

Well it's very nice to have a few fans. Thank you!

With everyone's blessing, I hope, I think I'll switch gears and post what I have for the AAA Championship season of 1928.

J.G. Printz


Thank you again. I read the first part and all I can say is I cannot wait for the rest of the story!


#43 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 09:45

I will gladly join the chorus of admiration for John Glenn Printz here, and hope he doesn't mind if I complement his exquisite story with a few bits and pieces about the 1948 AAA Sprint Car championships. In that year, there were 70 AAA Big Car races on half-mile tracks (and a few of the miles) in 16 states from Vermont to California to supplement the 12 National Championship races in 7 states, which were still very much concentrated in the Midwest, with 75 % of the races taking place in three neighbouring states alone: Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. The prewar high of 140 "non-championship Big Car class" races in 19 states (1933) was a thing of the past, not least because of the proliferation of no less than 444 AAA "Small Car" (Midget) races in 1948 (an all-time high), but the Sprint Car circuits were still going strong in the early postwar years, although several factors would combine to cut that number in half over the remaining seven years of AAA sanctioned racing in the US.

For one thing, 1948 was to be the last year in which AAA sanctioned open-wheel races alone, and the following year an entry was made into Sports Car racing, with a "Stock Car division" following in 1950, which all added to the increasing diversification of racing in general - before the war, the word "racing" almost universally refered to what we now know as "Sprint Cars". Another important factor, sociologically at least, was the spreading phenomenon of home television, which would drastically change the way people would go about spending their "R&R time" - a favourite one-liner of mine, and one that never fails to produce a few puzzled looks, is: "Before electricity was invented, people had to watch TV in the dark..."

It is fashionable to describe the AAA Sprint Car scene of the early postwar years, and especially of 1948 with just two words: Ted Horn. While it's certainly true that Horn's domination of the half-miles was almost complete, it short-changes a number of other efforts and achievements, and also ignores a lot of interesting and important developments. The pure numbers, however, are rather impressive: Horn entered 25 Sprint Car races in 1948, was a non-starter once because of an engine failure in practice, and finished second also once - the other 23 races he won, and most of them by establishing new track and distance records! This coming on the heels of a successful 1947 campaign, with 21 wins, six seconds and a couple of thirds to supplement his five wins, two seconds and six thirds in National Championship events during the two years.

If these figures don't sound that impressive if compared with more "modern" achievements by Jan Opperman, Doug Wolfgang or Steve Kinser, consider this: in 1948, there were no interstates, and flying to or from the races was out of the question because you had to tow your racing car to the tracks. Yes, that's right, in those days there were no spare cars, and Horn was also his own designer, engineer and mechanic (with the help of a few friends). All these achievements he accomplished by towing his own car (singular!) thousands of miles over two-lane highways, often through the night because the schedule called for races on consecutive days, servicing his car someplace on the way, and if he was lucky he would be able to snatch a couple of hours of sleep before "hot laps", the half-hour practice period before qualifying, usually at noon. Truth to be told, by 1948 Ted was already slowing down in his lifestyle (at 38 years of age), since earlier in his career he often competed in fifty or more races each year!

Horn's team, officially "Ted Horn Enterprises" or "Ted Horn Engineering" ("T.H.E." for short), consisted mainly of himself ("The Head"), Richard H. "Dick" Simonek ("Woodenhead"), Wallace (II) Cornforth ("Jughead"), and an old rail frame Sprint Car, built in 1939 by metal man and former racing driver Harry M. Lewis from Chicago, and T.H.E. According to racing historian Russ Catlin, the car was universally known as "Baby", but whether that is actually true remains uncertain. However, since Catlin's Horn bio was published in 1949, the term "Baby" is indelibly connected with the car, and in many ways, it was "Baby" that "made" Ted Horn, for racing buffs and historians almost universally hold the opinion that the racing driver Ted Horn, though certainly very good and one of the best of his time, owed much of his success to the advanced state of his car, for which he was also responsible, naturally.

T.H.E. pioneered the usage of exotic materials, like magnesium for pistons, aircraft spec metals for frame and bodywork, and nitromethane for fuel additive. In the winter of 1946/7, "Baby" was completely rebuilt with a quite modern looking "bull nose", and after experiencing a bit of reliabilty problems early on, Horn became nigh invincible late in the season, carrying over a run of seven straight main event wins into the new year. He won the 1947 AAA Eastern Circuit Championship by some margin, and also competed occasionally on the Midwestern Circuit, setting fast time twice and scoring a main event win there.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 08:05.


#44 ensign14

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 10:03

There seem to be a number of drivers in this era who seem to slip through the cracks. Bill Holland of course at Indianapolis was bang on form throughout the late 1940s, fell out of favour and never regained the heights he evidently had. Myron Fohr seems to be almost entirely forgotten yet he was close to a championship. Jimmy Jackson was 2nd as a rookie in a green car at Indianapolis yet never seems to have attracted the big teams. Danny Kladis made the 500 with ease in 1946 and never did so again. Mike Salay also was one-and-done, despite trying again for a number of years, plus Pete Romcevich, Milt Fankhouser, and others, as well as those like Cy Marhsall and Rollie Beale who returned after long absences. They seem almost ghostly figures compared to the Porky Rachwitzes of this world.

#45 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 10:21

Rollie Beale??? :confused: Different era, don't you think? ;)

Most of these drivers were essentially prewar drivers, and pretty advanced in years by 1948. Maybe I'll come back to this later...

#46 ensign14

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 10:24

Oh yeah, I meant Rollie Free. :blush:

I get the feeling that the '47 race was almost like the 1996 500, basically anyone who was ready, willing and vaguely able to get to the Speedway had a decent shot at the race. So many unknowns, known unknowns, whatever. :)

#47 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 12:19

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But Horn wasn't the only one "on a roll" - Travis "Spider" Webb, another transplanted Californian and already 37 years old, had won four out of the last five races in the Midwest in 1947, and finishing second (to Horn) in the fifth. His charge had come too late to snatch the championship from Johnny Shackleford, a consistent "journeyman" driver from Ohio, but as runner-up and having won the most races on the short Midwestern schedule (only 15 races), he was regarded as a "shoe-in" for the crown in 1948. Webb originally hailed from Bell in Greater Los Angeles, and had started out by racing early Track Roadsters at South Gate and other area tracks in the mid-thirties. By 1937, he was racing Big Cars under ARA sanction in North California, and a year later he made his first voyage to the Midwest. In the years after the closing of Ascot Speedway in 1936, Californian drivers had to make a special effort to find recognition: there were no more AAA races in the West, apart from an annual visit to El Centro, and for a racing driver to make a living he had to depend on "outlaw" clubs like the ARA, which ran what was often called "Class B" cars back then. This was a dead-end road for young, aspiring drivers like Webb, Jimmie Wilburn, Duke Dinsmore, Johnny McDowell or Bayliss Levrett, and all of them made the treck east during the late thirties, to compete with the bigger independent clubs like CSRA and IMCA, and in the hope of attracting attention from AAA car owners in order to make the switch.

Webb settled in Dayton (OH), home of Dayton Speedway and several potent Sprint Car owners, amongst them Johnny Vance, a former racing driver. By 1929, Vance had given up the driving to concentrate on what he did best: building racing cars and engines, mostly from Ford components. His early "shoes" included Bob Carey, Mauri Rose, Al Theisen and Ira Hall, and with them he moved up into AAA competition in 1931. Bob Sall won the 1933 Eastern Circuit Championship on a car built by Vance, and Theisen won the Midwestern title the following year on a "works" car, but by 1936 the competition had grown stronger with more and more Millers and the new Offenhausers coming to the forefront, so Vance decided to quit AAA and concentrate on the new CSRA circuit close to home. Another important factor in those days was the allegiance to track owners and promoters, and since Dayton was the home of CSRA impresario Norm Witte, it was only natural for Dayton Speedway to become the CSRA "home track".

Driving mostly for Vance, Spider Webb was 9th in CSRA points in 1938, then 7th a year later and 4th in 1940. By 1941, Dayton Speedway races were being promoted by Frank Funk, owner and builder of Winchester Speedway in nearby Indiana. Funk was a volatile and strong-headed individual, and when Norm Witte lured Ralph Hankinson's strong Eastern fair circuit into the CSRA fold, Funk suddenly decided to quit the independent organisation, and line up with AAA instead! Apart from Winchester and Dayton, Funk also promoted races at Jungle Park and Fort Wayne in Indiana, and from an anaemic three-race calendar (on one single track!) in 1940, the AAA Midwestern Circuit mushroomed into a full twenty-race schedule in one fell swoop!

Most of the "high-bank" drivers (so-called because of the high banking on three of those four circuits) made the switch at the same time, and with them Spider Webb became a AAA driver in 1941, paving the way to Indianapolis, although he hadn't found a ride so far in early 1948. But on the Midwestern Sprint Car circuit, Webb was immediately at home, scoring many good finishes, although a main event continued to elude him until July 4 in 1947, when he finally won - ironically in Dover (NJ), guesting on the Eastern circuit as a substitute for Bill Holland, who was competing in a National Championship race at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway that same day. Spider was driving Holland's Malamud/Offenhauser that day, and also drove other Offies for owners Paul Weirick, Fred Johnston and Leech Cracraft over the years, but for 1948 he returned to drive a brand new car for Johnny Vance.

Apart from Horn, Shackleford and Webb, Tommys Mattson of Delaware and Hinnershitz of Pennsylvania were the other top 3 finishers in the 1947 AAA Sprint Car championships, with the latter accomplishing the rare feat (for the time) of taking third on both circuits. With almost twenty years of racing experience, the 36-year-old Tommy Hinnershitz was in the form of his life, having won a career-best 8 main events in 1947, including three at the new Salem Speedway in Indiana, his first ever wins in the Midwest. Salem Speedway had been built by Jim Summers and Everett Roberts, and was a high-banked half-mile with a dirt surface treated with "road oil", like Winchester, Dayton and Fort Wayne. These four tracks were commonly known as the "Four Hills" in racing lore, even back then, and feared as much as revered by the drivers and spectators alike, for they were extremely fast and spectacular tracks, but dangerous as hell. Salem Speedway, for instance, recorded its first of more than a dozen fatalities on the very first lap of the first race on opening day! Salem would also be the first of the four to be paved, in 1949, and also holds the distinction of having hosted AAA/USAC Sprint Cars for every year until 1980.

For 1948, Hinnershitz had a completely new car built by Bob Blake of Arlington (VA), using the engine from the Garnant/Offenhauser he had bought from Ted Horn in 1947. The car was painted robin egg blue, and became known as the "Bluebird" in some circles. Like all Sprint Cars in early 1948, it still had a rail frame chassis, and cross-springs front and rear. Mattson had been the "find" of the 1947 season, and at 33 was the youngest of the quintet. He would continue to drive the 1932 Schrader/Offenhauser for owner George "Dutch" Culp of Allentown (PA), another car formerly owned by T.H.E., until his own car would be ready in the summer. Shackleford (34) hoped to defend his title at the wheel of Charley Engle's Offy, a circa 1940 rail frame chassis. Like Culp, who still occasionally drove his second-string car, an old Cragar special, Engle had been a driver before WW2, retiring after an accident in Fort Wayne in 1942. He had also driven for Johnny Vance (in 1935), and was now operating a night club in Dayton.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 08:07.


#48 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 15:33

(3)

Other 1947 top ten points finishers in the East included Hank Rogers (New Jersey), Mark Light (Pennsylvania), Joie Chitwood (Texas, now living in Pennsylvania), Bill Holland (Pennsylvania, now living in Connecticut), Walt Brown, Lee Wallard and Fred Carpenter (all of New York), and in the Midwest Duke Dinsmore (California, now living in Ohio), Jackie Holmes (Indiana), Carl Ott (Kentucky), Eddie Zalucki (Michigan), Rex Mays (California), Norm Houser and Charley van Acker (both Indiana). All of them were expected to challenge strongly in 1948, although Chitwood and Mays were only occasional starters due to other commitments. Top cars, apart from the Horn, Culp, Hinnershitz and Engle Offies and the Vance, were expected to be the Ralph Malamud Offy (for Holland), the Milt Marion Offy (for Brown) and the John Fetzer Offy (for Rogers) from New York, the Herman Hoppe Offy (for Carpenter) from Maryland, the Leech Cracraft Offy (for Wallard) from West Virginia, the Ted Nyquist Offy (for Chitwood) and Mark Light's Dreyer from Pennsylvania, the Floyd Dreyer "house car" (for Holmes) from Indiana, the Fred Johnston Offy (for Dinsmore) from Ohio and Eddie Zalucki's Dreyer from Michigan, as well as some unassigned cars like the Mark Bowles Offy or the former John Iddings Hal (Shackleford's winning ride in 1947 and now being fitted with an Offy) from Ohio, and the Allan Nott Offy also of Ohio for New Jersey's Walt Ader, and the Frank Donleavy Offy from Virginia for Jimmy Gibbons, also of Virginia.

In fact, the outlook was very rosy with many more "dark horses" in the field, and over eight score of cars and almost 300 drivers registered in the division. Another interesting feature was the formation of the "United Racing Club", an Eastern organization catering for "Class B" car owners. This, no doubt, was the consequence of more and more Offies running on the Eastern Circuit, which was having the effect of condemning the drivers and owners of production engine derived racers to the consolation events. The rules of the URC specified removable cylinder heads and a maximum of three main bearings, thereby banning also the full racing conversions by Hal, Dreyer, Cragar and McDowell, leaving the field to the true Fords. Charter members cum directors of the club included New Jersey car owners Johnnie Matera, Jules Furslew, Danny Goss and Joe Scopa as well as John Liss of Pennsylvania, and the URC was to award its own points and championship in cooperation with the AAA, effectively a AAA "Class B" championship.

As an aside, the racing season proper began in California on December 14, 1947 already with the first round of the Western Racing Association Championship, a So. Cal. club presided over by racing promoter and car owner Joshua James "J. C." Agajanian of San Pedro. Andy Linden was the winner of the 15-mile main event at Carrell Speedway in Gardena that day, with Yam Oka and Fred Luce following in order. The second meeting on January 25 saw a young Midget driver by the name of Troy Ruttman win in the Karl Orr Offy, from Mack Hellings and Kenny Palmer, and the next week the former AAA star Frank McGurk took the win in an ex-AAA car, the Vince Conze Offy, with Ruttman second from Bill Steves. Due to a forged ID, it was believed at the time that Ruttman was twenty years old, when he was actually only seventeen! All of this would acquire more significance by the end of the year, following some unforeseeable developments, but in the meantime, WRA would continue to hold weekly meetings at Carrell Speedway, with a couple of main events going to Johnny Mantz, driving another ex-AAA car, the Alex Morales Offy, while the championship was ultimately won by Kenny Palmer in "Aggie's" own car.

On February 3, the Florida State Fair traditionally opened the IMCA racing season, with Deb Snyder winning over Red Redmond and Frankie Luptow, all three of them former AAA drivers. Harry King defeated Snyder four days later with Luptow again third, and on February 14 Snyder lorded it over King and Al Ketter in Forrest Powell's new Ford V8 special, the "Flying Orchid". All of these main events went over a distance of only ten laps, five miles, and the last race was completed in less than five minutes. By contrast, the first AAA Big Car race of the year was going to be a 20-miler at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway in Georgia on March 21, and Ted Horn opened his score with fast time, and a feature win in record time, beating Joie Chitwood's best by eight seconds. Bill Holland was second over Walt Brown and Tommy Hinnershitz. The latter made amends by beating the Reading Fairgrounds (Pennsylvania) track records both in time trials and the first ten-lap heat on April 4, but failed to make the main event when a con-rod broke just after finishing the heat. Horn was there again to set another record over 25 laps/12.5 miles, shaving almost twelve seconds from the mark held by Holland. Brown was second this time, with Walt Ader, Fred Carpenter, Hank Rogers and Lee Wallard following.

The Williams Grove Speedway Inaugural the following Sunday was rained out, and left promoter Roy Richwine in a bit of a bind - already, the calendar was so crowded that he had to postpone his event to April 17, a Saturday - never a good day in rural Mechanicsburg (Pennsylvania), as the attendance of "just" 24,360 bore out. Usually, the crowd at "the Grove" would number in excess of 30,000! Ted Horn didn't let that fact interfere with his plans for the weekend, as he made a clean sweep of the Grove opener by winning the time trials, a ten-lap heat and the 15-mile feature (from Hinnershitz and Chitwood), establishing three new track records on his way, then made an overnight trip to Trenton's New Jersey State Fairgrounds one-mile track to set up two more marks, over one lap in the trials and 20 miles in the feature. This time, Hinnershitz and Chitwood failed to finish, the latter after leading the first eight laps of the main event, and it was Horn's buddy Fred Carpenter in second, with Ader, Holland, Shackleford and Rogers filling out the top six. Loading up his Champ Car for a trip to Arlington Downs in Texas, where he was to record his fifth win of the season in the National Championship opener over 100 miles on the same day that Spider Webb won the Midwestern Circuit Inaugural at Salem Speedway over 10 miles, Horn was going to miss the next event on the Eastern schedule, a return to the Grove on April 25. Taking advantage of a new rule that allowed Midgets to compete with Sprint Cars on half-mile tracks on a "no-points" basis, similar to Champ Cars competing in sprints on one-mile tracks, promoter Richwine had declared the event to be a "mixed show", to make up for the loss of Horn, Chitwood, Holland and co. who were scheduled to appear in Texas - however, his plot backfired badly!

During the height of the so-called "Midget craze" immediately after WW2, Californian Frank Kurtis was making a brisk business of selling lightweight tube-frame miniature racing cars with torsion bar suspension, a world removed from the ancient concept of the rail-frame Sprint Car with transverse leaf springs that was still the norm all over the US. With a "hot" 105 cubic inch Offy under the hood, many of the "mighty" Kurtis Midgets compared very favourably with all but the fastest Offy Sprinters; and scared to death by the thought of sharing the bill (and purse!) with those "toy racers", the Sprint car fraternity banded together and signed a petition to prevent the meeting from happening! Luckily - for Richwine, who had already started promoting this event - it rained in Mechanicsburg on April 25 and, quick as a flash, Richwine arranged to sell his sanction, instead of postponing the races! The hapless buyers, former racers Lou Heller and Red Crise, scheduled the meeting for the following Saturday, May 1, at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Central Pennsylvania, and true to their word, all but one of the Sprint Car owners ignored the event. The only exception was George Marshman, a URC member from nearby Collegeville (and the father of future USAC star Bobby Marshman), who broke a con-rod during the heat races, leaving the main event entirely to the small cars - not a single championship point was won during the day! The irony of it all was that the eventual winner, Bill Randall of Massachusetts, who had switched to the Midgets in the hope of finding the success that had eluded him with the Big Cars so far, ended up with a couple of track records and a somewhat hollow win in the Sprint Car division that he couldn't repeat in later years, except for an overall win in a USAC "Twin 50" programme at Langhorne in 1957, when he finished second and third in the two legs of the race. In fact, he would win the 1957 Eastern Circuit Sprint Car Championship without ever taking the chequered flag first in a "proper" Sprint Car race!

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 08:08.


#49 Michael Ferner

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 20:49

(4)

The day after the "noughty show" at Allentown, there were three Sprint Car events on the AAA schedule: a return to Reading, which produced another Horn walkover (with Chitwood and Holland following this time), a URC "stand-alone" event at the Niagara County Fairgrounds in Lockport (New York), won by Lew Mood in the Julius Vail Dreyer (establishing three records on a track that hadn't seen AAA action in almost 20 years), and the Winchester Speedway Inaugural, another Spider Webb benefit, although Jackie Holmes had beaten him in the time trials. A similar programme was enacted the following Sunday, May 9, with similar results: Ted Horn won another 20-miler at Trenton, this time from Hinnershitz and Carpenter, while Pennsylvanians Lucky Lux in the Jules Furslew Riley (time trials) and Ottis Stine in the John Liss McDowell (heat and feature) established new track records in a URC show at Sidney, another New York track without a competitive AAA history in recent years, and Spider Webb kept his streak going by winning an accident-laden race at Dayton Speedway, his third win in three starts on three of the "Four Hills" - only Fort Wayne was now missing, but that track would eventually be rained out until August 8! Holmes, Charley van Acker, Bob Simpson from Michigan and AAA returnee Hal Cole from California all crashed during the programme, the latter two during the final lap of the feature. With the star drivers now heading for Indianapolis and the 500 Mile Race, much of the publicity centred around the fact that Ted Horn was unbeaten in 1948 so far, but so was Spider Webb! Only difference was, Horn was hoping to continue his run at the IMS, while Webb was merely hoping to make the race in his rookie appearance there.

The Sprint Car warriors never sleep, though, and for the Sunday after the first day of Indy time trials (May 16), the schedule called for a 20-miler at Pennsylvania's Langhorne Speedway, another URC event at Lock Haven in the northern part of the same state, and a return to Salem Speedway, some fifty miles south of Indianapolis. Hoping to qualify his Maserati for the 500-miler on Saturday, Horn decided to play safe and tow his Sprint Car to the Hoosier capital in order to be able to compete at Salem on Sunday, in the event of being unable to make the Indy field on schedule, which turned out to be an unusually wise decision even though he succeeded with his first task - it rained hard in Pennsylvania all afternoon, and both events in the Keystone State had to be postponed! And with that, it was showdown time in Southern Indiana, with both Horn and Webb hoping to continue their exceptional winning streaks! First blood went to the Eastern Champ, who recorded the fastest time trial, and in the main event he kept the lead until lap 11 when another accident, this time between Hoosier Leon Hubble and Simpson, caused a red flag and the race was not restarted. And that was that: after four consecutive main event wins, Spider Webb's fine run had finally come to an end, but it was an unsatisfactory end with the red flag. Horn, however, was still continuing to rack up win after win after win, his eighth for the season, and the fifteenth main event win in succession since October! Counting all the events he had entered during that span, it was his tenth successive win since failing to qualify for the main event due to an engine failure in the fast heat at Atlanta, Georgia on November 9 in 1947. And he wasn't yet prepared to surrender...

The next weekend was going to be even busier, with a meeting on Richmond's Virginia State Fairgrounds and the postponed Lock Haven event on Saturday, and another double header on Sunday (Chattanooga in Tennessee and Williams Grove again), with further time trials in Indianapolis interspersed for those who hadn't yet made the grade. Free of such obligations, Horn was at his impervious best, beating Hinnershitz into second in the South on Saturday, then towing to the Grove overnight and repeating the dose for Jimmy Gibbons, the man from the South. Tommy stayed in Dixie to meet Bill Holland at Chattanooga's Warner Park, but retired from the feature to watch the Indy runner-up record his third track record for the day. Ed Terry of New Jersey took the URC feature in the Furslew Riley, and the weekend was full of action, the worst bit of it was when California's AAA rookie Jack McGrath, a graduate of CRA Track Roadsters and WRA Sprints, took a bad spill at the Grove while guesting in Leech Cracraft's fast Offy - the car was a total loss, but McGrath escaped without serious injury, thankfully, and would be able to start "the 500" at the wheel of the Bill Sheffler Offy that he had qualified just the day before. Only minutes before McGrath had put his racer into the field, Spider Webb had managed to qualify Mutt Anderson's Walsh/Offenhauser, but he was slowest of the 19 qualifiers so far and would have to sweat it out over the last week of time trials. As it turned out, he was bumped from the field on Saturday, but made it back into the fold literally at the last minute in a new car built by the Bromme father-and-son act out of California, and celebrated the fact by going to Winchester on Sunday for another Sprint Car victory, and an 8-lap track record in the fast heat to boot. Again, Jackie Holmes had beaten him to the fast time in the trials, but couldn't hold a candle to him in the main.

The day before, the postponed Langhorne Inaugural had been run off before a sparse crowd, but under perfect weather conditions. Sadly, a few of the Indy competitors chose to give the race a miss, including Bill Holland who had made fast time in the original time trials a fortnight earlier, but Leech Cracraft was back, with his Offenhauser engine now in the chassis of Mark Light's (ex-)Dreyer! "Lighty" was given the driving assignment, and did well to win the second heat in better time than Jimmy Gibbons in the first, but the track was getting faster by the minute, and both Hank Rogers (third heat) and Fred Carpenter (consy) bettered the previous best! In the 20-mile main, Light pushed into the lead on the first lap, never to surrender it, and missing the late George Robson's distance record by less than two seconds. Gibbons was second, with Carpenter, Rogers and Tommy Mattson following. With another URC show at Pitman's (New Jersey) Alcyon Park Speedway on Monday being cancelled, the Indy 500 happened to be the only AAA event on Memorial Day (quite likely a first!), and it finally witnessed Ted Horn's first defeat in a main event in almost eight months! Ted had been in the hunt all day, and led more than one third of this, his tenth 500-mile race, but had to be satisfied with fourth yet again. It couldn't have been much of a consolation that his 1,944 laps completed in ten successive races established a record unlikely to be ever broken, he appeared simply unable to break into victory lane. For someone who had a second place as his first ever finish, to collect four thirds and fourths each must've ranked as a bitter disappointment!

If AAA was unusually idle over the holiday, that certainly didn't apply to other Sprint Car organisations, especially with the weekend leading up to it. One driver who had been attracting some attention during the early months of the year had been Wally Stokes, the "Honolulu car sales man" who was actually from Ohio. Driving the 1937 Andy Dunlop Offy, Stokes had taken four wins on the early part of the CSRA circuit and was now having a go at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines against the IMCA boys on Sunday, winning from Herschel Buchanan and Bill Hooper. Not done with racing for the prolonged weekend, he then set out for the 800-mile trip east towards the new Heidelberg Raceway near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, arriving there with his racing car in tow just as the programme was about to begin with a trophy dash for the four fastest qualifiers. The promoters ordered the cars off the track to let Stokes take a time trial with the car fresh from the trailer, and when he was done with it one of the four needn't return - Wally had set a new track record, the first driver to lap the track in under 24 seconds! He then proceeded to win the dash, first heat and main event from Jimmy Daywalt, Cliff Griffith and George Tichenor. If you are trying to figure out how to travel 800 miles during the night and in the morning on two-lane highways and with a racing car in tow (not to mention the punctures and Memorial Day parades they had to dodge), don't forget to factor in the difference between Central and Eastern Time... racers are racers! Former CSRA star Jimmie Wilburn beat IMCA Champion Emory Collins at Hutchinson's Kansas State Fairgrounds on Sunday, while current IMCA points leader Deb Snyder finished first at Chicago's Aurora Downs track the next day. Other winners included Wayne Padgett at Indiana's Jungle Park and Amos Hill at Altamont in New York.

AAA returned to action on June 6 at Williams Grove, with Horn again absent due to a Champ Car engagement at Milwaukee (where, incidentally, he encounterd his second "loss" in a row by finishing third), and it was Hinnershitz first with Light, Gibbons and Rogers following. The next Saturday, Horn was back on top at Mineola in New York, and chose to go from there to Dayton instead of Charlotte, North Carolina, where Mark Light cleaned up on Sunday. In Ohio, Ted made another sweep of the programme (fast time, heat and main event), but his win was overshadowed by the fatal accident to Johnny Shackleford on the third lap of the feature. The "hometown hero" had just returned to the seat of the Iddings Offy and put it on pole, then lost to Horn in the first heat and crashed chasing him in the main. Shackleford was doing stunt work for Joie Chitwood's "Hell Drivers" when not racing, but else appears to have been a loner with not too many social contacts in the "scene". It was rather ironic that he should die at his home track, since he had done a surprising amount of travel during his "outlaw" days before joining AAA in 1946, including a trip to California to compete in the ARA-sanctioned Oakland 500, a third-tier event at best, but his two years and a half with the nation's top organisation were rather impressive. Spider Webb had been second to Johnny in the trials, but didn't finish the main event, his first loss without the aid of a red flag. Walt Ader came second to Horn, with Michigan's Johnny Fedricks, George Lynch and Eddie Zalucki following, split by Ohio's Orville Epperley in fifth.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 08:09.


#50 Michael Ferner

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Posted 17 June 2010 - 15:05

(5)

June ended on a familiar note, with Ted Horn beating Fred Carpenter, Hank Rogers, Bill Holland and Ottis Stine at Williams Grove over 15 miles, and Spider Webb romping home ahead of Tommy Mattson, Chick Barbo of Washington State and Charley van Acker over 10 miles at Salem Speedway. It was Horn's 10th win out of 14 championship qualifying rounds so far in the East (15 if you count the Midgets-no-points race), and the 5th win out of 7 rounds in the Midwest for Webb. Of all the others, only Mark Light had been able to win twice so far, with Bill Holland and Tommy Hinnershitz winning one apiece - the two remaining races in the Midwest had also gone to Horn! The three URC "Class B only" events had been divided between three different drivers with no dominant force apparent yet, but Horn and Webb were now well ahead in their respective standings. Still, it was early times, and if half of the year was over, the busiest part of the season was yet to come, starting with Independence Day. Again, AAA made unusually "parsimonious" use of the holiday, and only two URC programmes in New Jersey (Dover on Sunday, and Alcyon/Pitman on Monday) were run, with Stine and Bob Cooney of New Jersey sharing the glory. It was back to "Class A" action on July 11 at the Grove, and back to the usual pattern also: Ted Horn dominated the event as he pleased, shaving ten seconds from his own 25-mile record, and beating Light, Carpenter, Jackie Holmes, Rogers, Mattson and Lucky Lux in the main.

A week later, back in Charlotte, it was again Horn, Horn, Horn... Jimmy Gibbons and Mattson followed this time in a feature event over 12.5 miles. The same day, Milwaukee's Wisconsin State Fair Park presented a 25-miler, and several Champ Cars took the opportunity to run on the mile-track in preparation for the Fair races. Tony Bettenhausen won in Murrell Belanger's 1933 Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser (a former Sprint Car anyhow), and Emil Andres took second in Charley Pritchard's mob-sponsored Kurtis/Offenhauser from Jackie Holmes in the "works" Dreyer, the only Sprint Car proper to finish in the top 6. Myron Fohr (Marchese/Offenhauser) and a pair of Kurtis/Offenhausers with Johnny Mantz (Agajanian) and Hal Cole (Granatelli) driving were next, relegating a disappointed Webb to 7th. Mel Hansen had won the time trials in another veteran ex-Sprinter, the 1932 Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser "Poison Lil". Rex Mays, holder of several Milwaukee track records (with and without "Poison Lil"), and a pre-race favourite with his supercharged Bowes Champ Car, did not qualify for the feature, as didn't Johnnie Parsons in the "works" Kurtis/Offenhauser.

The last time the name Agajanian was mentioned, "Aggie" was still promoting WRA races at Carrell Speedway in California, but a series of events had ended his involvement with that organisation, which then folded within weeks of that happening (although it would be "revived" some four years later). Frank Kurtis, the successful Midget manufacturer, had built a mini-series of Champ Cars, basically oversized versions of his "Mighty Midgets", and Agajanian had purchased one of them with a view of entering Indianapolis and competing on the National Championship trail. The AAA, however, took a dim view of this idea, and would not accept an entry by an "outlaw" race promoter, especially not if the same person was president of said "outlaw" organisation, but Aggie thought he had all bases covered by entering the car under the name of his co-chief mechanics, Clay Smith and Danny Jones (the father of future USAC driver Danny "Termite" Jones), as the "Smith & Jones Co."! Needless to say, with a name like that he was raising more suspicions than a camouflage kit, and po-faced AAA and IMS officials subsequently informed Agajanian that he would not be allowed into Gasoline Alley during May, unless he'd register as a proper AAA member. This, however, was only made possible by his divesting all of his interests in the WRA, and further negotiations developed the possibilty of staging AAA Midget and Sprint Car races on the West Coast, promoted by Agajanian, and supervised by the local AAA representative, Gordon Betz - more of that anon!

With the dissolution of the WRA, several other Southern California Sprint Car owners were now also forced to look for pastures new, and a few went North to compete with the ARA at Oakland Speedway and other San Francisco area tracks. Others, however, stayed put, perhaps in the knowledge (or at least hope!) that Aggie would care for them, one way or another. Still another option was to go East, and compete with the CSRA, IMCA or... yes, even the AAA! Mel Leighton was one owner who, along with his driver Chick Barbo, took out a AAA licence and took off for the "Four Hills" - whether he was privy to Aggie's plans or not, this was a bold decision! Leighton was running a circa 1939 Sprint Car with a 4-port Riley engine, and Barbo didn't do all that bad with the ancient car, as his third place finish at Salem testifies, and though he failed to qualify for the feature at Milwaukee, he was in quite good company in that, as we have seen. For some reason, though, Barbo did not drive Leighton's car at Winchester on the following Sunday, but was replaced by Orville Epperley, a rotund Ohioan of 31 years with a baby face.

Apparently, Epperley had only started racing after WW2, and was one of the first of a new wave of drivers which can be described as "war surplus thrill seekers". He did extremely well, though, and was soon showing promise in AAA Big Car events in 1946 until an accident at Williams Grove laid him up for a few weeks on a hospital cot. He returned the following year to compete on the independent CSRA circuit, where he finished an extremely impressive second in points to the great Jimmie Wilburn, then returned for another bid for AAA glory. Sadly, though, he was unable to land a regular seat in a top car, and was left scrounging for rides, which is presumably why he ended up in the Leigthon/Riley in the first place. In a heat race at Winchester now, he collided with the Engle/Offenhauser, now driven by George Lynch, and was launched into a high-speed barrel roll, during which he was ejected from the car, but not fast enough, as the aluminium cowling of the car neatly cut off his lower left leg in mid-air!!! Furthermore, the incident was captured on film by a photographer, and a sequence of rather gory pictures appeared in the glossy "Life Magazine" on August 9, starting a trend that would haunt motor racing for years to come, aided by recent advances made in motor-driven photography. Epperley survived the incident, and lived another three-and-a-half decades, but his promising career had come to an end.

Speaking of Jimmie Wilburn, the four-time CSRA Champion himself had only just been taken off the critical list after a near-fatal accident in an IMCA race at Oskaloosa (Iowa) on July 1, shortly after breaking the track record there. Along with Fred Horey, Sig Haugdahl and Emory Collins, Wilburn was probably the greatest driver of the era to never have had a serious stab at AAA competition, although all of them dipped a toe into the water at one time or another. Wilburn did so in early 1946, after the Sam Nunis fair circuit had switched over from the CSRA following the return of AAA to racing, but his reluctance to invest in a new engine made his stay a short one. He had received a lot of flak in racing circles for his perseverance with the big 318 cubic inch Offy in 1945, when basically everyone else was running engines of a mere two thirds of that capacity, and even though his mechanic Harold "Barney" Wimmer always insisted that the big block of the engine had been wrecked before the war and replaced by a "mere" 270 cubic inch block, together with the big crankshaft that still makes 292 cubic inches, far too much to even run with the AAA Champ Cars, let alone the 210 cubic inch Sprints. There's little doubt that Wilburn would have been competitive with a smaller Offy, but "throwing away" a perfectly good engine didn't make sense to Jimmie, so he returned to the independent clubs and kept on winning "outlaw" races - sometimes, reality is much less "romantic" than the "good ole' boys" stories of yore... In any case, even his "home club", the CSRA grew tired of Jimmie's one-man show, and in 1948 restricted DO engine capacity to 255 cubic inches, whereupon Wilburn found a refuge with the IMCA, still running unlimited engines. He was in the thick of the championship fight until his accident, and after three weeks in semi-coma left the hospital in early August - by the end of the same month he was alert enough again to sue the promoter for unpaid appearance money! He would return to race action in 1949, and retire after an unprecedented fifth CSRA Championship a year later.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 16:33.