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1948 AAA National Championship

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#51 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 13:26


Another driver to end his season (and career!) early was Fred Carpenter, the tall 33-year-old from upstate New York. Freddie had been good friends with Ted Horn, the old master acting as somewhat of a mentor for the up-and-coming Carpenter, and the two of them apparently travelled together frequently. On the return trip to Paterson (New Jersey) from the Charlotte race, their tow rig got muscled off the road and rolled over, inflicting serious injuries to Freddie's left leg - he would not be able to walk again for two years! Carpenter had started racing in 1938, qualifying fifth fastest and winning the semi in his very first race at Altamont (New York), a "Class B" AAA race! He was soon developing into a fine prospect, and in 1947 he won his first (and only) AAA main event, finishing tenth in Eastern points. For 1948, Carpenter had garnered his first steady Offy ride in Herman Hoppe's car, the former Lucky Teter Dreyer, and was beginning to be looked upon by Indy Car owners as a potential '500' driver when the accident intervened. He would make a short and unsuccessful comeback in the early fifties, then retire to turn his attention to boating. Fred Carpenter died on April 8, 1978.

Horn's "Baby", though damaged in the accident, was soon repaired and towed to Winchester, where Ted emerged victorious yet again, establishing another three track records on his way. Meanwhile, at Selinsgrove in Pennsylvania, the fair circuit opened with a Tommy Hinnershitz win over 10 miles in record time - Hank Rogers and Mark Light placed second and third, respectively. Six days later, Horn beat Hinnershitz at Harrington's (Delaware) Kent-Sussex County Fair after early leader Tommy Mattson spun out, with Lee Wallard third. In the first heat, Ted had finished only third, behind Pennsylvania's Len Koenig and Hinnershitz - the opposition was growing stronger! The URC kept busy with a couple of Friday night shows at Pitman/Alcyon and Williams Grove, with both going to Lucky Lux in the Furslew/Riley, who was now shaping up as a real contender for championship honours. Danny Goss (New Jersey), Mel Weidner (Pennsylvania) and Len Brown (New Jersey) chased him home at the Grove at what was easily the most prestigious "Class B" event on the calendar.

For some reason, Fort Wayne Speedway in Northern Indiana always seemed to attract an undue amount of rain on race days (in the thirties, once even an entire season had fallen prey to precipitation!), and in 1948 it was no different: after two "rain-outs", the August 8 meeting was the only one to go ahead as planned. For Spider Webb, it was another picture-perfect Sunday: track records in time trials, heat and main event! He had now accomplished a "Four Hills Grand Slam", something no other driver before or since managed in AAA or USAC Big Car racing - this was no lightly regarded achievement, and won him plaudits from within every corner of the racing fraternity! For once, he even overshadowed Ted Horn, who also established three records on the same day, at Martinsville in Virginia. Again, it was Hinnershitz who offered the most resistance, and it appeared only a question of time until the Reading farmer would be able to move one position up on Horn - he was certainly trying his best! The next week was set aside almost entirely for the Wisconsin State Fair in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, with two Sprint programmes on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by the National Championship 100-miler on Sunday. The fair board was celebrating its "Centennial Exposition" and Rex Mays, always a favourite with the Milwaukee fans, continued where he had left off in 1947: by completely dominating the opening races in Cracraft's Light/Offenhauser, winning the trials, a 5-mile heat and the 25-mile main event. Big Car rookie Dick Frazier of Indiana, a former Track Roadster star with the local MRA, surprised many by finishing second from the time trials through to the feature, with Webb, Hinnershitz, Mel Hansen and Paul Russo (the latter two in Champ Cars) filling the places.

Rain affected the Wednesday meeting, so the board cancelled the heats and increased the main event distance from 25 to 30 miles to fulfil AAA's 55 % rule for a regular race, which had an unforeseeable effect: after smashing Tony Bettenhausen's Champ Car track record in the time trials, Mays again led as he pleased, only to run out of fuel on the last lap, coasting in 4th! Tommy Mattson came from 7th at half distance to take the lead on the last corner in his own new car, with Hinnershitz and Lee Wallard also taking advantage of Mays's predicament. Bill Holland was fifth, and Russo survived a bad spill in Bill Corley's old Petillo/Offenhauser. Horn had given the sprints a miss, but was present for the big final on Sunday, while Holland chose to return to the "bullring" fairs: he was third to Mattson and Mark Light at Bedford (Pennsylvania) on August 14, then won at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg (New York) the next week, with Pennsylvania's Buster Warke and Mattson following. The same day, Horn won the National Championship 100-miler at the Illinois State Fair, and "on his way home" to Paterson cleaned up at Dayton Speedway the next afternoon! Oh yes, and he also established another one-lap track record, the first over 90 miles per hour on a half-mile track!!

Bob Cooney won the URC main event in Bill Brown's McDowell at the State Line Speedway in North Bennington (Vermont, though the grandstand was actually located on New York territory!), and Lux was again second to increase his championship lead, but the next week back at Sidney he crashed on the second lap of the feature, sustaining injuries that would sideline him for the rest of the season! Ottis Stine was the winner that day in the Liss/McDowell, and like Cooney he was now in with a real chance for the title. On the same day, Hinnershitz continued his love affair with the high banks at Salem in the absence of Horn, who finished third that day at Milwaukee's unique 200-miler on dirt, and with that moral booster Tommy was now shaping up as a contender for the Eastern Circuit honours. Horn was still leading with 14 wins out of 14 starts, but Hinnershitz was still in the hunt due to his participation in 20 out of the 21 championship rounds so far, only missing one race completely because of a clashing date. He now had five seconds to supplement his two wins, but also seven retirements and the non-start at the Langhorne rain date due to his Indy engagement. Holland and Light also had two wins apiece to their credit, and Mattson one, and all three of them were at least theoretically still contenders in view of the traditional climax of the fair circuit with a dozen races in September alone.

The Midwestern Circuit Championship was virtually over, however, and a couple more rain-outs saw to it that the Winchester meet on September 5 would prove to be the final points race of the season. After threatening to do so all year, Jackie Holmes finally crashed into the winner's circle and cemented his runner-up position in the championship by doing so. Another of the new crop of drivers to emerge in the wake of WW2, the young Hoosier had joined AAA only the year before after an unspectacular season in CSRA in 1946, and had been on the pace from the word go. Driving almost exclusively for Indianapolis car owner and constructor Floyd "Pop" Dreyer, a former motorcycle racer, Jackie had finished in the top three a number of times in his rookie year, and by 1948 began winning time trials and fast heats regularly. He turned 28 the day before Winchester, and finally breaking into the main event wins column was exactly the right tonic at this critical point in his career.

The final points (top twenty-five) read:

1 Spider Webb (CA/38), 268 points, 6 wins, 4 fast times
2 Jackie Holmes (IN/28), 183 points, 1 win, 2 fast times
3 Tommy Mattson (DE/34), 143 points, 1 win, 1 fast time
4 Lee Wallard (NY/37), 142 points
5 George Lynch (MI/30), 128 points
6 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA/36), 123 points, 1 win
7 Rex Mays (CA/35), 120 points, 1 win, 2 fast times
8 Johnnie Crone (MD/40), 111 points
9 Ted Horn (CA/38), 102 points, 4 wins, 3 fast times
10 Eddie Zalucki (MI/34), 82.5 points
11 Dick Frazier (IN/30), 80 points, 1 fast time
12 Johnny Shackleford (OH/35), 71 points, 1 fast time
13 Tony Bettenhausen (IL/32), 70 points, 1 win
14 Hank Schlosser (OH/~ 40), 62 points
15 Duke Nalon (IL/35), 55 points
16 Mel Hansen (CA/37), 54 points, 1 fast time
17 Red Renner (IN), 52 points
18 Emil Andres (IL/37), 50 points
19 Norm Houser (IN/33), 49 points
20 Red Cotterman (OH), 46 points
21 Bob Simpson (MI/~ 35), 45 points
22 Johnny Fedricks (MI/23), 44 points
23 Bill Holland (PA/41), 43 points
24 Hal Robson (CA/37), 42 points
25 Bill Cantrell (KY/40), 42 points

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 08:18.


#52 Michael Ferner

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 10:28


There was no "counting the money" yet in the East, in fact the season was only just past the halfway mark, so the Labor Day weekend could quite conceivably initiate a change of direction for the championship contest, and with Ted Horn absent due to Champ Car commitments in Illinois and Georgia, Tommy Hinnershitz made the most of it by taking three main events in four days, beginning with the Champaign Valley Fair at Essex Junction (Vermont) on Friday, and concluding with a double slam at Flemington in New Jersey on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Sunday also saw the opening of the new Conococheague Speedway in Hagerstown (Maryland) amidst a public discussion about ancient "blue laws" prohibiting sporting events on "the day of the lord", and local hero Johnnie Crone made a rare appearance on the Eastern Circuit, recording fast time in the trials and winning the fast heat, though he couldn't place in the final. Jimmy Gibbons took the main instead in Frank Donleavy's new Offy, a first in AAA competition for both driver and owner from nearby Virginia. The URC boys had their own "Class B" feature on the same track and the same day, and Danny Goss won in his own McDowell. Only one race remained now for the "gasket cars", and New Jersey's Charles "Mike" Magill beat everyone at Alcyon Speedway in Tony Deubel's Riley, but it was Bob Cooney who secured overall honours, only just beating the incapacitated Lucky Lux.

Final points (top fifteen):

1 Bob Cooney (NJ/37), 258 points, 2 wins, 1 fast time
2 Lucky Lux (PA/29), 242 points, 2 wins, 1 fast time
3 Ottis Stine (PA/40), 203 points, 3 wins, 2 fast times
4 Lew Mood (NJ), 171 points, 1 win, 1 fast time
5 Mike Magill (NJ/28), 171 points, 1 win, 2 fast times
6 Bill Gouse (PA/~ 25), 136 points
7 Len Brown (NJ/26), 97 points
8 Mel Weidner (PA/~ 28), 90 points
9 Larry Smith (NJ/~ 38), 88 points
10 Ed Terry (NJ/37), 82 points, 1 win, 1 fast time
11 Danny Goss (NJ/45), 81 points, 1 win, 1 fast time
12 Bob Arndt (PA), 80 points
13 George van Hook (NJ), 80 points
14 Don Moore (VA or DC/61), 79 points
15 Frank Cook (NJ or PA/51), 72 points

Horn was back in the fold at Hamburg on Friday, September 10, and took his 15th win on the circuit in record time over 12.5 miles, with Lee Wallard, Hinnershitz and Bill Holland following, then towed overnight to Port Royal in Pennsylvania for the Juniata County Fair races, taking win number 16! Hinnershitz evaded the confrontation by travelling east, and cleaning up at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, then headed south for Williams Grove on Sunday (an overall trip of more than 800 miles!), where Horn was already waiting along with 32 other entries, including a record number of 12 Offies. The meeting started in well-known fashion, with Horn taking the time trials from Tommy by a mere 0.14", then the fast heat and an early lead in the feature. For twenty-one laps, Hinnershitz tried every trick in the book to get by, a notoriously difficult undertaking with Ted Horn out in front, but going into the backstretch on lap 22 he made a successful move, and rode out the remaining eight laps in the lead, even increasing his advantage to about six seconds - at long last, Horn was finally beaten! Gibbons, Holland, Wallard and Ottis Stine filled out the top six, hardly noticed by the crowd in the excitement.

With that giant-killing performance off his chest, Hinnershitz now easily ranked as favourite for the fair races in his hometown Reading, but if he expected an afternoon stroll in the absence of Horn (who was again chasing national points in Illinois), he was in for a big disappointment: Holland was back on form, winning the time trials and setting up new track records in the heat and the 10-mile final, leaving second place to Tommy with Gibbons and Mark Light trailing. The Eastern States Exposition at Springfield in Massachusetts offered two chances to beat Ted Horn, but neither Hinnershitz on Friday nor Walt Brown on Saturday found a way past the Paterson jockey - Tommy didn't even try the second day, prefering another long tow to Allentown in Pennsylvania where he won the main. The Southern mini-circuit also opened that weekend, and Jimmy Gibbons took his second win of the year at Shelby in North Carolina. Horn had one more chance to score before he was going to miss another weekend due to the National Championship campaign, and at Trenton's New Jersey State Fair he was once again untouchable: breaking his own track record for the mile, and another one for three laps in a match race, he won the feature from Mattson and Holland, with Hinnershitz out of the money and points. With the cat away, the mice played up at Charlotte on October 9 (Hinnershitz winning from Hank Rogers, Holland, Stine and Mattson) and Williams Grove on the 10th (Holland from Ed Terry, Mattson, Brown, Stine and Len Koenig), then the dreadful news from Du Quoin reached Pennsylvania...

Ted Horn's funeral of the day before was still fresh on everybody's mind when Bill Holland won at Cedartown in Georgia on October 16, but somehow or other, the southern tour was a very short one this year and nobody seemed to mind in the circumstances. The next weekend, Tommy Mattson took a 10-miler at Raleigh's North Carolina State Fair on Saturday, and after an overnight tow he was ready for the big final event of the year, the sixth annual Championship Trophy at Williams Grove. With the demise of the defending winner Horn, and the semi-retirement of Vic Nauman, Duke Nalon and Joie Chitwood, only 1946 winner Holland would be in a position to carry off the valuable trophy for good with a second win, while Hinnershitz had a chance to snatch the season's championship by winning his heat and the main event. Such was not to be, however, as Tommy retired from the qualifying heat, then took Mark Light's place in the main event to finish a lowly fifth, just ahead of Holland. Still on a high from his Raleigh win, Mattson dominated the time trials and the races, with Hank Rogers, Jackie Holmes and Jimmy Gibbons following in the feature.

Final points (top twenty-five):

1 Ted Horn (CA/38), 742 points, 19 wins, 16 fast times
2 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA/36), 706 points, 9 wins, 7 fast times
3 Tommy Mattson (DE/34), 585.5 points, 3 wins, 3 fast times
4 Bill Holland (PA/41), 542 points, 5 wins, 5 fast times
5 Hank Rogers (NJ/32), 470.7 points, 3 fast times
6 Jimmy Gibbons (VA/~ 31), 358 points, 2 wins, 1 fast time
7 Fred Carpenter (NY/33), 302 points, 1 fast time
8 Len Koenig (PA/37), 285 points
9 Mark Light (PA/38), 272.5 points, 2 wins
10 Ottis Stine (PA/40), 265.5 points
11 Walt Brown (NY/37), 265 points
12 Buster Warke (PA/34), 210.5 points, 1 fast time
13 Lee Wallard (NY/37), 183.5 points
14 Ed Terry (NJ/37), 141 points, 1 fast time
15 Jackie Holmes (IN/28), 137 points
16 Joie Chitwood (TX/36), 119 points, 1 fast time
17 Paul Handshew (PA/33), 109 points
18 Bill Gouse (PA/~ 25), 107.5 points
19 Lucky Lux (PA/29), 97 points
20 Danny Goss (NJ/45), 90 points
21 Walt Ader (NJ/36), 85 points
22 Bob Cooney (NJ/37), 74.5 points
23 Dutch Culp (PA/54), 69 points
24 Fred Bailes (WV), 67 points
25 Mel Weidner (PA/~ 28), 59 points

Edited by Michael Ferner, 20 June 2010 - 23:16.

#53 Michael Ferner

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 11:04


Meanwhile, in California, J. C. Agajanian had been staging weekly Midget races at Carrell Speedway since early summer, with AAA sanction and fields full of California talent, mostly from the CRA! Due to its remote location relative to other population centres, Southern California's racing scene had developed a quite peculiar pattern over the last two decades or so, and was an extremely competitive market for race promoters: Track Roadsters, Jalopies, Hot Rods, Stock Cars, Midgets and Motorcycles vied for fan interest with the traditional Big Cars, and AAA's only foothold on the Pacific Coast for many years had been the "Small Cars", in hot competition with a number of local sanctioning groups. The big national organisation had been a relative late starter in sanctioning Midget events, only beginning to do so in 1938, and not resuming that branch of business after WW2 until 1947, but a few drivers from the West Coast had nevertheless been able to make it to the "big dance" at Indianapolis in the meantime by the effective "weapon" of co-operation, meaning that AAA would sign (or simply tolerate) agreements with other clubs to allow their drivers and owners to compete with them on a limited basis, and vice versa. These agreements were often in a state of flux, and it was a crucial responsibility of the local AAA representative to stay on top of developments, and virtually feel "from where the wind was blowing" - during the forties, this assignment was in the able hands of Art Pillsbury and Gordon Betz, two AAA officials with vast experience of the local scene.

Pillsbury had been the man responsible for the ultra-successful AAA Pacific Coast Championship in the thirties, and Betz had been born into racing as the son of J. F. "Doc" Betz, General Manager of Culver City's board track and confidant to A. M. "Brother" Young, master promoter of the Los Angeles Speedway Corporation. Both men understood the intricacies of the business, and that to be successful you had to satisfy the needs of the "four cornerstones of racing" at the same time: drivers, owners, promoters and spectators - always a tricky thing to achieve, especially in competitive surroundings! With the carrot of the Indy 500 dangling in front of Agajanian, they had been able to persuade "Aggie" to change camps and negotiate a package deal to bring "big-time" Big Car racing back to California! It took a lot of local knowledge to single out Aggie as the key figure in this board game, as the name was hardly known to even long-time followers of the sport in October of 1947, when he began promoting races at Carrell Speedway as the successor to former AAA car owner Bill "Hollywood" White. But Aggie had always shown a lot of drive, first as a car owner, then as the president of the Car Owners and Drivers Association and finally as head of the WRA - he was pretty much a blue print for Bernie Ecclestone in his day! Gardena's Carrell Speedway, on the other hand, had originated as a swamp that saw lots of usage as an illegal racing and testing ground in the thirties. By 1947, the property had been leased to a paving contractor, Emmett J. Malloy (of whom more anon), who had it transformed into a fine racing facility, and within a year it was one of the most used venues in the Southland.

One of the main stays of the racing menue at Carrell Speedway were the Track Roadsters of the CRA, a young organisation that had an enthusiastic and very fresh driver roster - the first five in 1947 points had been Troy Ruttman, Jack McGrath, Manny Ayulo, Andy Linden and Bob Sweikert, all of them shy of the Big Three Oh, and destined to become major AAA stars in the fifties! In those days, you could probably and actually make a living by running CRA events alone, since the Roadsters often ran twice a week, but of course it didn't harm if you ran a Midget or a Stock Car in your spare time. And, sure enough, everybody was dreaming about Indy at night, and now Aggie was the man selling the ticket - a win/win situation, all around. The final piece in the jigsaw puzzle was the fact that still, Los Angeles was the "Capital of Speed" - ever since the days of Harry Miller, California had attracted the majority of racing drivers, teams, mechanics and fabricators with its year-round sunshine and mild climate, and that hadn't even changed that much during the prolonged absence of big-time AAA racing in the last twelve years. Offenhauser, the engine of choice for virtually anybody with racing ambitions, as well as Cragar, Riley, yes even the Novi was built in "El Lay", and most of the chassis hardware, too - no more evidence is needed for the importance of Southern California in racing than the standstill in chassis design for Big Cars over the last decade or so - if change was about to come, it would have to come from here!

In 1948, every Sprint Car, whether a seasoned veteran or brand new, still conformed to a standard pattern that had evolved in the thirties as a sort of compromise between the speedway and dirt track racers of the twenties: cosmetic changes such as bull noses or head rests couldn't conceal the basic fact that two box- or even c-section steel chassis longerons carried an engine that would transmit its propulsion via torque tube and/or radius rods from a live rear axle suspended by transverse leaf springs, with a similar arrangement on a dead axle up front. Indianapolis had seen some variety in recent years, but in general, these hadn't filtered down to the "bullrings" and "high banks". But the winds of change still blew, yet from another direction: in 1946, Frank Kurtis had begun series production of Midget racing cars of advanced design: instead of steel frame rails of the ladder type, Frank used welded chrome-moly tubes to build the chassis, and also lightweight "aircraft spec" metals for the bodywork. Suspension varied on individual cars, but many used torsion bars to spring the chassis, mounted parallel to the chassis longerons. Beam axles were retained, but else these cars took a huge step into the future, and sold in several hundreds throughout the forties. By 1948, Kurtis had also built a small run of Champ Cars that were virtually blown-up versions of his successful Midget design - the time was ripe for a "three-quarter" model!

Before Aggie could let the Big Cars loose at Carrell Speedway, however, Pillsbury and Betz had negotiated a return of AAA to the Arizona State Fair at Phoenix on November 11 - never put all of your eggs into one basket alone! The Armistice Day Phoenix races had been a mainstay of AAA competition in the area for forty years, dating back to the Los Angeles-to-Phoenix road races, but during the last two years before the war the fair board had tried IMCA and CSRA sanctions instead. After testing the waters with a Midget show earlier in 1948, local promoter Vaughn McGuire now brought back the Sprint Cars, and in doing so harked back to the very beginning of the glory days of the AAA Pacific Coast Championship in 1929, which had incidentally also started with a race at Phoenix - a good omen? Since that time, a half-mile track (actually, five eights of a mile) had been built inside the old mile and recently been paved, and three former winners of the event were expected to compete: Rex Mays, Spider Webb and Hal Cole. Mays had basically stopped running on half-mile tracks in 1938, but he wasn't going to miss out on racing at his doorstep, and had Leech Cracraft's Light/Offenhauser with which he had won at Milwaukee in 1947 and '48, while both Webb and Cole had brand new cars at their disposal: the Midwestern Champion was earmarked to drive a rail frame Offy for Dayton (OH) owner Pete Wales, whereas Cole, who had driven two different Kurtis Champ Cars during the year, had ordered a Sprint Car from Frank's shop that was the aforementioned three-quarter version of a Champ Car, a tube-frame chassis with parallel torsion bars all-around - Wales took a good look at the Kurtis, and must've concluded that he'd wasted his money on an obsolete car...

Another new car was fielded by North Californian C. E. Mathews, and it was yet another look into the future: Mathews had taken a Kurtis-Kraft Midget, "stretched" it by lengthening the chassis tubes and building a new body, to arrive at practically the same end product as Hal Cole with his "three-quarter" Kurtis, a tube-framed Sprint Car! For the time being, Mathews and his driver (Midget "comer" Chuck Stevenson) had to make do with an old McDowell engine, but an order had already been placed with Meyer-Drake, Inc. for a brand new 220 ci Offenhauser engine, serial number 91, to be delivered in early December. In addition to Cracraft and Wales, several prominent Sprint Car owners from the East and the Midwest had been lured by the prospect of a winter racing season in the West, including Ralph Malamud from New York, Tommy Mattson from Delaware, the Iddings Brothers from Ohio, Hoosier Steve Truchan and even a couple of "outlaws": from Oklahoma, Peaches Campbell was sending the former Gus Schrader/Offenhauser over for Bill Anderson, and Dick van Emmerick and his driver Don Carr arrived with their Offy from Michigan. Several former WRA cars and drivers completed the roster of more than two dozen entries, and everything augured well for the opening event at Phoenix.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 11 July 2010 - 10:12.

#54 Michael Ferner

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 11:06


Several cars and drivers arrived early for practice at Phoenix on Wednesday, the day before Armistice Day, and Hal Cole took out his new creation to record a best time of 30.86", nearly 73 mph. Mays followed with a 31.21" clocking in the Cracraft/Offenhauser, and third was Roy Prosser, a former jockey driving a Ford V8 special for South Gate's Emil Dietrich, with a time of 31.30" - seemingly, the WRA locals were keeping up pretty well. The next morning, however, Mays was putting things into perspective by recording the fastest time trial in 28.72", more than 78 mph! Still, Tex Petersen managed a surpise second in the old Morales/Offenhauser, a circa 1934 car that had started life at the old Ascot Speedway, and winner of the last couple of WRA races at Gardena back in May. Petersen even managed to beat Mays in the Trophy Dash, a three-lap race for the two fastest qualifiers, and a West Coast tradition going back to a time even before Ascot opened. Another WRA car, Aggie's own Offy built in 1938, with WRA Champion Kenny Palmer at the wheel, beat Mays and Tommy Mattson in the fast heat, and Frank McGurk took the consy from Gordon Reid, both also driving WRA cars. But in the feature it was all Mays, taking the lead at the first turn and never relinquishing it, and covering the 25 miles in a little over 20 minutes. Chick Barbo had made a deal with Cole to drive the Kurtis "three-quarter car", and finished an impressive second from Johnny McDowell in the Iddings/Offenhauser, coming from 8th on the grid. AAA regular Bill Sheffler took fourth in his own Offy, with Palmer fifth in the leading WRA car, and almost 7,000 fans filled the stands. All in all, the event was considered a mild success, with the only downsides being a fiery accident to Andy Linden, luckily wihtout major injury, and the non-appearance of both Spider Webb and Bill Holland due to "financial disagreements" with the promoter - both had hoped to garner "appearance money", but their demands fell on deaf ears. Sadly, this was going to become a pattern with the latter...

Three days later, a whopping 13,000 crowd greeted basically the same field at Carrell Speedway, for the first of "a weekly series of Sunday afternoon sprints". The only noteworthy additions to the field were Sam Hanks, subbing for the still smarting Spider Webb in the Wales/Offy, and a brand new car, entered by promoter Agajanian himself for Johnny Mantz - to say that the paint wasn't even dry on this one would be a big understatement, since the car turned up for hot laps still "in the white", the bare aluminium body glinting in the late fall sunshine. Fresh from the shop of metal bender Eddie Kuzma, the #98jr. looked just like a slightly oversize Midget, but with perfect proportions, unlike the "stretch job" Mathews with its overlong engine bay or the "three-quarter" Kurtis with its bulging chassis longerons. Featuring a tubular chassis and transverse leaf springs front and rear, the car was the perfect mix of old and new, and would remain competitive for almost two decades. Despite qualifying only sixth fastest, and doing indifferently in the heat, Mantz was clearly the class of the field in the 15-mile final, calmly working his way up to take the lead three laps from the finish and win in splendid time. McGurk took second, after making fast time, winning the Dash and leading for 26 laps, with Mel Hansen in "Poison Lil", McDowell, Barbo and Joe Garson in Holland's Malamud/Offy following. Hanks and Mays both spun on the slippery track (as did several others), and finished way back in 7th and 10th, respectively. Jack McGrath managed to qualify the Mel Leighton/Riley fourth fastest and win the first heat, but finished the main event last, behind eleven Offies.

A week on, and Mantz had the new Agajanian/Offenhauser purring to perfection: new track records in qualifying (88 mph!), Dash and the 15-mile main. Only in the first heat, started in reverse qualifying order, did he encounter any problems, and finished second to... Prosser in the Dietrich/Ford! McDowell took second in the feature, but Mays kept a slim lead in the standings by coming in third, ahead of Barbo, Webb and Garson. All was not well with the meeting, however, as attendance fell to a little over 8,000, and Aggie promptly cancelled the rest of the series, citing "track maintenance" as the reason - the races were to resume on January 9. So much for the revival of the "good old days"! After only three races, all on pavement, the first Pacific Coast Championship since 1935 thus ended premturely:

Final points (top fifteen):

1 Rex Mays (CA/35), 85.70 points, 1 win, 1 fast time
2 Johnny McDowell (CA/33), 84.00 points
3 Chick Barbo (WA/~ 32), 75.60 points
4 Johnny Mantz (CA/30), 69.40 points, 2 wins, 1 fast time
5 Frank McGurk (CA/33), 50.60 points, 1 fast time
6 Hal Robson (CA/37), 38.00 points
7 Mel Hansen (CA/37), 35.18 points
8 Kenny Palmer (CA/~ 34), 31.05 points
9 Roy Prosser (NY/33), 28.65 points
10 Joe Garson (NY/40), 24.90 points
11 Jack McGrath (CA/29), 21.33 points
12 Bill Sheffler (CA/31), 20.00 points
13 Tex Petersen (CA/40), 19.94 points
14 Johnnie Parsons (CA/30), 19.52 points
15 Bob Cross (CA/~ 26), 18.00 points

Results of major AAA Big Car races in 1948 (20 miles or longer):

March 21, Lakewood Speedway, Atlanta (GA), 20 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 13'37.06"
2 Bill Holland (PA), Malamud/Offenhauser
3 Walt Brown (NY), Marion/Offenhauser
4 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA), Hinnershitz/Offenhauser
5 n/a
6 n/a
FT Horn, n/a

April 18, New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Trenton (NJ), 20 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 14'44.33"
2 Fred Carpenter (NY), Hoppe=Teter/Offenhauser
3 Walt Ader (NJ), Campbell=Schrader/Offenhauser
4 Bill Holland (PA), Malamud/Offenhauser
5 Johnny Shackleford (OH), Engle/Offenhauser
6 Hank Rogers (NJ), Fetzer/Offenhauser
FT Horn, 40.36"

April 25, Texas State Fairgrounds, Arlington Downs (TX), 101 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 1:17'00.56"
2 Duke Dinsmore (CA), Schoof/Offenhauser
3 Duke Nalon (IL), Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser
4 Joie Chitwood (TX), Corley=Petillo/Offenhauser
5 Manny Ayulo (CA), Wiedell/Mercury
6 Johnny Byrne (IN), Johnston=Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser
FT Paul Russo (WI), Olson/Offenhauser, 42.85"

May 9, New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Trenton (NJ), 20 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 14'50.19"
2 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA), Hinnershitz/Offenhauser
3 Fred Carpenter (NY), Hoppe=Teter/Offenhauser
4 Emil Andres (IL), Campbell=O'Day/Offenhauser
5 Tommy Mattson (DE), Culp=Schrader/Offenhauser
6 Paul Handshew (PA), Shelley/Hal
FT Horn, 40.91"

May 29, Langhorne Speedway, Langhorne (PA), 20 miles
1 Mark Light (PA), Cracraft=Light/Offenhauser, 12'22.46"
2 Jimmy Gibbons (VA), Donleavy/Offenhauser
3 Fred Carpenter (NY), Hoppe=Teter/Offenhauser
4 Hank Rogers (NJ), Scopa/Offenhauser
5 Tommy Mattson (DE), Malamud/Offenhauser
6 n/a
FT Carpenter, 35.78"

May 31, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway (IN), 500 miles
1 Mauri Rose (OH), Moore/Offenhauser, 4:10'23.33"
2 Bill Holland (PA), Moore/Offenhauser
3 Duke Nalon (IL), Novi
4 Ted Horn (CA), Henning=Maserati
5 Mack Hellings (CA), Lee=Kurtis/Offenhauser
6 Hal Cole (CA), Cole=Kurtis/Offenhauser
FT Nalon, 4'33.55" (4 laps), 1'07.16" (1 lap)

June 6, Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis (WI), 100 miles
1 Emil Andres (IL), Tuffanelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser, 1:10'19.73"
2 Mack Hellings (CA), Lee=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser
4 Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser
5 Charley van Acker (IN), Redmer=Lyons/Offenhauser
6 Hal Cole (CA), Cole=Kurtis/Offenhauser
FT Johnny Mantz (CA), Agajanian=Kurtis/Offenhauser, 37.48"

June 20, Langhorne Speedway, Langhorne (PA), 100 miles
1 Walt Brown (NY), Walsh=Kurtis/Offenhauser, 1:06'55.66"
2 Mack Hellings (CA), Lee=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Emil Andres (IL), Tuffanelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser
4 Duane Carter (CA), Marchese/Offenhauser
5 George Connor (CA), Rassey=Miller/Offenhauser
6 Lee Wallard (NY), Lencki/Offenhauser
FT Tony Bettenhausen (IL), Belanger/Offenhauser, 33.844"

July 11, Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg (PA), 25 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 23'02.12"
2 Mark Light (PA), Cracraft=Light/Offenhauser
3 Fred Carpenter (NY), Hoppe=Teter/Offenhauser
4 Jackie Holmes (IN), Dreyer
5 Hank Rogers (NJ), Scopa/Offenhauser
6 Tommy Mattson (DE), Mattson/Offenhauser
FT Horn, 25.76"

July 18, Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis (WI), 25 miles
1 Tony Bettenhausen (IL), Belanger=Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser, 17'01.21"
2 Emil Andres (IL), Tuffanelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Jackie Holmes (IN), Dreyer
4 Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser
5 Johnny Mantz (CA), Agajanian=Kurtis/Offenhauser
6 Hal Cole (CA), Granatelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser
FT Mel Hansen (CA), Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser, 38.34"

August 10, Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis (WI), 25 miles
1 Rex Mays (CA), Cracraft=Light/Offenhauser, 16'36.65"
2 Dick Frazier (IN), n/a
3 Spider Webb (CA), Bromme/Offenhauser
4 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA), Hinnershitz/Offenhauser
5 Mel Hansen (CA), Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser
6 Tommy Mattson (DE), Mattson/Offenhauser
FT Mays, 38.72"

August 11, Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis (WI), 30 miles
1 Tommy Mattson (DE), Mattson/Offenhauser, 19'50.81"
2 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA), Hinnershitz/Offenhauser
3 Lee Wallard (NY), Iddings/Offenhauser
4 Rex Mays (CA), Cracraft=Light/Offenhauser
5 Bill Holland (PA), Malamud/Offenhauser
6 George Lynch (MI), Engle/Offenhauser
FT Mays, 37.31"

August 15, Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis (WI), 100 miles
1 Johnny Mantz (CA), Agajanian=Kurtis/Offenhauser, 1:10'19.08"
2 Emil Andres (IL), Tuffanelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser
4 Rex Mays (CA), Bowes
5 Lee Wallard (NY), Iddings/Offenhauser
6 Tony Bettenhausen (IL), Schoof/Offenhauser
FT Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser, 40.11"

August 21, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield (IL), 100 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 1:06'17.03"
2 Johnnie Parsons (CA), Walsh=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser
4 Rex Mays (CA), Bowes
5 Charley van Acker (IN), Redmer=Lyons/Offenhauser
6 Tony Bettenhausen (IL), Belanger=Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser
FT Fohr, 36.42"

August 29, Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis (WI), 200 miles
1 Myron Fohr (WI) [Tony Bettenhausen (IL)], Marchese/Offenhauser, 2:18'21.21"
2 Johnnie Parsons (CA), Walsh=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser
4 Teddy Duncan (NY), Corley=Petillo/Offenhauser
5 Bill Sheffler (CA), Sheffler/Offenhauser
6 Charley van Acker (IN), Redmer=Lyons/Offenhauser
FT Paul Russo (WI), Olson/Offenhauser, 38.10"

September 4, Du Quoin Fairgrounds, Du Quoin (IL), 100 miles
1 Lee Wallard (NY), Iddings/Offenhauser, 1:07'53.28"
2 Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser
3 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser
4 Charley van Acker (IN), Redmer=Lyons/Offenhauser
5 Bill Sheffler (CA), Sheffler/Offenhauser
6 Hal Robson (CA), Page/Offenhauser
FT Rex Mays (CA), Bowes, 36.01"

September 6, Lakewood Speedway, Atlanta (GA), 100 miles
1 Mel Hansen (CA), Carter=Moore/Offenhauser, 1:15'41"
2 Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser
3 Bill Sheffler (CA), Sheffler/Offenhauser
4 Hal Robson (CA), Page/Offenhauser
5 Emil Andres (IL), Corley=Petillo/Offenhauser
6 Johnny Byrne (IN), Johnston=Sparks-Weirick/Offenhauser
FT Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 39.19"

September 19, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield (IL), 100 miles
1 Myron Fohr (WI), Marchese/Offenhauser, 1:07'38.78"
2 Emil Andres (IL), Tuffanelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser
4 Bill Sheffler (CA), Sheffler/Offenhauser
5 George Connor (CA), Schoof/Offenhauser
6 Hal Robson (CA) [Lee Wallard (NY)], Iddings/Offenhauser
FT Wallard, 36.90"

October 3, New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Trenton (NJ), 20 miles
1 Ted Horn (CA), Horn/Offenhauser, 14'52.73"
2 Tommy Mattson (DE), Mattson/Offenhauser
3 Bill Holland (PA), Malamud/Offenhauser
4 Walt Brown (NY), Cracraft=Light/Offenhauser
5 Lee Wallard (NY), Iddings/Offenhauser
6 Hank Rogers (NJ), Scopa/Offenhauser
FT Horn, 40.13"

October 10, Du Quoin Fairgrounds, Du Quoin (IL), 100 miles
1 Johnnie Parsons (CA), Walsh=Kurtis/Offenhauser, 1:11'47.70"
2 Paul Russo (WI), Belanger/Offenhauser
3 Bill Sheffler (CA), Sheffler/Offenhauser
4 George Connor (CA) [Myron Fohr (WI)], Marchese/Offenhauser
5 Hal Cole (CA), Granatelli=Kurtis/Offenhauser
6 Eddie Zalucki (MI), Rassey=Miller/Offenhauser
FT Rex Mays (CA), Bowes, 36.67"

October 24, Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg (PA), 25 miles
1 Tommy Mattson (DE), Mattson/Offenhauser, 23'28.02"
2 Hank Rogers (NJ), Scopa/Offenhauser
3 Jackie Holmes (IN), Dreyer
4 Jimmy Gibbons (VA), Donleavy/Offenhauser
5 Tommy Hinnershitz (PA), Light=Cunningham/Offenhauser
6 Bill Holland (PA), Malamud/Offenhauser
FT Mattson, 25.49"

November 11, Arizona State Fairgrounds, Phoenix (AZ), 25 miles
1 Rex Mays (CA), Cracraft=Light/Offenhauser, 20'04.32"
2 Chick Barbo (WA), Cole=Kurtis/Offenhauser
3 Johnny McDowell (CA), Iddings/Offenhauser
4 Bill Sheffler (CA), Sheffler/Offenhauser
5 Kenny Palmer (CA), Agajanian/Offenhauser
6 Tex Petersen (CA), Morales/Offenhauser
FT Mays, 28.72"

Edited by Michael Ferner, 24 October 2012 - 00:51.

#55 Michael Ferner

Michael Ferner
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Posted 23 October 2012 - 20:00


In the June 2, 1949 issue of the National Road Traveler, a weekly US newspaper published in Cambridge City, Indiana, journalist Paul Seffrin, writing under the nome de plume "Sport Spotlite" published the following eyewitness account:

On a sunny October afternoon, 1948 - Friday, October 8, to be exact - time of day about 4:15 p.m., in an Indiana town of some 2,000 inhabitants, our drama unfolds.
National road (U.S.-40) is the busy thoroughfare of this town, especially crowded on Friday evening at this time, of shoppers and factory workers, commuting to their homes by auto for the weekend; increases the traffic flow on the already heavily traveled U.S.-40.
A lone traffic signal at the main intersection bears the load of halting vehicles, so scurrying pedestrians may cross the famous highway.
The signal flashes red; cars two abreast cringe to a stop. Green, the go signal, and cars let out a burst of speed - but one, a maroon 1948 Studebaker sedan, momentarily slows, the yellow-sport-shirted driver partially opens his door, violently extending his left arm in a waving, stopping motion; his buddy did likewise on the right side as the car halted at the intersection one square from the aforementioned traffic signal. All onrushing cars behind, stopped; some blasting horns in disgust. An elderly lady, laden with groceries, stood feebly in the middle of the street. She had been caught in the throes of heavy, fast-moving traffic. Her footing unsure, she had no choice - until the yellow-sport-shirted gentleman, half stepping from his halted car, motioned her to cross the street; and not until she stepped upon the curb and to safety did the yellow-sport-shirted driver get in his car, close the door and speed away, releasing a city square-length of automobiles.
Our story could end here - but it can't, for the small gold lettering on the maroon Studebaker read: "Ted Horn, Racing Enterprises." Yes, the driver of the car was Ted Horn. He was enroute to Duquoin, Illinois, where on the coming Sunday, Oct. 10, 1948, he met death in his race car when a front axle spindle broke.
Ladies and gentlemen, this display of respect and sportsmanship occured at the intersection of U.S.-40 (Main street) and Green street in Cambridge City, Ind. This writer knows of no finer sportsmanship than that shown by the all-time great race car driver, Ted Horn - may he rest in peace.

I thought this little article quite fitting, and touching in the context of this thread.