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Myron Fohr


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#1 sramoa

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Posted 24 September 2011 - 18:19

I looking for info for Myron Fohr.Interesting for me his career and possible a little bio.
I think he was a good driver in 40s years,but later he was lost-why?

Thanks

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#2 heidegger75

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 13:43

I looking for info for Myron Fohr.Interesting for me his career and possible a little bio.
I think he was a good driver in 40s years,but later he was lost-why?

Thanks


Fohr appears to have retired after an accident in a stock car race at the Milwaukee Mile in August 1951.

#3 racinggeek

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 19:03

I looking for info for Myron Fohr.Interesting for me his career and possible a little bio.
I think he was a good driver in 40s years,but later he was lost-why?

Thanks


The Great and Powerful Google can help some, I'd think. I know Fohr was a Milwaukee native and won some AAA Champ Car races at the Milwaukee Mile (before it was paved, I believe) and elsewhere. Got into the Indianapolis 500 on at least a couple of occasions and won a number of stock car races in that time. Without consulting my books, I'd think Fohr was in a car entered by the Marchese brothers, also from Milwaukee, for his Champ Car and other open-wheel races.

#4 ensign14

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 19:39

Seemed to have a very good career in the forties but dropped off very quickly - even before his 1951 accident.

#5 racinggeek

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 15:21

A few more specifics on Myron Fohr:

Had at least four rides at the Indianapolis 500, according to Jack Fox's "Illustrated History" of the race; qualified twice, in 1949-50, finishing fourth in '49 (this was before the Rookie of the Year award was instituted in 1952.)

Won four AAA Championship races, all on mile dirt tracks: Milwaukee and Springfield, Ill. in '48, Milwaukee and Trenton, N.J. (consecutive races) in '49. Finished second in championship points each of those years.

All the race wins and the two 500 races were in the Marchese-Offenhauser entered by the Marchese Bros. of Milwaukee. (I'd actually be interested to know more about the chassis and if it was a heavily modified version of something else, as the brothers had entered "Marchese" cars before the war.) This and the above paragraph are sourced from Messrs. Printz and McMaken's history of champ car racing through 1955 from the 1980 CART Yearbook.

Other sources have indicated Fohr was quite good in stock cars, especially at his home track at the MKE Mile, but I haven't found specific results yet.

That said, Donald Davidson once told me Fohr was a very good racer who is underrated today, if that tells you anything. HIs short time career in champ cars might have something to do with it.



#6 john glenn printz

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 17:17

There is much material about Myron Fohr on the thread the "1948 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP". Fohr began his racing career by piloting "big-cars" in 1931 or 1932. See especially our post submitted there on April 21, 2010.

The chassis, in question, was originally designed and constructed in 1938 by Tudy Marchese and featured a tubular frame and torsion bars for the suspension. It was a very advanced and novel design for its day. Harry McQuinn first drove it at Speedway in 1938. It finished 7th, after starting 25th that year. Paul Russo had it as his ride for the 1941 500. Paul started 18th and placed 9th with it in 1941. Tony Bettenhausen successfully qualified it at Indy in 1946, but the vehicle was withdrawn from the race lineup, because of a broken crankshaft. The history of the car for 1946-1948 is contained in our comments posted on the 1946, 1947 and 1948 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP threads. The car was used at the Speedway by Fohr in both 1949 and 1950, but was assigned to Chuck Stevenson for the 1951 "500". This vehicle changed its appearance over the years because it was constantly being altered and upgraded. The car survived, was restored, and sold by RM Auctions in 2007 or 2008.

For info on the three Marchese brothers try the January 14, 2007 posting on the thread 1946 AAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. I myself met Tom and Carl and had a good conversation with Carl, but never met Tudy or Myron Fohr. Carl drove at the Speedway in 1929 and finished 4th without any relief. It was Carl's only try at the 500. Carl told me that he wanted to come back but was broke, and couldn't afford a new car, which was required by the new 1930, 366 cubic inch limit, no supercharger Indianapolis rules. And further the family was against his racing.

Fohr made his first AAA Championship start in the Milwaukee 100 of June 8, 1947 and his very last at the Milwaukee 200 staged August 27, 1950. In 1951 Myron was at Indianapolis and Milwaukee for the June run 100, but he didn't made the starting lineup in either case.

The Marchese brothers are also responsible for the Milwaukee mile switching from being a dirt track to a paved oval. This change took place between the 1953 and 1954 seasons. From 1938 to 1953 all the AAA Championship races, except for Indianapolis, were held on dirt tracks, with only three exceptions. The first two exceptions were the Darlington, SC 200 run on December 10, 1950 won by Johnnie Parsons in Paul Russo's famous "Basement Bessie" (Offenhauser/Nichels); and a Darlington 250 miler, held on July 4, 1951, won by Walt Faulker in an Offenhauser/Kuzma. The third exception was the Raleigh 200 held on July 4, 1952. The winner here was Troy Ruttman in a Offenhauser/Kuzma. The Raleigh, NC paved oval was 1 mile in size and its July 4, 1952 contest was the only Championship event ever staged on it.

Data on topics such as these are now, largely unrecoverable, but I have set down everything I know about them, which isn't much. Michael Ferner, I would guess, can probably add much, much more.

For statistics on Fohr's racing career 1947 to 1951 go to: "http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/ ".

Sincerely, J.G. Printz and Ken McMaken

Edited by john glenn printz, 06 November 2012 - 18:21.


#7 sramoa

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 19:47

Yes help for me the Google and Champcarstats and ultimateracinghistory sites,but I didn't find when started his career and I saw some old articles, he raced in pre-war times for big cars and midgets but don't have more infos.

#8 Michael Ferner

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 17:58

I refrained from posting on this thread for fear of Bob Riebe coming after me... :lol: Now with the new sub forum, maybe I'll escape his wrath? :drunk:

First off, I generally like to agree with Donald Davidson, because he's certainly a man of great wisdom and knowledge, but in this case I have to disagree: in my humble opinion, Myron Fohr is not an underrated driver today. He was second in the National Championship in both 1948 and 1949, it's true, but the salient point here is that he drove for an A1 team in those years, which perhaps flattered his reputation. And perhaps this thread should really be about the Marchese brothers from Milwaukee, and not that stocky fellow from Wauwatosa.

Milwaukee is probably best known for its German heritage, and the whole area in the North Central United States has always been a natural new home for Scandinavian immigrants, but a surprisingly large number of Italians settled in the rough climate of this region in the early 20th century, and in Milwaukee they managed to "take over" a whole downtown community, known as the "Third Ward". "Tom" Marchese (whose real name was probably Tommaso) was actually born in Sicily in the last years of the 19th century, and arrived in Ellis Island on November 1 in 1904, together with his mother, two brothers and a sister, to join his father who had emigrated two years earlier. Two more Marchese boys were born in the US, "Carl" (Carlo?) and "Tudy" (Salvatore), and together with Tom they formed the "Marchese Brothers Garage", located in a building that housed the construction and excavating business of the two oldest brothers, "Joe" (Giosue?) and "Tony" (Antonio?) - always one big famiglia!

It didn't take long for the brothers to find out that regular auto races were being staged at the Wisconsin State Fair Park a few miles west of the "Third Ward", and also at Janesville, Cedarburg, Sheboygan, Plymouth or elsewhere in the area, and that "hot" Ford engine conversions were to be had at Racine, just a few miles south of Milwaukee, courtesy of Joe Jagerberger's Rajo shop. By 1924, young Carl (still in his teens) began racing a #5 Rajo, and within weeks he established a track record at De Pere, near Green Bay and the Canadian border. Two years later, Carl imported a new Gallivan job from Illinois, and Tudy took over the Rajo, and both became househeld names in the local scene.

Speaking of which, because of its geographical location, Milwaukee and Wisconsin remained almost totally isolated from the rest of the nation's racing for many years, largely because of a rich and prosperous racing scene in Chicago, barely a hundred miles to the south. Every now and then, the IMCA travelling "circus" paid a visit to the State Fair Park or one of the smaller tracks in the vicinity, but throughout the twenties racing in Wisconsin was dominated by names like Stag Nowicki, Artie Brach or Russ Trudell, drivers who never raced anywhere else, except maybe for a fruitless attempt or two to break into the Chicago ranks. Sometimes, Chicago drivers would travel north to make hay, but rarely did anyone come from points further south - with its many tracks and weekly races, Chicago served as a sort of barrier! The result was a sort of inbred situation, with local clubs such as the Wisconsin Race Drivers Assoc., or the Lake Shore Racing Assoc. fighting it out amongst themselves. Things began to change by the late twenties, with drivers such as Frank Brisko, Johnny Sawyer or George Young beginning to gain national prestige. And right on their heels came the Marcheses, especially Carl, now that he was tooling a Miller!

The brothers actually owned at least two Millers, possibly three, but the one Carl entered for the 1929 Indy 500 had a storied and very colourful history. It was one of the first batch of single seaters built by the famous company, back in 1923, and originally entered as a "works spare" for that year's Indy grind. Purchased at the eleventh hour by Cliff Durant for his new signing, veteran driver Earl Cooper who was staging a comeback, it almost immediately became a "stepchild" by the even later acquisition of yet another new Miller by Cooper's erstwhile employer during the heyday of his career, Harry Stutz, with the intention of turning over this new car to his former star driver! Cooper then tried to wiggle himself out of his contractual obligations to Durant by recommending another oldtimer, Howdy Wilcox to drive the "stepchild", to which Cliff replied that if Wilcox was good enough to replace Cooper in the Durant team, why didn't Earl let him drive his own, Stutz-sponsored car? And so it happened, with Cooper listlessly qualifying and taking the start in the "stepchild", quite obviously hoping to abandon the car soon enough to be able to take over his own car from Wilcox - in fact, Earl stopped at the Durant pits after one single lap (!), complaining about carburetion problems!! Local hero Tom Alley then stepped in, only to wreck the "stepchild" comprehensively twenty laps later, while Cooper's plan fell apart when Wilcox retired soon after, and so he took over another Durant team car to finish fourth, and henceforth drive his own car.

With Cooper gone and Alley injured, Durant was only too happy to dispose of the wrecked "stepchild", to a Kansas City businessman who was involved with the Kansas City Speedway, scene of the next National Championship race. Under the watchful eyes of its new owner, George L. Wade, the "stepchild" was now being rebuilt with a distinctive radiator grille (which makes it easy to track for the historian  ;)) for its new driver, Harlan Fengler, only for Cliff Durant to once again claim contractual obligations, and Ralph de Palma taking the job instead, leading a few laps of the KCMO race before a connecting rod went haywire. Luckily, there was now a two-month break in the season, and Wade, Fengler and Durant had time to sort their problems, and with that the poor "stepchild" finally found a steady driver, and won more than $10,000 for its owner before the season was out - unfortunately, though, Wade didn't survive to count the money, as he was run over in a bizarre accident by Fengler's former mentor, Harry Hartz! And to add to its sorrows, Fengler crashed the poor car in practice for the 1924 Indy 500, shortly after running its winnings over the $20,000 mark - once again, both driver and car needed mending, only this time it was worse: although it wasn't obvious at the time, their frontline days were numbered, with Fengler retiring a little later due to complications from his injuries, and the "stepchild" soon being demoted to "outlaw" racing on dirt tracks, while its brethren still chased the gold on the boards and bricks!

Actually, the "big time" wasn't over entirely for the "stepchild", as an ambitious young man from Indianapolis borrowed the car for an attempt to fulfill his dream of running at the big Speedway in his hometown. His name was Herbert Jones, and he should have been more careful in selecting his steed: true to its Indy form so far, the "stepchild" caused all sorts of problems for Jones and his relief driver (none other than a young Alfred Moss!), catching fire during a pit stop and going out in yet another rendez-vous with the unforgiving Speedway walls. So it was back to the "outlaw" dirt tracks for the "stepchild", where it apparently served as an introduction to Miller power for no fewer than two future Indy winners: Wilbur Shaw and Billy Arnold! It was tried at Indy one more time, by another "outlaw" hoping to find gold at the Speedway, but retired with transmission failure, after which it reportedly sat rejected in a garage in the Chicago area for two years before Carl Marchese picked it up, to add another chapter to its wondrous career:

When Carl entered the car in the 1929 500 mile sweepstakes, the Milwaukee newspapers were enthusiastic, naturally, about one of their own finally getting his deserved break in the "big time" - but so were the Pittsburgh papers about Bill Lindau, the New England papers about Henry Turgeon or the Indianapolis papers about Frank Sweigert! What all these drivers had in common was that they were local aces, with not much experience in running far from home, and thus little chance to accurately judge their own ability. Carl Marchese was no different, in that for all his wins at the State Fair Park or other Wisconsin tracks, he was a blank sheet of paper anyplace where you couldn't feel the breeze blowing in from Lake Michigan. And, to make matters worse, he was driving the oldest car in the field, a relic from an expired formula, and a notorious "jinx ride" to boot! Carl qualified at a so-and-so speed, barely fast enough to make the start, then stayed out of trouble in the race to climb into the top ten by quarter distance, top six at halftime, and but for a late spurt by Jimmy Gleason he would've finished third at the end - the racing world was agog! Ably assisted by his swiftly working brothers in the pits (only the winner spent less time immobile), Carl had really managed to break into the "big time", and the "stepchild" had finally come good at Indianapolis, having participated in the great race for the fourth time, but only ever in odd years - it truely was an odd racing car...

Edited by Michael Ferner, 05 October 2011 - 08:51.


#9 Michael Ferner

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 10:13

Shortly after that big success, Tom Marchese went into the race promoting business, at Milwaukee's State Fair Park, naturalmente. Tom had always been the strategic mind behind the racing of his brothers, never taking to the wheel himself. While Carl was the energetic, perhaps even driven character who made things possible by sheer will power, and Tudy the prodigy, perhaps more talented than Carl but possibly a bit phlegmatic, Tom was a born mover and shaker, and by common consent left the biggest mark on the sport by the three brothers - so far he's the only Marchese to have made it into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. On July 21 in 1929, seven weeks after Indy, Tom presented his first programme with Carl as a headliner. The day was adjudged a great success, despite the fact that Carl finished "only" second to Gus Schrader, and Fritz Benes crashed with ultimately fatal results. Tom was now firmly set on a new career.

Marchese realized the importance of getting AAA sanctions for the track, and beginning in 1933, the State Fair Park became the mainstay of the AAA Midwestern Big Car Circuit, with Indy 500 drivers appearing on a regular basis. Later, he added a Midget track to the infield, and staged weekly programmes for the little "doodlebugs", then added Touring Car races on both tracks after the war. Slowly, but surely, Milwaukee eclipsed Chicago as the racing centre for the area, and even if other promoters, like Grover Horn, Mike Popp or Ralph Hankinson played their part as well, Tom Marchese made the big difference. His success in the postwar years was spectacular, and he was several times voted "Promoter of the Year", regularly offering the biggest purses outside of Speedway, Indiana. He also led the move to racing on paved surfaces, when he covered the Milwaukee Mile with tarmac in late 1953. Up until then, Indianapolis was usually the only paved track on the National Championship schedule - within another decade, the dirt track became the exception, rather than the rule.

On the other side of the coin, Carl Marchese didn't have much time to cherish his Indy success, as he was seriously injured in an accident less than three months later, which ended his career as a driver. Tudy stopped racing, too, although he would "unretire" several times in the future, mainly to drive Midgets. The brothers now concentrated on their successful team, Marchese Bros., which ran Big Cars through the 1933 season for drivers such as Sig Haugdahl, Gus Schrader, Johnny Sawyer, Tony Willman and... Myron Fohr! After showing some promise in a Frontenac, the 21-year-old Big Car "rookie" was invited to drive the Marchese Bros. Miller at the 1933 State Fair races in August, subbing for Willman who had jumped to the Bagley/Cragar team. Fohr finished second to Sam Palmer in a 5-mile heat for eight points, and sixth in the 25-mile feature (behind Chet Gardner, Willman, Palmer, Bill Cummings and Mauri Rose) for five more to end the season 34th in Midwestern AAA points. Fohr would continue to drive the Big Cars at State Fair Park and other area tracks, like Roby Speedway or the Cook County Fairgrounds in Chicago, right up until WW2, with two more 6th place finishes on his home track in 40- and 50-milers, respectively, as highlights, and an average championship position of 24, give or take a few. Not really the performance of a champion, but still a respectable career for a driver of mostly "Class B" cars, such as the Shermeister/Chrysler out of Sheboygan. In 1940, Fohr was entered in a Schoof/Offenhauser for the National Championship 100-miler at State Fair Park, but the event was rained off.

So, how come Fohr was even considered for a ride in an "A1 car", and how did the Marcheses make it to the top? After 1933, the brothers concentrated on the newfangled Midgets for a while, where they were hugely successful with some ingeniously engineered cars. Five years later, they were back at Indy with a revolutionary concept: sporting a chisel-shaped nose, side radiators and torsion bars, their new car resembled nothing so much as a front-engined version of a Lotus 72! And if that wasn't already enough to rock the establishment, it also featured a tube-frame chassis, easily ten years ahead of its time. Money was tight, however, and many components of the old Millers had to be reused, including the now ancient engine. The car was perhaps a little too complex for its time, and in five tries it made the starting field only twice, but in those two races it finished 7th and 9th, respectively, and also qualified 5th fastest in one year, in addition to which it also captured two heat races in dirt track competition - at Milwaukee, of course!

Speaking of the State Fair Park track: when the Contest Board suspended all activities due to the war, Tom Marchese stepped down as a promoter to keep in good standing with the AAA, and the State Fair Park board leased out the mile to Ralph Hankinson for a CSRA sanction in 1942, and after hostilities ceased to Al Sweeney for a number of IMCA programmes, including the prestigious State Fair events. In September of 1946, however, Tom was back, armed (with an exclusive contract) and dangerous! His first promotion was a National Championship 100-miler and a rousing success, with a record crowd (for a still date) of 25,671 despite a very short field. Licking blood, Tom immediately drew plans for an even greater success story at the historic site, and got his brothers involved to support his vision. Perhaps reluctantly, Carl and Tudy had to admit that their Indy Car had been a failure, and to make it a contender in Tom's races at the State Fair Park dirt track, they completely rebuilt the vehicle along conventional lines, and ordered a brand new Offenhauser engine to replace the outdated Miller plant in early 1947. A local driver would now be the icing on the cake, to put as many patrons as possible into Tom's spacious grandstands, but who was available?

Tony Willman, unquestionably the greatest driver to come from the Badger state until the arrival of Tom Bigelow several years into the future, had sadly perished in a Midget crash just before the war, and of the other old pros, Johnny Sawyer had long since retired, and Frank Brisko was nearing the big Five-Oh and busy running his own team. Paul Russo, the surviving member of the racing family from Kenosha, halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, although still young enough and promising, had always gravitated towards the Windy City and was about to move there permanently. Lyle Christie? Frank Burany? Lutz Rathke? You might as well go with Myron Fohr... And so it happened, that the experienced but only modestly successful Fohr got the ride in the "new" Marchese/Offenhauser, and to his credit he did very well. Unfortunately, the car was not ready to run at Indianapolis that year, and barely finished a week or so later for Tom's first Milwaukee programme in front of 34,788 (!!) spectators, but the team made all five of the Milwaukee shows and finished 3rd, 4th, 7th and 9th with one retirement, then went to Springfield (IL) for a fall still date and finished 7th once more, overall good enough for 28th in National and 15th in Midwestern points - a solid foundation.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 12 October 2011 - 16:28.


#10 Michael Ferner

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 20:11

The 1948 season began inauspiciously enough, when Fohr was bumped from the Indy 500 field on the eve of the race, but on home ground he made good with a strong run to 4th, only 3.4" behind the 2nd place finisher, despite a pit stop for new rubber. At Langhorne, a fortnight later, Myron only just qualified for the main event, then had to withdraw after collecting some of the track's surface in his eyes - substitute driver Duane Carter finished 4th. Next was a 25-mile still date at State Fair Park, and another 4th place finish plus a heat win. The up-and-down pattern continued with a bad start to State Fair week, when Fohr was hit by a big chunk of a bursting tyre from Tony Bettenhausen's car which broke his goggles and split the helmet (!), leaving a profusely bleeding gash on his forehead. The next day he dropped out with a faulty fuel pressure pump, then on Sunday he took pole position for the hundred-miler and led the first 27 laps, stopped for fresh rubber and stormed back into 3rd 23 laps from the finish, running ahead of eventual winner Johnny Mantz, but yet another stop for tyres dropped him to 7th. A short interlude at the Illinois State Fair produced another pole, and a 3rd place finish, then it was back to State Fair Park for the big 200-miler, a Tom Marchese innovation, with a purse of more than $25,000, unheard of since the days of the board tracks except for Indy and the Vanderbilt races, and an all-time record for a dirt track race.

Fohr qualified 3rd, followed Ted Horn past pole sitter Paul Russo on the first turn, then pushed into the lead on lap 7, but five laps later he began to fade. By lap 111, he needed relief, and Tony Bettenhausen, out of the race early in his Sparks-Thorne, took over to find himself in the lead when Johnny Mantz crashed out at two-thirds distance. Twenty-two laps from the finish, Tony headed for the pits and fresh rubber, with Fohr retaking his place and rejoining the race second, just a few ticks of the clock behind rookie driver Johnnie Parsons who was tiring fast, unable to resist the combination of fresh driver and new tyres on the Marchese/Offy. Ten laps from home, Fohr regained the lead and ran out an easy winner, thus pushing from 10th into 6th place in the points hunt, but leader Ted Horn was already out of reach. Interestingly, none of the four drivers between Horn and Fohr in the standings had competed here at Milwaukee, and in fact, none of them would compete in any of the five remaining races due to semi-retirement or injury. Not to take anything away from Fohr, but he now had a virtually free road to runner-up honours ahead of him without ever having so much as started in any National Championship contest (or any Big Car race since way back in the thirties!) outside of Milwaukee or Springfield - amazing!

Much to his credit again, Myron didn't squander his chances, and by the end of the year he had doubled the number of ticks on his list of "Tracks where I have raced", coming second at both the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois and Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway deep in the South, then taking the lead late in another Springfield still date 100-miler when Mel Hansen dropped out in the Lencki/Offenhauser, to score his second National Championship win. It was back again to Du Quoin, for the tragic race that took Ted Horn, and Fohr managed to qualify in the top five for the fourth time that year, but ended his race on lap 45 with an intact car, which George Connor then took over to finish 4th. As the only multiple winner on the circuit beside Horn, and second only to Horn in top three and top six finishes, Myron Fohr duly finished runner-up in the National Championship points, a fine performance. Yes, he had been lucky in that most of the regular stars didn't compete in many races in 1948, or experienced an undue amount of bad luck as in the case of Rex Mays, and most of his top results had been helped by faster cars dropping out, but "racing luck" (good or bad) is part of the game. Still, his placing has all the rings of a freak result.

A bit of perspective may be gleaned from the fact that the Marchese/Offenhauser, the car he drove in all of the races, scored more points than any other car on the circuit, including the Horn/Offenhauser of the runaway champion. Duane Carter, Tony Bettenhausen and George Connor, his substitute drivers on three occasions, all did very well in the Marchese car, without the benefit of much track time. Also, the fact remains that, apart from his run at Atlanta in a very short field, Fohr had effectively never raced on any track outside of Wisconsin and Illinois so far - the Roby Speedway in Indiana, where he had competed several times in the thirties, was literally located within a stone's throw of the Illinois stateline. A bit like someone who has only ever raced at Brands Hatch and Silverstone, with an occasional start in Scotland or Ireland, and one single event somewhere in Spain or Sicily where nobody else wants to go because it's {a} far away, {b} the track is in lousy shape and {c} the championship fight is already over anyway. If that person winds up second in a European Championship, is that a stroke of good luck, or does he deserve more recognition than his results suggest, i.e. he's "underrated"?

But let's be fair to good ole Myron, he "did it again" the very next year, this time running on ten different tracks in eight states as far away as Texas, New Jersey and California. He also made the '500' field this time, qualifying a strong 3rd and finishing a competitive 4th, besides winning another couple of dirt track races, both very much from the front and one even a "flag-to-flag" on a track he'd never seen before. Leading the National Championship for a while, he was quite convincingly beaten, eventually, but his runner-up position was strong this time, and thoroughly deserved. He was certainly aided in his success by exclusively driving the Marchese/Offenhauser again, but by 1949, several other, much newer tube-frame cars had appeared on the scene, including the striking Kurtis/Offenhauser of the new National Champion, Johnnie Parsons, a winner in five dirt track races. Speaking of Parsons, a "new breed" of racing driver had also made its presence felt, that of the (mostly) post-war generation, schooled in incredibly intense Midget and Track Roadster competiton on the West Coast and elsewhere. The "old guard", epitomized by the legendary Ted Horn, Rex Mays and others, including Fohr, was vanishing fast from the scene, either by death or by failure to keep up with the youthful exuberance of drivers like Parsons, Johnny Mantz or, most of all, Troy Ruttman.

Another youngster to come up the California way was Chuck Stevenson, and he "impressed" Tom Marchese and his brothers once during a Milwaukee Midget race by taking out the "house driver", Cowboy O'Rourke. Instead of berating him, they offered Stevenson seat time in their Champ Car when Myron Fohr called in sick before a Springfield still date in late 1949. Nothing loath, the Californian promptly finished 4th in the 100-miler, proving again that with a car like the Marchese/Offy, running at the sharp end of the filed was compulsory if you had what it takes. Fohr finished out the season for the team, but it was clear that from now on, he was driving on borrowed time. When Myron failed to qualify for the first Rex Mays Memorial at Milwaukee the following June, coming on the heels of a rather unimpressive month of May, he was unceremoniously sacked, and Stevenson delighted the Italian brothers by finishing 3rd and then 2nd in the next two races for them. Later that summer, Tony Bettenhausen quit the successful Belanger team for a short period, and Stevenson was invited to fill the void, giving Fohr a brief respite, but another DNQ at Springfield and a leg cramp early during the Milwaukee 200-miler sealed his fate. When Bettenahusen and Belanger reconciled, Stevenson was back in the Marchese, and for good - Fohr was out in the cold. His Big Car career petered out with a couple of DNQs for different teams the next year, and that was that. The "old guard" had become surplus to requirements.

In the final analysis, the Marchese brothers might have done as well or even better during 1948 and '49 with a "hot shoe" like Chuck Stevenson behind the wheel, but Myron Fohr's efforts shouldn't be regarded lightly. He may have come by his runner-up spot serendipitously in the first year, but in the latter he was a real contender and did all that could be expected of him. Overall, he was a fine dirt track driver, and a more than competent Indy pilot. Outside of the Big Cars, he did well in the Midgets and Touring Cars, without being outstanding. Is he "underrated" today? Well, let's look at it this way: when a driver comes second in a major championship two years in a row, I for one first think of Jacky Ickx, who was runner-up in the World Championship for Drivers in 1969 and '70. Ickx was well beaten both years by the respective champion driver, but also a multiple race winner and genuine front runner, and the same goes for the years preceding and following his best placings. Even forgetting about his F2 and Sports Car success, he is fondly remembered by the "F1 community" as one of the stars of his era. Is he "underrated" today? Maybe, maybe not. But, going by my definition of "underrated", i.e. does he deserve more recognition than his results suggest, I would say: no. Myron Fohr left far less of an impression in the Champ Car stats, and in his day he was certainly not considered a "hot property" like Bill Holland or the aforementioned Troy Ruttman, for example, both National Championship runner-up for just one single time. Of course, both Holland and Ruttman made it into the one victory circle that really counts, unlike Fohr, so they hardly run the risk of being forgotten, but Myron Fohr's name is engraved in the annals of the sport with four championship race wins (incidentally, more than both Holland and Ruttman) and two seconds in points, and that's all he can ever have hoped for, realistically. Underrated? I don't think so.

Edited by Michael Ferner, 07 October 2011 - 20:53.


#11 racinggeek

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 00:39

OK, OK, I give! UNCLE!! UNCLE!! :)

I definitely agree with the comment in the first post that the Marcheses are worth a story in themselves. Fascinating read on both them and Myron.

BTW, how long did the Marcheses promote the Mile? (Or am I starting up a totally new thread here for a promoter's timeline at Milwaukee, which I only know since the Giuffres came in?)

#12 Michael Ferner

Michael Ferner
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  • 2,332 posts
  • Joined: November 09

Posted 12 October 2011 - 16:44

DAMMIT! And I thought I had covered EVERYTHING... :lol:

Tom Marchese was promoting the Milwaukee events through his company, Wisconsin Auto Racing Assoc., Inc. (WARA), established some time in the early thirties. He sold WARA to John Kaishian in 1967, but remained as president of the company until 1976. The Giuffre Bros., I believe, had several stints as State Fair Park promoters, but I'd need to nose around a little for confirmation...