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Langhorne Speedway


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#1 HistoricMustang

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 20:10

Search did not locate as a thread so lets document this very unique track starting with some very nice photographs here:

http://forum.rscnet....ight=usac patch

http://www.racing-re...o/tracks?id=121

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Henry :wave:

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#2 Cris

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Posted 27 June 2007 - 23:41

In 1995 I had the honor of meeting Tommy Hinnershitz who was soft-spoken and kind and not at all what I would expect someone who raced there to be like. Mario, on the other hand...his personality seems hewn from successes at such unique track. Given everything I've read about Langhorne it's hard to believe a place that dangerous could exist in the 20th century. It's too bad isn't more well-known globally, or, for that matter, that dirt/sprint racing isn't regarded on the same level as forms of motorsport. The drivers that ran well there should be seen as the equals of the best that drove anywhere at any time.

Cris

#3 helioseism

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 03:36

There is supposedly a book being written about Langhorne, with the title "Langhorne! No Man's Land", by L. Spencer Riggs. However, it is at least two years since I saw the first announcement. Anyone know the status of this project? The Web site is here.

#4 275 GTB-4

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 04:38

Ohhh wee....anyone know what sort of corner speeds were achieved??

(its all corner, but I suppose some parts could be banked more than others)

#5 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 28 June 2007 - 09:23

If you check out the British Pathe newsreel site there are a couple of free downloads(and some still photos) that show the track and one of the longest, maddest crashes you have ever seen - seems to last several laps...
http://www.britishpa...ar pennsylvania

Crazy place. If you can find the book DUSTY HEROES a chapter is devoted to the place and it's significance USAC racing during the 50s and 60s. Apparently all sign of it it was obliterated by a 1970s shopping mall development.

#6 Updraught

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 00:18

The first race I attended was an Indy Car race at Langhorne in 1967. In those days, Langhorne paved was thought of as too fast, but the old (I was 12!) racers said that the track was much more difficult to drive when it had been dirt. My father drove a midget at Langhorne in the late 40's when the track was dirt, and said that one race at Langhorne was likely one too many!

#7 taylov

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 11:09

Langhorne programs from 1950 have a great aerial photograph of the original track on the front cover. Later programs from the 1960s also carry similar updated photos.

The small track opposite the "grandstand" visible in the photo posted by HistoricMustang was for Quarter Midget racing and the "road" which transected the infield became a dragstrip with a new return road.

By 1961, three sides of the track were hemmed in by housing development. Some of the houses on the "backstretch" were just feet from the track's outer fence. These houses could be reached via Woodbourne Road which ran behind "turns 3 and 4" or off a new road which ran off US Route One just behind the grandstands.

The paving of the track for the 1965 season also made changes to the shape of the track by installing short straights. The track also gained named corners and straights in 1965 - "Turn 2" became "Sachs Curve"; the new backstretch was "Marshman Straight", then "Thomson corner" (named after the late Johnny Thomson) and the long radius past the start finish was to be known as "Bryan's bend". These track names were detailed in the program for the 100 mile race on 20 June 1965 but their use seems to have been shortlived.

The paving of the track of course led to a rise in lap speeds, but the increase was not as dramatic as one might imagine, showing just how quick the dirt cars were. Don Branson's one lap record on dirt had stood since 1960 at 113.996 mph and Mario Andretti's new record in the Dean Van Lines Speccial in June 1965 was 118.187 mph. The real increase in speeds came later and by 1969 the record stood again to Mario, this time in the STP Oil Treatment Special, at 128.264 mph - a lap time of just 28.067 seconds.

#8 fines

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 15:33

The small circuit was "Yellow Jacket Speedway", and not only for TQs but for "full" midgets as well. I believe it was a quarter mile, maybe a 1/5.

But what really got my attention is...

Originally posted by Cris
(snip) Mario, on the other hand...his personality seems hewn from successes at such unique track. (snip)


Say what? Andretti, you mean? What did he achieve at Langhorne, I mean the 'real' Langhorne, not the paved one - that one wasn't really special. Don't get me wrong, anyone moving a big brute around the Horne deserves admiration, and Mario qualified and raced a Champ Car there (ironically wrenched by Tommy H.), full marks for that! But for a "personality hewn from success at such a circuit", his 8th or 9th place there pales in comparison to the deeds of Johnny Hannon, Duke Nalon, Mike Nazaruk or Johnny Thomson - those (and a few others) were the real Langhorne personalities!

#9 taylov

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 17:38

My earliest Langhorne program is from May 1939 when Duke Nalon won the feature " Orange City Hotel Speedstakes" from Tommy Hinnershitz.

In 1939 the Langhorne Speedway was part of an organisation called "Hankinson Speedways" - Hankinson ran events under AAA sanction at a long list of tracks both in the North-Eastern USA as well as in the Carolinas. The tracks at Trenton, Williams Grove and Reading were included in the Hankinson schedule for 1939.

Can anyone provide any information on Hankinson. By 1946 Langhorne was promoted as "Babcock's Langhorne Speedway"

#10 bradbury west

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 17:53

Nigel Roebuck has always been a very strong enthusiast for the skills needed to race on the old Langhorne, probably something to do with his reverence for M Andretti. Pity NSR does not join this thread/forum. He always bought the videos of the old races IIRC when he was States-side.

Roger Lund

#11 Lotus23

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Posted 01 July 2007 - 23:42

Henry, while I never attended a race at Langhorne, I did talk to an old-timer who'd run a sprint car on the dirt there. He was a tough old buzzard, but said that the place put the fear of God in him.

According to Allan E. Brown in The History of America's Speedways, it ran from 1926 to 1971; originally dirt, it was paved in late '64/early '65 and "is now [1994] a shopping center".

The name always makes me think of "Puke Hollow" and of Mike Nazaruk and Jimmy Bryan, both of whom lost their lives there.

Joel

#12 HistoricMustang

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Posted 03 July 2007 - 20:06

Originally posted by Lotus23
Henry, while I never attended a race at Langhorne, I did talk to an old-timer who'd run a sprint car on the dirt there. He was a tough old buzzard, but said that the place put the fear of God in him.

According to Allan E. Brown in The History of America's Speedways, it ran from 1926 to 1971; originally dirt, it was paved in late '64/early '65 and "is now [1994] a shopping center".

The name always makes me think of "Puke Hollow" and of Mike Nazaruk and Jimmy Bryan, both of whom lost their lives there.

Joel


Joel,
"Puke Hollow" reminded me of a section on the local road circuit.

Believe you have been through there on numerous occasions in the Lotus23. Care to tell us about the experience?

Henry

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#13 Lotus23

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 01:58

Langhorne's "Puke Hollow" was an integral part of the track.

AIR's "Alligator Hollow" -- while considerably deeper and wetter -- required a short off-track excursion. Fortunately, it was not as lethal as its Pennsylvania counterpart.

While I think of it, West Palm Beach (now Moroso) featured several huge water-filled ditches with the potential to drown the overenthusiastic chauffeur. In the mid-'60s, I ended a long-and-lurid 180 teetering on the edge of one of those ditches; another coupla feet and the Lotus would've been a submersible.

Safety features taken for granted today (such as barriers 'twixt track and water) were unheard of 40-odd years ago. I sometimes marvel that anyone survived back then.

#14 Manfred Cubenoggin

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Posted 04 July 2007 - 23:15

Know what you mean, Lotus 23. I took in an AFFA pro race at West Palm Beach in February, 1979, and unless my memory is very faulty, they had a scuba guy on duty at the end of the back straight. As it so happened, I crashed out of qualifying in the last corner...but didn't get wet. :)

#15 HistoricMustang

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 00:01

Ah Moroso................and the left hander after counter race on the drag strip run off. One of my most scarest moments at speed.

Also, was advised by the locals that the road race section of the circuit was constructed by a "highway crew", hence the "crown" on the surface which really plays with the racing abilities.

Henry

#16 Manfred Cubenoggin

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 23:32

Hi, Henry! :)

Yea, that was wild gong thru the esses near the end of the lap at Moroso. Even in my piddly little FF at maybe 125 mph, it was exciting! And rough and bumpy! That took me totally by surprise. Hailing from the Toronto area, I was expecting a billiard-table smooth course...ie, no frost heaves at those latitudes...but the braking zones were a nightmare washboard. I can only put that down to big, heavy brutes or really quick formula cars with ultra sticky tires rolling up the pavement in the hot Sun.

#17 fines

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 14:19

Originally posted by taylov
My earliest Langhorne program is from May 1939 when Duke Nalon won the feature " Orange City Hotel Speedstakes" from Tommy Hinnershitz.

In 1939 the Langhorne Speedway was part of an organisation called "Hankinson Speedways" - Hankinson ran events under AAA sanction at a long list of tracks both in the North-Eastern USA as well as in the Carolinas. The tracks at Trenton, Williams Grove and Reading were included in the Hankinson schedule for 1939.

Can anyone provide any information on Hankinson. By 1946 Langhorne was promoted as "Babcock's Langhorne Speedway"

Ralph Hankinson was THE major racing promoter in pre-WW2 USofA. He started out in the teens, and in 1924 (I think) he became the promoter of the Reading (PA) Fairgounds, one of the best and most used halfmiles in the East. Eventually, he promoted races all over the East and some in the Midwest as well. His position was such, that when Eddie Rickenbacker lured his "circuit" into AAA in 1927, it virtually deleted the IMCA in the East, and was the start of major AAA involvement in dirt track racing.

"Pappy" Hankinson was well aware of his powerful position, and often used it to his advantage. In 1941, when the AAA Contest Board faced down his threats to "pull" his circuit on a minor matter, Hankinson eventually did just that: he pulled his entire circuit out from under AAA and lined up with the CSRA: it was a major power shift in American Racing!

When Hankinson died in 1942, Sam Nunis took over most of "the circuit" and in 1946 realigned with AAA. By the way, the "Hankinson Circuit Championship" was one if not the most coveted title in dirt track racing!

Hankinson owned Langhorne from 1930 to 1940, then sold it Earl "Lucky" Teter.

#18 fines

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 14:21

Originally posted by Lotus23
Henry, while I never attended a race at Langhorne, I did talk to an old-timer who'd run a sprint car on the dirt there. He was a tough old buzzard, but said that the place put the fear of God in him.

According to Allan E. Brown in The History of America's Speedways, it ran from 1926 to 1971; originally dirt, it was paved in late '64/early '65 and "is now [1994] a shopping center".

The name always makes me think of "Puke Hollow" and of Mike Nazaruk and Jimmy Bryan, both of whom lost their lives there.

Joel

Bryan died at Puke Hollow, but I believe Nazaruk's crash was a little further up the road, at the end of the "backstretch"?!?

#19 HistoricMustang

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 10:21

:wave:

Langhorne:

http://public.fotki....dway/page5.html

Other nice photographs from same author:

http://public.fotki....acing_pictures/

Also, from same author. Is "Mystery Speedway" the name of track or is he trying to identify these track photographs. Can anyone confirm this track?

http://public.fotki....stery_speedway/

Henry

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#20 Lotus23

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 01:29

fines, you're right: ISTR Bryan had a horrific accident at Langhorne, the graphic details of which need not be rehashed here. I cannot recall all the circumstances on Nazaruk's passing. They were both Tough Guys in every sense of the word.



On a lighter note, I wrote this of West Palm Beach several years ago, but will paraphrase the tale: we were running an SCCA National there in early '66. There was the usual obligatory drivers' meeting Saturday ayem; we all stood around half-asleep, hungover, or both. No one was paying a whole lot of attention as the Guy In Charge droned on with the usual blather about obeying the yellow flags, yada, yada, yada...

Suddenly this apparition waddles onto center stage: a scuba diver, complete with wet suit, tank, mask, fins, the whole 9 yards! G.I.C. told us to "Listen up!" and detailed how, if we went into the drink, this diver would swim down to us and shove a hose in our mouth to keep us from drowning! Cripes!! No one was nodding off after that!

Barely 24 hours later, as the Lotus and I slid backwards toward Deep Water at maximum knots, I kept hoping the scuba guy wouldn't be late! Somewhere I still have color slides of a young skinny version of myself clambering out of the 23 right at the edge of that ditch. Some fun!

#21 HistoricMustang

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Posted 01 May 2008 - 21:01

Race of Champions 1971-Langhorne

http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

Henry

#22 HistoricMustang

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 00:09

Found it! :clap:

Henry

http://www.explorepa...hp?markerId=994

1937
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1967
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Modern Day
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#23 fines

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 08:27

So that scotches assertions that it was a 'perfect circle'! Also, the paved circuit wasn't that different from the dirt track, the "back straight" was still far from straight! O to D shape? Not really.

#24 fines

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 08:32

Modern Day
Posted Image

Hmm, the place is still there! What about turning a Wal-Mart into a racing track, then?;)

Re-animate the ghost of Puke Hollow! :D

#25 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 10:51

Originally posted by fines
So that scotches assertions that it was a 'perfect circle'! Also, the paved circuit wasn't that different from the dirt track, the "back straight" was still far from straight! O to D shape? Not really.


I think that only those who had never seen the track ever described it as a "perfect circle." It was, as evident in the first photo, more circular than the usual oval, but the aerial view from 1938 gives a better perspective to its more "egg-like" shape. When they paved it, there was now definitely a "turn" for Turn Three.

When I lived in New Jersey, there were still lots of people who remembered Langhorne and Trenton and told me all sorts of tales about them. You have to keep in mind the relative distance between the two -- which is not much!

#26 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 09:48

Looks like more than half of the track 'footprint' still hasn't been built on in all those intervening years. I'd always imagined it haD vanished totally under the retail park that Nigel Roebuck mentions in his Mario biography.

#27 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 10:56

The area behind the shopping center was originally slated for development, but then it was allowed to become a "green area" -- whether by happenstance or design, I am not sure. I always meant to take a look at the area, but never did. Several who have walked the area told that there is not much to see, most of the signs of the track being long gone or getting difficult to see.

#28 HistoricMustang

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 10:27

From the early sixties. Can drivers and/or cars be identified?

Individual having conversation favors A.J. Foyt.

From the R.J. Wetzler collection.

Henry :wave:

Posted Image

#29 Winchester

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 12:20

From the early sixties. Can drivers and/or cars be identified?

Individual having conversation favors A.J. Foyt.

From the R.J. Wetzler collection.

Henry :wave:

Posted Image


That's Len Sutton talking to Foyt.

#30 ghinzani

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 00:38

In the latest issue of Autosport NSR revisits his old Langhorne article and updates it with some recent quotes. Good reading as always.

#31 E1pix

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 01:10

I've certainly heard of Langhorne as a kid.... but for whatever reason never knew it was essentially a circle.

A true circle track. How bizarre! I guess straight-line speed wasn't even a set-up consideration!

#32 Jim Thurman

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 01:23

I've certainly heard of Langhorne as a kid.... but for whatever reason never knew it was essentially a circle.

A true circle track. How bizarre! I guess straight-line speed wasn't even a set-up consideration!

There have been a few truly circular tracks of varying lengths, the first board track for autos - Playa Del Rey - was a circle.

When Langhorne was paved, it was re-configured a bit and less circular than it appears in the photo posted here, but it was ridiculously fast for the time. Drivers considered the paved track even more unsafe, mainly due to the poor sight lines. Amazingly for 1969, drivers rebelled and told USAC they wouldn't enter the race if it was put on the schedule. They did run a final race in 1970, but as the date approached for the second 1970 race, it quietly disappeared from the schedule.

#33 E.B.

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 20:09

So that scotches assertions that it was a 'perfect circle'!


Might it be distorted by the fact that the shot isn't taken from directly above the track?


Drivers considered the paved track even more unsafe


The last edition of Motor Sport told of an interesting difference of opinion about that - Johnny Rutherford claimed that the paved version was more dangerous, whilst Bobby Unser, upon being told what JR had said, asked if JR had been drinking when he said that.

FWIW, I don't recall the paved version claiming any lives in its 6 years of existence.




#34 E1pix

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 20:55

There have been a few truly circular tracks of varying lengths, the first board track for autos - Playa Del Rey - was a circle.

When Langhorne was paved, it was re-configured a bit and less circular than it appears in the photo posted here, but it was ridiculously fast for the time. Drivers considered the paved track even more unsafe, mainly due to the poor sight lines. Amazingly for 1969, drivers rebelled and told USAC they wouldn't enter the race if it was put on the schedule. They did run a final race in 1970, but as the date approached for the second 1970 race, it quietly disappeared from the schedule.

Great info Jim, very cool. I can only imagine what it had to be like to run a Champ Car there when it was paved, unreal!

When dirt, Man, talk about the challenges of getting the pitch angle correct — and hanging on to it. I would suspect fairly large field spreads just from that challenge.

#35 Cynic2

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 02:44

On a lighter note, I wrote this of West Palm Beach several years ago, but will paraphrase the tale: we were running an SCCA National there in early '66. There was the usual obligatory drivers' meeting Saturday ayem; we all stood around half-asleep, hungover, or both. No one was paying a whole lot of attention as the Guy In Charge droned on with the usual blather about obeying the yellow flags, yada, yada, yada...

Suddenly this apparition waddles onto center stage: a scuba diver, complete with wet suit, tank, mask, fins, the whole 9 yards! G.I.C. told us to "Listen up!" and detailed how, if we went into the drink, this diver would swim down to us and shove a hose in our mouth to keep us from drowning! Cripes!! No one was nodding off after that!


( . . .)


Joel,

Well, there was a good reason for the scuba diver (as well as a good reason for the the increasingly higher levee built at the edge of the canal).

In early 1983 "Ollie" Chandon (Olivier Chandon de Brailles, the only son of Frederic Chandon de Brailles, chairman of the Moët-Hennessy group and heir to the Moët & Chandon champagne fortune), drowned at Moroso in testing for the '83 season. His Ralt F/Atlantic went into the canal, landing upside down, and he was trapped. As it was testing, as nothing had ever happened before (the usual excuse), there was no one who could rescue him in time. (Other than the small group in racing, Chandon is probably best known for hs then girlfriend, Christie Brinkley.)

To paraphrase statements about armies, race tracks are always prepared for the last accdent, not the next one.

David

Edited by Cynic2, 11 October 2011 - 02:46.


#36 E1pix

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 03:39

Joel,

Well, there was a good reason for the scuba diver (as well as a good reason for the the increasingly higher levee built at the edge of the canal).

In early 1983 "Ollie" Chandon (Olivier Chandon de Brailles, the only son of Frederic Chandon de Brailles, chairman of the Moët-Hennessy group and heir to the Moët & Chandon champagne fortune), drowned at Moroso in testing for the '83 season. His Ralt F/Atlantic went into the canal, landing upside down, and he was trapped. As it was testing, as nothing had ever happened before (the usual excuse), there was no one who could rescue him in time. (Other than the small group in racing, Chandon is probably best known for hs then girlfriend, Christie Brinkley.)

To paraphrase statements about armies, race tracks are always prepared for the last accdent, not the next one.

David

I recall this story from the time, and your closing statement is spot on.

#37 HistoricMustang

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 12:10

Correct me if wrong, but I believe the angle of banking's actually varied which perhaps made it feel as though some "straight" sections were present.

Henry :wave:

#38 taylov

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 12:55

Check out the 1963 race at http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

Good footage at Puke Hollow (3m 35s in)

This should answer the question about the shape of the track - in car from 1964 (50 secs into the footage) at


Tony

Edited by taylov, 11 October 2011 - 13:52.


#39 Jerry Entin

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 21:04

Posted Image
Press Release by the President of the Langhorne Speedway

Jim: This is what Irv Fried who was the President of Langhorne in 1971 thought of the 1971 USAC Drivers boycott.


Press Release from: Bill Wisdwedel collection

Edited by Jerry Entin, 11 October 2011 - 21:05.