Posted 31 December 2020 - 19:28
Posted 01 January 2021 - 02:35
Sincere condolences to all the families.
Posted 01 January 2021 - 04:09
It's been a bad couple years for the Andretti clan..
Bumped into him once at Road America and had to do a double take, even though his '69 crash in Des Moines required rebuilding his face...
Posted 01 January 2021 - 17:23
Mario's brother, Aldo, passed away yesterday evening. RIP
Sad news - R.I.P.
Posted 02 January 2021 - 22:48
Aldo left & Mario right? Pulling for Johnny Thomson to have better luck than in '55 - he did, and he didn't: first car out, but at least not onto his head. Still no rollover bar on the Schmidt=Kuzma, although three of the cars that day already had'em, the first ever to race at the Horne: those of National Champion Jimmy Bryan, Indy winner Pat Flaherty and track record holder Don Freeland, of all people.
Posted 02 January 2021 - 23:34
Posted 05 January 2021 - 09:39
Aldo Andretti was more than Mario's brother, he was a racing driver himself, and a better one at that than many of those who have been mourned in these pages over the years. Mario has been quoted many times as saying that Aldo was as good or even better than himself before his accident in the fall of 1959, but then again he would say that, wouldn't he? Many writers have repeated that sentiment, but is it true? I have long been wanting to take a closer look at that 1959 season of racing at the Nazareth Fairgrounds speedway to form my own opinion, and now that I finally did so, I can say with confidence: there's no evidence that Aldo was better than Mario in those early races, and not much that he was as good as his twin brother. In fact, all the evidence points to the fact that Mario was the faster, the more determined, the "first" Andretti right from the start. Although, to be perfectly honest, the data to form this opinion on is pretty thin, and that's another facet of my findings, in that much of what has been written about the early days of the Andretti saga is pretty far off the truth. Although it is true that Aldo won his very first (heat) race that he ever competed in, most of the year both Andretti boys were just bit players, and didn't figure very much in the results of the races. It just wasn't, "one week Aldo would win, and Mario the next" - not by a very long way!
So, even if Aldo wasn't as good as Mario, there's no shame in that, and he deserves to get a proper racer's obituary. Unfortunately for him, that can't be done without mentioning Mario many times, but I will try to focus on Aldo as much as possible. So, stay tuned for another lengthy multi-part essay about an American racer by yours truly
Posted 05 January 2021 - 13:33
To regard Aldo merely as Mario’s sidekick doesn’t seem fair, especially in the light of evidence that he was such a fine human being, by all accounts. An article in the magazine Indianapolis Monthly from 2017 includes a nice miniature of life within the Andretti cosmos, illustrating that sentiment, and the differences between the twins, however minuscule they may have been, and it’s perhaps worth quoting the paragraph in full:
Around here [Aldo’s home], Mario is a beloved uncle and brother-in-law. But the family also refers to him, with a wink, as “the cocky one.” Corky [Aldo’s wife] compliments the grace Aldo has shown all these years, and insists his admiration for Mario is genuine. “People might assume that Aldo would be jealous, but that’s not Aldo,” she says. “Now if it had been the other way around …” The room erupts with laughter.
Now, we all know that you don’t become the Auto Racing Driver of the Century by being nice to all and sundry, but perhaps there’s more to the idea that the “identical” (monozygotic) twins weren’t so identical, after all. As it is, I, for one, am pretty confident I can tell them apart even in old childhood photographs (Can you? Make a test @ http://www.marioandr.../personal-album) – just look into their eyes, and Mario always seems to have that steely, intense look that you can see every so often in truly successful, or even only extraordinary ambitious people in all walks of life.
And, to be perfectly blunt, hadn’t Mario always been numero uno, even way back on February 28 of 1940, when he was born six hours before Aldo - quite a labour for their mother Rina to endure! Admittedly, modern psychology rejects the old theory of first-born dominance, but what do we actually know about that for certain? It may still have been an early form of the “competitive spirit” shining through… That said, at least Aldo did not dilly-dally too much and made sure that neither of the twins had to endure the ignominy of having to wait four years between birthday cakes! Other than that, however, there’s not much that we know about their respective lives as individuals during infancy in Montona (today: Motovun) on the Istrian peninsula (part of the historic region Venezia Giulia, and a ping-pong between regional powers for centuries), and the refugee camp in Lucca later on. Thus, it’s certainly tempting to surmise that, unless their identities were confused (accidentally or not) during childhood, like the twins in Gabriel García Márquez’s famous novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, their paths in life were already set from the beginning, no? Well, let’s give this question a fair trial, starting with a look at what exactly they were getting into in America during the spring of 1959.
Edited by Michael Ferner, 09 January 2021 - 11:06.
Posted 06 January 2021 - 01:35
Just getting around to posting this - not disagreeing with Michael’s assessment.
Condolences to the family...
Posted 09 January 2021 - 11:00
(I restructured and rewrote my last post in this thread)
Sometimes, it’s of paramount importance to be in the right spot at the right time, and the Andrettis most certainly were. Not only that the town they landed in had a speedway – that wasn’t really unusual in the fifties: according to research done by Allan E. Brown (America’s Speedways, 2nd ed. 1994), there were more than 2,000 oval race tracks in the US active during that decade, more than at any other time in history. Better still, the Andrettis now lived in Pennsylvania, the all-time hotspot of US short track activity – according to Brown’s figures, again, the state ranks third behind the much more populous California and New York in total number of tracks during the first 100 years of the sport, but has as many as both these states combined when broken down per population! And if you break it down to the area covered per track, the only US state with a higher track density than Pennsylvania (other than the two mini states that are even smaller than Venezia Giulia) is New Jersey, a mere fifteen-minute drive to the east of Nazareth. Beats a seven-hour roundtrip from Lucca to Monza anytime!
Like most similar sites throughout the USA, Nazareth Fairgrounds saw infrequent motor racing action since the very beginning of the 20th century. That changed after WW2, when weekly stock car racing became an attraction on many existing tracks. Most of those had started out during the Midget craze in the thirties and forties, and were thus smaller in size – yet a full half-mile track was a special attraction for the stockers, and especially in Pennsylvania where a real subculture developed to make use of these bigger tracks, which allowed much more powerful and faster cars to compete. Stock car racing, back then, was not quite the same as we know it today, although the roots for that already existed in what was then called Late Model Stock car racing. But in general, Stock car racing in the forties and fifties meant highly tuned engines in cars salvaged from junk yards, and was formerly known as "jalopy" or "roadster" racing, often depending on locality. Over time, it became better known as Modified Stock car racing, then just Modified racing. And there were many, many different forms of it!
The most powerful and fastest Stock cars to race in Pennsylvania during the late fifties were usually called Modified Sportsmen, although there were no hard rules for the names, and similar cars were running in different areas of the US under different names, such as Coupesters, Skeeters or Full House cars, not least because sanctioning bodies (other than a few regional ones) avoided this form of racing, by and large. By the same token, there were no hard rules for the technical specifications of the cars, and sometimes it seemed that every track ran to its own rules. Over time, some of the "better" tracks (i.e. those with the fattest purses) created circuits which attracted owners and drivers willing to do some travel, although in general they usually stayed within a circle of a couple hundred miles, at best. Still, the whole mindset and procedure was not at all unlike the later "Outlaw" Sprint car movement in the seventies, and that's no accident: in Pennsylvania, for instance, the Moddified Sportsmen were the direct forerunners of the Super Modifieds in the mid sixties, which eventually evolved into the winged Super Sprints of the seventies, the backbone of the Outlaw circuit!
This whole setup of weekly racing made the local promoters the real power brokers in the sport, and some legendary figures started out during this era, like Earl Baltes of Eldora Speedway in Ohio, Hilly RIfe (Lincoln Speedway) or Jack Gunn (Williams Grove) in Pennsylvania. Nazareth Fairgrounds was promoted by Jerry Fried, who idiosyncratically prefered to be called the "producer" of racing at the fairgrounds. A former ballroom-dancing impresario from Bronx/NY, Fried (no relation, incidentally, to Irv Fried, longtime co-promoter at Langhorne and Yellow Hat Speedways) took over promotional duties at Nazareth in 1952, and ran it for almost four decades, sometimes in combination with other local tracks, wisely investing in the infrastructure of the track(s) as well as the competing racers. It all paid off very handsomely, and his was one of the best racing enterprises in the hugely competitive surroundings of the Pennsylvania/New York/New Jersey triangle, especially after switching his races to the Modified Sportsman class in 1956.
Sunday night racing shows at the fairgounds regularly attracted crowds that were as big or even bigger than the total population of the town of Nazareth (around 6,000), not least because the track was easily accessible from the urban area around the county seat Easton, the county's biggest city Bethlehem and Allentown, third largest city in the state, all of them within thirty minutes of the fairgrounds, and aggregating about a quarter of a million residents. Thus, Fried was able to advertize a guaranteed purse of more than $ 1,000 (at a time when even USAC Sprint car races sometimes paid less than $ 5,000), and attract teams and drivers from all over the Northeast; many of them competing on a circuit that also involved the half-mile fairgound tracks at Middletown/NY and Flemington/NJ, others racing at famous Pennsylvania venues like Reading or Williams Grove. By 1958, car counts of way over fifty were the norm, and to handle the demand by both competitors and spectators, Fried introduced Thursday night racing during the summer months, and a supporting class of "Strictly Stock" cars for novices and local low-budget racers, who got virtually trampled underfoot by the travelling Modified stars. Of course, Strictly Stock didn't really mean strictly stock - in reality, those cars were junk yard specials just the same, only cheaper and less powerful: in 1959, a Modified Sportsman typically lapped the Nazareth track in around 28 seconds (compared to 26 seonds by the "Class B" Sprint cars of the URC, which occasionally visited in the fifties and sixties), while the Strictly Stocks took around 30 seconds for a lap - still a fast pace, 60 miles per hour, and about the same speed that future Indy 500 starters like Billy Winn and Jimmy Patterson recorded when AAA Sprint cars visited Nazareth only thirty years earlier.
Edited by Michael Ferner, 16 January 2021 - 20:40.
Posted 11 January 2021 - 19:44
Before going into more detail regarding the 1959 racing season at Nazareth, it is perhaps prudent to talk about the limitations of my research efforts. For starters, I won't lie - Stock cars are not really my "thing", so I don't have much general background information to fall back on, and it has been quite a bit of a challenge to get even some fairly basic stuff right - apologies in advance if I missed the goal here or there (corrections and additional info are very welcome!!). One thing, for example, which I was never able to establish is the difference in specification between Modified Sportsman and Strictly Stock cars, racing at the Nazareth Fairgrounds - my best guess at the moment is that V8 engines were probably banned from the Strictly Stock events, and that perhaps the Modifieds were allowed to shed more weight by stripping several parts of bodywork; however, I don't really know a thing about that. In general, the bulk of my information comes from period newspapers which, as a rule, ignored the technical aspects of Stock car racing altogether - not even the make of car was mentioned except for very rare circumstances! Amongst the papers I have had access to, the various issues of The Morning Call in Allentown/PA have provided the best and most regular coverage, usually printing previews and more or less detailed reports of every race. That said, their coverage improved considerably during the summer of 1960, meaning that information about the early events in which the Andrettis competed is not available in as much detail as I would have liked.(the later issues generally have the top five finishers of every heat and the main event in both classes of racing, although I'm missing the last three months of the 1960 volume and thus results of the final handful or so of races). Also, there's nothing in The Morning Call about Aldo's accident and recovery, but at least I do have one pretty comprehensive article from a paper in Pottstown/PA, about twenty miles west from Hatfield (where the accident happened) and Lansdale (where Aldo was hospitalized) - still, a "closer to home" report would've been preferable, alas, its absence may be seen as a sort of verdict on the situation in itself!
From time to time, I will be referring to the "Andretti legend", when dealing with information you can find in the various online and print media about the beginnings of the Andretti saga, and which, while not necessarily untrue, may be somewhat at odds with the findings of my research. It is my hope that the reader will be able to form his own opinion upon the evidence herein presented. And, while there will be one or two surprises (and not, unfortunately, all of them pleasant) about the life and times of the more prominent of the Andretti twins, the ultimate goal will be to track the auto racing career of Aldo Andretti, it should be remembered. Yet, at the very beginning, their doings and achievements were so much entwined that it is near impossible to credit one or the other with certain developments. For instance, building their first car, who took the initiative? Who was instrumental in deciding which way to go, and who built what, exactly? Maybe they really worked hand-in-glove on that, but common sense would suggest that perhaps one of them acted as the "leading light". It's easy enough to imagine they split the alleged $ 500 they spent on the engine, a Hudson Hornet six-cylinder they purchased from a company selling the surplus stock of former Hudson factory racer Marshall Teague, the AAA (Late Model) Stock car Champion of 1952 and '54, which they then put into the shell of a ten-year old Hudson Commodore. Adding a few other items, such as a stolen beer keg that served as the fuel tank, and - Presto! - ready was the brand new, red #7 for the Strictly Stock car races at Nazareth Fairgrounds!
Ah, yes, that's right - the Andrettis only ever competed in the supporting class of the weekly racing shows at Nazareth Fairgrounds, didn't you know? One of the things the Andretti legend never really reveals. So, technically at the very least, none of the Andrettis ever won a main or feature event at Nazareth in the strictest sense, perhaps they never even competed in one! True, the track management often ran a seperate "feature" for the Strictly Stock racers, mostly over a shorter distance but, whisper it quietly, the Andrettis didn't win any of those, either - not until the very last race of the 1959 season. On several occasions, such as when the URC Sprinters showed up for one of their four Nazareth stints during the year, or special appearances of "daredevil" shows (Joie Chitwood and others), the occasional motor cycle race or even only a Fourth-of-July fireworks, the second feature was struck from the programme, and the Strictly Stock cars ran only in one or two seperate heat races - whether some of them tagged on to the main even field, I don't know, but in any case they didn't feature in the results. As a sort of compensation, however, the nominal support act had the Thursday night shows to themselves, but still: no Andretti to be found in the list of winners - bummer, innit?
Unfortunately, though, the data I have collected is quite incomplete, especially when it comes to racing results of the Strictly Stock subdivision, so I will have to resort to boring you with a few statistics to drive my point home, namely that both Andrettis were merely bit players at Nazareth Fairgounds speedway races in 1959 - not to downplay their respective achievements, but to add a bit of perspective. And, to seize the opportunity to name some of the real stars of racing at Nazareth, like Otto Harwi from Easton, who won the track championship five years in a row, 1955 to '59 (period sources even credit him with a sixth title, in 1960, but a late eighties article in The Morning Call listed Bob Malzahn of Florida instead). Harwi wasn't a very prolific winner, but a regular top five finisher, which usually counts for more championship points in weekly racing, because promoters want their star drivers to show up as often as possible, which is why, for example, Harwi won the 1958 title with only two wins against Dick Tobias, leading member of a well known racing family from Lebanon in Central Pennsylvania, who won eleven of the eighteen main events that year, but skipped some shows to race elsewhere instead. By 1959, Harwi was concentrating almost entirely on Nazareth and Saturday night racing at Middletown/NY, where he was runner-up in points three years in a row before finally clinching that title in 1960, too. Other main event winners at Nazareth in 1959 included Ralph Smith of Maryland, Bill Deskovich, Sonny Strupp, Al Tasnady and Budd Olsen of New Jersey, Danny Mitchell of New York, as well as Ken Wismer and Jim Delaney from nearby towns in Pennsylvania.
Edited by Michael Ferner, Yesterday, 13:00.
Posted 13 January 2021 - 14:31
So, without further ado, here are now the...
1959 Nazareth Fairgrounds Speedway statistics
Part 1: The Main Event Winners
# Date d/n Day Laps Modified Sprtsmn Second Third Laps Strictly Stock Second Third 0 Apr 19 d Sun -- Opening Day postponed - Track not ready 1 Apr 26 d Sun 25 Ralph Smith Danny Mitchell Lauden Potts -- 2 May 3 d Sun 25 Bill Deskovich Ralph Smith Russ Delp -- 3 May 10 d Sun 25 Bob Malzahn Bill Deskovich Sonny Strupp 15 Herb Frenchko Bill Butler Aldo Andretti 4 May 17 n Sun 25 Danny Mitchell Sonny Strupp Mitch Smith 15 Russ Ahner Bobby Bottcher George Dilworth 5 May 24 n Sun 25 Sonny Strupp Danny Mitchell Bob Malzahn -- 6 May 31 n Sun 25 Otto Harwi Danny Mitchell Jim Metzler -- (URC Sprint cars) - Jun 4 n Thu -- 20 Russ Ahner Bob Robinson Doc Predmore 7 Jun 7 n Sun 25 Al Tasnady Budd Olsen Sonny Strupp ?? - Jun 11 n Thu -- 20 Don Hughes George Dilworth Russ Ahner 8 Jun 14 n Sun 25 Budd Olsen Dick Tobias Ken Wismer ?? - Jun 18 n Thu -- 20 Luther Muffley Russ Ahner Bobby Bottcher 9 Jun 21 n Sun 25 Ken Wismer Bob Malzahn Al Tasnady 25 Al Tasnady Bill Deskovich Will Cagle -- (Twin Modified Feature) - Jun 25 n Thu -- 25 Luther Muffley Russ Ahner Walt Smith 10 Jun 28 n Sun 25 Al Tasnady Otto Harwi Dick Tobias ?? - Jul 2 n Thu -- 20 George Dilworth Mario Andretti Luther Muffley 11 Jul 5 n Sun 25 Al Tasnady Bob Malzahn Dick Tobias -- (URC Sprint cars) - Jul 9 n Thu -- 20 Don Hughes Russ Ahner Bill Butler 12 Jul 12 n Sun 25 Bob Malzahn Herb Tillman Dick Tobias -- (Jack Kochman Hell Drivers) - Jul 16 n Thu -- 20 Russ Ahner Don Hughes Luther Muffley 13 Jul 19 n Sun 0 (RAIN) 0 (RAIN) - Jul 23 n Thu -- 0 (RAIN) 14 Jul 26 n Sun 25 Otto Harwi Les Farley Sonny Strupp 20 Luther Muffley Russ Ahner Don Hughes - Jul 30 n Thu -- ?? 15 Aug 2 n Sun 50 Jim Delaney Dick Tobias Bob Malzahn -- (Mid-Season Championship) - Aug 6 n Thu -- 20 Don Hughes Luther Muffley Russ Ahner 16 Aug 9 n Sun 0 (RAIN) 0 (RAIN) - Aug 13 n Thu -- 20 Russ Ahner Don Hughes Luther Muffley 17 Aug 16 n Sun 0 (RAIN after heats, feature run Aug 30) -- (URC Sprint cars) - Aug 20 n Thu -- 20 Bobby Bottcher Tom Rooney Russ Ahner 18 Aug 23 n Sun 0 (RAIN) 0 (RAIN) - Aug 27 n Thu -- 0 (RAIN after heats) 19 Aug 30 n Sun 25 Bob Malzahn Les Farley Ken Wismer -- (make-up feature for Aug 16) 0 (RAIN) -- - Sep 3 n Thu -- 35 Luther Muffley Herb Frenchko Mario Andretti 20 Sep 6 n Sun 25 Sonny Strupp Otto Harwi Bob Rossell -- (URC Sprint cars) 21 Sep 13 n Sun 50 Dick Tobias Otto Harwi -- (fireworks) 22 Sep 20 n Sun 25 Otto Harwi Jackie McLaughlin Dick Tobias ?? 23 Sep 27 d Sun 25 Bob Malzahn 25 Mario Andretti
Part 2: Individual Driver Records
Main Event & Heat results Modified Sportsman division 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 Bob Malzahn Kingsbury/NJ* 4 2 2 - 2 3 2 4 4 - Al Tasnady Vineland/NJ 4 - 1 - - 5 - - - - Otto Harwi Easton/PA 3 3 - 4 1 2 6 3 3 – Sonny Strupp S. Plainfield/NJ 2 1 3 1 - 6 5 5 2 4 Danny Mitchell Middletown/NY 1 3 - - - 3 1 - - 1 Dick Tobias Lebanon/PA 1 2 4 1 - 6 2 2 2 1 Bill Deskovich Hanover/NJ 1 2 - 1 1 6 3 2 - 1 Budd Olsen Paulsboro/NJ 1 1 - 1 1 2 1 - - - Ralph Smith Aberdeen/MD 1 1 - - - 1 - - - 1 Ken Wismer Riegelsville/PA 1 - 2 2 3 2 4 3 1 - Jim Delaney Easton/PA 1 - - 1 - - 1 1 2 – Les Farley Califon/NJ - 2 - - - 5 5 3 1 1 Jackie McLaughlin Thorofare/NJ - 1 - - - 3 – 1 1 1 Herb Tillman Hollywood/FL - 1 - - - - 1 - - - Will Cagle Tampa/FL - - 1 1 - - - 2 - - Russ Delp Temple/PA - - 1 - 4 3 3 3 - - Jim Metzler Pottersville/NJ - - 1 - - 1 2 3 2 1 Mitch Smith Harrisburg/PA - - 1 - - - - 3 - 1 Bob Rossell New Egypt/NJ - - 1 - - - - - 1 1 Lauden Potts Orwigsburg/PA - - 1 - - - - - 1 – Carl van Horn Belvidere/NJ - - - 4 1 3 3 4 4 2 Harry Charles Easton/PA - - - 1 - - - 1 2 3 Reds Kagle Greenbelt/MD - - - - 1 2 2 - - - Dave Rapp Easton/PA - - - - 1 2 1 - 1 - Reggie Montrose McAfee/NJ - - - - 1 - - 1 1 1 Bill de Coster Basking Ridge/NJ - - - - - 1 3 2 1 1 Chet Jones Wharton/NJ - - - - - 1 1 - 1 - Art Scott Chester/NJ - - - - - 1 - - 1 3 Duke Southern White Plains/NY - - - - - 1 - - 1 – Jack Hendrickson - - - - - 1 - - - - Fred Fehr Easton/PA - - - - - 1 - - - - Blackie Reider Reading/PA - - - - - 1 - - - - Bill Wark Barrington/NJ - - - - - - 1 1 2 1 Ed Farley Califon/NJ - - - - - - 1 1 1 2 Leroy Felty Jonestown/PA - - - - - - 1 - 1 - Larry Bowers Hampton/NJ - - - - - - 1 - 1 - Warren Mutter Boyertown/PA - - - - - - 1 - - 1 Charlie South McAfee/NJ - - - - - - 1 - - - Johnny Dubendorf Lewistown/PA - - - - - - 1 - - - George Horvath Kearney/NJ - - - - - - 1 - - - Joe Romer - - - - - - 1 - - - Jack Bergstresser Phillipsburg/NJ - - - - - - 1 - - - ? Cameron - - - - - - 1 - - - Tony Russo Riverside/NJ - - - - - - - 3 1 - Richie Kolka New York City/NY - - - - - - - 2 - - Whip Mulligan Denville/NJ - - - - - - - 1 2 1 D. D. Harris Greenville/NC - - - - - - - 1 2 – Vince Conrad Kutztown/PA - - - - - - - 1 - - Walt Shoppe Philadelphia/PA - - - - - - - 1 - - Freddy Adam Kutztown/PA - - - - - - - 1 - - ? Cervasco - - - - - - - 1 - - Hoop Schaible Upper Black Eddy - - - - - - - - 2 2 Bob Hall Flemington/NJ - - - - - - - - 1 – Elton Hildreth Bridgeton/NJ - - - - - - - - 1 – Steve Elias Merchantville/NJ - - - - - - - - 1 – Jack Reilly - - - - - - - - 1 – Frankie Schneider Lambertville/NJ - - - - - - - - 1 1 Bob Courtwright Butler/NJ - - - - - - - - 1 - Smokey Dengler Reading/PA - - - - - - - - 1 - Frank Geraghty Paterson/NJ - - - - - - - - - 2 George Harrison - - - - - - - - - 1 Ernie Gahan - - - - - - - - - 1 Strictly Stock division Russ Ahner Lehighton/PA 4 4 3 - - - - - - - Luther Muffley Lehighton/PA 4 1 3 2 - 2 - - - - Don Hughes Flemington/NJ 3 2 1 - - - - - - 1 Mario Andretti Nazareth/PA 1 1 1 2 - - - - - - George Dilworth North Wales/PA 1 1 1 1 1 - 1 - - - Bobby Bottcher Lehighton/PA 1 1 1 - - - - - - - Herb Frenchko Easton/PA 1 1 - 1 - 1 – 2 - - Bill Butler Milford/NJ - 1 1 - - - 1 - 1 - Bob Robinson Lebanon/NJ - 1 - - - - - - 1 1 Tom Rooney Allentown/PA - 1 - - - - - - - - Aldo Andretti Nazareth/PA - - 1 1 - 3 - - - - Walt Smith Allentown/PA - - 1 - - - - 1 - - Doc Predmore McAfee/NJ - - 1 - - - - - - - Bob Smith Lebanon/NJ - - - 1 - - 1 - 1 – Ward Crozier Easton/PA - - - 1 - - - - - - Leo Livengood Walnutport/PA - - - - 2 - - - - - Don Laubach Hecktown/PA - - - - 1 - - - - - Al Neidlinger Center Valley/PA - - - - - 1 1 - - - Charlie Bowers Alburtis/PA - - - - - 1 – 1 - - Zorro Engler Easton/PA - - - - - 1 - - - - John Bright - - - - - - 1 - - - Whitey Kempker - - - - - - 1 - - - Chuck Hyndshaw - - - - - - - 1 - 1 Bob Muffley - - - - - - - 1 - - * Malzahn was from Hollywood/FL, originally, but raced out of New Jersey at the time
Edited by Michael Ferner, 16 January 2021 - 15:04.
Posted 14 January 2021 - 22:38
After one of the longest run-ins to a TNF thread ever , we are now ready to leave the somewhat mundane world of facts and figures behind, and start the proper appraisal of Aldo Andretti's career. Let's just first pause for a moment and reflect again upon the story many of us, I'm sure, have heard or read over and over again, namely that the brothers flipped a coin to decide who was to drive the first race, with Aldo winning the toss, his heat and the feature on his very first attempt, then Mario doing the same the next week, and the twins subsequently alternating in obliterating the opposition; and also Mario's self-effacing claims that Aldo was as good if not better than him in the beginning. Well, even those of you who couldn't be bothered into reading the whole sermon can now, with a quick glance at the statistics, acknowledge the fact that this entire "Andretti legend" business needs to be taken with a grain of salt - better still, a whole jug of the stuff! - which, in turn, will help us to better understand a few of the happenings we are about to unravel. When all is said and done, it is probably fair to say that both Andrettis had a reasonable, even promising rookie year, but unfortunately (!) they weren't nearly as successful as the legend would have us believe, which makes it kind of difficult to make a qualified judgement. Aldo's three heat wins, for instance, look mighty good, until you realize that several dozens of heat results are missing from the table because the information was simply not available. Overall, though, it is my belief that the above statistics give a fair and proper impression of how the season evolved; and anyway: it looks like this is all we are going to get.
Now, whether that coin toss ever happened, I can't say (it certainly makes for a good story!), but what I can confirm is that Aldo really did win his very first heat race, yet not the feature because there was none for the Strictly Stock cars on Opening Day in 1959. The reason for that probably lay in the fact that the field was pretty short that early in the racing season - I don't have car counts for every meeting, but those I do have suggest this to have been the case: 48 cars were in the pits on Opening Day, and 51 the next week, which sounds pretty good until you learn that by the fourth meeting, the opening of the night racing season, no fewer than 78 cars signed in, and several of the Thursday night shows during summer attracted way over 60 cars of the Strictly Stock category alone! Thin field or not, a win is a win, and better still, Aldo won another heat the very next Sunday, and then a third one during the third week of racing - oh, wait, how's that possible? Aren't we told that the Andrettis alternated behind the wheel of their Hudson, week after week? So, shouldn't that have been Mario winning the second heat at meeting #2, on May 3, instead of Aldo? Maybe, I don't know, but what I do know is that, while Aldo's name got plenty of ink in The Morning Call and other local papers right from the start of the season, Mario's was never mentioned until he finished fourth in the June 18 feature, two months later! So, how's that?
Basically, there are two ways to explain this apparent discrepancy: one, the period sources confused Mario with Aldo on the occasions when the former was driving, or two, it was indeed Aldo racing the Hudson in all of the early events, contrary to the Andretti legend! Both explanations can be divided still into subsets, like: if it was always Aldo in the car, was that by prior arrangement (with or without coin toss), or did they change plans after Aldo's unexpected (?) initial success? And, if one was confused with the other by race officials and/or the press at the time, was that by accident or subterfuge? Well, perhaps subterfuge is too strong a word for it, maybe they just gypped them to keep things smooth and easy, or maybe even only for the heck of it? Allegedly, they had to forge their ID to be able to race as minors, could that have been a motive for the apparent trickery (it's much easier to forge only one document instead of two)? Not likely, in my opinion: though USAC apparently still enforced a minimum age of 21 at the time, other (mostly local) organizations appear to have been much more lenient in that. Incidentally, both Andrettis were mentioned in seperate newspaper items during the following winter for non-racing incidents (of which more anon), and both times their age was correctly given as 19, so minority doesn't seem to have been much of an obstacle. It's actually pretty difficult to see how they could have played on their identities intentionally, especially when it required "the cocky one" to take a back seat!
And further, how likely is it that the twins were confused accidentally in that small town environment, when the fact that they were the only actual townsmen racing competitively at Nazareth made them instant celebrities at the track (look at the list of hometowns in the second table of the last post - while it's always good to cheer on a track champion from nearby Easton, nothing beats a REAL local mixing it with the boys!). In fact, Aldo seems to have been instantly adopted as the fan's choice, and even later in summer (when Mario was already mentioned alongside him), it was remarked that Aldo had the "largest fan club" at the track supporting him. No, there's little doubt in my mind that it was Aldo who took those early chequered flags, and I find myself questioning whether they ever really intended to share the driving duties of the Hudson! Sure enough, there's not a shred of evidence in the period sources about such an arrangement, and the fact that both names were listed alongside each other in all the race previews following that June 18 event seems to suggest that they competed against each other fairly regularly. Could it be that Mario believed in himself so much that he let Aldo drive the Hudson, while he roamed the pit lane, speaking to other car owners? Knowing what we know today, it wouldn't surprise me one bit...
For Aldo, though, things went decidedly pear-shaped the moment he took third place in the first feature for the Strictly Stock cars on May 10, as I couldn't find any other results for him until he took fourth in the final Thursday night show, nearly four months later. All the while, Mario's career was in the ascendant, and nothing illustrates that better than the fact that all the newspapers that I have seen always, and without fail, refer to "Aldo and Mario" when mentioning the brothers through July, and with the same consistency to "Mario and Aldo" from August onwards! There's no escaping the feeling that, having gotten off to a particularly fine start against comparatively "weak" opposition, Aldo slipped progressively backwards once additional talent, notably the Lehighton "squad" of Russ Ahner, Luther Muffley and Bobby Bottcher, entered into the contests - to say nothing of his own brother! Speaking of Lehighton, a town much the same size as Nazareth in a more rural area 25 miles to the west, where the Lehighton Stock Car Racing Association staged weekly shows at their own, dirt quarter-mile Mahoning Speedway just outside of town, on Sunday afternoons since 1957 (asphalted in 1970, the track is still active today as the Mahoning Valley Speedway) - several LSCRA members raced there merely hours before heading east for the Sunday night shows at Nazareth. During late summer of 1959, Mahoning adopted a Saturday night schedule for a few weeks, and on August 22 Mario Andretti competed there, beating all the local aces and scoring his first ever feature win, Though I have found pretty comprehensive results for most Mahoning races, the name Andretti does not appear again, so it may have been a one-off, but it raises the question whether the brothers competed elsewhere in 1959 - according to my research, there were at least two other occasions.
The famous Flemington Fairgounds track in New Jersey, less than an hour's drive from Nazareth in the general direction of New York City, where NASCAR sanctioned weekly Modified Sportsman races on Saturday nights for more than a decade, frequently scheduled "novice" races, likely along Nazareth Strictly Stock car lines, and on May 23 Aldo Andretti won a 21-car "rookie" race there, supposedly a "wild affair that had to be halted six times because of crack-ups" - another early season success for Aldo, and not a hollow one, in fact perhaps his best of the year, because runner-up was a local by the name of Ronnie Schomp, a multiple winner in this sort of races in 1958 already (so, hardly a novice or rookie!). Again, I couldn't find any evidence of the Andrettis competing there again, but interestingly, only a week before Aldo's appearance, a certain Pedro Rodríguez was performing "honorary starter" duties at Flemington, as he visited the track along with his father and brother Ricardo on the eve of a NASCAR Grand National appearance at Trenton Speedway - wouldn't it have been nice if Mario was there to meet his future NART Ferrari team mate? The other verified out-of-town appearance of the Andrettis happened also on a Saturday night, October 3 - that fateful night at Hatfield Speedway, 40 miles south of Nazareth going towards Philadelphia.
Edited by Michael Ferner, 16 January 2021 - 20:50.
Posted 16 January 2021 - 09:32
Article by Nathan Brown in the Indianapolis Star, Jan 08, 2021:
Mario Andretti remembers his twin brother Aldo, a cheerleader in a family of racers
Maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason only one of the twin Italian-born Andretti brothers made a lengthy splash in the racing world.
It’s a twist to the family’s story we’ll never quite understand – why the boys who dressed the same and shared the top mattress of a bunk bed in an Italian refugee camp, who had to share the same bike, and eventually the same car, who traded days on and off working at the local Nazareth, Pennsylvania, gas station to help pay for auto parts to try to build their very own racecar from scratch, why they had to share the glory of just one star-studded racing career.
Maybe the record books couldn’t have handled them both. Maybe there wouldn’t have ever been enough ink. Maybe God was taking it easy on the rest of the field, because two Andretti twins for 30-plus years, their careers running in tandem all the way to the end, would have simply been unfair.
Mario Andretti sure doesn’t understand it. The 80-year-old, who famously won the 1969 Indy 500 to go along with four open-wheel championships, will never fully grasp why he, a man who’s been asked far too many times about the “Andretti Curse,” came out the lucky one in he and twin brother Aldo’s game of Life.
But the more Mario talks, stumbling upon one memory after another days after Aldo passed away Dec. 30 due to complications from COVID-19, the more you can start to piece it together yourself.
Who else would have been there standing in the infield near the end of Turn 3 in Trenton back in 1964, the day of Mario’s first USAC race? That afternoon, Mario had tasked his brother, younger by six hours, to serve as a marker for high-level open-wheel racing’s newest neophyte on when to back off on the gas. In those days, practice, qualifying and racing flew by in just a single day, so the elder Andretti couldn’t waste any time getting up to speed.
“Stand just past the big tree,” Mario asked of Aldo. “Stand where the top guys are backing off, so I can work up to it.”
But that first practice lap, well before Mario reached his brother, his nerves caught him, and he took his foot off far too swiftly, and he spun.
“After practice, I asked him, ‘What the hell were you doing? Are you trying to kill me? I thought you were going to stand where all the top guys were easing up, and I could go just a bit less…but you were all the way down there!’”
Mario points, exasperated.
Calm and level-headed, Aldo replied. “If you’re going to beat them, you’ve got to go deeper than they do.”
The racer of the two would go on to finish outside the top-10 that weekend, but maybe a seed was planted that weekend. Mario would go on to finish second at Trenton a year later, followed by third in the Indy 500 in 1965, sparking his first USAC title run.
“He was a true cheerleader,” Mario told IndyStar this week. “I think he felt the same satisfaction I was having with my own success, and I knew how much he wanted it, even though he never had the chance.
“I was the luckier one, for sure, but there was never this, ‘Oh gosh, why not me?’ type of thing, never ever, ever, ever, ever made you feel like he was a victim, and that’s something that spoke so loudly to me throughout my life.”
If you watched only that first year of the Andrettis’ racing career, spending most of it squinting from the bleachers trying to make out which one got to man the Hudson Hornet and strap on the pair’s lone helmet that weekend, you might have been surprised that both young men weren’t on-track in Trenton that April in 1964.
As the legend goes, on a spring race day in 1959 at Nazareth Speedway, neither one woke up knowing if it would be their first chance at stardom. After rolling the red stock car onto the track, both boys, donning zippered race suits that put the elder men in T-shirts to shame, Mario pulled a nickel out of his pocket. Aldo won the toss, took over the lead from the back of the field of 20 three laps into that initial heat race and would win the day’s feature race and its $80 grand prize a few hours later.
“All the sudden that following weekend, the onus was on me to do the same,” Mario said. Like their daily shifts at the local Sunoco, the boys traded the roles of driver and cheerleader that summer, combining for more than a dozen victories that summer. In the years that followed, there’s hardly ever been a major open-wheel race weekend in the United States without an Andretti in the cockpit.
But two, that’s where the trouble started. The brothers both earned entry into that season’s finale at Hatfield Speedway in August – Aldo in the boys’ shared car, Mario borrowing a ride. And it was that day, with Mario in the stands with the boys’ future wives Dee Ann Hock and Corky Stofflet watching Aldo’s heat race, when the younger of the twins steered too high, a victim of that same aggression he would try to teach Mario years later in Trenton. All of a sudden, Mario saw his brother flipping end over end, the roof of the Hornet collapsing, splitting open his brother’s helmet and leaving him unconscious.
He was taken to the local hospital in a coma. Mario remembers listening while Aldo was read his last rites.
Aldo would recover, but he was never the same on-track. His brother has often said Aldo was “half a lap slower” after that in the sprint cars he would go on to race for 10 more years.
Eventually, after an equally horrific crash in Des Moines 10 years later that left Aldo “unrecognizable,” he heeded his brother’s wishes and hung up his helmet.
If it had to be one of them, Mario surmises maybe it’s best it was Aldo, even as it crushed Mario to feel so helpless at the time, unable to give his beyond-deserving brother that dream they had spoken of in hushed whispers at night before drifting off to sleep as they grew up in a refugee camp.
Mario would give his brother the world if he could – even buying him a Firestone store on Crawfordsville Road just blocks away from IMS not long after Aldo gave up racing, to keep him busy and not far from the racing scene. But he couldn’t give Aldo his career back, and Mario wonders now, had the roles been flipped, if he would have been able to be as fervent a cheerleader for Aldo, whether he could have kept jealousy at bay.
“I was the one that ended up feeling all the guilt. I was always thinking, ‘Why am I so fortunate?’” Mario said. “But then it always made me feel happy when he was out there, just unconditionally supporting me.
“His response was always, ‘What’s the alternative, for me to just be miserable?’ And that taught me a lot. I don’t know if I would have been able to be as gallant.”
And so there they lived in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Mario the fierce champion and Aldo the energy, together an almost unmatched racing superpower delivered to the world Feb. 28, 1940.
In retirement, they lived apart – Mario clinging to their boyhood stomping grounds of Nazareth and Aldo adopting the family’s second home of Indianapolis. Dec. 7, the elder arrived from out of town for his annual driving physical and dropped in on Aldo for what would be their final shared laughs. COVID-19 came on quickly, hitting Corky, too, but sending her home from the hospital soon after. Aldo stayed, making a point to FaceTime his brother every day until his last.
Mario sees solace only in the fact that the one time he saw his brother lose his spirit was in the passing of Aldo’s son, John, to colon cancer last January. The father was forced to watch his son drift away slowly for years, a father’s unrelenting joy and positivity unable to cast the family’s latest battle back into the darkness.
“I don’t think I ever saw Aldo mourn like he did after losing John,” he said. “He felt so helpless.”
And now, Mario knows, two of the family’s lifelong drivers at heart are up together, tearing around Heaven’s version of Nazareth to make up for races, as spectators and drivers alike, life stole from them.
Mario just wishes he could watch. He’d do anything to scream in the stands for his brother again. But in these times of despair, too, he misses his cheerleader now more than ever.
“Clearly, half of me is definitely gone with him,” Mario said, his voice that rambles with the speed of a combustion engine pitter-pattering to a pause. “When you lose someone like that, things will never be the same. It’s tough, that’s all I can say. It’s sad.
“Being a twin? I don’t know anything else.”
Posted 16 January 2021 - 11:07
Thank you, Reinhard. It's heart warming to read of Mario's love for his brother between the lines. Also, I'll adopt the word "legend" from this article - so much better than "Andretti myth"
Posted 16 January 2021 - 17:33
Article by Nathan Brown in the Indianapolis Star, Jan 08, 2021:
I remember years ago Mario telling this story but couldn't quite remember the details. I was thinking of posting here for anyone that could relate it; you have saved me the trouble. Thanks so much for sharing that with us.
Posted Yesterday, 10:58
Hatfield Speedway was better known as the Montgomery County Fairgrounds pre-war when it held semi-regular race meetings for Sprint cars on its half-mile dirt track for all kinds of sanctioning clubs, including the occasional AAA show. Drivers like Russ Snowberger, Jimmy Gleason or Freddie Winnai were early track record holders, and post-war the list of main event winners included names like Tommy Hinnershitz, Mike Magill, Jimmy Bryan, Ernie McCoy and Joe Sostilio. Midget racing was also very popular at the track, with drivers like Bill Schindler and Len Duncan doing lots of the winning, and by the fifties the inevitable Stock cars put on weekly shows at Hatfield, promoted by Joie Chitwood. In 1954, the former Sprint car, Midget and Stock car driver George Marshman took over the promotion of the storied track and instigated a $ 65,000 facelift for the plant which included a new asphalt surface, banking for the turns and an expanded seating capacity of 7,000 – in a town with a population of less than 2,000! To recoup expenses, the overhauled venue (now known as the Hatfield Hi-Speedway) staged an even more ambitious and varied racing programme over the next five years, and in 1959 featured a regular menu of ARDC Midgets on Friday nights as well as a two-tier Stock car show on Saturday nights, similar to Nazareth’s twin bill. At Hatfield, though, the top class was called “Racing Stocks”, and was sanctioned by the local All-Star Racing Club, while the subdivision (sanctioned by the Bell Stock Car Racing Club, and popularly known as the “Non-Fords”) was for 1954 models or older with a maximum of 6 cylinders excluding, however, cars of the Dearborn manufacturer – in other words, tailormade for the Andrettis! Additionally, the enterprising Marshman had built a new one-third-of-a-mile dirt track inside of the asphalt oval, which was eventually abandoned midway through the ’59 season, and it was on this new track that the big season finale was about to be staged on October 3: a 50-lap main event for the All-Star Racing Stocks, and a 30-lap feature for the Bell Club Non-Fords. Incidentally, today George Marshman is better known as the father of Bobby Marshman, who right at that time was preparing for his big-time debut in a USAC Sprinter at Williams Grove just a week hence – his 8th place finish there was to be the start to a meteoric, if tragic career at the very top of his profession.
Unfortunately for the researcher, newspapers follow their own beat when it comes to coverage of events, and while the speedway management clearly felt they were making a big splash with their season finale, the local press thought otherwise and ignored the meeting, by and large. All I could find was the shortest of articles in the Pottstown Mercury, giving the first three finishers of the All-Star race, and nothing else – no mention of the accident, nothing of the Bell Club race at all. Two days later, a somewhat longer article appeared, titled “Driver Injured At Hatfield Oval ‘Much’ Improved”.
LANSDALE – Aldo Andretti, Nazareth modified stock car racer injured at Hatfield speedway Saturday night, was reported as “slightly improved” at North Penn hospital here last night. Andretti was injured when he suddenly “lost” his car during the feature race. The mount cartwheeled several times as he ran all alone down the backstretch. He was removed to North Penn hospital, where his neck was placed in traction. He remained unconscious Sunday and Monday, and at the time the extent of his injuries was not fully known.
Rumors circulated that Andretti had died enroute to the hospital, and continued to gain momentum yesterday. A BROKEN neck was feared until yesterday, when Andretti regained consciousness. George Marshman, Hatfield promoter, said last night however, that Andretti was “much improved.” “There wasn’t a mark or bruise on him,” said Marshman. A check with hospital authorities failed to shed any light on the extent of Andretti’s injuries. Two unnamed youths struck by a wheel from the wrecked auto, were treated and released at the same hospital Saturday night.
And that's it - nothing more could be found about the accident, the extent of Aldo's injuries or about his well being, not in the Pottstown Mercury nor in Central News-Herald of Perkasie/PA (eight miles north of Hatfield), which occasionally covered the Hatfield races in some detail. Nothing at all in The Morning Call! Comparing this to the outright glee with which many motor racing accidents in period were reported in the press, this feels somewhat odd. Make no mistake, any accident which knocks a person out cold is potentially life threatening, but other than that, Aldo seems to have come off rather lightly.
Human memory is a strange thing. It has the power to stretch time, or to contract it. It can mix up events that were never connected in the first place, and it can pull things apart to never again be thought of as one - perhaps that's the most important function for human beings to survive in sanity, namely the ability to forget unpleasant things of the past, to make them simply disappear. I have seen several accounts of Aldo's accident and its aftermath, and to various degrees, they have all overstated the time Aldo remained unconscious, stayed in hospital, or took to fully recuperate. In many ways, that's not surprising - when his mother, for example, is quoted as saying that it was weeks rather than days before he woke up again, that can easily be understood in the circumstances - it must have felt that way! But, I have also seen exaggerated stories from emotionally unconnected people where twelve weeks were claimed, when in reality it had been only two days and change. Perhaps it's human nature to overstate things, how else can you explain? The same goes for his recovery, I have seen it mentioned that he couldn't even walk for most of the following year. Well, I don't know about that, but we have a reliable witness that he could drive again by February - a police report, as quoted in The Morning Call, mentioned Aldo as an innocent participant in a car accident on an icy road some ten miles north of Nazareth. All that doesn't really explain away his injuries, but it once again reminds us of the jug of salt we are supposed to keep handy when reading of the Andretti legend.
And yes, there’s more: ever wondered about the story how Gigi, the father of the twins, didn’t know about their racing until he saw Aldo in hospital, and the subsequent beating he’s supposed to have administered to Mario? How’s that even possible, the language barrier notwithstanding! Even if he couldn’t read the papers himself, surely he can’t have been that isolated to know nothing of his own name appearing in print, week after week. And his sons being away every Sunday night, and coming home smeared with oil and dirt, even the odd cut on the face or arm from a rock on the track, how do you explain that to your dad without him wising up? That simply doesn't ring true, if you ask me. I believe the beating was real, though, but the explanation, the whole connection with Aldo’s accident was probably “manufactured”, in a sense, as a means to deal with something else, far more awful, an experience that must have been extremely unpleasant for the entire family, and to "make that go away". It was a truly heinous thing Mario was accused and convicted of, together with his best buddy Billy Tanzosh, and which was reported in several local papers over a period of a full month that same winter. I will spare you the details, but for those of you with an inquisitive mind (and a strong stomach, it is recommended!), you can google the words "Andretti Tanzosh Gasoline Cat" - the way these things work, I can't be sure whether everyone gets the same results, but you should be able to find a link to a story by The Morning Call, although you probably still need a subscription to read the full article. Anyway, the link preview will give you the salient facts. Suffice it to say, if a young driver did something like that today, his career would be finished immediately - you can argue about "cancel culture" all you want, and yes, it would've been sad if we'd been deprived of watching Mario's career unfold over the decades, but if it helps avoiding such awful behaviour, I can't help but being all for it. And if Gigi was only half a man, he beat the living crap out of his son for it, I'm sure.
Edited by Michael Ferner, Yesterday, 16:27.