More than 60 years ago I took an interest in auto racing. It all started when I went to my first race and saw Freddy Adam flip in turn one at the Reading Fairgrounds. I was hooked.
Over the years I have seen, announced and written about more auto races that I can ever remember. I have seen just about every big name racer in the business and interviewed many of them. One that really caught my attention was Johnny Thomson.
As a teenager I was president of his fan club. When he died as a result of injuries at Allentown Fairgrounds while racing a Sprint car I stayed away from the sport for a couple of years. I could not stay away but no driver had the impact on me that Thomson did.
Thomson, of Boyertown, was one of the sport’s most beloved competitors. In 1948 he won the UCOA New England Midget title after winning 32 races. He would repeat as UCOA champion in 1950. In 1952 he claimed the AAA Eastern Midget crown. Known as the “Flying Scot,” he was the first driver to complete a 100-mile dirt-track race in less than an hour in winning at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway in 1957. That was the first Champ car race that I attended. He was proficient in the AAA and USAC Championship Cars, finishing third in the final standings three times, and started the Indianapolis 500 each year from 1953-1960, recording a third in 1959 after starting from the pole. Among his Championship race victories were four during the 1958 season. In 1958 he won the USAC Eastern Sprint Car title, a title he had earlier won under AAA sanction in 1954. Inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1997, he perished in a Sprint race at the Allentown (Pa.) Fairgrounds in 1960.
Thomson is being inducted into the United States Auto Club Hall of Fame. I have to wonder why it took so long.
Something that I just found out is that he was a competitor on the highly-acclaimed TV show, Bud Collyer’s Beat the Clock. That surprised me because he was such a shy guy.
My Thomson Fan Club membership card still hangs on my office wall. He has been gone for well over 50 years but will not be forgotten.
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Some people go out in style; others with a bang. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going out grateful.
Recently Earnhardt Jr. announced his version of a final act — a five-month campaign called JR Nation Appreci88ion. It started this past weekend at Daytona and will carry through the end of the 2017 season, his last as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver.
The Appreci88ion campaign will create opportunities in social media, at-track activation, fan engagement, industry participation and philanthropy to celebrate Earnhardt Jr.’s historic career while offering gestures of gratitude to everyone who made the ride possible. That includes fans, teammates, colleagues, family members, lifelong friends and anyone who influenced Earnhardt Jr.’s time in the driver’s seat.
“My expectations were very low when I started racing — I just wanted to pay my bills,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “If I could pay bills and make a living by racing,that was a win.
“Now some 18 years later, I look at what became of it, and I just feel grateful. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of so many people, especially fans. So as I visit tracks for the last time in this role, that is my motivation. I’m going to drive as hard as I can for the people who made an 18-year Cup career possible.”
Daytona International Speedway marked the first stop of the JR Nation Appreci88ion Tour, and that is fitting as it has been home to many Earnhardt Jr. career highlights, including two Daytona 500 trophies (2004, 2014), four total Cup wins, seven non-points Cup victories and six NASCAR Xfinity Series wins.
JR Nation Appreci88ion will have a heavy presence on social media with the #Appreci88ion hashtag and digital engagement opportunities throughout the five-month campaign.
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After a wet spring, the race for the 2017 American Racer Cup presented by Sunoco Race Fuels heats up for its summer stretch.
Jeff Strunk, representing his home track of Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville currently leads the Modified chase, while Dale Welty, a regular at the paper-clip-shaped Woodhull (N.Y.) Raceway, tops the Sportsman pursuit. Strunk is a ten time Grandview TP Trailers Modified champion and as this is being written he sits on top of the current Grandview standings.
The American Racer Cup got underway in mid-April. However, persistent rain has forced postponements at venues throughout the Northeast.
Now, drivers look to score points as the championship battles intensify through the Labor Day weekend cut-off.
Strunk and the Glenn Hyneman-fielded Keystone Racing No. 126 team currently top the Modified standings in search of the $10,000-plus that goes along with the American Racer Cup Modified title. Strunk’s edge, as of June 26, is just one point over fellow Grandview rival Craig Von Dohren (481-480).
The current top-five includes Matt Sheppard representing Outlaw Speedway in Dundee, N.Y., with 470 points, last year’s overall champion Andy Bachetti of Afton (N.Y.) Motorsports Park with 468 points and Duane Howard from Grandview with 460 points.
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Big Block Modifieds are in action at Bridgeport, NJ Speedway on Saturday night along with Crate Sportsman and the new Mid-Atlantic 305 Sprint Series. Racing starts at 7 p.m. The following Saturday, July 15th Big Blocks are again the attraction along with Crate Sportsman, Outlaw Stocks and Vintage racing with a 7 p.m. start.
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Grandview Speedway has a huge night of racing on Saturday with the Sportsman in two features along with the TP Trailers Modifieds, BRC Late Models and the Vintage racers. Kory Fleming will be giving bicycles away for boys and girls. Racing starts at 7:30 p.m.