HEDGER: You Might Be An Old Timer If… Part II

Ron Hedger

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — Since our initial look at the past highlighting signs that you might be an old timer, a number of other standards have come to mind.

For example, you might be an old timer if you remember when “nail head” Buicks were a popular powerplant in Oswego supermodifieds, which at the time were far more rudimentary than today’s extreme offsets powered by big-block Chevrolets. You might even recall when Nolan Swift’s famed “Ten Pins” car was a tube-frame super with a coupe body. He was the force that pushed the track away from full-bodied cars to supermodifieds.

You might also be an old timer if you remember the 10 small bowling pins on the roof of Swift’s car lit up when he took the lead.

You also meet the standard if you remember when many of Oswego’s teams towed in from Michigan, including Dave Paul, Johnny Benson Sr. and the Johncocks — Nolan and Gordy.

If you recall that talented modified racer Bucky Buckholtz and supermodified star Ronnie Lux, who perished in a USAC sprint car crash, were the same person, you may be an old timer.

And speaking of popular western New Yorkers, you may be an old timer if you recall when USAC star Jim Hurtubise ran stock cars in New York after recovering from burns suffered in a champ car event.

In those days, one had to run a certain number of races to be eligible for the National Open/Race of Champions at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway, which Hurtubise wanted to run.

If that rings a bell, you may remember when Midwesterners Joy Fair and Benny Parsons, in full-size cars, joined the 100-plus car fields on the treacherous Pennsylvania mile after it was paved. By then, the minimum race requirement had been dropped.

You also qualify as an old timer if you remember the last few years before Langhorne was paved, when the coupes and sedans raced against a handful of central Pennsylvania “bugs” that bridged the gap between coupes and sprint cars.

The basic rules were that they had to be 30 inches wide at the driver’s seat and have a 90-inch wheelbase, making them lighter and faster than the modifieds, though they were also less-suited to Langhorne’s many holes over the 100-mile distance.

If you’re one of the many who built those coupes and coaches, you also remember when one-piece bodies salvaged from the junkyard were bolted onto the chassis instead of being formed from multiple flat sheets and fastened on with Dzus buttons.

Turning to past National Speed Sport News editions, you might be an old timer if you remember when ads for big sprint car races in the Midwest carried the notation “No Dual Wheels or Corn Pickers,” the latter being rudimentary, wedge-shaped wings built into the side nerf bars that resembled a harvester.

To this day, Ohio’s Rick Ferkel tells us he always found out about lucrative races far away from his home by faithfully checking NSSN ads.

You also qualify as an old timer if you remember when Earl Halaquist was the top dog in the United Racing Club, wheeling the immaculate Nesler Deuce Trevis Craft sprinter.

Halaquist loved nothing more than cutting a sub-20-second lap during hot laps to kick off the club’s annual Memorial Day appearance at Fonda (N.Y.) Speed­way, then telling observers that the lap should end stock car hero Kenny Shoemaker’s bragging about turning a 24-second lap on the egg-shaped fairgrounds half-mile for a while.

Extremely talented, Halaquist nearly took a shot at the Indianapolis 500 at the urging of A.J. Foyt, but in the end he opted to put his family first and keep his job at the local magneto factory that he would have lost had he gone to Indy for the month of May.

One of Halaquist’s favorite stories involved him taking son Dennis o Nazareth (Pa.) National Speedway. After winning the URC race, an owner asked him to tag the midget field in his car and he won that race, too.

Will Cagle then asked Halaquist to run his spare stock car in the nightcap, but Halaquist declined. All the way home, he reminded Dennis not to tell his mother that dad had won the midget feature, as he’d promised his wife he would quit racing midgets after a number of fatal crashes occurred in the division.

When Halaquist went down to breakfast the next morning, he found Dennis proudly telling his mom all about the two wins as he ate his cornflakes, fueling a brief bout of marital strife in the process.

You might also be an old timer if you remember flaggers working from the track rather than a platform high above the racing surface.

At Fonda, Chet Hames would wave the green flag from the edge of the track and then retreat. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Tex Enright, often in an Indian headdress and bright shirt, would stand in the middle of the two rows of cars before running toward the rear of the field, letting cars go on both sides of him.

And at New York’s Lebanon Valley Speedway, Marty Beberwyck had the best idea, waving the green and retreating behind a tow truck that shielded him as they both backed into the infield.

Looking back, each memory triggers two more. That’s another sign you are definitely an old timer!