CHICAGO — During the heyday of Chicagoland’s Raceway Park, Ted Janecyk was part of the give no quarter, take no quarter-style of stock car racing, competing for more than 30 years at Raceway Park.
Janecyk, who lived in Calumet Park, Ill., across the street from speedway since 1951, died Thursday at the age of 90.
Janecyk raced hard like his fellow competitors, using the little bump and run technique to get the job done as he raced sometimes four nights a week. The likes of Bud Koehler, Bob Pronger, Bill Van Allen, Bob Williams and Tom Cox, plus another dozen or so potential winners, were Janecyk’s competition.
Janecyk was the oldest living Raceway Park stock car champion, winning the late model title at the tight, shorter-than-a-quarter-mile, paved oval in 1965. Driving Bill Koenig’s rapid-running red and white Chevelle No. 1, he won an impressive 27 feature wins during his championship year. Raceway Park would close its gates after the 2000 racing season.
Janecyk began racing there regularly in 1953 and won his first feature race on September 5, 1954 with the race being televised live by WBKB-TV-Channel 7. Janecyk would win 96 features at Raceway Park during his career, which would come to a close in the mid 1980s.
At the end of the 1952 season, Janecyk bought a 1941 Buick from a neighborhood friend for $50. He drove the car, numbered 41E, in the track’s annual 300-lap Classic and finished 24th
“I didn’t really want to drive it,” remembered Janecyk. “The car would go into the turns and start rolling over. I started the race but after several laps every time you’d tap the brakes to go into the turn the pedal goes all the way to the floor. All of sudden I have no brakes so I coasted into the pits. That was the end of that.”
Janecyk worked on the ’41 Buick, repainted it and numbered it No. 3 for the 1953 season – his first full season of driving. He chose No. 3 because he had three kids. A Raceway regular already had the No. 3 so Janecyk added a T and No. 3T became his number for about the next nine years.
The 1954 season was a breakout year for Janecyk as he won his first feature in his Olds-powered 1950 Pontiac, ending the season with a total of three wins and seventh in the points behind champion Bud Koehler, Bob Williams, Tom Cox and others.
Moving forward, Janecyk raced at Raceway Park, enjoying various degrees of success – mostly in his own cars. Janecyk drove for car owner Dave Roulo in 1962, wheeling Roulo’s ’57 Chevy No. 1 to an impressive 12 wins, including the 100-lap Season Championship race. He joined forces with Bill Koenig in 1963 to drive Koenig’s Jerry’s Auto Parts-sponsored ’62 Chevy No. 1. The Janecyk/Koenig combo went back many years with Koenig helping Janecyk with the original ’41 Buick.
“Billy Koenig came to me and asked me if I wanted to drive for him next year (1963),” said Janecyk. “He was building a new car. Billy being so good with motors and stuff, I thought we’d make a good combination.”
Koenig put together a new short wheelbase Chevelle for Janecyk to wheel in 1965. First powered by a 409 cubic inch engine and, later, a 396, the new No. 1 was fast and Janecyk never seemed to waiver on his quest for his first Raceway Park late model title. Janecyk was the dominate driver at the speedway that year, winning 27 feature races, 20 heat races, nine trophy dashes and setting fast time 33 times. Janecyk was the first driver to get around the Raceway Park oval in less than 13 seconds, establishing a record of 12.96 seconds on June 19, 1965.
With a dozen years of racing under his belt, Janecyk sailed to the championship only to see a tangle with Johnny Kapovich during the Season Championship race end the winning-season prematurely, with Janecyk suffering a broken foot in the crash. Janecyk accepted his championship trophy on crutches and with his foot in a cast.
Pretty much retiring from racing after his championship season, Janecyk came back full-time in 1967 with his own cars and raced through the mid 1980s.
Never seeming to slow down, Janecyk was driving a truck while he was in his 80s.