2017 Silver Dollar Nationals

Sunday, August 10, 2014

1965 - Smart driving, rain and happy winners

Allentown, Pa. (August 10, 1965) – United States Auto Club sprint car drivers opened the Great Allentown Fair on Saturday afternoon on what is supposed to be a half-mile dirt track. The surface on some asphalt tracks isn't as hard as the sun-baked oval at Allentown was for Saturday's event.

Jud Larson's many years’ experience, on all types of racetracks, paid off. The big Texan drove into the winner's circle at the end of the 30-lap feature race on a set of rear tires made of the softest rubber imaginable.

It took just three laps for Larson to move from his ninth place starting position to the front of the pack. As far as first place was concerned the race was over.

Fourteen cars started the feature and at one time or other during the race, 13 of them made a run for second place. But all that could be seen of Jud was the tail of his Watson-built sprinter disappearing in the distance.

This was one time when action back in the pack was enjoyed by race fans. Greg Weld, Don Branson, and Mario Andretti hooked up in as tight a three-car race as has ever been seen. For several laps the three were circling the track side-by-side.

Mario's engine went lame and Greg finally spun-out. Grandpa Branson finished back in the pack.

Bud Tinglestad, in one of his few appearances in the sprints this year, took second place honors. Jerry “Scratch” Daniels was third; Ronnie Duman, fourth; and Bobby Unser, fifth.

Jud said after the race, “I learned about these soft tires dodging trees, when we used to race up and down the side of a hill in Texas.”

They have another sprint race scheduled for Wednesday at the Fair. Unless someone takes those rear tires off Jud's car, he is as near to being a “sure-thing” as you will ever see in automobile racing.

It pleased Jud more to “out smart” the USAC regulars, and several local heroes, than if he had battled them for 30 laps before winning.

The County Fair Board told USAC that all race personnel had to be out by 4:30 p.m. because Liberace was coming in at that time to get ready for his evening show. Thanks to Jud's soft tires everyone was on their way to Langhorne ahead of the deadline.

Promoters Irv Fried and Al Gerber spent thousands of dollars paving the “Big D” at Langhorne; its history as a mile-dirt track was the longest in automobile racing. But with the rear-engine cars taking over, it seemed that the days of dirt track championship racing was about finished. So Langhorne was paved.

Guess what showed up for the second race - 12 dirt championship cars, six front engine roadsters, and seven rear engine cars. Of these seven rear engine cars only four were in any shape to run.

In spite of having anew shape and surface, the track is still better for an engine with a high torque range rather than high engine speeds.

Jimmy McElreath’s winning car is a rear engine machine, but it has a high-torque Offenhauser furnishing the power.

McElreath has won both of the Championship races that have been run on the “D” since it was paved, so it must be a winning combination.

The qualifying runs of Don Branson and Gordon Johncock, both breaking the world's record for one-mile tracks, made many people wonder are the old style cars out-dated after all?

Here again is where the “what ifs” take over in racing. If it hadn't been for a few minor problems, Andretti's seat coming loose for example, one of the old style cars could have won this race. But if Columbus had gone East instead of West where would we be?

It was a good race and well worth seeing, the only thing I didn't enjoy was getting caught by the SECOND downpour, standing in the middle of the track taking a picture of wet racecars.

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