Friday, December 17, 2010

The Early Ruins of Pine Brook


I have titled this photo "The Early Ruins of Pine Brook" because it was taken after the track had been closed, but before the fencing was torn down and the track surface torn up.

Melissa Cooke, whose father fielded a TQ for many years and who herself raced a micro-stock at Pine Brook, took this and many more photos of the doomed facility following its closing. Not visible in this shot is the fact that the bleacher seating was already gone, and that other features of the facility were already being dismantled or left to rot.

She took this shot from the roof of the box office building, where the announcer and scorers' positions were, and from where I viewed almost every race at Pine Brook starting with the first one in 1962.

We will be posting more of Melissa’s photos as time goes on.

The track closed in the Fall of 1989 following the decision by property owner Anthony Pio Costa to disallow further operation by promoter Jack Bellinato. Pio Costa had big dreams for development of the property, but it was more than a decade before anything happened. A Home Depot was built, eventually, but why racing could not have continued why development was being sought is known only by Pio Costa.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Karting at Pine Brook?

Here is a most unusual photo taken by Dave Innes, and sent to us by Gary Mondschein: A 1960s go-kart on a victory lap at Pine Brook.

This photo appears to date from the late 60s. Early enough that there is only a roll bar on the kart (New Jersey required the same safety standards for karts in those days as it did for all other racing machines), and late enough that the infield ripple strips are in place.

Kart racing never took root at Pine Brook, despite the track's compact size that would seem to lend itself to the tiny machines. Among the reasons is that kart racing never took root in New Jersey back then, in part due to those State regulations.

Now, Gary, can you find us a photo of the one-and-only flat-track motorcycle race that took place at Pine Brook?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Old Bones

The car is the photo is one that Blu Metz was shepherding at Sundance Vacations Speedway this past Sunday. It is the former Storero #01, and Blu happily noted that the car raced at Pine Brook back when Andy Storero was driving.

But, obviously a car that is now more than 21 years old would require some changes and updating to remain competitive today. I suggested that the car was the Storero car in the same vein as the old “George Washington’s Ax” story: It’s George Washington’s ax, although through the years the head has been replaced once and the handle has been replaced three times.

“Okay,” said Blu, pointing to the car’s nerf bar. “That nerf bar definitely raced at Pine Brook!”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Born at Pine Brook

In the photo is a mid-60s English Ford Anglia, modified into an oval-track race car. This photo was taken circa 1971 at the Flemington Fairgrounds – so what is it doing here?

Well, the site on which this photo is posted,
http://www.speedwaysnapshots.com/, has dozens of old photos from several of the region’s tracks, including Pine Brook. We will be adding some of those photos here as we go along. But the real point of our posting this photo is to illustrate the fact that this class of car, often referred to as "mini-stocks," was born at Pine Brook.

In 1963, looking to broaden the track’s offerings, Dick Marlow dreamed up what he termed "midget stocks," and sketched out specifications based on the size and displacement of the VW beetle. Midget stocks debuted at Pine Brook that year... without success. Despite being small cars, they were too big for the Pine Brook track, and only a handful of races were ever run.

But the racers who had put together the cars were not about to let a too-small race track hamper their efforts. They formed the Foreign Compact Racing Association, or FCRA, and soon had booked races for themselves at Flemington, Wall Stadium, Fort Dix Speedway, and elsewhere. They quickly dropped the "midget stock" name in favor of "mini-stocks," and in their relatively short history they put on some truly great races.

One of the best races we ever saw was an FCRA feature at Wall Stadium around 1969 or so. By then, nearly the entire field was comprised of Anglias. While VWs and Fiats and NSUs and Renaults and others were all tried at Pine Brook, it did not take innovative racers long to figure out that within the original specs, the Anglia was the car to have. This may explain why you never see a Ford Anglia at a vintage car show these days – they all gave their lives to mini-stock racing.

We do possess an 8mm home movie of the mini-stocks banging their way around Pine Brook, and if we ever figure out how to convert those films to digital images, we’ll post them. In the meantime, our thanks to Jeff Scott at Speedway Snapshots, for helping us illustrate the fact that "mini-stocks," by whatever name, were born at Pine Brook.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Young Guy on Old Timer's Night

On "Old Timer’s Night" in 1983, Billy Courtwright was the winner in Pete Petraitis’ #40, one of the more successful cars of the time period. Click the photo to see a larger version.

Courtwright, of course, is the smiling young fellow in the driver’s suit, shaking the hand of car owner Petraitis. There is plenty of the event sponsor’s product, Chemlube, being passed around also.

In the background, upper left, is Jack Bellinato, who was Pine Brook’s promoter from the passing of Jack Dowie until the end in 1989. Bellinato is wearing what he considered to be his lucky hat, the hat he counted on to ward off rainouts. We don’t know the story behind Mark Allen’s hat, at the far right.

In addition to Courtwright, numerous drivers enjoyed victories in this car. Nick Fornoro, Jr.’s name is lettered on the cowl in this shot. Courtwright and Fornoro were great friends, but friction did occur as they competed for rides in front-running cars like this one. We can remember Bob Cicconi winning in this car, too.

Also lettered on the car is "One of The Bad Guys," a nickname given to a merry band of racers, including Petraitis, from Long Island. Once, when it seemed that all the racing luck and most of the officiating decisions were going against them, Will Ford lamented, "What are we, the bad guys?" A nickname was born.

Thanks to Billy Courtwright for sending us this photo. Send us your Pine Brook memories!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Today's Trivia: The Name

The name "Pine Brook Stadium" was the name originally given to the track by builder Dick Marlow. But at some point during the promotional reign of Jack Dowie, the name was changed to "Pine Brook Speedway." Later, when Jack Bellinato was in charge, he experimented with "Home of Champions Speedway" but it never stuck. Everyone called it "Pine Brook," be it Stadium or Speedway.

Many people thought of Pine Brook as one word, Pinebrook. But it is two words, named after the Pine Brook section of Montville Township, in which the track was located.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Adams Family

Here is a fun photo not only for those who remember Pine Brook, but also for those who are active in ATQMRA racing today.

In the car is Mark Pritchard, getting ready for warmups in 1982. But his crew is where the fun resides in this photo. Do you recognize the two young men in the blue T-shirts? Click the photo for a better look.

On the left is Tim Adams, who would become a driver himself and win a championship with Tom Williams, and who still competes today in the midwinter indoor races.

On the right is Don Adams, who would also become a driver and win multiple championships and many, many races. Don also remains active behind the wheel today, but only on an occasional basis.

Mark Pritchard has returned to the driver's seat from time to time recently. Mark sent us this photo -- send us yours! Our e-mail address is PineBrookStadium@comcast.net.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

O. Bruton Smith and Pine Brook

What possible connection could there be Bruton Smith and Pine Brook?

Smith, now in his 80s, is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the racing goliath that owns, among other facilities, the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and more. Smith is arguably the most influential man in racing, anywhere.

The connection between Smith and Pine Brook is the man in the photo, Jerry Gappens, Executive Vice President & General Manager of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, part of the SMI empire.


Gappens is likely the only top executive with SMI to have spent his Friday nights at Pine Brook a quarter of a century ago.

At the time, Gappens was a young man just breaking in to the racing game with a stint at Chris Economaki’s National Speed Sport News, then headquartered in Ridgewood, New Jersey, just half an hour from Pine Brook. Fridays at Pine Brook were common for NSSN staffers, and Gappens was no different.

Gappens traveled to other TQ races, too, including the memorable Lake Moc-A-Tec Speedway, a track esthetically about as far removed as possible from a palace such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

These days, Gappens is an important figure not only in the racing world but also in the New Hampshire business and political arenas. But he remains a great guy who hasn’t forgotten those Friday nights at Pine Brook.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Albany-Saratoga

The 2010 season-opening race for the ATQMRA was rained out at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on April 17. The event would have marked the group’s first race there in nearly 40 years!

It was 1972 or 1973 when the ATQMRA last raced on the pavement at Albany-Saratoga, right in the heart of the Pine Brook years and also during the period of domination by the combination of driver Tony Romit and the Wehrle’s unique #02.

The Albany-Saratoga race was a distinctive program, a triple-header featuring the TQs, the ARDC midgets, and the URC Sprints. Yes, there was a time when URC ran pavement races, just as more recently there was a time that ARDC ran pavement races.

And this was before the Albany-Saratoga pavement was covered with dirt for the first time.

Another distinguishing characteristic of that long-ago Albany-Saratoga race, aside from the total absence of any stock car classes, was that all three feature races were 30 laps in length and that all three of them went non-stop, with no yellow flags. It was a memorable night of racing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Victory Lane 1987

It's August 7, 1987, and John Smith has just won the main event at Pine Brook. This was the year that High Grade Beverage, a local Busch beer distributor, was a sponsor.

The photo includes not only John at the center, but also the great Roscoe "Pappy" Hough, second from left.

We often tell people how Pappy was a role model for us. We aspire to do what he did -- he remained active late in life, he got out to the races more frequently than men half his age, he did not just sit around.

Flagman Dave Innes, Jr., is at the right. Tragically, Dave would lose his life only a few years later at Wall Stadium, when a Modifed stock car jumped the guardrail and struck Dave as he manned his post in the flagstand.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Roast Was Well Done

In the photo, from left to right: Blu Metz, Mike Osite, Joe Payne, Johnny Coy, Jr., Alan Mollot, Jack Bertling, Wayne Laucius, Bob Marlow, Lenny Boyd. In the foreground, the restored Boyd Roadster. In the background, just some of the beautiful aircraft in the Boyd facility.

We were not quite certain what to expect at the "roast" for Alan Mollot this past Saturday. Oh, we knew the fundamentals, because Gary Mondshein had organized roasts previously, when he was racing with ARDC. And we had participated in two of those, honoring Nick Fornoro, Sr., and Lenny Boyd.

But this was different. It was this first roast organized under the ATQMRA banner, and it was going to take place not in a catering hall, but at a county airport. And the honoree was a somewhat reluctant honoree. "I don’t know why I let Gary talk me in to this," Alan told us some weeks ago.

On that point Alan need not have worried. There exists a broad and deep pool of people who respect and admire him. And on the other point, well, let’s just say that "museum" would be a better term to describe the setting than "hangar." Technically, yes, it was a hangar, but if the caterer had not set up been tables and chairs you could have easily eaten off the floor. And if eating off the floor is not your thing, you could have eaten off any of the several meticulously-maintained historic aircraft in the room. The facility of Lenny and Donna Boyd is a sight to behold.

Add to this the tables holding scrapbooks and memorabilia, and add the two historic TQ races cars on display, and add the plentiful catered food and a DJ who understands the meaning of "background music," and nothing was lacking.

Doing the roasting was a cross-section of the many people whose racing lives have intersected with that of Alan Mollot. From Jack Bertling, the championship-winning driver whose career began before roll cages came into use, to Joey Payne, himself a championship-winning driver and the most recent driver of Alan’s signature car number 51. Former Mollot drivers Johnny Coy, Jr., Mike Osite, and Lenny Boyd were on the dias, along with Blu Metz, the immediate past president of the ATQMRA, and Yours Truly.

Missing was multi-time ATQMRA champion Don Adams, who was scheduled to be on the panel but who was kept away by last-minute matters. In the audience were several other drivers who have chauffeured the Mollot car over the years, and an assortment of drivers ranging from those who drove in the 1950s to 2009 ATQMRA champion Allison Cumens.


Of all the things that were said during the evening, perhaps the most significant were the words offered by Payne. Noting the recent passing of longtime NEMA car owner Gene Angelillo, Payne said that Mollot was to the ATQMRA as Angelillo was to NEMA – and that both men influenced their respective organizations to the same effect that Dale Earnhardt influenced NASCAR. Payne then raised a toast to Alan Mollot, to which we can add only, Hear Hear!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mister T.Q.

It was Bob Tidaback, we believe, who labeled Alan Mollot as "Mister T.Q." The label is the result of Alan’s having been involved in TQ racing for well over 40 years, and for his having earned innumerable race victories and several series championships over the course of those years.

This Saturday, March 20, 2010, Alan will be the honoree at a dinner and "roast" being organized by Gary Mondshein and taking place at facilities provided by Lenny and Donna Boyd. Lenny Boyd, like us, was just a teenager when Alan first became the owner of a TQ Midget race car. Lenny grew up to be a championship-wining driver, and one of those championships came at the wheel of Alan Mollot’s car.

But that’s not Lenny Boyd in the photo. No, this photo dates back to Alan’s first years in TQ racing, possibly even his first year. The driver pictured is Sonny Sanders, and that’s Alan, of course, alongside the car.

A fixture of the early years at Pine Brook is in this photo, too – the push truck provided by Fisher Automatic Transmissions, still in business today although it has evolved into FATSCO.

We will be at the "roast" Saturday night, helping to toss zingers Alan’s way but confident that everyone in the room, like Bob Tidaback, has the utmost respect for "Mister T.Q."

The First Green Flag

Finally, the green flag is waving. It took only a month to build Pine Brook Stadium, but thanks to the distractions of everyday life it has taken far longer to launch this web site. Still, better late than never.

As noted on the home page, this will be an ongoing project, never actually finished. We have countless photos, clippings, and stories to tell about the little race track that gained a national reputation.

We will be updating this blog regularly, not only with information about the history of Pine Brook Stadium, but also about relevant – and perhaps irrelevant – events in racing.

Since this is our first post to the new blog, it seemed appropriate to include a image of a clipping about the first race at Pine Brook in 1962. Written by Nat Kleinfield, it was one of many that Nat placed in newspapers in the region prior to the track’s opening night. Click on the image to open a larger version suitable for reading.


Thank you for visiting, and stop back often!