Monday, December 17, 2012

Jaws 02

In this shot from Jeff Scott’s web site, Tony Romit is getting ready to be pushed off in the Wehrle #02 on a Friday night at Pine Brook circa 1972.  This was the year that the race car sported the "shark's mouth" paint job around the radiator opening.  Can't you just hear that distinctive music from the movie Jaws?

That's John Wehrle walking alongside the right-rear tire, while the Fisher Automatic Transmission Service push truck goes by on the inside.

Lining up behind Romit in the #60 upright is Bob Cicconi.  Bob Cicconi would soon add his name to the list of winners at Pine Brook, although not in this car.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spy in the Sky

The first space satellite was launched several years before the Pine Brook Stadium was built, but the sort of satellite technology that today serves civilians with GPS directions and online maps was not readily available until several years after the track closed.

Here is a Google Earth satellite image of the Pine Brook track from April, 1995, nearly six years after the last race was run, on which the outline of the racing surface is clearly visible.

Click the photo for an enlarged view.

Route 46 is the road extending from the lower left to the upper right, and Bloomfield Avenue is the road across the lower portion of the photo. The warehouses of the Pio Costa industrial park are at the right, across the Passaic River behind the track. These were built on land that was largely vacant – and largely what today we would call “wetlands” – when the track was constructed.

To the left, across Route 46 from the track, we can easily see all the junk cars at G.I. Auto Salvage, which was there before and after the track but which today is gone.

The track office was still standing when this photo was taken, as was the “powerhouse” along the backstretch, but everything else was gone. The bleacher seats disappeared within weeks of the track’s closing in 1989, and the guardrail and the light poles went away soon afterward. At some point before this photo was snapped the rest room building outside of turns three and four was demolished and the old backstage building in the pits, behind the powerhouse, was torn down by this time also.

Now, take a look at this satellite photo, from 2010:

The Home Depot has been built, and the G.I. Auto Salvage property is in the midst of being cleaned up, but the surrounding area looks were much the same.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Long Before Digital Photography

A simply great shot from Jeff Scott’s web site. Black and white, grainy, blurry and soooo evocative!

Click the image for an enlarged view.

If you were never at Pine Brook this was taken from the spectator seating, looking into turn one.

The only car recognizable is Jim Gosford’s 61. The rest of them are pure art.  A great photograph from a time when you did not know what kind of shot you had until you went home and into the darkroom to develop the film and print the image.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just Stand There

This grainy and scratched print is from 1968 or 1969.  (Click the photo for an enlarged view.)

Joe Lacy (18) is spinning into the fence and Jerry Stover (25) may or may not be spinning out also.  Exiting stage left, in the Pouleson 7o7, is Len Duncan.

Even though persons in the pits could stand right alongside the fence, in all the years at Pine Brook, only one person in the pits was ever injured.  Which, in hindsight, seems amazing.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Name That Driver

Who is this?  (Click the photo for a larger view.)

Time’s up.

It’s Bobby Courtwright (the younger), one of two racing sons of Bobby Courtwright (the elder), photographed behind the wheel of George Verhoest’s #59 at Pine Brook.

Billy Courtwright is his brother and is generally more well known to Pine Brook expats because he raced there more frequently and won there more than a few times. Billy is still in New Jersey and is still active in racing as a crew member, but these days Bobby lives in Georgia and still races, in 360 sprints and vintage modifieds.

Bobby’s non-racing weekends are spent volunteering at Feathered Friends Forever, America's largest rescue for endangered and exotic parrots. Feathered Friends Forever is operated entirely by unpaid volunteers and is funded only by private donations. You can check out the web site here, and Bobby isn’t shy about stating that more support is needed!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Exactly 50 Years Ago

It was Friday, July 6, 1962, when the Pine Brook Stadium opened its gates for the first time.

Bob Dini -- yes, D.I.R.T. followers, that Bob Dini -- was the winner of Pine Brook's first main event that night.

The headlines said that 3,500 people were in attendance, and while that was a bit of Nat Kleinfield's PR puffery, it reallywas not off by much.

What the news clipping at left does not report is who finished in any of the runner-up positions.

Click on the image of the newspaper clipping for a slightly enlarged view.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

50 Years Ago This Month

Pine Brook Stadium opened in July of 1962, but before it did the final season of indoor racing took place in the Teaneck Armory.

On March 3, 1962, a young driver by the name of Mario Andretti won what he later described as “my first victory of any consequence,” beating accomplished racing veteran Len Duncan by mere inches at the finish line.

The photo shows the Andretti TQ as it appears today, at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in York Springs, Pennsylvania.

Who knew that the Teaneck finish line would be the starting line for the career of one of the world’s most accomplished racers? Andretti, of course, became the only man to have won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, and the Formula One world championship.

The Teaneck Armory, first opened in 1936, still stands on over 13 acres, and still serves a wide range of purposes – but auto racing is not among them.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Belated Victory Lane

When the ATQMRA Vintage Division's annual “Celebrity Roast” took place on Saturday, March 17, one of the planned surprises was reuniting Ben Trimble with the newly-restored car with which he recorded the first feature race victory by a rear-engine car, almost 40 years earlier.

That victory did not come at Pine Brook, even though Ben raced at Pine Brook regularly.  Rather, it came at New Egypt Speedway, at that time a paved track as opposed to the dirt track that it is today.  But to Ben's dismay at the time, there was no victory lane celebration.  He got to take a victory lap with the checkered flag -- remember victory laps? -- and that was that.  No trophy, no photographers, no way to prove to his wife when he got home that he had in fact won.

Well, at the roast, Ben got his victory lane celebration.  Completely unknown to Ben, roast organizer GaryMondschein had arranged for the restoration of the car Ben drove on that day nearly 40 years ago, and prepared a handsome trophy.  When Ben Trimble was called to the front of the room he was blown away by the unveiling of the beautifully restored car and the presentation of the trophy.

Ben, now in his mid-80s, told us later that when he got home following the roast, he showed the trophy to his wife and said,"See, I did win!"

In the photo, Ben, speechless, looks over the car.  That's emcee and former Pine Brook announcer Earl Krause in the background.