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Vineland Speedway heroes to reunite at NJMP

by Dan Rieck
Thursday, September 18, 2008

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Frankie Schneider in his later years with his famous Red No. 2
Legendary racers Elton Hildreth, Frankie Schneider, Wally Dallenbach, Larry Voss and Sal Moschella will drive exact replicas of their vintage stock cars and sign autographs for fans attending New Jersey Motorsports Park’s (NJMP) exciting roster of weekend events September 26-28. Fans will have the opportunity to meet the Vineland Speedway alumni along with many other ARCA drivers on Sunday at a 10 AM autograph session at the Hangar building on the upstairs deck. Attendees will receive free NJMP inaugural posters for their autographing needs.

The race reunion is just one part of an exciting weekend which includes the ARCA RE/MAX Series, America’s most diverse stock car tour, which returns to road-course racing for the first time since 2001 and marks only the 10th time in ARCA/RE-MAX history since its debut in 1958. The weekend also includes SCCA Pro Racing bringing several classes including SPEED World Challenge GT, and the Volkswagen TDI Cup Series. Formula BMW will add open wheel excitement to the weekend with their FB2 racecar driver development series.

VINELAND SPEEDWAY HISTORY

Long before the staccato roars of high speed race cars were ever to grace NJMP’s lightning fast straightaways and sweeping bends, motor racing was very much alive and well in Southern New Jersey. Elton Hildreth, Frankie Schneider and Wally Dallenbach headline a large gathering of Garden State Vintage Stock Car Club’s beautifully crafted racecars from the 1950 through 1970s era. The brightly colored vintage racers will be on display for paddock viewing and will perform on track as well.

Wally Dallenbach and Elton Hildreth
On any given Friday night in the late '50s and early '60s, the titans of modified class stock car racing would descend upon the old Vineland Speedway ½ mile oval to do battle for bragging rights and a handful of cash. From the chill of early spring through the heat of summer, partisan fans filled the grandstands to passionately root for their favorites and boo the opposition. World War II big band music blared from the loudspeakers and the smell of fryer grease was intoxicating. The roar of the race motors was wonderfully deafening.

From 1954 through 1956, the track surface was dirt and attracted the very best dirt tracking broadsliders including nationally recognized hot shoes Frankie Schneider in his red “Deuce” coupe and local hero Al Tasnady in his red #44 coach.  Starting positions for the feature race were determined by finishing positions in qualifying heat races. By feature time, night had fallen and the roar of the motors, the sweet smell of the racing oil and the alcohol fueled flames billowing from the exhaust pipes set the stage for many a memorable battle between these two arch rivals.

Frankie and Al won more than their fair share of feature races before moving onto other dirt tracks at Flemington NJ and Nazareth PA when Vineland was paved for the 1957 season.

Frankie Schneider back in the 1960s
Frankie Schneider of Lambertville, New Jersey was a stock car, modified, midget, and sprint car racer. He had one NASCAR Grand National victory at Old Dominion Speedway in 1958. He also won the 1952 NASCAR modified title, where he scored at least 100 wins. In all he scored over 700 career feature victories. Schneider continued to race the challenging USAC open Silver Crown cars well into the '90s.

Elton Hildreth
As the asphalt era began, no rivalry was more intense than the battles waged between local favorite Elton Hildreth, in his radically cut down Chevy powered black and orange 16J, and Central Jersey “invader” Wally Dallenbach in the Dick Barney #14 or the beautiful pink and white Lincoln V-8 powered XL1. They raced fast and clean and won many races between them. Whatever their allegiance, fans left the track after a typically heated Elton and Wally battle with the knowledge that they had witnessed something very special.

The intensity of their rivalry reflected a struggle between the old guard of racing and the challengers to their throne. Just as Schneider had, Hildreth had his roots very much in the formative years of NASCAR’s Grand National Division. Elton won many races on short tracks throughout the Northeast. He competed in fifty-one Nextel Cup Series events in his career, spanning from 1952 to 1957. Elton would go on to perhaps his greatest racing achievement with a victory over national rivals in a 250 mile race at the super fast banked Trenton Speedway in 1964.

Dallenbach would continue to move up the racing ladder with great success in USAC’s open wheel Indy Car racing division. He drove in 180 Indy Car races between 1965 and 1979, winning five times.  Dallenbach nearly won the 1975 Indianapolis 500, dueling with A. J. Foyt for many laps. He led for half of the race, but blew a piston on lap 162. He is the father of NASCAR driver and commentator, Wally Dallenbach, Jr.

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