Post by administrator on Apr 23, 2010 13:24:27 GMT 1
The Nutley Velodrome in New Jersey is generally recognised as being the most dangerous ever midget car track. It ran around 1938 and 1939. Several drivers were killed - one was decapitated - and many injured. This photo from 1939 gives an idea of what it was like.
Post by haflinger121 on Apr 23, 2010 23:31:23 GMT 1
I've always thought it looked and sounded a dangerous place, John. But then, I've always been fascinated by board tracks generally, so if you ever get your hands on that time machine we're craving...
I'd like to read that book about Nutley but, at $50, it's a bit too dear to buy just on a whim. I have got Dicky Wallen's book about the big (really big, some of them were the size of Daytona!) board tracks though, and it's worth every penny.
Anyway, found this aerial shot 'in another place'. Nobody seems able to agree if Nutley was 1/7th of a mile, 1/5th or even 1/8th. Whatever, I think we can say it was very short and, with a 45 degree banking, bloody dangerous alright! I'm surprised they only had three fatalities....
Post by administrator on Apr 25, 2010 1:39:47 GMT 1
NUTLEY VELODROME: HORROR CRASH By JOHN HYAM
IN its early days, American midget racing in the 1930s had a long list of fatalities and tragic accidents. Probably the most gruesome took place at the Nutley Velodrome in Nutley, New Jersey, USA, on April 2, 1939. The track, which ran for some 16 months from an opening date on April 3, 1938, had originally been a cycle racing track. It was a one-eighth of a mile board-surface circuit with 45-degree banking on the bends. From its opening, drivers complained that it was unsafe - but they still raced there at twice weekly meetings during the summer months. The style of the track allowed for extremely fast speeds - probably faster than those that midget cars were designed for. Drivers could lap the track in eight seconds. It was fast and furious. There was trouble from the track’s opening meeting when Ken Fowler lost control of his car and ploughed through the safety fence, seriously injuring 12 spectators Fowler broke his right arm but came back to race again at Nutley. The first fatal accident at the track was early in the 1938 season when Charlie Heliker died in his blazing car following a track crash. There then followed a spate of serious crashes in which drivers were badly injured. ‘Make the track safer’ the drivers demanded. But they still turned up to race - and so did the fans, in much the same way that in olden days spectators turned up at the amphitheatres in Ancient Rome to watch the Gladiators fight each other to the death, or see Christians trying to compete against lions and tigers. Nutley Velodrome was a twice weekly magnet for drivers and spectators alike. I am indebted to motorsport author Ernest 'Crocky' Wright - a former speedway rider and midget car driver on the USA’s East Coast in the early 1940s - for details of the remarkably horrific circumstances of the fatal accident involving Henry Guerand. Wright wrote: “Driver Henry Guerand attempted to pass three drivers that were side by side on the steep banks of the Nutley Velodrome. He slammed into the outside guardrail and, because he failed to wear a seat belt, he was thrown halfway out of the car on the right side. “What followed was perhaps the most gruesome accident ever witnessed in car racing. Guerand’s head slid between the heavy cables that surrounded the track and was sheared off by one of the steel uprights, while his right arm was left hanging on the cable. “His head, with the helmet intact, rolled down the bank to the infield. The car, meanwhile, with the body in it, swung across the track and crashed into the car driven by Bill Schindler, then finally came to a halt amid the hay bales at the bottom of the track. “Car owner Joe Murphy picked up the helmet at the apron of the track not realising its gruesome contents. He almost collapsed. The 7,000 fans were horrified at the sight, and some fainted. Dozens more were led from the grandstand in a semi-hysterical condition.” As a result of the accident, the police applied for a court order to close down the Nutley Velodrome on the grounds that it was unsafe. The track promoters contested the order, and insisted that safety modifications had taken place. It was allowed to reopen for twice weekly meetings on July 9, 1939. And things went along very much as previously with some spectacular injury-prone crashes. Ironically, Eddie Staneck, a driver who led the campaign for the reopening of the Nutley Velodrome died, after crashing at another track in early August. On August 26, Carl Hattel was involved in a serious accident at Nutley and died as a result of his injuries. The police again applied for another court order to close Nutley Velodrome for midget car racing. The court granted it and one of the sport’s most dangerous circuits was finished - branded forever with an infamous reputation among American midget car drivers. (John Hyam acknowledges the co-operation of American motorsport historian the late Don Radbruch in the compilation of this feature). [/i][/u]