VARGO DRAGWAY - A BRIEF HISTORY
As told by Joe McNally
Vargo wasn't just a racetrack, it
was people. It was a time and
a place in America that we can't return to but we can try to
duplicate. The pride, morality, lack of prejudice, and real
sportsmanship that we knew then are needed in society today.
Let me take you back to the early
1950's when a young Hot
Rod Club calling themselves The Lehigh Valley Timing
Association were assisted by a radio show host who called
himself Dopey Duncan. Lou "Dopey Duncan" Gehringer used
his ability and influence to gain the use of Convair Field Airport
as a weekend dragstrip. The LVTA ran a successful operation
in 1955 &1956. - Then the politicians of the time decided that
they could do better with the facility.
The above scenario actually was a
boon to the Sidewinders,
another club that was looking for a place to race and had
members who worked for Jake Vargo. Hearing of the dilemma
with the LVTA they told Lou Gehringer of Jake who was a
contractor/entrepreneur and owned several Indy and Dirt Track
cars. Jake also owned land in Perkasie.
Sounds like today .... teenagers
have no affordable place to
race, hang out and maybe benefit from the advice of adults
they would listen to - Race Car Drivers!
The conversation between Lou
Gehringer, LVTA Attorney
Dean Foote, and Jake Vargo went something like this. "Jake
you are a racing enthusiast with land and ability to construct
a track. If you will build we will bring the people" That was
fine with Jake Vargo and construction began in early 1958.
A handful of residents living in
the area of the Vargo property
petitioned to stop the track from being built. That is - people
without vision or concern for the younger generation. However,
optimistic construction continued through many court battles
with help from The LVTA, Lou, and Dean. A letter dated Jan.
24th. 1960 from Joseph Szakos, LVTA; went to Ed Eaton,
NHRA Director. The track was not finished as length was
concerned. The intent to was to run 1/8 mile drags until the
court decided whether or not to allow sanctioned racing.
Incidentally the "protesters"
Harriet Lovelidge, Doris Reith,
Arthur Baum, William Heefner, and George T. Thomas claimed
that people from Philadelphia and other cities would pose
undesirable and possibly criminal characteristics, sanitation
problems, reduction in property values, trespassing, etc. THIS
In a memo from Barbara Parks to Ed
Eaton the first event was
run April, 24th, 1960 as 1/8 mile drags. We know that quarter
mile drags were held on September 11 th, 1960 because I have
an invitation to attend and the hand written list of winners.
From here Vargo became a major
track hosting such greats as
Ronnie Sox, The S&S team of Gene Altizer, Fred Bear, K.S.
Pittman, Pork Zartman, Dave Hales, and later Malcolm Durham.
We had Don Garlits, Jerry Baltes, Dick Landy, Stone - Woods
& Cook, Joe Gertleman, Frank Bash, and lots of East Coast
Racers that are well known here today. Remember Boss Hydro,
The Shadow, Brief Encounter, Shag Nasty, Cole & Cole,
Rampage, and Black Satin?
After the LVTA stopped running the
track Jake hired Mike
Sutton to oversee track operations. It was Mike who hired,
Dick Long, Jim Tinsmith, John Haring, Denny Sachs, John
Crouthamel, Merritt Snyder, etc. In its years of operation Gary
Peters, Dick Demott, and Ronnie Roth were flagmen or starters.
Hank Blodgett maintained the timing system and Jim Mullen
was the electrician. Somewhere out there are Sandy and Finky,
two girls who worked in the tower.
We later had an affiliation with
Atco Dragway; Jack Musilli
stepped up to promote both tracks. Jake Vargo had passed away
and although Mrs. Vargo tried to keep it going, it is said that
political pressure finally forced the closing of our revered track.
The last race was run in 1969.
National figures and National
Records were part of the tracks
history and I am proud to have been a small part of it.
Joe McNally, Historian, The
National Nostalgia Drag Racing Association,
CIMSP Record Holder Vargo Dragway. NNDRA Legion of Honor
Copyright, ON THE LINE Enterprises, Joe McNally, 2007