WEEKLY COLUMN/BLOG PAGE
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
PENNOCK AND THE SUPER 38's
Many of the stock cars and teams that appeared in the earlier seasons of C.J. Richard’s promotership with the Champlain Valley Racing Association at Fairmont Speedway and Otter Creek Speedway were either resurrected from 1950’s or at least continuations of racing efforts that had begun in the 1950’s at places like the old Fairmont Park Motor Speedway, Ashland Park Speedway in Warrensburg, NY, or one of the numerous small tracks that populated the Glens Falls /Saratoga region of eastern New York in the ‘50’s. Looking back at what appeared in Fairmont’s opening program on Memorial Day, 1962, I would venture an estimate that 40% of the teams were in this category, and another 15% were youngsters whose family elders had raced in the previous decade.
Courtesy of Ray Wilson
An aerial shot of the somewhat short – lived Mettawee
Speedway. The poles to the outside on the front
straightaway had the power; the Super 38 ended up
against the pole nearest the judges’ stand.
One of the cars that first caught my eye that intensely – hot May Sunday afternoon on the sun – baked half mile of clay was a blue and white car with front end camber that had the wheels tilting in towards one another as if a really heavy elephant had sat on the hood. This set up was no fluke and the car was numbered SUPER 38. The driver was Dick Pennock, out of Warrensburg, NY, a town that would send many entries to Fairmont in that and the next couple of seasons.
Although this is the third Pennock car, it was most like the one I first saw at Fairmont in 1962.
My uncle did not mention anything about it, but we had seen this car number before – at the now – closed Mettawee Speedway in North Granville, NY – not far from the massive Comstock Prison. At Mettawee, at the only race program I ever go to attend, the feature race had been suddenly been aborted when local driver Ed Barnes struck one of the utility poles near the racing surface and had effectively knocked out power for the day. The wreck had been a multi – car deal, wiping out much of the promoter’s field.
When we ventured down to the track after the cancellation to watch the crews clear up the carnage, the first car against a pole we go to see was the SUPER 38. The car got its number from the fact it was sponsored out of Maltbies Chevrolet dealership in Warrensburgh, and the body was a 1938 Chevy. The way the original car was numbered was, according to Warrensburgh native and race enthusiast Ben Gurney, “with the "super" in an arc above the "38" mimicking the clock in the window of the Chevy Dealership that had the word "Super" above the clock face and "Service" below the face.” The car was wrenched then by Ken Warner and driven by one of the Glens Falls area hot shots – either Dutch Reed, Roger Gauthier, or Nelson Moore.
The Super 38 which replaced Dick’s original, fence – busting car.
This one has the arced “Super” like the ‘50’s version.
Getting back to Pennock, his father – Elwin “Brick” Pennock was apparently the main man behind the car. So, some ten years later, when the track re-opened, it was probably up to young Dick to become the driver. Whether he had any experience prior to that Memorial Day or not is not clear. I do recall that, when the track tried some Saturday night racing under the lights, Pennock supposedly lost it going around turn four, went through a fence, pulled down the light wires, and ran right into his wife’s brand new car.
I didn’t see that fiasco, but I did notice that, the next time I went to the races, there was a new Pennock car, hastily painted in orange primer, with amateurish lettering scrawled all over it. I recall the name “Porky’ on one side – apparently a nickname of his brother, Jerry. Being meticulous, the Pennocks had the car painted and neatly lettered about a week after that. The Pennock cars, while characteristically neat and well – appearing, also had a distinctive motor sound , as did many of the cars in that era when everything was not cookie cutter and prescribed.
John Spafford pauses from pushing to admire the workmanship in Dick Pennock’s final Super 38, at Fairmont, in 1964.
The last Fairmont car that Dick Pennock had was a thing of beauty. He had built a 1937 Chevy coupe to closely resemble one of those New York NASCAR sportsman coupes seen at Fonda. He built it in 1964, for the last of the flathead / six banger era. It had the closest thing to the New York – style racing slicks allowable at the time. I know it turned heads in the pits. Dick would seem to lose interest in racing and disappear by the middle of the 1960’s. He would re – appear at Fonda towards the end of the decade in the increasingly – popular semi late model division, the stars of which included Norm Moyer, Harry Peek, Jim Devine, Don Antolick, and Joe Johnson. By this time, younger brother Jerry had been turning some laps in a #59 Ford in the semi late models at Albany – Saratoga Speedway; so, he had a small head start on his brother in that kind of car.
One of Jerry Pennock’s first rides was the Maynard Baker – owned ME2. Below – His first
competitive ride was this semi late model division Ford, seen spinning at Malta.
Dick would continue at Fonda, with some success for a few seasons, after which I lose track of where he went. Jerry’s career took off at Fonda. He ended up driving cars for the likes of Bill Fowler [27 Jr.] and Tony Villano [37 NY]. Jerry would run into the 1970’s – mostly at Fonda. He would run modifieds in New York up into the Gremlin body era, in the mid 1970’s.
Gater Racing Photo
Dick Pennock would go on to Fonda, where he had success with this late model entry.
The Warrensburgh influence on Vermont racing would continue both by Jerry sometimes appearing at Devil’s Bowl in its early years. Jerry drove a car for Al Ryan [the #28 VT] around 1968. He was spending a lot of tkime driving for Villano in that time, but it is unclear if Tony ever towed the car to Devil’s Bowl. The Warrensburgh influence would continue with the emergence of Eddie “The Gray Ghost” Keenan, whose Dave Coonradt – powered Chevies would be legendary for a number of seasons. The legendary Keenan Camaro, having been preceded by a primer gray ’57 Chevy, were two of the most important Bowl cars of which I have never found photos.
John Grady Photo
Jerry, with one of his Tony Villano rides in the 1970’s.
Later on, there was a Richie Pennock [likely a son of one of the two original family drivers] who would run with some success at Fonda. The family did not seem to show any interest in running at Airborne Speedway, which was closer to home. Even closer, was Saranac Lake Speedway; but I have no record of Dick or Jerry running there. It is possible, as a number of Fairmont teams from 1965 and 1966 did try the rustic New York dirt track. As recently as 2006, Dennis “Brick” Pennock, nicknamed for his grandfather, was running a budget sportsman car at tracks like Devil’s Bowl and Albany – Saratoga.
Courtesy of Dan Ody
This photo of a tumbling car – supposedly at Whites Beach – is likely either connected to
the Pennocks, to the Super 38, or both.
Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: email@example.com . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
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