14-Car Pileup Highlights Stateline's Third Season
November 28, 2010
Part 3 of 12
After the fits and starts associated with the opening season, sweeping changes were made for the 1957 campaign. The infield was shaved and higher grandstands were constructed on the front side to allow better visibility for the spectators. A route was built on the turns three and four side of the track to allow spectators passage between the "Pennsylvania" and "New York" sides of the facility, while the former walkway through the pits was closed. An ambitious 18-week schedule, including appearances by NASCAR sanctioned midget race cars and AMA motorcycles was announced.
Joe Sauner was poised to defend his title in the Twin Auto Ford. Fan-favorites Dean Layfield in a 1956 Ford and Emory Mahan in a fuel-injected 1957 Chevy were joined by newcomers Stanley "Squirt" Johns from faraway Brockway, Pa., Gentleman Jim Patrick from Conneaut, Ohio, and a kid from just down the road, Busti's Bobby Schnars.
The season opener, which featured a pre-race parade by the Jamestown Vikings Drum and Bugle Corps, was captured by Kane's Hyle Russell. Squirt took the next two shows before Gil Lathrop scored an upset win in the second annual Gust Johnson Memorial 50-lapper.
Don Bailey, a neighbor of Squirt's from Brockway, won the first Saturday in June before Emory Mahan went on a tear in his 1957 fuel-injected Chevy, winning three of the next four, interrupted only by Sauner. Mahan would be the car to beat all season long. He consistently had the fastest car, but burned pistons and resultant Did Not Finishes plagued his championship hopes.
Dean Layfield, who thrilled the crowd with his "sideways at the flagstand" driving style captured the Mid-Season 50-lap Championship witnessed by 4,500 customers.
Sauner, Madman Johnny McGinley and Sauner again would see Marv Thorpe's checkered flag first in the next three outings. The McGinley victory was overshadowed by a large pile-up. Fourteen cars were involved, although no one was injured.
Jim Patrick's 1956 Ford copped the next two shows, including the 50-lap Grand Championship. Time-trials were held for the first time and Squirt's No. 511 set fast time at 22.07 seconds. The championship race was marred by a horrific wreck involving Eddie Kisko.
The Post-Journal reported "Kisko's brush with tragedy occurred on the 42nd lap. Running a lap behind at close to 60 mph, his car slammed into Joe Sauner's parked No. 18, which had thrown a tire on the 33rd go-round and was parked driverless in front of the grandstand. As Kisko's machine spun top-like in midair, Emory Mahan in 8-ball, gunning hard in second place, rammed it full force. Mahan's car staggered into the infield while Kisko's bounced down the track like a rubber ball. Hard-bitten drivers joined spectators in holding their breaths as the car was yanked upright. The roof fell off and the roll bars collapsed like spaghetti on the floor - and Kisko was pried out without a scratch on him."
Kisko gave his own version of what transpired.
"They said I was knocked out, but that just isn't true. I remember everything. Johnny McGinley was the first man over to my car when it stopped bouncing. He looked in and asked me if I was okay. I said, 'Yes, John, have them turn the car over, but do it easy.'"
The final two late model events of the year were captured by Mahan and Johns. Despite winning a single race to Emory's five, consistent Dean Layfield was named the 1957 point champion.
In what would be a prelude for things to come, a 100-lap jalopy race was held on Wednesday, Sept. 11. More than 60 cars entered the race that featured a total purse of $750. Keith Lundmark from Russell, Pa., who started 55th, took the lead on the 18th lap and held off hometown rival Chuck Martin for the win. The third-place finisher was two laps in arrears and just 11 cars completed the century grind.
A July 4 NASCAR-sanctioned midget race and an AMA flat-track motorcycle race proved to be such successes that track officials promised return engagements in the future.