Stateline 1963: "The Squirt & Bobby Show"
January 9, 2011
Part 9 of 12
The best way to describe the 1963 season at Stateline Speedway is to call it "The Squirt and Bobby Show." Squirt Johns in his No. 511 Dodge and Bobby Schnars in his No. M-1 Chevy won two-thirds of the 15 races Squirt with six and Bobby with four.
Only Sammy Lamancuso's holiday win in the Firecracker Fifty prevented the pair of popular lead-foots from sweeping the extra-length, extra-money races. Bob won the Mid-Season Championship, while Squirt picked up the Memorial Day Classic, the Dean Layfield Memorial and the season-ending Grand Championship 100-lapper.
Johns edged Schnars by just 24 points to earn his second championship mantle. Squirt had previously won the track title in 1961.
Other single winners besides LaMancuso were Freddy Knapp, Chuck Piazza and first-timers Dick Litz and Kenny See.
See was previously known as the mysterious "Mr. X" while competing at Coon Road Speedway earlier in his career.
Kenny was a truck driver by trade and his boss expected See to leave town one Sunday morning with his load. But Ken wanted to race at Coon Road that Sunday afternoon. So he hid his rig and towed his race car to the track.
Lo and behold, Ken won the race. He explained to the track owner that his name couldn't appear in the newspaper or he would lose his job. Race reports in the paper the following day stated that "an unknown man, a Mr. X," had won the Coon Road race. The mystery man won again a few weeks later and the press reports became an advertising boon for the Westfield track owner.
The Dean Layfield Memorial race was held in honor of the 1957 Stateline champion who was killed in a racing accident in 1961. Alice Layfield, Dean's widow, presented the Brockway ace, Squirt Johns, with a waist high trophy. "Squirt and Dean raced against each other for quite a few years, but they were always closest of friends. I'm sure Dean would have enjoyed watching this one," Mrs. Layfield said.
Sportsman cars, 1932-58 models, joined the late models on the weekly racing card in 1963. Originally designed as a "hobby class," it proved to be a source of extra income for late model regulars Freddy Knapp and Ron Blackmer, who pulled double duty, racing as many as six events per night. Although Blackmer won a season-high five races, Knapp won the track title for owners Russ and Barry Thompson. Another top man in the sportsman division was Harold McGrath, better known as Stroker McGurk.
At the November 16 Stateline-Eriez banquet, drivers and fans were stunned when Lloyd Williams announced that Hyle Russell, Stateline points champion in 1959 and 1960, was in serious condition at Hamot Hospital in Erie following an operation to remove a brain tumor. Williams reported that Russell had been ill the past two months. Eight days later, Hyle was dead at the age of 35.