Flemington Speedway Historical Society Honors Four Most Influential Persons With "Tas Awards"

Date: 1/22/2015 10:05:13 PM

Flemington Speedway Historical Society Honors Four Most Influential Persons With "Tas Awards"

FLEMINGTON, NJ (Saturday, January 17) - The membership of Flemington Speedway Historical Society (FSHS) in the company of nostalgically-minded folks from auto racing’s past and present gathered at the Flemington Elks - very near the erstwhile Flemington Fairgrounds - to honor the late Jackie McLaughlin, Jim Horton Sr., Glenn Fitzcharles and Ken Brenn Jr. as recipients of the organization’s fourth annual "Tas Awards." The event was held Saturday, January 17. 


The speedway, which began presenting auto races in 1915, closed on September 1, 2000. 

Al Tasnady - famously known as “Tas” (pronounced “taz”) to legions of fans and friends - a champion and track official whose charisma and driving talent earned him respect and admiration of generations of race-goers, was the inaugural recipient of "Flemington Speedway’s Most Influential Persons Award," which was immediately renamed “The Tas Award,” in his honor. Tasnady died in 1986.


Recently deceased Flemington Fair President and speedway promoter Paul Kuhl and champion Billy Pauch, Flemington Speedway’s winningest driver, were honored in 2013. Last year, local heroes Stan Ploski and Sammy Beavers, champion car owner Ken Brenn Sr., track photographer Ace Lane Sr., and Bill Singer, “the Voice of Flemington Speedway," were added to this honor roll. The four 2015 award recipients were similarly recognized for their excellence at Flemington Speedway, joining their colleagues in an elite class.


First up: Jackie McLaughlin was a three-time Flemington champion who died from injuries sustained at another speedway in 1964 at age 30. Auto racing historian Bill Skinner presented Jackie’s award to brother Charlie McLaughlin. Skinner explicitly articulated McLaughlin’s ability to excel in any car he drove and his ability to reign supreme in the best rides he attained.


Charlie McLaughlin was most eloquent in his acceptance, “For us fans that were fortunate enough to see Tas and Jack race together, we know they were fierce competitors on the track; but if you saw them together after the races - regardless of the outcome - you saw two men who were friends, with mutual admiration, having the time of their lives."

“That is why this award means so much,” McLaughlin continued, his voice breaking, "It ties Tas and Jack together, forever.”  


Past Tas Award honoree Sammy Beavers then presented to Jim Horton Sr.  As a team, Beavers and Horton won more races together at Flemington than either of them did with any other colleagues.   The affection for his teammate was evident as Beavers spoke of Horton’s work ethic; then, “Jim, I’m proud to give this thing to you. You made a big spot in my career, and I really appreciate it. Thank you.”


Generations of Horton’s family were in the audience as Horton accepted. Ever humble, Horton used his time on stage to reflect on other Tas Award honorees. 

One of them, Glenn Fitzcharles, had a Flemington racing career with two distinctly different facets, each victory-laden. The Stock Car portion was highlighted with thirty-six career victories and the 1975 track championship. Then, as a URC Sprint Car driver, Fitzcharles won eighteen times at Flemington, and served as club president. Fellow former URC president John Zimmerman described Fitzcharles as, “The greatest champion - he never met a stranger, never forgot a fan, just an awesome person.”


Fitzcharles's former car owners Frank Rio Sr. and Frank Rio Jr. were also on hand to honor their long-time friend. “Some people you meet in life stay with you. Glenn has a special place in our hearts. He's the best. Thank you, Glenn,” Rio Jr. said before handing the mic to his father. 


“I’m so old, I forgot who he was,” Rio Sr. began, instantly bringing laughter from Fitzcharles and the room. “We had fun,” he continued, "and that’s what counts. You already know that he’s the greatest."  


Fitzcharles was typically humorous and gracious, acknowledging his presenters, his fellow nominees, and his competitors that inspired him, “I came to Flemington in 1973, and I watched the veterans: Ploski, Beavers, Osmun. I watched where they ran, and I learned, and we won our third time out. I’m proud to get this award because I watched Al Tasnady race - he was fast everywhere he went, he was a gentleman, he helped promote [Flemington Speedway] later, and he gave me tips as a driver.”


Ken Brenn Jr. was the final recipient of the evening. Brenn earned the respect of his fellow competitors during a career that spanned the seventies, eighties and nineties. He was one of very few drivers who successfully transitioned from Flemington’s dirt track era to asphalt.

Past Tas Award honoree Billy Pauch presented the award to Brenn, “When I was asked to present this award to Ken Brenn Jr., I didn’t hesitate [to answer], ‘I’ll do it.’”


Pauch described the competition of the era they shared, then finished, “I'm intense, Kenny was not. I never understood how he could win so many races and be so laid back. Like I said, I have a lot of respect for Kenny, and I’m pleased to be the one that gets to present him this plaque. C’mon up, Kenny."  Ken Brenn Jr., visibly moved that his long time rival had praised him, expressed surprise, “This just made the night complete.” 


Pauch and Brenn then summoned Ken Brenn Sr. to the stage, “[My dad is] the biggest part of my racing career,” Brenn Jr. acknowledged.  Brenn, too, reflected on the fierce competition they shared, then responded to Pauch, “To answer your question, ‘How I could race so hard while being so laid back?' I don’t have a clue."


Three of Flemington Speedway’s most influential persons were then standing together on stage. They huddled, sharing a moment, then Brenn Sr. spoke out of turn, “Billy just said, ‘In all those years, we never had a fistfight,'” he paused for effect, “I told him, ‘We still have time.’"


Appreciation Awards for distinguished service were presented to the Trautman Family, patriarch Lee Trautman accepting with son Eric, and FSHS Director Emeritus Ray Liss. FSHS past president Mark Harrington was thanked by his Executive Board for his years of service to the organization. The recognition was novel: a new FSHS banner was presented in Harrington’s honor, featuring his favorite driver, Stan Ploski.


Flemington racing movies were shown by Matt Mahoney, with Steve Barrick and Rick Shive offering insightful commentary. Titles came from the library of Snyder Video Productions and the archives of the late photographer Dick Ivins, the latter through the courtesy of Bob Pickell Jr. and John Lengenfelder. Former Flemington Speedway announcer Earl Krause emceed the program that was produced by FSHS President Dave Garboski. 

PHOTO CAPTION:  Flemington Speedway Historical Society honored four of its Most Influential People with "Tas" Awards on Saturday, January 17 at the Flemington Elks. Pictured L-R:  Ken Brenn Jr., Glenn Fitzcharles, Jim Horton, Sr., and Charlie McLaughlin, accepting for his late brother Jackie McLaughlin.

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