|Date: 6/17/2015 10:09:26 PM|
Jim Delaney To Northeast Modified Hall Of Fame
By Buffy Swanson
New Jersey native Jim Delaney, a pioneer driver, builder and crew chief, will be honored as a 2015 inductee into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame.
Driver inductions and special award ceremonies are scheduled for Wednesday, August 5 at the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum in Weedsport, NY, the night prior to Weedsport Speedwayıs Super DIRTcar Series Hall of Fame 100.
As a teenager, Delaney hung around a local garage with a collective of "race car guys" in his hometown of Hope, NJ. He got behind the wheel for the first time in 1948, at age 19, racing the old Dover, NJ, short track, Hinchcliffe Stadium and Nazareth Speedway in a stock car he built himself.
"He had success from the beginning," Delaney's cousin, Charlie Lindmar, remembered. "It was easy for him."
Crafting a rock-solid reputation at tracks like Flemington, Ruppert and Wall stadiums, Roosevelt, Morristown, Vineland, Old Bridge, Long Branch and Ft.
Dix, as well as Dover, Hinchcliffe and Nazareth, Delaney took his show on the road in 1950, along with fellow Jersey farm boy Frankie Schneider.
Barnstorming the East coast in the early '50s, chasing NASCAR points from New England to Florida, Delaney and Schneider roomed together and raced together.
"Jimmy was like a brother to me. We were at each other's houses, we lived together on the road, at one point we shared a garage together," Schneider fondly recalled. "He was a great mechanic and builder, but he was also a great driver. He was not aggressive, because he didn't have to be. He knew how to drive."
Racing Modified stock cars, short-track Late-Models, with a few Grand National starts, Delaney was a contender, finishing fifth in NASCAR's Late-Model Short Track division in 1951, and placing in the top 20 in NASCAR National Modified points in 1952, the year his buddy Schneider won the championship.
But Delaney ultimately had more interest in building cars rather than driving them. While racing the Daytona Beach road course, he had met a Georgia-based machinist and engine builder named Bob Osiecki. Osiecki -- "The Flathead Wizard" -- followed Delaney back to New Jersey and set up shop in Lyndhurst.
Teamed with Osiecki, Delaney gained recognition as a respected fabricator and mechanic, building cars for Hall of Fame owner Harold Cope, Tommie Elliott, 1954 NASCAR Modified champ Jack Choquette and many others. His focus "was not only to make them go fast, but to make them stick and to make them last," Lindmar said of his cousin's forward-thinking creations. "He was ahead of his time."
That's not to say Delaney had given up driving altogether. Although he never chased points after that early '50s stint down south, only raced when the money was on the line or he was in the mood, and never won a championship, Delaney was always a formidable factor when he towed through a pit gate.
"He wasn't there every week, but when he did come up to Middletown, he was no slouch," two-time Orange County Modified champion Sonny Strupp recounted.
"He was a darn good driver."
The cornerstone of Delaney's driving legacy was cemented on the old Langhorne, PA, dirt mile. In 1952, he won his first of three Langhorne National Opens -- the premier race for Sportsman-Modified stock cars in the country. In 1958, Jim became the first repeat winner of the grueling 100-mile event, driving a car of his own design for Easton, PA, owner Frank Renaldi. He backed that up in the same car in '59, winning over Virginia ace Ray Hendrick in a race so close it took officials an hour to decide the finish.
But by 1961, Delaney was ready to move on. He relocated to Indiana to manage operations and supervise four crew chiefs for Ray Nichels Engineering, considered "the Holman-Moody of the Midwest." From there, he headed south in 1963, along with his brother Bill, to crew for Bud Moore Engineering, with Joe Weatherly driving. They took the NASCAR Cup title that year, successfully defending Weatherlyıs '62 championship. Then, tragedy: The team suffered the loss of two drivers in a yearıs time -- Weatherly, in a crash at Riverside in January 1964, and Billy Wade, in a tire test at Daytona in early 1965.
"Jim and Joe Weatherly had become good friends," Lindmar related. "When Weatherly was killed, it took a lot out of Jim."
Nonetheless, Delaney continued working at what he knew and loved, mostly behind the scenes at that point, for top NASCAR Cup teams headed by Hal Needham and Travis Carter, Rod Osterlund and Buddy Baker. He worked with drivers as diverse as Yankee upstart Greg Sacks and Skoal Bandit standout Harry Gant. Jim was on the original Osterlund crew in 1979 when driver Dale Earnhardt Sr. was named Winston Cup Rookie of the Year.
When Osterlund started a new team in late 1989, after an eight-year hiatus from the sport, Delaney was asked by crew chief Barry Dodson and head engine builder Lou LaRosa to join the effort and help get the shop up and running.
It was during a routine team physical the following year that Jim learned he had cancer.
Upon receiving the news, Dale Earnhardt Sr. sent his private plane to take Delaney home to North Carolina.
Jim Delaney died on April 5, 1991. He was 61 years old.