Fred DeCarr and the McCredy years

      This past summer Fred DeCarr was inducted into the Midstate Stock Car Hall of Fame, and Bill Wimble was his presenter. Bill Wimble had it right that day, “I won races, and Fred DeCarr was responsible for the McCredy team winning Championships”. “The McCready #33 was always meticulously prepared every time I got behind the wheel” Wimble said.

   In 1950 Fred went to work for Charlie Pierce, the owner of a garage in Deansboro NY, Charlie also fielded stock cars, winning stock cars. Charlie’s ace driver was Tommy Wilson, one of the best wheelmen of that era. Pierce campaigned the # P-13, a 34 Ford coupe at all the local speedways, Brookfield, Vernon, Bennett’s Field and La Fayette, always up front and winning frequently. La Fayette Speedway’s “Charlie Pierce rule” was simple, the P-13 starts on the pole, and has to lap every car to win (essentially give the La Fayette field a lap head start). One lap head start wasn’t enough, Tommy Wilson took Charlie’s 34 coupe over the finish line first most of the time. La Fayette Speedway shared a mountain with a ski area, so for any car veering far off the backstretch, a trip down the mountain was certain. Tom Kotary took that ride, through fences and shrubbery all the way to the bottom, miracle it was that Tom kept the car on its wheels all the way down (or at least landed on its wheels) until he arrived at a dirt road at the bottom. Twenty minutes later a grinning Tom Kotary drove his sod and dirt covered stock car back up the road to the speedways front gate.

   1955 was the year Fred went to work for Dave McCredy, a Chevy Olds dealer in Sherburne NY, and as luck would have it McCredy also fielded a stock car. Dave’s car was a red and black 37 Ford coupe, powered by a 292 OHV engine and driven by Rome NY’s Don Hendenberg. In 1955 McCredy was racing at Fonda and Monroe County (Henrietta), and usually during the return trip home from Monroe County Fred DeCarr and Bill Wimble stopped at the same Thruway rest area, the two establishing a lifelong friendship that would become beneficial to both Wimble and the McCredy race team down the road.

   In 1956 the McCredy #S33 scored zero feature wins at Fonda, but tallied eight podium finishes (four second’s, and four third place finishes). In 1957 Hendenberg totaled five podium finishes, including two feature wins at Fonda. After the close of the racing season the unimaginable happened, the seemingly invincible Don Hendenberg was killed in an early morning single car crash while delivering Rome NY newspapers.

   The 1958 racing season dawned with Floyd NY’s Chuck Mahoney behind the wheel of the S33. Mahoney was an exceptionally brave man that had never quite grown out of a young man’s desire to cut-up and raise hell, something he never grew out of (several books could be written about Chuck’s adventures and misadventures). All during Chuck Mahoney’s tenure with the S33 Fred and Dave were uneasy due to Mahoney’s tendency to misuse equipment. This uneasiness resulted in Fred and Dave having many conversations about the possibility of hiring Bill Wimble to take over the S33 driving duties (remember, Fred and Bill talked about this during their Thruway rest stop encounters). Chuck Mahoney continued to bend the McCredy metal and over rev Fred’s racing motors through the 58 season until the Sherburne guys made the decision to sack Mr. Mahoney late in the season. 1958 also was witness to the McCredy team changing from Ford to Chevrolet, an equipment change that was sweeping over the northeast racing scene. I was a witness to the following due to being parked next to the McCredy race team in the Fonda Speedway pit. Mahoney exited the track after hot laps and came up the drag strip from the first turn, traveled up the drag strip, clutch in and revving the engine (we were parked on the river side of the drag strip). Chuck pulled past the McCredy pit, stopped, revved the engine, backed into the #33 parking spot, stopped, and then revved the engine again before he shut it off. All the while Fred DeCarr was standing nearby and after Chuck shut off the engine Fred said “Jesus Chuck, I wish you wouldn’t race that engine like that”. Chuck Mahoney responded, “it’s a racing engine aint it Fred”. Fred didn’t say anything, he just shook his head. (I was standing ten feet away and THAT WAS THE ACTUAL CONVERSATION, regardless of what you have read or heard elsewhere).
   (OK, one Chuck Mahoney story) Chuck got a pick-up ride on the Syracuse Mile, only problem, Chuck didn't have his helmet with him. A loaner helmet was found, but was to small. Small, no matter, chuck put it on and it rode so high on the Mahoney head it teetered, the chin straps were just barely long enough to fasten together under Chuck's chin. The race went on, and soon our hero had the car out of shape resulting in a nasty roll-over. When Chuck Mahoney was helped from the wrecked car the HELMET NOW FIT. Fred said they had a hell of a time getting the helmet off the Chuckster's noggin.

   Ford to Chevrolet, the change that was sweeping over the stock car racing scene, basically due to the 283 cubic inch small block Chevy engine. Ford engines, the 312 and 292 were big block, long stroke heavy motors that had a habit of coming apart at racing RPM’s. The Chevy small block 283 engine (introduced in 1957) was bullet proof, properly balanced it loved high revs, and its overall weight was less than the Ford big blocks. The move from Ford to Chevy during that era was like a tidal wave taking place in the racing community.
   During that 1958 season the McCredy team made the change from Ford to Chevrolet, and in October of that year Donald “Dutch” Hoag finished second in the Langhorne National Open in a McCredy red and black Chevy coupe with a number 58 on the doors.

   I’m not sure if the “it’s a racin engine aint it Fred” was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but soon after Dave McCredy was having talks with Bill Wimble about joining up with the red and black crew from Sherburne NY. The 1958 season saw Bill Wimble driving Hal Kempney’s potent #113 Ford (Dutch Hoag, Jim Luke, Tom Kotary and Wimble won feature races at Fonda with this car). The crap hit the Wimble fan in June of 58 when Kempney decided to withdraw from racing altogether, stating “I can’t do this anymore”. The “Flying Farmer” hustled rides as best he could until Dave McCredy called him for a talk. The “Flying Farmer” from Lisben signed on in August of 58. Chuck Mahoney was undeterred, his take on this was “Bill Wimble will wreck so many of Dave’s cars He’ll come back begging me to drive the #33”. That’s what Mahoney told fellow Floyd resident Cliff Kotary, and how do I know that? Cliff told me.
   It was 1959, and Dave McCredy’s overall racing plan was, the racing venture always was aimed at being self sufficient (it was make money, or at the worst break even), and when Wimble approached Dave with the plan of winning NASCAR’s New York State Sportsman points race. Dave was not hot on that idea, and indicated to Bill that he would have a car for him at Fonda and Monroe County, and if he wanted to chase points he could arrange for his own rides at other venues to accomplish his goal. The Lisben farmer did just that, but finished second to Bill Rafter when the final New York points were totaled.

   In 1960 Wimble undeterred by his second place finish in the NY State points standings set out again to join the overall Sportsman point race. It was a heavy schedule, Stafford Springs, Airborne, Riverside in Montreal, Fonda, Monroe County, south of the Mason Dixon to Fredericksburg, Hickory, Bristol, Langley Va, anywhere NASCAR points were available. Between the McCredy #33 and Wimble’s pick-up rides Bill Wimble Fred DeCarr and Dave McCredy celebrated the National Championship win at NASCAR’s gala year ending banquet.

   1961 Monroe County threw in the towel, Victoria Speedway opened under Lou D’Amico’s promotion as an “Outlaw” track, Utica-Rome opened on Sundays in Vernon, and Albany-Saratoga opened in Malta. The year was a near repeat of the previous year for Bill Wimble and the McCredy team. Near is the keyword, as after the summer was over and the NASCAR points were totaled, the National Championship was a tie between Bill Wimble and Dick Nephew (Mooers Forks NY’s Dick Nephew finished second in the 1960 NASCAR Championship).

   In 1962 Wimble recorded thirteen podium finishes at Fonda Speedway, and that included four feature wins. In 62 dave did the unexpected, he and Frank Trinkaus bought a 1961 Pontiac Grand National from North Carolinian Jack Smith. Smith had a Pontiac factory connection and misrepresented the car as a super speedway car, when in reality it was a short track car. Dave flat towed the Grand national back to Sherburne with Trinkaus and DeCarr holding on for dear life (Dave McCredy was a wild man behind the wheel). When the McCredy crew arrived at Daytona the following February they were a running a full five miles per hour slower than the new 62 pontiacs. Wimble brought the Grand National accross the finish line in eleventh place. 11th paid six hundred dollars. The team tried again at Atlanta but was rained out. Dave McCredy threw in the towel, he had enough of this high priced racing, and used the Pontiac engine in the coach bodied car.

   In 1963 the Lisbon Flier recorded thirteen podium Fonda finishes, and that included ten feature wins.

   1964 was witness to another thirteen podium finishes at Fonda that included six feature wins. Also in 64 (the McCredy team entered the "Salt City 100" with a brand coupe powered by a Holman-Moody motor) the "Salt City 100 "came and went. Went was the scary part. Wimble qualified and started up front in the 100 on the mile at the Fairgrounds. Before the 100 a leaking gas tank was detected, a replacement was borrowed from Nolan Swift, but it was cylindrical, the # 33's tank was box shaped. The borrowed tank, fastened in with chain binders was in place when the hundred lapper started, and four laps later Wimble came up on back marker Dick Kluth coming out of turn two. As Wimble was about to put Kluth down a lap, Kluth veered into the path of the charging # 33. The red and black coupe rolled and rolled and came to rest on its side, and immediately burst into flame. Ronnie Narducci slid his car to a stop, got out and was pulling Bill Wimble out of a by now fiercely burning car. Ernie Gahan was now on the scene and pulled both Wimble and Narducci to safety while the #33 laid out on the track burning to a crisp.

   1965 Wimble totaled nine podium finishes that included only one Fonda feature win.

   In 1966 Wimble was a podium finisher fifteen times at Fonda with five feature wins. Fred Rosner, a respected pro asphalt race chassis maker came to Sherburne with his mobile chassis building shop and made Dave an Asphalt car, all the while Fred DeCarr working alongside Rosner welded up a similar chassis for dirt. Both cars were successful.

   1967 was an eleven podium finish year at Fonda, with four feature wins. This was the last year the McCredy team raced at Fonda Speedway, and now the man the “Track of Champions” derived its moniker from was going “Outlaw”.

   The transition from Sportsman to Modified happened at Fonda during the yrs 65 thru 67, most went to the 427CI or the 454CI hog motors, while the McCredy crew stayed with the potent little 327 Chevy power maker. In 1967 Victoria had closed, Friday nights Albany-Saratoga was asphalt, Sunday Utica-Rome was asphalt, and Stafford Springs was now asphalt. Aside from Fonda and Lebanon Valley dirt was getting hard to find, prompting the Sherburne race team to build a car for pavement.

   In 1968 the Sherburne team raced asphalt on Friday at Spencer, it was dirt on Saturdays at the Valley, and on Sunday it was back to pavement at Utica-Rome. 1968 proved to be the death knell for the red and black Sherburne stock cars, for several reasons. The principal reason was a brain tumor that had been advancing on the boss of the operation, finally causing Dave McCredy’s death that year. Dave’s wife Marge took over the racing effort and continued on through the year until Bill crashed hard at the Valley in August. A severe brain concussion was the result, and the doctors told the Wimbles that another such crash could be life ending. That was enough for Nancy Wimble, she would not attend another race that her husband competed in, and, she told Bill that was all for her. Being the man that loved his wife as passionately as Bill Wimble did, “if Sassy is done racing, so am I”, and that was it, the champion retired.

   That was it for the red and black cars, the end of an era, it didn't seem possible. The curtin came down on one of the most recognizable and successful racing operations of the day, and Somehow the song "The Day The Music Died" seemed to have somehow a mystic parallel.

   Stewardship of the red and black machines was in the hands of a collection of motor heads through the years, all super capable and dependable. Fred DeCarr, the working supervisor of the maintenance and pit crews. Fred worked for McCredy Motors until he retired, continued to build race engines, and after racing the DeCarrs' were able to take some time to smell the roses.
Number two man with the team from the start was Doug Rundall, along with Jim Kelley, Elsie Hyatt, Don Hyatt and Phil Clement, all regular pit crew guys.

   Fred hooking up one of Charlie Pierce's cars to go racing. DeCarr collection photo.

   An early McCredy entry at Langhorne. A Maynard Johnson photo.

   (L-R) Fred DeCarr, Don Hendenberg, Red Wildey, and Dave McCredy. DeCarr collection photo.

   Dave's hot rod in front of the old Main Street shop. DeCarr collection photo.

   Looking accross the street to the Grand Union and Joe Sheheen's liquor store. DeCarr collection photo.

   Fred and "Dutch" Hoag at Langhorne. DeCarr collection photo.

   The "Stagecoach" with the Pontiac Grand National engine. DeCarr collection photo.

   This car was outfitted with a 305 Chevy engine (138 mph was the best Fred could get out of this car). This car ran at Charlotte in 1961 and finished second behind Buck Baker. DeCarr collection photo.

   The DeCarr's, Fred and Mrs. DeCarr collection photo.

   The Studebaker ran in the Modified/Sportsman at Daytona in 65 and finished 10th. DeCarr collection photo. DeCarr collection photo.

   The 61 Pontiac Grand National (pre Cup car) Dave McCredy and Frank Trinkaus bought from Jack Smith. Photo courtesy of Bill Wimble's book "I'll Never Be Last Again".

   Bill Wimble and Fred DeCarr enjoying success on the beach at Daytona. DeCarr collection photo.

   Bill Wimble was supposed to give an interview at Lebanon Valley, but Bill didn't show and Fred did the interview. Who are some of the people standing around? DeCarr collection photo.

   Anyone know where we are? DeCarr collection photo.

   (L-R) Bill Wimble, Bill Furgason, Fred DeCarr, Doug Rundell, and Jim Kelley. DeCarr collection photo.

   Fred DeCarr and Doug Rundell. DeCarr collection photo.

   On a paved Langhorne Speedway. A Maynard Johnson photo.

   The McCredy team. Photo by Frank Simek.

   Cooked. The far car is the McCredy entry (click on photo for a larger view). Photo by Frank Simek.

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