January 25, 2008
Is it possible that there is a racing
fan on the East Coast on whom Frankie Schneider has not made a
lasting impression? I think not. “The Old Master” has been a lively
topic of gab with the rail bird set – for his antics both on and off
the clay – for 50 years.
I first saw Frankie in 1962 at Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York.
I had just gotten my license, and we drove out there from Boston to
see one of those 100-lap open modified competitions on Sunday nights
on the half mile. Frankie was red hot dominant out on those high
banks. In fifteen of those shows he had eight wins, four seconds and
The afternoon we went out was drizzly, and when we got to the track,
the cars were still on trailers waiting to see if there would be
racing that night. At the head of the line was a painfully
clapped-out old Cadillac towing a trailer with a red and white coupe
aboard. It was Frankie’s deuce.
Needless to say, that sight had us kids in a twit. We went up to the
car to look it over, fully expecting to see exotic components and
meticulous workmanship. That car was as basic as tar, as unadorned
as dirt, every part battle-scarred and sandblasted from thousands of
laps. What I remember most were the nerf bars. Frankie had simply
taken two old driveshafts and welded them in place. He hadn’t even
cut off the U-joints.
Eventually the skies cleared, and the pits opened. Frankie proceeded
to blow everyone’s doors off – and our minds along the way.
Over the years I raced against Frankie from time to time. I’ve also
talked to him about various things I was writing. I was really
looking forward to having him sign some of his
The Old Master
books in our booth last weekend at Motorsports in Atlantic City.
When he showed up at our booth, Frankie said “Do I know you?” I
explained that he had helped with our book Paved Track Dirt Track
on Old Bridge (NJ) and Nazareth (PA) Speedways. Then he asked if
we had raced together.
I said “Yes, we have. And let me tell you about one of them. About
1970 I towed down to Nazareth and you and I were running side by
side, you upstairs. We came around the fourth turn and I suddenly
spun out. I got bogged down in the mud and they threw the caution.
When you came around again under yellow, I looked over at you and
you looked over at me, shaking your head. Can you imagine what that
did to a young kid like me, Frankie? I’d towed all those miles from
Massachusetts all the way down there only to have you, the Old
Master, shake your head at me.”
Frankie replied “Where the hell’s Massachusetts. Never heard of it.”
He always was beautiful and he still is.
© 2008 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181