Campanale Two Time Winner At Daytona

Simmons and Sherrill take First and Second in 100-mile Novice

By Dudley Perkins

From the February 1939 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

Eddy and Anderson get Second and Third in 200- mile.

Rider fans, dealers and contestants started putting in their appearance at Daytona Beach, Florida, this year as early as the Thursday before the race. Probably no other recent road race at that location enjoyed such thorough preparation as did the 1939 event.

Ed Kretz won the 200-mile event in 1937 and Ben Campanale won it in 1938. Both had been extremely hard riders. Both had put in some earnest practice before the events they won. So, in 1939 it seemed that every contestant, whether entered in the 100-mile novice or the 200-mile expert race, hoped through preliminary trials and practice riding to put himself in a position to win.

The course at Daytona is not an easy one. There are enough turns to call for skill of riding at the speeds necessary to win. Surfaces vary, and while the course was in good condition it was also tricky.

Sand is always a hazard, not only from the angle of riding but from the standpoint of mechanics. Air cleaning must be pretty good to prevent the little abrasive grains from entering the motor and cutting the heart out of rings, pistons and cylinders. It attacks chains and thus oiling must be efficient else again the links, tortured by the sand, will heat and grind out.

Straightaway speeds are high on the beach. The corners call for shifting. Gear ratios need more than a little study. A rider must have plenty of power in the long straight grind and he must be able to drop quickly into second and negotiate something of a power slide in sections of the turns.

More than one rider arrived on the scene fully satisfied that he had the combination, only to end up after some practice spins feeling that he must be all wrong. It was up to him to discover the answers, or find someone who would give them to him. Several changes were made on the nights before the respective events that worked out to spell success or higher degrees of success, where without the changes defeat could have been the only answer.

This year’s program of two races worked out well. There were 75 riders entered for the 100-mile event and 55 riders for the 200-mile event. That many could not have safely started in one race, nor could they have been checked. The checking system used was the same as that used at Langhorne, Penna., and at Laconia, N.H. Every five laps the leaders were announced and the winner was known immediately at the finish of the race. This seemed to be quite a feature with the crowd which was a large and very enthusiastic one.

In both events riders were placed in rows of ten riders each, after having drawn for position. The rows were started five seconds apart, which meant very little disadvantage for those in the back lines in races of 100 miles and 200 miles duration.

100-Mile Novice

Saturday was a good day so far as weather was concerned. Riders were lined up and Slim Nelson of Albany, New York, was positioned at the starting line with the flags. A huge stop watch was used to determine the five-second intervals. As the watchman signaled, Nelson dropped the flag for each line in turn.

They were off with the customary burst of speed. It seemed as though the last man had hardly gone from sight into the first turn when the leader could be heard coming around for his first lap. When he barged into sight it was seen that Jimmy Kelly, rider No. 42, was the lad who was setting the pace. He rode the turns beautifully and his style reminded anyone who had seen him at Oakland, California, of how he hung up one fast lap after another at that event.

His time for the first lap was 2 minutes and 29 seconds. Right on his heels came the rest of the fast ones.

In the second lap Kelly turned the course in 2 minutes, 21.8 seconds. Later it was to be found that this was not only the fastest lap of the 100-mile race, but faster than any single lap in the 200-mile event. For 27 out of 33 laps Kelly led the race. In the early stages Woody Simmons of Pelzer, South Carolina, moved to a position close to Kelly. So close was he that it was evident to the pits that a single slip on Mr. Kelly’s part would put Simmons in the lead. Laps continued to be fast.

After his fastest lap Kelly turned in several at a fraction of 2 minutes and 26 seconds, then as traffic began to bother him in some of the turns he varied back and forth between 2:23 and 2:31.

Lap after lap the checkers droned that number 42. Then on the 28th lap No. 56, Woody Simmons, came in first. Eyes scrutinized the numbers but there was no No. 42. As was finally determined, a valve spring dropped Kelly from the race.

Once he got into first place Simmons was not headed. He rode with hardly a shade less dash than had the previous leader and by his victory in the novice event won a deserved place in future expert events. His victory was a popular one and Simmons is a real champion.

As will be noted by the results, the first five men were approximately a minute apart. The next three men were very close together. And a total of 34 finished the race, out of 68 starters. This was a very good per cent and the novice event was so much a good show that it is almost unquestionably a regular feature in the future.

The winning time was one hour, twenty- three minutes, 51.3 seconds. Official average for the 100-mile event is 75.15 m.p.h.

Parades and Trophies

Saturday night offered a break between races in the form of parades, presentation of trophies, and a general good time for all. A huge amphitheatre had been arranged. There under changing colored lights the clubs paraded in all their different uniforms and dress. Prominent in the grand finale were Lou Rigsby of Chattanooga, Tenn., dressed completely in white and mounted on a white Indian, and Dot Robinson dressed in scarlet and grey and mounted on a Harley-Davidson of the same color combination.

The winning club in the club dress contest was the Miami Motorcycle Club of Miami, Florida. They were dressed in black outfits livened by dark red shirts. Their auxiliary followed the same theme but added black and red capes. Second place went to the Birmingham Motorcycle Club of Birmingham, Alabama. Those boys were dressed in white with Sam Brown belts. Their two road captains were distinguished by red caps, while the rest wore white caps. The Lexington Eagles of Lexington , Ky., took third place honors with the boys and girls dressed in outfits that combined blue and white. Fourth place went to the Dayton Ramblers of Dayton, Ohio, and honorable mention was accorded the Buckeye M.C. of Columbus, Ohio, and the Ohioan M.C. of the same city.

200-Mile National Road Race

Sunday afternoon brought out the cream of our country’s road race contenders. These boys knew their way around, not purely as a result of practice, but equally well as a result of previous battles on the same field.

The crowd seemed to sense a bitter struggle. Every preliminary to the actual start was charged with drama. Again positions were drawn and riders lined up in rows of ten men each. The start was handled as upon the day before.

At the drop of the flag the pack disappeared into the turn, almost instantly to pop back into view at the start. A keen interest attended the checking, for in this field were several who had won road race honors in other years, including the title holder Ben Campanale.

First out of the south turn was Ed Kretz, twice the winner of the 200-mile title. Following him in order were: K.J. Ingle, Sam Arena, Grif Kathcart, Woodsie Castonguay, R.M. Buckley, Al Aunapu, Frenchy Castonguay and Ray Eddy. Every one of those men were fellows who have carved niches for themselves in the motorcycling hall of fame. Any one could logically be an ultimate victor. The time on that first lap was 2 minutes, 26.2 seconds. Considering the amount of position changing those experts did in the first lap it was very fast time.

In the second lap Kretz still led the field. His time had dropped to 2 minutes 23 seconds. Ingle and Arena were still second and third. Kathcart had dropped back from fourth to ninth place. In fourth spot was Woodsie Castonguay and he was followed in order by Frenchy Castonguay (who had moved up from eighth place to fifth), Ray Eddy, R.M. Buckley, Al Aunapu, Kathcart, Ben Campanale, Babe Tancrede, Bill Anderson and Ted Edwards.

Campanale, who started fairly well back, was already forging forward.

For nine laps Ed Kretz led. His lap time varied back and forth from 2 minutes 23 seconds to about 2 minutes 26 seconds. Sam Arena moved into second place in the third lap and held that spot until the seventh lap when Campanale passed both Ingle and Sam to take the second place spot.

Woodsie ran into difficulties in the fourth lap that put him out of the first ten positions. In the sixth lap Frenchy dropped back. Ray Eddy, on the contrary, began to creep forward, getting into fourth position in the eleventh lap.

In the seventh lap there were 10.3 seconds between Kretz in first position and Campanale in second. In the eighth lap, there were 7.5 seconds between them and at the end of the ninth lap there were 5.8 seconds between them. Campanale was driving for all he was worth to overtake the leader.

Then came the spectacular tenth lap when the leader’s machine caught fire. Kretz lost approximately four laps before his trouble could be corrected and he could get back into the race. Campanale was thus in first place and followed in order by: Sam Arena, Ted Edwards, Babe Tancrede, Ray Eddy and Grif Kathcart.

Competition between Arena and Campanale became furious. Arena would pass Campanale in the turns and Campanale would pass Arena on the beach. In the twelfth and thirteenth laps Arena checked across the line in first place. Again in the fourteenth lap Campanale checked across first and there he remained until the eighteenth lap when Arena got one more lap as leader.

It is needless to say that the crowd was afire with enthusiasm. It was one of those hard, fast battles that just can’t last. Yet it did last lap after lap. Someone had to go down sooner or later and since Arena was gaining his time in the turns there was the natural odds that it might be him. But lap and lap again he set a beautiful course through those bends and rode through in long sweeping curves.

In the 20th lap Arena got into some trouble on one of the turns which allowed Edwards to sweep into second place with Ray Eddy in third. Arena got around in fourth spot. Then in the twenty-third lap Ray Eddy found his way around Edwards in a turn and those two traded places

From then on Eddy forged after the leader. Each lap he gained a couple of seconds and was not far behind Campanale when it came time for a pit stop and a refuel. His pit was organized for the stop and all set to have Eddy back out in record time. He slid into a stop at the pit and climbed off to stretch. They dropped the fuel hose in place and then came a bum break. The nozzle slid out of the tank, the gas taking the second mechanic in the eyes. In the confusion that followed they nearly missed putting oil in the machine. It was a minute and nearly a half before Ray could get aboard and take off. Campanale got through his refuel in good time and was again out in the lead when Eddy took off. Riding hard he tried to catch the leader again. But his bad luck was not over. As the sun hit a certain low angle it hit each rider in the eyes while going through one turn. Dust on goggles acted as a screen and for a brief couple of seconds the riders were blind. Grif Kathcart unloaded right in that spot. He got up unhurt but had barely gained his feet when Eddy drove into him.

As it developed, Kathcart was unlcky enough to get a broken collar bone out of the crash. Eddy unloaded and scooped up a little sand while doing it. He had trouble starting. Although he got back into the running he was too far behind to be able to catch the leader. He did ride hard, as is evident by the fact that he managed to get second place.

Kretz had been making up some of the four laps lost when his motor caught fire but had all his trouble for nothing, due to the fact that a chain broke and put him out.

Sam Arena was sliding the turns in third position when he had to make a dive to the outside in a turn in order to miss traffic. He went down and took on a whole motor full of sand. He managed to get his motor going but turned only a few laps when the sand got in its work and he had to retire.

During all this excitement Bill Anderson from Houston, Texas, had been keeping up a good average, and staying out of trouble. Byron Sparks from Walkerville, Ontario, had been doing much the same thing. Babe Tancrede, a friend and sort of a riding partner of Campanale’s, offered Ben a chance to ride draft a while toward the end of the race. Although a lap behind the hard-driving Ben, Tancrede was doing a wonderful job himself as he picked the way through the slower ones.

And so it went on down the list. Any one of the men who finished in the first ten or fifteen positions could be pointed out and described as turning in very good races. The first rider had dropped out in the second lap and the ranks continued to thin from then on.

Out of 47 starters, 19 men were destined to complete the full 63 laps of the 3.2-mile course. Others were flagged off, still with a lap or two to go.

Campanale was going just as strong at the finish as he was at the start, and his motor performing beautifully. His official speed for the race was an average of 77.25 m.p.h. This breaks last year’s record which he himself set of 74.90 m.p.h.

Everyone agreed that it was a tough race, a beautiful race, and a race fairly won.

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By Dudley Perkins
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