Weedsport, NY — May 5, 2010 – By Walt Wimer, Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Selection Committee
Keystone State standout Ralph Quarterson has been selected as a 2010 inductee into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame. Driver inductions and special award ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday, May 30 on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the annual Memorial Day Super DIRTcar Series event at the adjacent speedway.
Quarterson wasn’t a second-generation driver, but he came by racing naturally. His father, Ralph Quarterson (Sr.), was a long time racetrack official back in the coupe Modified days. The senior Quarterson worked closely with John Marcum when Marcum was the top NASCAR official in the Ohio- Pennsylvania area. In 1953 Marcum broke with NASCAR and formed his own sanctioning body, the Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC) which continues today as ARCA. Quarterson went with Marcum to MARC but then about 1960 went out on his own with a couple of tracks in Ohio and Pennsylvania. His new group was known as Auto Racing Incorporated (ARI).
Along the way he had also become a car owner with his #66 coupes driven by some top drivers of the day such as Ted Wise, Hap Jones and Al Metz, Jr. It was about that time that Ralph, Jr. began racing, driving a cut-down #66 coupe powered by an Oldsmobile engine owned by his father. His first race was in 1959 at the long forgotten Ashtabula County Fairgrounds in Jefferson, Ohio. That quarter-mile dirt oval was also the sight of his first win during his rookie season. The Jefferson oval closed after that 1959 season, but Quarterson was already racing at such Pennsylvania tracks as Butler and Mercer.
That old coupe passed into history in 1960, replaced with the first of several homemade #66 Super-Modifieds. Some of those old homemade cars were downright ugly, while others made some attempt to look something like a Sprint Car. Quarterson’s first “real” Sprint Car was a red #66 Trevis built car owned by Bill Thomas. Thomas sold the car near the end of the 1965 season and Quarterson picked up a ride in a car owned by Nick Lupe of Canfield, Ohio.
Lupe, who owned a successful service station in Canfield, had not been having too much luck with his car, which was powered by a Chrysler wedge engine. Quarterson convinced him to replace it with a Chevrolet and history would be made the next five years when the Quarterson-Lupe team became the most feared Sprint Car combo in a three-state area. The pair weren’t point chasers for sure. If there was a big race just about anywhere in the three-state area of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia they would load up the blue #66 Trevis car and head off, usually bringing back the first place money.
Unfortunately, there was little record keeping in those days and some of those 50-100 lap victories are lost to history. Near the end of the 1970 season Lupe sold the car to someone out of the local area and was out of racing for a while. Quarterson was fighting for the first title of the new All Star Circuit of Champions and quickly picked up a ride in a blue #55 Trevis owned by Joe Wright. With the western Ohio car Quarterson won the All Star title and also scored at Mercer in the last race of the year.
By 1969 Quarterson had already enjoyed a very successful decade of racing and put his name in the record books many times. But the best was yet to come. In 1969 he agreed to drive a 1937 Ford coupe Modified owned by Ron Montag and Don Oesterling of Butler. Several western PA drivers had done double duty with Sprints and Modifieds, but Quarterson was about to take the two classes in one night concept to new heights.
The pairing of Quarterson and the Montag-Oesterling car didn’t start out very well. The car had originally been built for Andy Phillips, another Sprint Car driver to run. But Phillips didn’t like the car and only raced it about twice. The first night Quarterson drove the car in 1969 was a bad one as he was involved in a crash at Mercer and flipped the still #00 turquoise coupe. Later in the season the car got back on track and Quarterson got a pair of seconds at Mercer in August of that year. One of those nights, August 16, he also won the Sprint feature in the Lupe car. Quarterson finally got his first win with the car in the 1970 Lernerville opener with the car now a metallic blue #66. It was the first of many nights at Mercer and Lernervile when Quarterson would win both the Modified and Sprint Car features.
For 13 years Quarterson did double-duty in both Modifieds and Sprint Cars, winning on a regular basis in both classes. Over that period Quarterson won in five different Modified cars. Montag and Oesterling parked the Ford coupe after the 1974 season after a great five-year run but the car was not sold or destroyed. It sat in a garage for years until bought and restored by Dave Miller, who later sold the car. The car is still in Butler and occasionally is seen at car shows.
In 1976 Quarterson’s father-in-law Tom Felicity built Ralph a new Modified ride, a red white and blue #11 Vega for the Bicentennial year. Felicity was a long time car owner, who had fielded Sprint cars, but went back to the old flathead coupe days. Quarterson won more than his share with the #11 over a three-year period and in 1978 had a sweep one weekend winning the Modified features at Lernerville, Mercer and Tri-City.
In 1979-80 he drove Modifieds for another long-time Western PA car owner, Butler’s Tim Temple. Together they won the Mercer Modified title in 1979. Quarterson and Temple split during late 1980 and Ralph picked up a ride in the former Bob Ziegler owned #42 Modified. He won with this car right off the bat at Mercer on August 16, 1980. But that was the swan song for one of the most beautiful Modifieds in Western PA history. Shortly afterwards, Quarterson was involved in a big crash at the very fast Expo Speedway in Ohio. The car was totaled and never raced again. In winding down his career in the Modifieds, Quarterson won 1981-82 races in the Arlie Utsinger #23 and a #7 which had been driven by Deek Scott.
Like the Modifieds, Quarterson won in just about every Sprint Car he ever drove on a regular basis.
After Nick Lupe got out of car ownership Quarterson ran a Sprint Car for father-in-law Tom Felicity, a gold #66 he raced a single season in 1971. In early 1972 he went to Florida to run in the Tampa IMCA races with Jim Zeigler. The car was #40 at the time but Quarterson and Zeigler elected to team locally for 1972 and the number was quickly changed to 66. The Quarterson-Zeigler combo produced a lot of wins over a good number of years. In 1977 Quarterson drove the #11 Trevis for Ralph Clark, who would later promote Tri-City Speedway. It was in the Clark car that Quarterson would suffer one of the worst crashes of a long career. That happened at Lernerville and left Quarterson in pain from a shoulder injury that haunted him the rest of his career. That injury also shortened his driving career, although he had surgery for it in 1982.
Ralph Quarterson was the “Master of Mercer” as no other driver could ever get around that tricky egg shaped track like he did. At Mercer he won 14 track titles in 17 years between 1965 and 1980, with eight in the Sprints and five straight in the Modifieds. He even won a track title at Mercer in Late Models when Mercer elected to run the full fender cars in 1974. He didn’t win titles in the other two classes that year, but won features in all three classes —Sprints, Modifieds and Late Models— at one track all in the same year; likely a feat that had never been done before or since.
Three years Quarterson won both the Modified and Sprint titles at Mercer and accomplished the same thing at Lernerville in 1971 while driving the Montag-Oesterling Modified and the Felicity Sprint. Four Lernerville titles added to those at Mercer and a couple of Super-Modified titles at the Butler Speedway early on and of course the All Star title in 1970 for at least 20 point titles. In all types of racecars, Quarterson won around the 600 mark. In Big-Block Modifieds he scored a career total of 75 wins with victories at six tracks: Mercer, Lernerville, Tri-City, Motordrome 70, Butler and Expo.
All good things come to an end, and so it was for Quarterson’s driving career. In 1983 Mercer was shut down and his glory days there were over. The shoulder was still bothering him and there wasn’t much in the way of good rides available, so Quarterson started winding down his career. In what was just about his last Sprint Car run, Quarterson drove the Frank Crash #46 during a doubleheader at Ohio’s Raceway 7 on June 25-26, 1983, finishing second in both races. He ran a few Modified races 1983-84 in a yellow #27 his son Tommy had been driving, but that was about it. Today, Ralph and Darlene, his wife of 47 years, are enjoying retirement and their grandchildren in Hermitage, Pa. just outside of Sharon.
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, home of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend in July. DIRTcar Northeast’s crown jewel event —Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse runs annually in October featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions. Ticket and schedule information is available by contacting the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during the day or logging into www.allstar100weekend.com and www.superdirtweekonline.com anytime.
The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and Chizmark & Larson Insurance www.chizmarklarson.com, and contingency sponsors are Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, MSD Ignition www.msdignition.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Vicci Racing Apparel www.vicci.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.