Tommy Cochrane passed away on Friday, July 26, 2013, at the age of 79, surprising family and friends alike.
I was sitting in Allan Wiltse's motor home on Saturday morning in the parking lot of Spencer Speedway in New York with a number of other members of the Atlantic Coast Old Timers, shooting the breeze about the previous night's exhibition and looking forward to moving on to Limerock Speedway for another chance to exercise our vintage race cars on Saturday night, when my phone rang. It was Ronnie Dunstan on the other end and I moved outside the coach to hold our conversation away from the lively discussion going on inside. Ronnie and I have harassed each other, traveled with each other, and raced with each other for more than forty years and I thoroughly enjoy our conversations. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this one.
Tommy Cochrane was a regular attendee at our Eastern Auto Racing Historical Society open houses, we traveled to many sprint car and midget events over the years, and I had most recently seen him at Carl Nosal's estate sale. Tommy was one of a dwindling number of midget veterans from the 1950s and 1960s, who had first-hand knowledge of eastern midget racing. He had raced with roll bars and before roll bars, so Tommy was definitely ‘old school'. Our conversations almost always yielded some nugget of historical significance and his willingness to share information and photos from his archives has strengthened EARHS's presentation of the ‘Golden Years' of midget auto racing. Tommy was originally from Brooklyn, NY, a solid disciple of Ed ‘Dutch' Schaefer, one of fifteen of us who raced midgets at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica in 1983, and a lifetime supporter of the ‘doodlebugs'.
|The above photo depicts three guys from the Lehigh Valley running the final midget race conducted at the famed Dorney Park Speedway, a 1/5 mile paved oval in Allentown, PA on May 30, 1980. That’s me, Paul Weisel, in Brooke Shafer’s Offy #27, Tommy Cochrane in his own Offy #71 working the high groove, and Ronnie Dunstan in George Weiser’s Offy #3. O.K., O.K., before Ronnie goes crazy, I hasten to add Dunstan won the main event. More importantly, three good friends in three Offenhauser powered midgets at an Iconic doodlebug venue. Neat…………………………………|
In June of 2012 Tommy, Charlie Miller, and I attended the USAC sprint car / ARDC midget racing program at Port Royal , PA. Since Tommy was partial to big cars, he volunteered to drive. The races were excellent and Tommy was the chauffeur for the trip home. I sat up front ‘to keep him company' (to make sure he stayed awake) and Charlie nestled into the back seat.
All was going well when we crested a hill west of Hamburg on I-78 at about 70 mph and encountered a large white-tail buck, calmly standing in the middle of the right lane. All I could do was yell, ‘DEER !!!!' before Tommy adroitly flicked the steering wheel left, then right. His big boat responded, first listing left, then right, while, in the words of Don Adams as Agent 86, he ‘missed him by THAT much!' I had visions of hooves, nostrils, patches of fur, and other deer parts littering the highway, but the big dummy was still standing there in all his glory as Tommy motored down the highway. After that little escapade, we woke Charlie and announced it was time for a coffee stop. It's sad there won't be any more trips to Port Royal or nighttime conversations to while away the highway miles with Tommy Cochrane.
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EARHS "wants and needs"
Wanted: Racing photo collections - share and preserve programs. If you have vintage racing photos, EARHS would like to be able to scan and copy these items. All items will be returned intact and we can provide you with a computer disc of those items from significant collections.
We are especially interested in Dorney Park items from the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's and all Allentown Fair items, including indoor racing events, but all items are welcome.
We continue to fill our showroom - all members are invited to visit and check our progress. Please call Pete (610 398-2188) or Paul (610 395-5303) to arrange a time to visit.
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