Don Dahle

Don Dahle

14/6/1927

Dahle began racing in 1951. Often described as an aggressive driver, there was once a drivers strike at Mercer because they refused to run if Dahle did. He raced Modifieds and Midgets mainly in the Pittsburgh area. He competed in one Nextel Cup race finishing 6th.

Don Dahle was a well-known driver and personality from the early '50s and '60s. Dahle began racing in 1951 when seven guys threw in $5 each to build a racecar. They competed in the coupe division with a 1934 Ford coupe that had a cloth top and wire wheels. 49 years ago drivers raced seven nights a week and twice on Sunday. Sunday afternoon it was racing at Dayton then on to Kittanning Fairgrounds Sunday night. Monday night was Brockway. Tuesday was Warren (Dahle was the track champion his second year). Wednesday night it was either Canfield, Ohio or Sportsman's Park in Cleveland. Thursday it was Heidelberg, Friday they went to Butler and Saturday, was Shippenville. They raced for a grand prize of $50 in a car that cost only $35 to build!

It was what you knew and not how much money you had. The teams survived by making their own parts. The welding torch was their best friend. Cars were strictly stock and they could run wherever they wanted. There were not many rules, thus the saying you would 'run what you brung'!

Don Dahle was once a teammate to the late, great Dick Linder. In fact, Don and Dick were teammates for two different car owners. They were comrades in the Woody Brougher's famous Modifieds that completely dominated PRA (Pittsburgh Racing Association) action in the mid-fifties. They drove Midgets for homebuilder Ed Lowther. After one of the cars was sold, Dick and Don alternated driving duties. Lowther also owned a sprint car that was actually a stretch midget with interchangeable body panels. Dick Linder would run USAC at Trenton. Then they would put a different tail on the car and Don Dahle would run ARDC on Saturday night at Reading! Open cockpits without roll bars or cages, just little 'sissy' bars behind their heads was the level of safety.

"Leadfoot" and "rough driver" described this aggressive driver. One time the drivers had a strike at Mercer because they refused to run if Dahle did!

Dahle loved to race and he was strong as a bull. He started last, passed everybody, pulled into the pits and then went into the stands. He had an agreement with the track owner that after he took the lead he would pull into the pits and would say that something in the car broke. He got paid for winning the race as did the guy who actually won.

Leading every race at Langhorne, Dahle would have tire or engine problems. One time his car caught fire while he was running first. In 1960 he went to Daytona to race a Midget five nights a week at the high school stadium. They ran on a crushed coral surface that ruined the engine. The second time at Daytona the engine blew and he didn't place. During the wintertime it was racing Three-quarter Midgets on the indoor tracks in Cleveland and Fort Wayne.

Race teams didn't have the big trailers like they have today cars were flat-towed. They kept tires, gas cans and the toolbox in the truck. There were usually 30 or 40 cars that would show up to race. Since there was no qualifying, they would run an extra heat or two. You had to work your way up to the feature race. Usually 24 to 28 cars were on the tack for a feature race and the previous week's winner always started last.

In 1959 he competed in his one and only Nextel Cup race in Pittsburgh. Starting 10th in the twenty-two car field, Dahle completed all but eight laps in route to a 6th place finish.

Dahle ran PRA with Herb Scott, Buddy O'Connor, Ed Fiola and Glade Neil. He claimed winning the 1959 Tri-State Championship 150 lapper at Heidelburg, however, Ed Witzberger awarded the win to Gus Linder. This caused bad feelings between the two men and Dahle went to Clinton to run super-Modifieds.

Later he went on to pilot Nick Garrin's Late Model and began to limit his traveling until the new Pennsylvania Motor Speedway opened. Garrin wanted Dahle to become a track official but after 31 years of racing he didn't want to be obligated.

In 1990 Dahle was inducted into the Pittsburgh Circle Track Club Hall of Fame. Along side of his Hall of Fame Plaque is a trophy he won in the '50s running the 100 lap Season Championship with John Marcum's ARCA Club plus several trophies from Heidelberg and his 1951 NASCAR license.

In the thirty-one years of racing, a smashed foot was Dahle's worst injury. He wrecked a sprint car at Heidelberg and spent five and a half months in a cast. Don enjoyed racing and always had a good following of fans that he brought happiness and enjoyment.

Don attends races at Lernerville and Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway and watches NASCAR races. He likes to relax listening to music and working in his yard. He collects Slovenian and German polka albums along with Honky Tonk and Dixieland music. Don and wife, Maryanne have four daughters, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Pittsburgh Circle Track Club

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