Wally Campbell

Wally Campbell

16/7/1926 - 15/7/1954

Wally was born July 16, 1926 in Red Bank, NJ. He grew up in Allentown, NJ before leaving to join the Navy. he became one of the best know Stock Car drivers in America.

He crashed in his first race at the Fleminton Fairgrounds in New Jersey in 1947 but learned fast and ended the year as the point standing leader of the new American Stock Car Racing Association (ASCRA) based in Trenton, NJ.

1948 was the only year in the existance of the American Stock Car Racing Association that Wally didn't win the Championship, he finished 6th.

In 1949 he won th American Stock Car Racing Association for the second time. That year he also competed in the NASCAR Strickly Stock Car race at Langhorne driving an Oldsmobile for Wally Marks. He went out after 166 laps of the 200 lap race..

In 1950 Wally moved to Trenton and ended the year once a gain as the Champion of the American Stock Car Racing Association, his 3rd title.

He also drove in two Nascar Grand National events. The first Southern 500 on Sept. 4, the first superspeedway race for stock cars, was the first held on asphalt for NASCAR's premier series. Curtis Turner won the pole with a speed of 82.034 mph while Wally had the quickest time (82.400 mph) in Wally Marks' Oldsmobile. However due to his late qualifying run he actually qualified in 60th! Then at Langhorne he qualified on pole.

By 1951 the ASCRA was gone and Wally ran in NASCAR winning the National Modified Championship. He drove in five Grand National Races qualifying 2nd at Dayton and third at Pittsburgh where he crashed out after 20 laps.

He was involved in a  Sportsman-Modified race at Langhorne on October 14, 1951. His crash on lap 83 has been known since as "The Big Fire".

IN 1952 Nascar started something called the Speedway Division, open wheeled Indy cars with stock motors. Wally cleaned up. In seven races, he wins twice, finishes 3rd twice and 5th once for 2nd in points to Buck Baker. He was named AAA Rookie of the Year in a national sportswriters poll. The division was folded after 3 races the following year. Wally won one of those.

Wally competed in 3 Nascar Speedway Division races before Bill France folds the series. He wins at Greensboro.

In 1953 He competes in 3 early season Nascar Grand National races.

He then joins the AAA Eastern Division Sprint cars when AAA veteran Hank Rogers who was scheduled to drive at Bedford, Pennsylvania on August 15, 1953 but did not arrive in time to compete.  Chris Economaki was the race announcer that day and suggested to Frank Curtis that he get Wally Campbell to drive the car. Campbell did so well that day that he was hired to complete the rest of the season in the car, winning features at St. Paul, Minnesota; Morristown, New Jersey; Reading, Pennsylvania; and at Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina.

1954 Wally competed in 3 champ car races. He fails his rookie test at Indianapolis because of "inexperience". At Langhorne, he starts 6th and finishes 15th in the Ray Brady #33. At Darlington he starts 30th and finishes 24th.

In July he was leading the points in the AAA Eastern Division big cars. Renowned for his ability to drive the high on the banking, Wally was killed when his sprint car went over the banking in a practice accident at the Salem Oval, Indiana. He was one day past his 28th birthday.

With thanks to Jeff Hardifer

Leave a comment