22/5/1915 - 11/10/1993
American racing driver and car owner. Raced a Maserati 8CTF post war but failed to qualify for the Indy 500. Joe Barzda died 29 years ago, he was 78
Joe Barzda was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and started racing just before WWII. In 1935 he aquired the Crack'n Riley Special that was originally built by Johnny Osbourne in 1933.
In the final event of midget season at Tri-City Stadium in Union, New Jersey in 1940, he was involved in a fatal crash. On the forty-first lap Barzda, who was being lapped, moved over to let the leaders pass but was hit by Lyle Dickey who was in second place. Dickey's car rolled and crashed into Joe Garson. Garson also rolled, crashing into Tommy Simonetti. Simonetti suffered a fractured skull and died the following morning.
After the war, in 1951, he attempted to qualify one of his two pre-war 8CTF Grand Prix Maserati. By this time his car had been fitted with an Offy motor while the other car, assigned to But Sennett was still Maserati powered. Barzda spun out and Sennett crashed, both failing to qualify.
The next year he fitted the supercharger from one of his pair of Indianapolis Maseratis to his V8-60 KK Sprint Car, the Joe Barzda California Speed Shop Special. He ran the car this way until 1956 when he pulled the engine in favour of a Chevrolet V8. He continued to race the Maserati both now with Offy engines installed. He once again failed to qualify for the Indy 500.
In 1953 he made another attempt to qualify the Maserati but once again came up short. It appears that the Marerati engine had been refitted.
He then took a break from driving and didn't return to the wheel until 1958. He raced a full season in the Russo/Nichels Offy finishing 4th at Springfield and Trenton. He also won the USAC Eastern Sprint Car feature on the 5/8 mile paved Thompson Speedway in June that year.
At Williams Grove in July 1959, his throttle stuck open as he entered a turn. He lost control and struck Van Johnson's Vargo Special, the car in which Dick Linder had been killed on April 19th that year. Both cars rolled and sadly Johnson was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Barzda imediately quit racing.
With his brother Jim, he then ran the Californian Speed and Sport Shop in New Jersey which fielded cars in many events, including CART & endurance racing. Joe died in Somerset, New Jersey in 1993 though his brother is still alive and continues to run the shop.