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51 years ago today, Otto Harwi lost his life at the Orange County Fair Speedway.  It happened on lap 23 of the feature race in turn three.  Ray Cook in the No. 87 spun and stopped sideways and was hit by Bill Murdock in the No. 42. 

 

Harwi, in the No. 999 car owned by John Cramer with a Sonny Dornberger engine, was unable to stop in time and careened into Murdock’s car and went airborne for almost 70 feet.  His car landed roof-first onto the wall and then went through the fence.

 

Harwi was pronounced dead thirty-five minutes later at Horton Hospital.  He was just 41 years old.

 

Harwi collected 21 feature wins at OCFS with his last win coming on 6/9/1962.  That last win was actually a dead-heat “partnership” win with racing legend Sonny Strupp., the first-ever tie at OCFS.

 

Otto Harwi is gone, but not forgotten. 

 

2/2/1923 – 5/16/1964

 

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Thank you for the history, Jeff. 

 

My dad and I were having a conversation Friday night on the way home from Accord that Middletown has to be one of the deadliest tracks in the country. 

 

One day when I have the free time to dedicate to the research, I would like to see how it compares to other tracks with multiple fatal incidents. I would argue (without the research to back it up) that OCFS is the second deadliest track in the country next to Indianapolis. 

 

I'm sure that there are other tracks that would be in the conversation as well, and although macabre, this is research that I would be very interested in doing and learning more about. 

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I would argue (without the research to back it up) that OCFS is the second deadliest track in the country next to Indianapolis. 

 

 

 

Off the top of my head, I would say the answer is clearly Knoxvlle as far as dirt tracks go  Knoxville has had 15 racing-related deaths during their history. How many drivers have lost their life at OCFS through the years? I don't have time to look it up right now. In addition to Harwi, I can remember Dave Kneisel and Johnny Owen. The Reading Fairgrounds would also be near the top of such a list as well.

 

Daytona has also had far more fatalities than any dirt track in the country.

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I would argue (without the research to back it up) that OCFS is the second deadliest track in the country next to Indianapolis. 

 

 

 

Off the top of my head, I would say the answer is clearly Knoxvlle as far as dirt tracks go  Knoxville has had 15 racing-related deaths during their history. How many drivers have lost their life at OCFS through the years? I don't have time to look it up right now. In addition to Harwi, I can remember Dave Kneisel and Johnny Owen. The Reading Fairgrounds would also be near the top of such a list as well.

 

Daytona has also had far more fatalities than any dirt track in the country.

 

 

I was also factoring in spectator fatalities as a result of racing. 

 

Joe Winne is another driver that comes to mind of the top of my head as well. 

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Bill Albertson   Death date: 16.Aug.1930   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Otto Harwi   Death date: 16.May.1964   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Edward Hayward   Death date: 22.Aug.1931   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Beader Kennedy   Death date: 04.May.1968   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Dave Kneisel   Death date: 06.Sep.1982   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Dee Dee Kruger   Death date: 18.Aug.1964   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Andy Marshall   Death date: 28.Jun.1986   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
John Owens   Death date: 10.Jul.1986   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Ray Redner   Death date: 31.Jul.1956   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Robert Smith   Death date: 30.Jun.1962   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Jay Southworth   Death date: 16.Aug.1924   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Tom Stacy   Death date: 18.Aug.1951   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Bill Walters   Death date: 26.Aug.1934   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)
 
Joe Winne   Death date: 20.Oct.2000   Role: driver   Circuit: Orange County Fair Speedway (NY, United States)

 

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Tom, there's 3 others that aren't listed in the Motorsports Memorial website.

 

Freddie Blevin - 9/12/1959

Jack McLaughlin – 8/23/1964

Susan Dabrusin - 7/9/1988 accident – died 7/12/1988 (spectator)

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Jackie McLaughlin

  Complete name: Jackie McLaughlin Birth date: 11.Oct.1933 Birth Place: Camden, NJ, United States Death date: 24.Aug.1964 Death Place: Bethlehem, PA, United States Nationality: United States Gender: male Age at death: 30   Event date: 23.Aug.1964 Series: unknown Race: Event type: race Country: United States (Pennsylvania) Venue: Nazareth Raceway Variant: 1/2-mile dirt oval (1928-1929, 1947-1988)   Role: driver Vehicle type: car Vehicle sub-type: stock car Vehicle brand/model: unknown Vehicle number: ??  
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I would argue (without the research to back it up) that OCFS is the second deadliest track in the country next to Indianapolis. 

 

 

 

Off the top of my head, I would say the answer is clearly Knoxvlle as far as dirt tracks go  Knoxville has had 15 racing-related deaths during their history. How many drivers have lost their life at OCFS through the years? I don't have time to look it up right now. In addition to Harwi, I can remember Dave Kneisel and Johnny Owen. The Reading Fairgrounds would also be near the top of such a list as well.

 

Daytona has also had far more fatalities than any dirt track in the country.

 

 

I was also factoring in spectator fatalities as a result of racing. 

 

Joe Winne is another driver that comes to mind of the top of my head as well. 

 

 

Wasn't Joe Winne a heart attack?

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Tom, there's 3 others that aren't listed in the Motorsports Memorial website.

 

 

Jack McLaughlin – 8/23/1964

 

 

Wait a minute...Jackie McLaughlin wasn't killed at OCFS. He was killed at the Nazareth Half-Mile. That was the reason No. 83 was permanently retired at Nazareth in the Modifieds and anyone showing up with that number had to change it.

 

http://www.empaonline.org/Jackie%20Mclaughlin%20bio.html

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Knoxville's list is included in the first link. They have actually had 16 drivers killed there between 1961-2009. Knoxville was just brutal in the late 1970s and early '80s. They lost three drivers within a two-week period in July 1979 (including the double fatality of Darryl Dawley and Roger Larson on July 7), one driver in '81 and Gary Scott's fatal crash in '82 that ultimately led to wings on Sprint Cars at Knoxville -- five driver fatalities at Knoxville in less than three years between 1979 and 1982.

 

Obviously, it is a terrible event any time a driver loses his life. But the double fatality of Dawley and Larson was apparently just a brutal crash. Doug Wolfgang was in the feature that night at Knoxville and tells a pretty graphic tale about the crash in his book.

 

The Gary Scott crash was horrifying because he was thrown from the car and landed right in front of the flagstand.. Legendary car owner Bob Trostle was so shaken by the graphic nature of  Scott's fatal injuries that he vowed not return to Knoxville until wings were mandated. By the following week, wings were mandatory. I think it is in the Wolfgang book as well where Trostle mentioned being at Knoxville for all nine of the driver fatalities there between 1967 and 1982. 

 

http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/searchall.php?s=Knoxville+raceway&db=ct&s_into=circuit&s_db=alldb&Search=Submit

 

Story about the Gary Scott accident and the end of non-wing racing at Knoxville: http://www.newtondailynews.com/2010/08/10/knoxville-it-was-may-1-1982-the-regul/a4sls7k/

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I would argue (without the research to back it up) that OCFS is the second deadliest track in the country next to Indianapolis. 

 

 

 

Off the top of my head, I would say the answer is clearly Knoxvlle as far as dirt tracks go  Knoxville has had 15 racing-related deaths during their history. How many drivers have lost their life at OCFS through the years? I don't have time to look it up right now. In addition to Harwi, I can remember Dave Kneisel and Johnny Owen. The Reading Fairgrounds would also be near the top of such a list as well.

 

Daytona has also had far more fatalities than any dirt track in the country.

 

 

I was also factoring in spectator fatalities as a result of racing. 

 

Joe Winne is another driver that comes to mind of the top of my head as well. 

 

 

Wasn't Joe Winne a heart attack?

 

 

It was, but it was while he was behind the wheel of the car on the track. 

 

I never realized how fatal Knoxville was, and probably would not have realized it before diving into research. I've yet to read the Doug Wolfgang book, but it's on my hit list for the summer. 

 

Jeff, is there any official record of spectator/crew fatalities at Middletown written down anywhere that you know of?  

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^ Not that I'm aware of.  There's a few names of people who passed away in the pits from non-racing incidents at Victoryspeedway.com.  As for spectators, I have no idea.  Would have to search old newspaper archives I imagine.  

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I was in the pits with Bill Murdock's 42 on the night when Otto Went over Bill in the 3rd turn, where I was standing with my friend watching from the infield, it happened right in front of us.

Also present when Dee Dee Kruger crashed later that year.

I remember going to an owners and drivers meeting where headrests and other safety issues were agreed to, bringing a start of self imposed, safety requirements to the "outlaw" modified circuits.

1964 was a tough year, also lost D. D. "Rebel" Harris, Jackie McLaughlin and I think Tony Bonadies(in an ARDC midget).

My 18th birthday was the day after Otto died, I ever forget that night.

 

 

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Oswego speedway is an other track with a lot of fatalities.

     Oswego as this writing has had nine racing related fatalities and the also one on the track before it actually opened in 1951. The last one being A. J. Michaels in 1990. Five Super Modified drivers and Four Stock Car drivers, the first being Red Sequin in 1961.

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