Jack Johnson’s iconic 12A on display at the Saratoga Automobile Museum

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Thanks to the generosity of car owners Carole and Alton Palmer, one of DIRTcar super star Jumpin’ Jack Johnson’s last rides is now on exhibit in the Racing in New York gallery of the Saratoga Automobile Museum.

“The car was barely in the door when museum visitors started relating memories of Jack’s classic battles with CD Coville at Albany-Saratoga and Lou Lazzaro at Fonda to our staff and docents,” said exhibit coordinator Ron Hedger in a news release.  “The car, which Jack drove for the Palmer’s at Syracuse, triggers all sorts of memories of one of dirt modified racing’s biggest stars.”

Jack Johnson will go in the history books as one of DIRTcar’s all-time great heroes, as likely to win on the far-flung DIRTcar Modified Tour as he was at his home track, the Fonda Speedway.

A Fonda Fairgrounds winner in 34 seasons stretching from 1971 to his final score on May 30, 2009, a season that also saw him win a major event in Sharon, Ohio, Johnson’s 149 wins top another Fonda hero, Lou Lazzaro, who visited Victory Lane some 113 times.  Fonda was also the scene of a hard crash that ended a career that saw Johnson elected to multiple Halls of Fame.

In addition to his Fonda victories, Johnson scored 90 times at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, where his battles with CD Coville were legendary, and scores of wins at the Central New York DIRT tracks.  He was also a six-time Mr DIRT champion, besting such luminaries as Bob McCreadie, Brett Hearn, Alan and Danny Johnson and Will Cagle.

Johnson also made history as the first New Yorker to win the finale of Super DIRT Week on the famed New York State Fair mile in Syracuse, winning the seventh running in 1979 and backing it up with another victory in 1984. 

The familiar orange 12A joins another recent addition to the Racing in New York gallery, Ken Gypsum’s restored 1937 Ford flatback sedan that raced at tracks around the Capital District in the early 1960’s.  While both are “stock cars,” the contrast in technology and safety innovations is amazing.

Lost speedways program cancelled

Due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saratoga Automobile Museum’s extremely popular Lost Speedways program will not be held in 2020.

Originally set for Nov. 28, the program would have included Ken Parrotte’s look at vintage highlight photos and the story behind them, Dick Hansen’s presentation on midget racing at the old Rhinebeck Speedway, motorcycle expert Mark Supley’s program on the steel cage “hell riders” seen at countless fairs over the years and program organizer Ron Hedger’s interview of retired driver Jack Cottrell.

“We were hoping that the State of New York would increase the number of visitors we may host at one time, but it appears they will be sticking with 50 patrons at least through the fall,” said Hedger.  “We always have a full house for Lost Speedways and we’re not about to turn loyal supporters away because we’ve reached the limit.  That’s just not fair.  We considered multiple programs of 50 people each but even then, it’s impossible to maintain the recommended social distancing.  Hopefully things will be back to normal for 2021.”

In the meantime, racers and fans alike will appreciate visiting SAM to check out the current Golub and Dammerman Galleries exhibit, “Dyson Racing – The Private Collection,” which features antique cars from Rob Dyson’s past, world class road racing cars and a variety of Indianapolis cars, including the first rear-engine racer to participate in the Indianapolis 500 and a WWI era chain-drive Indy car.

The Saratoga Automobile Museum, located on the Avenue of the Pines in the Saratoga Spa State Park, is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  More information on the museum and the featured Golub and Dammerman galley exhibit displaying the cars of Rob Dyson, is available online at www.saratogamuseum.org.


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