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Marshall Teague
Born:
February 22, 1921      Died: February 11, 1959          Home: Daytona Beach

Marshall Teague, a Daytona Beach resident, was one of NASCAR's first stars and pioneers  In just twenty-three career starts, Marshall captured 2 poles and seven victories in his "Fabulous" Hudson Hornet.  He won on the Daytona Beach course in '51 and '52 when the event was shortened y the incoming tide.  He won the first NASCAR race held on the other side of the Mississippi in 1951 at the Carrell Speedway in California.  He left the series in 1953 to race in the AAA and USAC racing series after a dispute with Bill France, Sr..  Later, with the dispute behind them, Teague  tested tires at the new Daytona International Speedway.

While testing Chapman Root's Sumar Special Indy Car (but with closed fenders) in a closed course speed record attempt at the new Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 1959, there was a violent crash. Then, there was the stirring news. Teague, only 36, died instantly. The incident, just 11 days before the scheduled running of the first-ever Daytona 500, cast a pall over the raceway. Speculation was that the track was unsafe and would produce untold carnage. This fortunately was untrue as the first Speedweeks went off without a hitch. However, Marshall's death so bothered Big Bill France, that open wheel Indy racing has never happened again at Daytona.  

Known as the "King of the Beach," Teague was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 1968.


Daytona Beach native was killed less than two weeks after Speedway’s opening in 1959.
By Ken Willis  Daytona Beach News-Journal  Feb 9, 2019

It didn’t take long for everyone to have their fears confirmed.

The big, new track was like nothing anyone had ever seen. For years after, racers of the era talked of the anxiety they felt when first seeing the place and considering the speeds it would produce.

Daytona International Speedway opened for business on Feb. 1, 1959.

Marshall Teague was killed 10 days later. Monday marks 60 years since the homegrown racing hero attempted to put his name in the record books, but instead got it etched in stone.

“When my dad talked about it, which was rare, you could tell that it pained him horribly,” says Preston Root, whose father owned the slick racecar Teague drove that day.

Teague, a true local who was born in Daytona Beach and graduated from Seabreeze High, was the Speedway’s first fatality. He might’ve instead been one of its early superstars, but he’d been suspended from NASCAR by Bill France Sr. because Teague wanted to race in events sanctioned by USAC and the AAA, and back then sanctioning bodies weren’t crazy about sharing their drivers with others.

Teague’s racing legend centers on the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, which he helped introduce to the racing world in the early 1950s. In 1951-52, he took the Hudson to seven wins in 19 starts, thanks in large part to the horsepower supplied by another Daytona Beach racing legend — engine builder Smokey Yunick. Those two years, Teague won back-to-back on Daytona’s marquee beach race.

Soon thereafter, he was out of NASCAR and still on the outside when Big Bill France built his mammoth new track in 1958 and opened it in ’59.

“I think he was hoping he could get back in NASCAR since there was gonna be a track in Daytona and he was a local boy,” says Teague’s daughter, Patty Teeters, who was 15 at the time.

France built his track to the same length as the world’s most famous speedway in Indianapolis. To make his track faster, France built the massive 31-degree banking in the east and west, along with the 18-degree banking on the frontstretch dogleg. Unlike the largely flat Indy, drivers wouldn’t have to lift off the gas in the turns.

To prove the speedy superiority of his new track, France needed a new world record. Yet another local racing figure, Chapman Root, owned a very fast car — the Sumar Special Streamliner, which was built at Root’s Indiana shop in Terre Haute and raced in Indy-car events. Root’s Sumar team competed from 1952-62.

The Sumar Special was fitted with a canopy top, side skirts and fenders, which could be removed for open-wheel racing. For the Daytona speed-record attempt, the Sumar was fully dressed.

There was a theory, never confirmed, that Teague’s record-breaking attempt was his way of getting back in Big Bill’s good graces, paving the way for his return to NASCAR.

“That makes sense; I can’t say for sure,” says Preston Root, who wasn’t born until 1962. “It was probably a combination of things. It was great publicity for the Speedway if it succeeded. It was a way to get Marshall back in the sport without seeming to give in, if you will. Just my opinions.

“And I think the connection ... my father, I think, was a part of that. Big Bill and my dad were so close in those early years.”

In the opening week of practice and qualifying, Fireball Roberts had posted the fastest speed, at just over 140 mph. On Feb. 8, Root unveiled his Sumar Special and Fireball’s lap was going to soon look like a pace lap.

The previous summer, Tony Bettenhausen had set a new closed-course record of 177.038 mph in Monza, Italy. In Teague’s opening run at Daytona, he got within range at 171.82 mph.

“I was just playing around. We won’t get serious until later in the week,” Teague told the local media.

Feb. 11 was a Wednesday.

“I saw him that morning when I got up and went to school,” says Patty (Teague Teeters). “He took me to school a lot, but I don’t think he took me that day.”

The Teagues lived just down the road from the new Speedway. Marshall Teague, who also owned and operated a full-service station in downtown Daytona Beach, had bought five-plus acres on Terrace Avenue, off of Bellevue, where he could work on his racecar engines without disturbing as many neighbors as he did when they lived beachside.

“I’d be out there in his race shop a lot,” says Patty. “He’d crank an engine, and I remember him always saying, ‘doesn’t that sound beautiful?’ ”

Late that Wednesday morning, Teague left Terrace Avenue and made the short drive to Big Bill’s racetrack. The car was prepped and Teague was ready, but first he uttered some fateful words to assembled media.

“This is the finest speedway in the world,” he said. “It’s deceptive, though. When you’re going 165 mph, you feel like you’re coasting at 135. I feel safer on this speedway than I do on U.S. 92.”

Teague took it easy on his opening lap and began picking up speed on Lap 2, when he entered Turn 1 and bobbled. The car’s nose turned left and the wheels caught the area where the banking meets the flat track apron on the inside of the racing lanes. Reports said the car was quickly out of control and airborne, flipping up to five times in the air.

The cockpit was torn from the car and Teague, still in the seat, was thrown some 150 feet and killed instantly. He was 37. Bernard Kahn, The News-Journal’s sports editor at the time, said the wreck covered an estimated 500 yards.

Across town, at the old Mainland High School on Bay Street, students were gathered in the cafeteria at lunchtime, many of them holding transistor radios. Early in the lunch hour, local radio stations were breaking into programming to report about the tragedy on the west side of town.

“I was in school, going to eat lunch,” Patty recalls. “Everyone back then had their radios going, having a good time. I walked in the door and everyone turned their radio off. All the radios went off and it got quiet. I thought, ‘that’s strange.’

“Later, the dean of women got me out of class and took me home.”

Two Sumar Specials, one with skirts and fenders and one without, are on display at the Root Family wing of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach.

Chapman Root’s decade as a race-team owner was certainly bittersweet. Nine months before Teague’s death at Daytona, racer Pat O’Connor was killed at the Indy 500 in a Sumar Special.

“It was something my dad lived with, felt horribly about,” Preston Root says. “The Sumar team raced until 1962, and my dad did that mainly because so many people in Terre Haute depended on that for a job. He had the cars and employees and didn’t want to just wrap it up on such a sour note.

“That’s the only recollection I have, is how much it pained him and that it really was the turning point when he decided he wasn’t cut out for this.”

 

Also: See the HUDSON STORIES page for more on Marshall Teague.

  • 1945 First Race - Finished Second
     
  • 1949 Won 200 mile Daytona Beach Race, Average Speed 88.23 MPH
     
  • 1951 Won 160 mile Grand National at Daytona Beach
     
  • Pure Oil Company, now Unocal, together with Hudson Motor Car Company, agree to sponsor Marshall, thus becoming the first company sponsor for NASCAR Racing
     
  • 1951 & 1952 Finishes sixth and seventh respectively in the 2000 Mile Mexican Road Race
     
  • 1952 Winner of the Daytona Beach Road Course
     
  • 1951 AAA Stock Car Driver of the Year
     
  • 1952 & 1954 AAA National Stock Car Champion
     
  • 1953 First race at Indianapolis Speedway
     
  • 1957 Finishes seventh at Indy 500
     
  • 1966 National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame - Posthumously
     
  • 1988 National Auto Racing Hall of Fame - Posthumously
     
  • 1989 TRS/NASCAR Mechanics Hall of Fame - Posthumously
     
  • 1991 - American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame - Posthumously

. . . recalled Cotton Owens, a former NASCAR driver and team owner.  He truly was. Teague not only twice drove well enough to qualify for the famed Indianapolis 500, where he finished seventh in 1957 and 18th in 1953, he had the distinct versatility to also race stock cars. And Teague did that very well.

Although Teague competed in only 23 NASCAR Grand National races from 1949-52 -- Teague actually finished runner-up to Robert ``Red'' Byron in the first race sanctioned by NASCAR, which was a modified event held on the beach-road course Feb. 15, 1948 at Daytona Beach, Fla. -- he was a frequent visitor to victory lane. He won seven races, five in the 1951 season alone in only 15 starts.

Teague, however, in an apparent dispute with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., left the series in 1953 and began racing stock cars in the American Automobile Association and U.S. Auto Club circuits.

 But before Teague waved bye-bye, he became one of its earliest top drivers, capturing NASCAR's first ever race west of the Mississippi River on April 8, 1951, the prestigious event at defunct Carrell Speedway, a half-mile dirt track located in Gardena, Calif.

 
Two weeks later, Teague won only the west's second NASCAR race, this time on a 1-mile dirt track located near 19th Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix, the first of five NASCAR races to be held in Phoenix (four) and Tucson (one) between 1951-60. The stock-car circuit didn't return until 1988, when the first of 10 such races to date have been held at Phoenix International Raceway.

 But it all began at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, which was Arizona's first NASCAR Grand National (now called NASCAR Winston Cup) venture and also was the site of NASCAR's sixth race of the '51 season and 33rd in the history of the sanctioning body.               

Teague made the grueling trip from his home in Daytona Beach, Fla., and according to one account of the 150-mile race, took the lead in a 1951 Fabulous Hudson Hornet on Lap 81 from Fonty Flock and led the remainder of the 150-lap race.

 Thirty drivers started the race and only 17 finished, according to ``The'' ``Arizona Republic'' recap of the race in the following morning's newspaper.

 When it was over, 2 hours, 21 minutes and 16 seconds later, a crowd of 12,000 watched Teague cross the finish line almost a quarter-mile ahead of runner-up Erick Erickson of Hawthorne, Calif. Teague pocketed $1,100.

 Tim, Bob, Fonty FlockThe Flock brothers, Tim of Atlanta and Fonty of Hopeville, Ga., finished third and fourth, followed by Dick Meyer of Porterville, Calif., and Danny Weinberg of Bell, Calif.

What Teague accomplished that memorable April day 47 years ago, however, will never be disputed.

 ``One thing about Marshall was he looked like the most unlikely race car driver you'd ever seen,'' said friend Hershel McGriff of Green Valley. McGriff, who at age 71 still competes in NASCAR Winston West races, first met Teague in 1950 at a Mexican road race.

 ``He had a little pot belly, skinny legs and skinny arms,'' McGriff said. ``He looked like the guy watching from the grandstands. I remember we had a boat together in Florida and I tried to teach him how to water ski.

 ``But there was only a 10 horsepower motor on it and I couldn't get the boat to go fast enough and Marshall would end up sinking in the water.

 ``He was a good racer, though. And a real family man. He was very technical with the car. He could build things from scratch. I remember he wanted to build me a modified to run on the sand at Daytona because he thought my driving style would fit it. ``But we never got around to it.''

 Teague, however, did get around to making a cross-country trip to Phoenix in 1951, making certain when he left, he was not forgotten.

The guy who survived all those air missions over Eastern Europe and the Pacific was quickly caught up in this other form of survival soon after he opened his Best Damn Garage In Town and began a second life that still defies description. You might say that Smokey Yunick’s racing career began the instant after a kindred soul by the name of Marshall Teague walked into his garage. Teague, a well-known stock car driver and car owner, happened to be a Daytona Beach resident, too. He took Smokey’s slogan seriously and invited him to join his team even though Yunick told him he knew nothing about stock car racing. However, the eclectic garage owner knew where to gain an insight. He began studying the chemistry and physics books that he had collected during the war to find out how Mother Nature worked. The information he gleaned from his collection helped him discover the easiest way to make a car go through the air or how long a racing engine would run before it, in his words, “blowed.”
But the book that Yunick studied most was the one containing NASCAR’s new rules. In a piece entitled “Inside Smokey’s Bag of Tricks,” C.J. Baker quoted Smoke thusly: “You have to understand that when I got into this thing back in ’47, they didn’t have near as many rules as they do now. You could run whatever you thought you could get away under what NASCAR would call ‘being within the spirit of competition.’” This happened during what Smokey would later call his drinking days. Baker remembers Smokey telling him that people would come by the race shop for a few drinks, and the next thing he knew his competition was sniveling to France. “If you did something they (NASCAR) didn’t like, which was pretty much up to Bill France, they would fine you or throw you out of the race as ‘being outside the spirit of competition,’ even though there was no specific rule against the supposed infraction.”

Teague’s cars of choice were the new step-down Hudson Hornets—based on inverted-bathtub styling powered by an inline flathead six. The Hornet’s low center of gravity and dual carburetion and other special 7-X “export” items made it fast for its era. And with Smokey at the wrench, the combo rendered Teague hard to beat. Yunick was either a crafty, devious, underhanded, rule-bending, no-good, cheating SOB (one view), or a master of ability, hard work, careful preparation, common sense, and the scientific approach (the other). Smokey’s M.O. was simple: If the rulebook didn’t specifically outlaw this or that, then it was OK to do this or that. No porting or polishing was allowed, so he would paint the ports with hard lacquer and sand them to a mirror finish. Or he would pump an abrasive slurry through the intake manifold runners to remove the lumps and bumps. NASCAR said no boring or stroking, but there was no rule against offset cranks. There was a rule against using lightweight flywheels, but there wasn’t a rule that prohibited removing the ring gear, laterally drilling lightening holes in the flywheel, then reinstalling the ring gear. “All those other guys were cheatin’ ten times worse than us,” remembered Yunick, “so it was just self-defense.”

Featuring 1948's innovative "step down" body design which lowered the center of gravity and gave superior handling, Hudson Hornet dominated stock car racing in the early 1950's. Famed drivers such as Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas, Dick Rathmann, Fonty and Tim Flock, Jack McGrath, 'Rebel' Frank Mundy and Lou Figaro were part of the Hudson team. Together they accounted for 13 wins in 1951, 49 in 1952, and 46 in 1953. no other car of the time could match the Hudson's bulletproof construction, low center of gravity, good handling, and factory support.      


    
   

The true sting of the Hornet came from the powerful 7X racing engine. Developed by Marshall Teague and Hudson engineer Vince Piggins, the big six had a bigger bore, bigger valves, relieved and polished combustion chambers, high compression head, high performance cam, split dual exhausts, and and "Twin H-Power" carburetors and manifold. This combination boosted the big straight 6 up to 220 gross horsepower, a jump of 75 horses over the showroom stock figure of 145.

All the stock components made the Hornet nearly untouchable on the track, and a record setting 27 wins out of 34 starts in major stock car races in 1952 was proof!

 

 

 

"Fabulous" Hudson Hornet Statistics



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