~'Irish' Joe Donahue~
Article Published in Volume 38 #37, December 12, 2003 in the Gater Racing News
I was very lucky as a young boy in that as soon as I
was able, or more likely as soon as me mudder
would allow, I was off with Dad for the nightly trips
to Edmeston and Willie Wust’s garage where
‘Moose’s 88’ was housed. I remember the trips
vividly, always anxious to get there and get as
greasy as I possibly could and watch the older Wust
boys riding around on a contraption called the ’43
Jr.’ (which was basically a Wisconsin baler motor
mounted on a frame with wheels). As I recall their
hair was always straight out in back of them as they
raced around the yard with toothy grins. If I was
lucky, I got to sit in the 88 and dream of wheeling it
into victory lane at the Midstate Speedway in
Morris, NY where we, as a family, watched the cars’
progress every Sunday afternoon (until the track
switched over to Friday nights during the summer.)
I watched the races intently, fighting with Moose
Cary against all the other coupes and coaches that
may try and take victory from us. Gordie Smith in
the #34, Joe Donahue in the Tc9, Larry Nye in the
#150, Bill Northrup in the #66, Chuck Akulis in the
#3, Pete Cordes in the #68, Donnie Beagle in the
stretched #29, Larry Groover in the #10, all worthy
competitors blasting through the dust and grit of
Midstate wrestling with the Moose. The battles
continued in my dreams long after the coupe had
been sold, memories of it and those he raced
remained in my head and became even more
romanticized as the years passed. As I grew and
continued watching the modifieds, the racing
landscape changed dramatically as the elegant
coupes and coaches of the 30’s were replaced by
pinto’s, gremlins, vega’s and eventually, sheetmetal.
But I never lost my taste for the wildly individual
cars that I first saw take green at Midstate. I wasn’t
alone and over 20 years ago now our interests were
re-kindled by the formation of the Midstate Antique
Stock Car Club, in which for many of us our dreams
of racing the now obsolete modifieds of the past
became reality. My point is that those races long
since flagged off are still etched in the minds of
those that participated in them, or were lucky
enough to witness them first hand. Obviously, I
wasn’t there for a lot of them as I wasn’t born until
1961, but many who are still with us were there,
and this column will be their stories in their own
words, at least for the most part as anyone who has
read my past columns can relate. Hopefully, the
article will re-kindle memories of great races, the
camaraderie and friendships forged in the common
interests of racing ‘stock’ cars.
First up is one of the fiercest competitors of the
Triple Cities area during the 1950’s & 1960’s – Joe
Donahue. Joe will forever be known as one of the
masters of the Southern Tier bullring tracks, 5-Mile
Point, Glen Aubrey and Susquehanna (Penn Can),
where he earned his reputation. Joe started racing
in 1948 and through a career that spanned five
decades amassed ‘god only knows’ how many
feature wins.  A series of strokes have sidelined Joe
and he hasn’t felt well lately and so I talked with his
son, Joe Jr. about his dad’s accomplishments.
Born in 1926, Joe took to motorcycles at an early
age and has continued riding them throughout his
life. After a stint in the Navy as a Seabee in the
Pacific during WWII, Joe returned home and raced
Triumph motorcycles until he realized that racing
cars offered more money to win. His first car was
numbered the ? with ‘Little Joe’ painted on the side
and he learned his craft early at dusty tracks like
Brookfield and Doty Hill (near Elmira) where he
picked up his first feature win in either 1948 or
1949. Joe drove a few of his own ? cars until he
picked up a ride in Harold Whitbecks’ beautiful ’34
Chevy Master coupe #23. Joe continued to drive
Whitbecks’ cars through a succession of changes to
the stable as they went through a ’35 Hudson
Terraplain, a ’37 Chevy coupe powered by a ‘Jimmy
Jet’ (GMC, I’m sure), with success. Afterward he
moved into the #20 ‘Cole Conk’ Special (Norval
Conklin & Dick Cole Owned) and another known as
the ‘Purple Hornet’. A ’38 Hudson, the ‘Hornet’
sported a wild purple flame job and began to give
Joe some deserved attention from the fans,
although not all of it was positive. Moving into the
mid-50’s Joe picked up another ride in Floyd
Allen’s ’34 Ford 3 window #60 for a season before
really ‘starting to clean clock’ in the Rubin Neild
owned #47, a ’34 orange Dodge that was as pretty
as it was fast.
Neild was a religious man and although he
originally had his son in the car, one rollover
convinced his wife that someone else should be
driving. Happy to oblige, Donahue strapped into the
best ride of his budding career (at least on Fridays
and Saturdays). Neild was a Chrysler dealer and
hence the #47 and subsequent #47Jr. was always
Chrysler powered. By 1957, Donahue had earned
the nickname ‘Irish Joe’ for his hard driving, hell
bent for leather style that fans either loved, or loved
to hate. And he was winning, alot. At Glen Aubrey
that year he won every trophy but one, all this
while carrying a Continental spare on the back of
the #47 cars, which are present in every picture Joe
Jr. showed me. Stock Cars really were ‘stock’ at this
point.  On Sept. 30 at 5-Mile point, he won the
‘Triple Crown’ consisting of  ‘Most Popular’driver (by
a scant 50 votes over Jim Zacharias), the 40 lap
Southern Tier Stock Car Club (S.T.S.C.C.)
Championship race and the points title. Naturally,
he won the Glen Aubrey points title that year as
well.
In 1958 he repeated his title runs at both ‘The
Glen’ and ‘The Point’ making races he didn’t win an
upset. Fans grew restless with his winning ways
often throwing ‘soda’ cans on the track after
another win. Ever frugal, Joe would pick them up
afterward, and drink the full ones, his fruits of
victory.
An article written by John Lake and published
June 7, 1959 in the Binghamton Press headlined
with
‘Racer Joe Ready, Villain, Able to Drive ‘Em
Car-azy’
. Subtitle: Creed of the Leading Man... “He
who hesitates is lost”
. Fans Flock to Stocks, Most
Are Foes of Joe’s. In the article Lake describes the
following incident and insights into the toughest
quarter miler in the Triple Cities. ‘Each summer
weekend in the Southern Tier, a small army of
stock racing devotees emotes through eight hours of
action, waiting and hoping in some vague,
indefinable way for Joe Donahue to ‘get his.’ Most
of the participants in these twice a week public
hatings probably would have been satisfied to see
an irate member of the so called gentler sex haul off
one night last summer and belt Joe a swift one in
the chops. Alas, for the guilt feelings of the
minority. It actually happened one Friday night less
than a year ago at Glen Aubrey Raceway. But few
saw it. She happened to be the sister of another
driver. There sat ‘Unholy Joe’ in the seat of his
disabled No. 47 Junior, glumly awaiting the
wrecker, when a wrecker in skirts showed up
instead and whopped him in the kisser. ‘There!’ she
shrieked. ‘That’ll teach you!’ Memo to the femme
fatale – it didn’t, but you were the envy of every
driver who watched you pull it off. “I’ve seen Joe
Donahue drive a lot of clean races’ said one veteran
of the Glen Aubrey – 5 Mile Point circuit last week.
‘But I’ve also seen him drive so it was absolutely
sickening. He’ll get on a rough streak when he
doesn’t care if he completely destroys your car. He’ll
get behind you for a couple of laps and work you
over so you end up on the wall. With all that
centrifugal force when you’re on the outside, all it
takes is a little tap. Joe’ll tap you all right.” To the
charge of rough driving, the 32 year old Joe
Donahue pleads straightfacedly innocent. ‘As far as
I’m concerned’ he admits, I’d just as soon have it
wide open. Everything goes. But I don’t drive
rough.’ ‘I never put my front end where I don’t
think the back end is gonna go. A lot of these
drivers, when they see an opening, will stop to
think about it. By the time they make up their
mind to go through, it isn’t there anymore.’ The
article goes on to describe Joe as a family man with
five children, and a contracting business, of which
he didn’t let stock racing interfere with. It also
describes his percentage of the winnings, the
typical 40% which was netting him $50 to $60
weekly (and $500 for the Championship) and then
a few more snippets of the man’s mind set.
‘Donahues philosophy, unembroidered, came out in
a characteristic exchange with a spectator not long
after Joe had careened across the finish line in the
feature 25 lapper and completed his triumphal tour
of the track, checkered flag fluttering. The ‘fan’
abused him verbally. “Look buddy” rasped
Donahue, in a husky voice that seemed to scrape
through a rusty pipe in his throat. “You paid your
buck and a quarter, and that’s fine. Now I’m taking
it home with me. You just stand there and jaw all
night if you want to.” It is an excellently written
article, which captures the rough and tumble
attitude of the quarter mile racecar driver in his
element, and no one was more comfortable in this
element than Irish Joe.
1959 brought another championship at the Point to
Joe and the Neild team. By 1960 though, the
Irishman had taken his talents over to another team
owned by John Manny, and the ‘TearDrop’ #49. A
gorgeous 1934 Ford 5 window coupe painted with a
teardrop encompassing the number. Don’t know
the story behind the teardrop but the item on the
roof left no doubt. Drivers often put items on their
roofs for fun, I’ve seen pictures of sirens, flags,
horns, Bernie Ingergsall had a Rocket on his
(Oldsmobile?). Others like Nolan Swift had ’10 Pins’
and Jack Murphy had a number ‘6’ which lit up
with a switch when they took the lead, daring
competitors to attempt to turn out their lights. Not
Donahue, he wasn’t as subtle. Apparently tired of
his fellow driver’s moanings from the tattoos he
presented them with, he placed a baby bottle to the
top of the #49, and won the Point championship
once again to make it four years in a row at 5 Mile.
This was also the year that Joe had his best run at
Langhorne in the Manny 49X, a purpose built ’37
Ford for big tracks. He held down 2nd at the ‘Horne
until the last lap when a broken u-joint relegated
him to 6th. The u-joint hung in Manny's shop for
years as a memory of what could have been.
Never one to back down to a challenge, 1961 found
Joe invading Susquehanna Speedway for a shot at
‘Crazy’ Eddie Rafferty who piloted a Chevrolet
powered racer. ‘Nobody can beat
Rafferty’s Chevy with a Ford’ was the challenge and
so Donahue built a shit box ’46 Ford coupe (named
‘Old Ironsides) and pulled off the feat. He also
piloted the potent #04 Wes German coupe,
complete with ‘Hello Wall’ painted on the fender
during this time. From there Joe piled into the ’37
Ford #41 Jr. of Marty Kennerup and drove to
success at Shangri La, (Joe Jr. beleives he won a
track championship in either ’62 or ’63 at Shangri-
La but couldn’t support it, does anyone know?).The
really neat five window coupe was cut into 5 pieces
by Joe and then welded up to look somewhat like a
’41 Willy’s. He also pulled off his career’s biggest
win in this car, the Southern Tier 100 at Five Mile
Point in 1965. Having lapped the entire field but
2nd and 3rd positions, Joe followed Deforest
Chalker and Jerry Hayes across for the checker.
Initially, the win was given to Chalker but a recheck
of the scorer’s sheets eventually gave the win to
Donahue. The 41Jr. was also the first car Joe
brought to Midstate, in following Stan Lupka north
for what they figured was ‘easy pickings’. In all
fairness though, Midstate changed their rules prior
to 1964 I believe, installing a cubic inch limit for the
flatheads in line with Waterloo, (N.Y. State Fair)
which forced the regular competitors to build
smaller engines. When the rules change created
small fields at Midstate, the rules board opened up
the track to the overheads of 5 Mile in order to get
larger fields and the smaller flathead powered
regulars were faced with running against 283's. By
1965, the Midstate boys had their newly built
overheads in place, and things were different.
Hence the battles with Moose’s 88 so vivid in my
mind, but I digress, again. 1965 brought Donahue
another track championship at 5 Mile Point, his last
at the speedplant.
In 1966 Joe stepped into what was to be his last
championship car, the Tc9 of Ted Wrench. Many
thought the ‘Tc’ stood for ‘triple cities’, my own
thought was ‘top cat’ but the reality was that it was
Theodore Carlon Wrench’s first two initials, and he
was the proud father of 9 children. Joe continued to
win with the car at 5 Mile and Midstate, taking the
track championship at the Morris Speedplant in
1967. He nearly won the following year at
Weedsport as well, finishing a close second in
points to John McArdell. The Tc9 was Donahue’s
last championship ride, he continued to build and
race cars until 1985 and still occasionally found the
magical success of his earlier years as the racing
landscape changed. It should be noted that Joe was
the first from his area to really travel around to the
races, Joe Jr. remembers flat towing a ’34 Ford to
Reading, no small feat prior to the interstates. Joe
Jr. also wanted to relate that his father always felt
that his early motorcycle racing gave him the
balance needed to feel the car in the corners, and
push it to it’s limit. His training at Lincoln Welding
school in Ohio after finishing in the Navy paid off in
building and welding up his racecars. He was a
busy man with Family and business to take care of
yet Jr. related he wasn’t flashy or a braggart about
his winnings. Trophies were put up in the attic, “To
us, he was just Dad, when we went racing, we just
took it for granted he was going to win, and he
usually did.” He sure did, 9 track championships in
the hot bed racing area of the Southern Tier. And
he did it against guys with last names like Kneisal,
Stroesal, Chalker, Rafferty, ‘Monk’ Rauch,
McGeorge, Nagel, Cordes, Akulis, Diffendorf,
Polenz, Butcher, Hayes and Zacharias. Not a slouch
amongst them, ask anybody. Aside from often being
awarded the black flag at many S.T.S.C.C. year end
banquets, Joe has also been honored with
induction’s into the Dusty Doyle Hall of Fame
during the ‘90’s as well as the Central New York Old
Timers Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2001. Well
deserved recognition on all counts.   
Junior’s father has not been well lately and
assuredly could use some cheering up. Cards can
reach him at: Joe Donahue, Rivermede, 159 Front
Street, Room 358B, Binghamton, NY, 13905. It was
a pleasure meeting Joe Jr. and wonderful going
over his father’s pictures and career. I hope I got
most of this right. When you look at the photos,
look at the eyes. Assured, cocky, Joe Donahue
didn’t just do it for the 40%, he did it because he
loved to hold that checkered. Drop Joe a card for
Christmas, I’m sure he would enjoy it.          
At the home front, our house has become the
equivalent of ‘My Three Sons’ with dogs as Napoleon
came to us in early November. Another Saint
Bernard wasn’t really in our plans but he was in
the cards as soon as we met him. We had some
history on him as he’s Belvedere’s father, which was
as good a resume’ as was required. Woefully
underfed and neglected on a 10 foot chain, we took
him immediately without incident, he was ready to
come home with us after just a handshake and a
smile. It’s been a learning curve for him as he’s had
to negotiate stairs (2 days), snacks (no problem
there), feeding time, (again, no problems) and
etiquette (no humping allowed). At this point,
Belvedere and Winston have accepted him and they
are our three aristocrats, no need for any more
weed and feed in the yard, we’re going organic.
Sure am happy things have frozen up.  Really joyful
to watch the ‘St. Bernard games’ that take place in
the back yard now as Napoleon instigates the play
session by harassing his son with his version of the
‘horndog dance’ while Winston barrels into the fray
like Dick Butkus. So my three sons, Thumper
(Winston), Humper (Napoleon, since fixed) and
Plumper (Belvedere’s not liking his new diet) are
quite the joy lately, whew, what a project, but
coming along nicely as Nap has put on about ten
pounds already and fit in nicely. Only a few
setbacks to date, the christmas tree is off limits now
and Winston no longer waters the fake reindeer
outside, (at least not while they’re lit), other than
that, everything’s been perfect and Napoleon is
settling in. Makes for some new interesting
phenomenon around the house as Nikki has
perfected her ‘magic loogie balm dance’, what’s that
you say? Wrap a slobber towel around your right
foot and shuffle around the kitchen and you’ll get
the picture, she’s outnumbered here so I’ll leave it
at that. Must admit I do enjoy watching her wiggle
around….
Flatech Dept.: “Red Shredder” is coming along,
doing the bearing fitting the old fashioned way as
no other method has been developed for fitting
floating bearings, at least as far as I know. A dead
blow hammer and a piece of hardwood are still the
tools of the trade, make sure your hammer doesn’t
have any chips imbedded and inspect the bearings
closely. Years ago Bob Hayslett related to me that
bearing manufacturers used to plate the bearings
and then grind them with utmost care, then use a
shovel to pick them up and package. Inspect them
closely and file off any shovel marks he said.
Clearances on a floater set up (two rods fit on the
bearings which ‘float’ between the rod and crank
pin, hence the term ‘floaters’, they were replaced
with modern ‘insert’ bearings starting with the 8BA
designation in 1949) should follow stock
configuration, 0.002 –0.0025 on each side. The
bearings are either spread or closed with the
aforementioned equipment to eliminate any drag.
Remember, loose is fast and ‘wearing in’ takes
longer than fitting, take your time.
All I want for Christmas Dept.: Is a Harmon Collins
magneto, a S.Co.T. supercharger and a pristine
1934 Ford 3 window coupe to stuff them in, oh
yeah, and a winning lottery ticket so’s I can afford
them.
Wishful thinking Dept.: Uhh, ..see above.
Some things never change Dept.: ‘ ATTENTION ALL
CAR OWNERS AND DRIVERS…IMPORTANT STOCK
CAR RACES ARE NOT GOING TO THE DOGS…BUT
THE WOMEN WILL BE TAKING OVER FOR ONE
RACE AT MORRIS FRIDAY NIGHT…. THE
PROMOTERS AT MORRIS HAVE ADVERTISED A
SPECIAL WOMEN’S RACE FOR FRIDAY NIGHT.
EACH WOMAN DRIVER WILL BE PAID $5.00 FOR
COMPETING. THIS MONEY DOES NOT COME OUT
OF THE REGULAR PAYOFF. IT IS AN ADDITIONAL
AMOUNT TO BE RPOVIDED BY THE
PROMOTERS……..THE WOMEN CAN BOOST THE
GATE GIVING YOUR ASSOCIATION BIGGER
PAYOFFS…..LET’S CO-OPERATE WITH THE
WOMEN. MAKE PLANS TO HAVE YOUR WIFE OR
SWEETHEART DRIVE YOUR CAR FRIDAY NIGHT…..
THE FANS LOVE IT AND IT WILL GIVE US MEN A
CHANCE TO CRITICIZE OUR WIVES FOR A
CHANGE……THANKS FOR THE CO-OPERATION…..
SPORTS ASSOCIATES, INC. Mike Sandy President.
This from a post card addressed to Herbert Mason
on Earlville, NY dated July 25, 1951 complete with
$.01 postage, no zip code.
OK, OK …..This is turning into a book but it’s too
good not to share Dept.:
Found on Fordbarn.com: Car for Sale: ’32 Ford #
Window, original owner, hot rodded out in the 60’s,
still has original flathead, raced on salt flats in the
60’s………Tommy, now that I have your attention,
your girlfriend wants some of your attention, so get
the hell off Fordbarn.com and come give her some
loving!!!! Katie Kaboom, Hollywood, Ca.
My 2 year old nephew Charlie is learning the
alphabet and potty training….”LMNO Go
PEEEEEE….”
Nikki SEZ: “I don’t know what I don’t know”, …true.
“I’ve got blisters on my feet” ‘From what?’
“Shopping”. Yuttt, it’s christmas.
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a
wonderful, safe and happy holiday season. See you
in 2004. Jeff Ackerman, 6256 State Route 17C,
Endicott, NY 13760.   
The Wust boys and Dave Conde piled on the 43Jr. Courtesy of Dave Conde.
Moose's 88 @ Willie Wust's garge. Courtesy of Dave Conde.
Midstate Lineup. Courtesy of Dave Conde.
Midstate Patch. Courtesy of Carl Carpenter.
'Little Joe' Donahue in one of his earliest ? cars. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Triumph helmet, devil may care attitude. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
The Whitbeck coupe at rest. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Joe Spins and they pile in. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
The Jimmy Jet has the flag. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
The Purple Hornet. J. Ralph Jones Photo courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
The Cole-Conk Spl. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Joe dominated in the Neild ride. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Just another hit and run. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Another J. Ralph Jones gem, courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Floyd Allen's coupe, J. Ralph Jones Photo courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
The Manny Teardrop 49. J. Ralph Jones photo courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Joe continued his winning ways in this coupe. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
With the baby bottle on top @ 5 Mile Point. Anderjacks Speedway Photo courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
With John Manny and the 49x, the Langhorne car had a 312 Ford. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
'Hello Walls' - Wes German's potent 04. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
'327 A Go-Go'. Cut down 41Jr. @ Shangri-La, Fred Smith Photo.
Martin Kennerup's #41 @ Midstate. Don Phoenix photo courtesy of Mike Newell.
Tc Wrench works, Joe poses with the Tc9 @ Shangri-La. Fred Smith Photo.
Running boards still in place, so's the flag. Anderjacks Speedway photo courtesy of Mel Ogden.
Push off @ Midstate for the Tc9. Denny Moore Photo.
Sam Lewis sedan @ Penn Can. Fred Smith photo.
Not sure if this is another Lewis ride, same result though. Fred Smith photo.
Another Lewis sedan, another checkered. Fred Smith photo.
Another coupe, another win at Penn Can. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Awards banquet with Rubin Neild and Dave Kneisal flanking Joe, center. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Midstate Champions; Donahue, Smith, Bunzey, Lupka, Schlaefpher, Cary.
Another checkered for the Cole-Conk Spl. @ Shangri-La. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Rubin Neild's 47Jr., spare tire on trunk. J. Ralph Jones Photo. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
In Bill Ross's #99 @ Susquehanna. Courtesy of Mel Ogden.
The last Lewis coupe, Joe won through 3 decades. Fred Smith photo.
Joe Jr.related  'I'm so proud to be his son' and did well in his own right. Fred Smith photo.
Joe Jr's favorite car, courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.
Clippings collected by friend John Mason.
Addendum 5/3/07: On Monday of this past week,
Joe Donahue Jr. contacted me to relate the news
of his father's passing that morning. It shouldn't
have been a shock, Joe had spent the past few
years in a nursing home which I'm sure he wasn't
pleased about. He had spent his entire life
working as a plumber, racing, and raising a family.
He was an active man who rode motorcycles,
enjoyed company, and a good laugh. Although I'm
sure he's in a better place now, it's sad to lose
such a man who helped pioneer racing in the
Southern Tier. And what a racer he was, just look
through the pictures and you realize, he won in
everything he got in. Some cars that had no
business winning he put in the circle. He had a
reputation for being rough, Gater columnist and
racing historian Mike Monnat related to me once,
'You know all those moves that earned him the
nickname 'Dirty Joe'? Well, he learned them all
from Monk Rauch.' Those checkered flags didn't
come easy, you have to remember that in the 50's
at a track such as Glen Aubrey there might be 100
cars signed in the pits, just qualifying was an
accomplishment. Winning, and winning
consistently was near impossible, but Joe did it
and used whatever means was necessary at the
time.
However tough he might have been on the track,
he was just the opposite at home. He and his wife
of 53 years raised five children, and Joe Jr. related
to me that one of his teachings was
'Love and
respect go hand in hand'
- a beautiful saying, and
true. He was especially good to children, as I was
waiting in line to pay respects to him and his
family the photo's displayed have many boys
looking up to him as a hero. John Mason related a
story to me last summer about meeting Joe Jr.
when they were boys waiting in line to get ice
cream at Midstate. They became friends and one
of John's most memorable boyhood days occurred
over one racing weekend some 40 years ago now.
"He raced at Morris on Friday night and won it
and then I got to ride back down to their house
afterward. Me and Joe riding in the back of the
pickup because the cab was full, towing the car,
bouncing all over the place, Joe's got his arm out
the window, not a care in the world. I look over his
shoulder and we're doing 70! Single axle trailer!
We get down there and we can't wait to get up
because that night is Five Mile Point. We get up
early and Joe Jr. runs a hose out the kitchen
window, hooks it to the faucet and we wash the
car. By now Joe is up and he comes out and says
"here, now you boys change this tire and we'll go
racing tonight." We got right at it and boy, it was
hard, we were just boys but it was something we
were going to do. We got it changed and our
reward was we got to drive the car to the track.
Can you imagine?! They lived right across from 5
Mile and Joe Jr. and I just got in and drove it over,
what a thrill!! Joe showed up a little later with the
truck and trailer and I think he won again that
night. What a weekend!"
Joe was great ambassador for the sport he loved.
He helped re-open Shangri-La in 1962 by
obtaining bleachers from New Jersey (as related
by Don Diffendorf) and like most of the local
racers, was part of the large Southern Tier racing
family. At calling hours I had the good fortune of
meeting and chatting with Sam Lewis, one of Joe's
machinists, car owners, and friend. "I worked for
the state as a machinist and he came in to do
some plumbing one day. Next day he was back
with some heads he wanted worked over. I asked
him how much he wanted off and he said he
didn't know. Well, I didn't know either so he says
'how about a sixteenth.' We were just guessing but
they worked perfect. We were the first ones in the
area to fit Buick brakes to a car, that took some
doing until we figured it out. We became real good
friends and he drove some of my cars later, he was
a good guy, good family, and could he ever drive.
Anything. You know that car Ted Wrench built?
He built it for himself you know. Joe come over
one night and sat in it, grabbed the wheel, his
arms were straight out and he said 'it's perfect.'
That was Joe, he wasn't fussy." It brings to mind
that old saying about getting a new driver and he
wants the seat changed, and the wheel, and the
pedals and by the time you're done with the list of
changes it's just easier to change drivers. Joe was
just the opposite. It also shows that these guys
were true pioneers of the sport where 'cut and try'
was the norm.
The respect paid to the man was impressive, we
chatted in line for nearly an hour before reaching
the family. Well known racers and mechanics were
all on hand, Gene Heath, Martin Kennerup, Red
Harrington, Bob Sanderson, Joe Buchak, Ron
Doebler along with Sam Lewis, and that's just
when I was there. Mike Monnat described Joe as
"a racer's racer", full of good humor and life with a
high pitched laugh and mischievous smile. Joe
was all of that, and a good person too. After I wrote
the article my wife Nikki and I visited Joe in the
nursing home to give him a copy of the Gater. He
seemed more interested in talking to Nikki than
me at the time, can't blame him there, but he
recalled the incident at Glen Aubrey with glee
'She smacked me right in the kisser, ahh hee hee
hee..', it was fun talking with him and I
immediately forgave him for beating up on Moose's
88 so much. Only wish I had gotten to known him
better, although I feel I got to know him pretty
good through his son Joe Jr. Thank you both,
Rest in Peace Joe.   
Joe Donahue in 1969. Fred Smith photo.
From Thomas J. Shea Funeral Home, Binghamton, NY
Ted C. Wrench built the Tc9 for himself, Joe adapted. Courtesy of John Mason.
A common sight in the late 50's. Courtesy of Joe Donahue Jr.