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.
testing Chapman Root's Sumar Special Indy
(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.
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.
VIDEO: A Tribute: Marshall Teague
Narrated by Hilly Rife and
Patty Teague Teeters
VIDEO: 1952 Beach Racing Win
Daytona Beach native was killed
less than two weeks after Speedway’s opening in 1959.
Daytona Beach News-Journal Feb 9, 2019
It didn’t take long for everyone to have their fears
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
“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.
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.”
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,
“Later, the dean of women got me out of class and took me
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
“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.”
See the HUDSON STORIES page for more on
1945 First Race - Finished Second
1949 Won 200 mile Daytona Beach Race, Average Speed 88.23
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 -
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
drivers started the race and only 17 finished, according to
``The'' ``Arizona Republic'' recap of the race in the
following morning's newspaper.
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.
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.
Teague accomplished that memorable April day 47 years ago,
however, will never be disputed.
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.
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.
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.
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.''
however, did get around to making a cross-country trip to
Phoenix in 1951, making certain when he left, he was not
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.”
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
Copyright © 2010
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
05/17/20 17:03:51 -0400.
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