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Belmont’s Garage in Langhorne, Pa. (Belmont collection photo)

The Belmont Files

Over the course of about 70 years, more or less, a single clan has emerged from the tiny borough of Langhorne, Pa., to participate in motorsports on a bunch of levels. That’s an intentional understatement.

If you grew up around auto racing in the Delaware Valley region any time since World War II, especially if it was on dirt tracks, you’ve likely run across a member of the Belmont family, either right in front of you or from the print of some well-thumbed newspaper clipping.

When it comes to motorsports, the Belmonts have been a constant. Somebody in the family always gets to the race, and it usually isn’t easy.

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Andy Belmont (Belmont collection photo)

The clan’s de facto leader, Andy Belmont, experienced a wild ride that took him from the local dirt bullrings all the way to the high banks of Daytona Int’l Speedway. He’s gone from victory lane in any number of small-block modified shows to the starting grid in the NASCAR Cup Series, usually doing the whole effort in-house, with volunteer crew members, little money and no complaints.

The one unwavering reality of the Belmont brigade in racing is that nobody ever, ever gives up. The family stands as poster children for eternal optimism, and for unvarnished gratitude for everything that goes well.

“When you’re in the race shop, under the cars, I just enjoy it,” Andy Belmont said. “When you fire the motor the first time in the shop, I still get excited, just like when I was 5 years old at Flemington, sitting in section C. It’s a huge bonus that we keep winning, but I’d be there whether we were winning or not.

“If you put tires on and finish 17th instead of seventh, you can’t afford to pay the mortgage. That’s a real conversation,” he continued. “I have a huge, huge amount of respect for every race car that pulls through a gate. That’s because I’ve found myself laying in a junkyard in the winter pulling driveshafts out of Corvairs, cutting front axles out of mail trucks and getting springs off Dodge Darts.”

Resourcefulness like this comes naturally to the Belmonts and goes back to the very beginning, when Andy’s uncle Charlie raced sprint cars during the years around World War II, running largely on the East Coast AAA circuit. That was enough to make the bug bite hard when Andy’s father, Charles — it’s a family tradition, and for the record, Andy’s given name is also Charles — was growing up and starting work at Belmont’s Garage, the family auto-repair business in Langhorne.

Uncle Charlie’s ride was a homebuilt tube-chassis sprinter with a flathead Ford for power. When Andy’s dad started turning racing wrenches, it was in NASCAR, albeit briefly.

“Dad was a crew chief in the late 1950s on Dave Terrell’s NASCAR convertible,” Andy Belmont recalled. “His big claim to fame was that in 1957 or ’58, they got a sixth in a race at Langhorne, the first convertible to cross the finish line.”

The next generation of Belmont family racing began when Andy was pumping gas at Belmont’s Garage. A guy named Dale Puff pulled in, driving his Pepperidge Farms bread truck. Puff raced a sportsman car at East Windsor and Flemington speedways in New Jersey.

“Three times a week, my parents took me over to his shop, and one of his guys would bring me home,” Belmont said. “He had a partner on the race car who owned the motor and they had a falling out. I bought the car and my dad bought the motor. That was in 1976.”

Belmont’s rise from Delaware Valley dirt to the pinnacle of NASCAR was steady, more than a little unexpected and decidedly unconventional. As a new sportsman driver, he took on the Flemington rookie division and remembers that “we knocked the fence down every week.” He proved to be a quick learner and by 1977, was winning sportsman features at Nazareth (Pa.) Raceway. Belmont matured rapidly into an accomplished driver, saying, “We didn’t have Doug Hoffman numbers but we won a fair number each year. We raced Brockville, Cornwall, La Fargeville. Five Mile Point was paying a small-block bonus and the only two guys with them were us and Carl Reynolds, so I could go up there and get the $500 bonus money for running against the modifieds. I never went modified because we could never justify the expense.”

The tenacity paid off as Belmont scored a $125,000 sponsorship package from a local Ford dealership, a huge sum in the small-block modified world of 1985. At the press conference announcing the deal, one of the onlookers was Dr. Joseph Mattioli, the founder of Pocono Raceway who’d been following the Belmont ascendancy.