New Jersey is one of our most densely populated states. That means it’s crammed with people, cars and roads to get them places. Since the 1930s, the Garden State enthusiastically adopted traffic circles, called roundabouts in some places, as a strategy for reducing gridlock at conventional intersections.
For a while, they worked, and several circles were built along U.S. 46, which once was the major east-west artery running from the George Washington Bridge to the Delaware Water Gap.
It was always easy to find crumpled side trim scattered inside the circles, left by those who failed to negotiate them properly.
A different loop of asphalt in northern New Jersey also saw its share of contact. For nearly three decades, an incredibly tiny speedway that hosted even tinier race cars thrived in the midst of this urbanized hive. Pine Brook Stadium was an unlikely racing venue on an even more unlikely sliver of oddly shaped real estate.
Born of one man’s warmth for howling TQ Midgets, Pine Brook was a brawling little open-cockpit bullring. You may never have heard of the place, or witnessed what took place there, but a long parade of short-track stars from widely varying disciplines called it home.
Such as who? Consider that the guy who won the very first Pine Brook TQ event was Bob Dini, who became much better known in modified circles as the Super DIRTcar Series’ longtime tech guy. The early results show Long Island stock car standouts Bruno Brackey, Jim Hendrickson and Al DeAngelo scoring top-five finishes in the same event.
Another top-five placer in the same event was the midget immortal Len Duncan. The New Jersey stock car journeyman Don Stumpf, who placed second in NASCAR’s national sportsman standings in 1957, owned a Pine Brook victory.
Before and after losing an arm in a USAC sprint car at Ohio’s New Bremen Speedway, Jim Maguire, of New Jersey, was a Pine Brook regular. He later enjoyed further success in full-size midgets with ARDC. Tommy McAndrew, a top gun in modifieds at the Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds, had a runner-up best at Pine Brook. The two Tonys of New York-area oval racing, Bonadies and Romit, were multiple winners late in their careers.
The Andretti, Cicconi and Fornoro brothers all made the scene. Periodically, so did NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and four-time Syracuse winner Gary Balough.
That’s a ton of talent, some of which, besides Mario Andretti, made it all the way to the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For an almost invisibly small track, Pine Brook helped launch some big careers.
It dates back to the 1950s, when the TQ was first conceptualized as a downsized midget, usually with motorcycle power of 770cc or less, the same basic formula the cars follow today.
The American Three Quarter Midget Racing Ass’n was organized in 1956 and began staging races at the Teaneck Armory, also in northern Jersey. One of the spectators was entrepreneur and race fan Dick Marlow, who’d grown up in Ridgewood, N.J., as a high school classmate of longtime SPEED SPORT editor Chris Economaki and joined him in hanging out at the old Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway in Bergen County.
“My father always enjoyed going to those races in Teaneck, even though it was a smoke fest, and he felt that those TQs would do well if they had a track of their own,” recalled Marlow’s son, Bob, a veteran motorsports announcer and historian who literally grew up at Pine Brook. “That was the inspiration to build Pine Brook. I can remember driving around northern New Jersey, mostly around Morris County, looking for a suitable site. He finally found it, got it built and became a racing promoter.”
The elder Marlow found his spot at the intersection of U.S. 46 and Bloomfield Ave. in Pine Brook, a village in Montville Township, at the eastern end of Morris County, where the dense New York City suburbs were beginning to reach in 1962.
Click below to continue reading.