|Birth: ||May 17, 1932|
|Death: ||Sep. 26, 2012|
He's been described as "a character" and "one of a kind". In an online racing forum, one poster said of him "A vibrant ambassador of short track racing right up til the end, Dick will be greatly missed. RIP Mr. Fleck."
Dick was both brash and gracious, and funny, and smart too. He worked hard, raced, and dreamed. Those dreams made him a competitive driver and later a key player in the design and development of Pocono Raceway, where in ensuing years he served as race director, videographer, and worked as well as in public relations, interfacing with the press and writing releases.
As someone who shared racing news regularly with a large email readership, Dick would be tickled to know his passing was marked even in the Twitterverse; his death news was passed and re-tweeted, one user posting "I am so sorry to hear that we just lost Dick Fleck, my god". Dick died during a flurry of deaths in the motorsports world that began a week before his own passing. September 19, Cecil Gordon, a stock car racer and Nascar competitor died. On the same day as Dick, Bob Newton, a former racer and co-founder of the Hoosier Racing Tire Company passed away. Finally, on September 28th, Chris Economaki "The Dean of American Motorsports" left us as well. Another Twitter user and former driver, Tiger Tom Pistone, put it succinctly, referring to all four deaths and to Nascar's founder, Bill France Sr., who died in 1992: "Big Bill France Sr must be putting a big race up in heaven, he's sure taking them all."
Dick would want to be remembered for serving his country the the Navy in the Korean War (USS Mindoro, CVE-120), for founding one of the early racing sanctioning bodies (PROS), for helping launch Pocono, for his participation in the Living Legends of Auto Racing, for surviving colon cancer since 1986, for playing Santa Claus for kids in hospitals at Christmas, and for writing his memoirs in his book "What the Fleck?", the proceeds of which benefit Kyle and Pattie Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp for kids with both chronic and serious illnesses.
It seems fitting that Dick passed away in Daytona, a place where he once raced on the beach and which was most recently his winter home, and is still one of the Meccas of racing. Oddly appropriately, my last outing with Dick was to visit all the graves he knew of for his family. He showed me around, told me about the folks he'd known, and waited while I took pictures. From there, I began developing the family tree, which he enjoyed hearing about as it grew. He enjoyed his family growing in life too, and thankfully lived to see the birth of his first great grandchild.
Father of Virginia, Kenneth, and Roberta, he had more family -and racing family- who will miss him greatly.
Ernie Saxton's piece from Area Auto Racing News:
DICK FLECK PASSES AWAY IN DAYTONA BEACH
A winner of close to 60 feature races in a variety of different types of racing, Dick Fleck was well-known in local racing circles in the late 40Ā's into the 50's and 60Ā's.
The highly respected member of the motorsports industry passed away on Wednesday, September 26th in Daytona Beach, Florida at the Halifax Hospital.
The 80-year-old Collegeville, PA resident who spent his winter months in Daytona Beach, Florida where he was active with a number of old timer organizations, hung up his driving helmet in the early sixties to pursue other interests in motorsports.
Over the years he formed the PROS (Professional Racing on Speedways) sanctioning organization. He was instrumental with the original group that started the construction of Pocono Raceway. Over the years that he was involved at Pocono he was a superintendent, race director, video coordinator, media staff member and press box director.
During his racing career Fleck, nicknamed The Yerkes Sensation, won three track championships all coming in 1957. He was champion at Hatfield, PA Hi-Speedway, Sanatoga Speedway (on the outskirts of Pottstown, PA) and Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. None of the speedways where he won titles currently exist.
His career as a race car driver came to an end in 1961 when he took a wild end-over-end flip at Hatfield. Though he was not seriously injured it was enough to make him decide to accept an offer from promoter George Marshman to help him promote the popular oval track and drag racing facility.
Details of Fleck's long career in the business of motorsports can be found in a book titled "What The Fleck" by Dick Fleck as told to Daytona Beach News Journal motorsports writer Godwin Kelly.
Fleck spent many years employed by Bethlehem Steel Co.
He had two daughters: Roberta L. Frizzell, Phoenixville, PA and Virginia L. Fleck (deceased).
Other survivors include his son Kenneth W. Fleck and his wife Terry L. of Pottstown, PA. Grandchildren include Kyle and Dana [sic- should grandson Kyle and wife Dana, and grandson Ryan] and a great grandchild Kayden. [Note: Dick is also survived by his brother and fellow racing enthusiast, Bob.]
One DickĀ's great joys in recent years was watching his grandchildren play baseball.
Dick passed away as a result of congested [sic- should be "congestive"] heart failure and will be cremated. A memorial service is being planned in Pennsylvania and Florida with dates to be announced.
By Gary McCredie from "Grand National Scene" August 1, 1985:
When Scott Wasser, now assistant managing editor (but then sports editor of the Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times Leader) wrote a column a year ago on Pocono International Raceway's Dick Fleck, the piece was entitled, "Video's Mr. Wizard."
It was an appropriate title and here's why. When you walk into the 2.5 mile speedway's infield press room a day or two before a race, you're confronted by a mass of video equipment lined up on a shelf against a wall. Included are several color television sets, two or three tape decks, a device that can turn a TV picture into a black-and-white photo tapes and other assorted accessories. And the latest addition is a large-screen color TV, which along with the smaller units displays tapes of past events at Pocono, as well as a live transmission of a race if it is being televised.
It all belongs to Fleck, 53 of Collegeville, Pa; a town about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia. Fleck's official title at Pocono is "video coordinator," but there's a lot more to the man than just that. First there's Fleck, sales manager for a manufacturer of automotive after market parts such as tune-up kits, flashers and ball joints, with salesmen in 38 states.
Then there's Fleck, the ex-race driver, who ran his first race when he 15 and has driven everything from jalopies to USAC Champ Cars. And, too, there's the Fleck who's on the board of directors of Checkered Flag Fan Club of Pennsylvania and who is also the executive director of the Auto Racing Fraternity Foundation, a benevolent organization that sets up trust funds for race drivers and/or their families who can no longer provide for themselves.
And finally, there's the Fleck that was one of the founding fathers of the Pocono Mountains racing complex that includes the 2.5-mile three-cornered stock car track, two road coursed, a drag strip and a 3/4-mile oval.
"I started out as a spectator at the old Sanatoga Speedway outside of Pottstown, Pa; and I drove my first race when I was 15 at the old Yellowjacket Speedway in Philadelphia," Said Fleck. "It was under a fictitious name at the time, but it had to be.
"I graduated from high school and went into the Navy and when I came out, I started driving again on a steady basis. We were driving modified coupes and my best year was 1957 when I won three track championships, Sanatoga, Hatfield and the municipal stadium in Philadelphia (the site of the recent Live Aid Concert for African relief [last known as JFK Stadium]). I won 57 features and 101 qualifying races."
A year later, Fleck won the last race ever run at Sanatoga and three years after that he helped to found a new short track sanctioning body, PROS- Professionals Racing On Speedways, head-quartered at Hatfield.
"The first six races were rained out, so somebody said PROS stood for "Probably Rain On Saturday," Fleck, laughed. "But I saw I couldn't race and run the sanctioning body, too, because it would put me on both sides of the fence. So I gave up driving because I felt I could do more for racing running the group. So I did that for six years."
Shortly thereafter, Fleck met Dave Montgomery, a building contractor who had an idea for a superspeedway in the Pocoonos area. The two got together "over a glass of beer" and Pocono International Raceway was born.
"Why did we design it with three corners?" asked Fleck. "It was because Dave was more into sports cars and I was more into the oval racing, so we hit a compromise. "I allowed him to give it different turns and banking so it would have a little more of sports car flair and he agreed to make it all left-hand turns. That's how it all came about."
The three-cornered track is unique to NASCAR Winston Cup racing. Each straightaway has different length and radius, and at 14, eight and six degrees. respectively, the three turns are relatively flat when compared to the circuit's other.
"But at the time, USAC (United States Auto Club) was the sanctioning body in racing and they were demanding flat tracks," said Fleck. "They were afraid of high banks."
Fleck and Montgomery, along with Dick Price (still on the Pocono board) then attracted a group of investors and the ground breaking was held in 1965. The first race, a Supermodified event, was scheduled for October 1967 but was snowed out. It was finally given the checkered flag on May 4, 1968, and saw the death of Roy Ruttman Jr; to date, the track's only fatality.
"I was the race director and we ran a full schedule of 16-20 races on the 3/4-mile track in 68 and 69," said Fleck. "The 2.5-mile track was completed in 70 and the first USAC race was July 3, 1971, The Schaefer 500.
"Boy, it was bad, a close deal on getting it ready on time. People would come in and say "Where's our seats? and we'd say, "Follow that man with the boards."
As the video coordinator, Fleck works with ESPN, or whomever televises Pocono's races, feeds lines into the VIP suites, services the media, and provides race tapes for anyone who wants them. Any money he makes is donated to various funds for disabled drivers and needy families.
"My quote on that is, "It's about time I started repaying racing," said Fleck. "It's been good to me for so many years, so I'm trying to repay it by doing anything I can. "My life is in this sport."
From an article by Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM, February 17, 2007 on Daytona NASCAR beach racers, wherein the author "sat with the likes of Marvin Panch and Raymond Parks and Ray Fox and Dick Fleck and listened to how it used to be..." and marveled at the number of war stories:
These guys who built racing have thousands more.
Fleck is full of them. He said racing on the beach is a part of NASCAR lore that never should be dismissed or forgotten.
"All I can say, really, is that it was a lot of fun. It was great fun. It was different," Fleck said.
"When I came down for the '56 race, I came down with my '35 Plymouth with a Hemi engine. I flat-towed it with a tow bar. It was quite an experience. We had to schedule our races, of course, according to the tide -- so we had a little bit of something to race on. We would let it drift out a little bit to run in the ocean a little to cool our tires off, so we could finish the races. Tires weren't engineered like they are today. Very skinny.
"And what I'm wearing now is what I raced in then. A short-sleeved shirt, white [thin] pants with a red stripe. Nothing was fireproofed. Our fireproof was the fire extinguisher we had in our car. Our ambulance was a hearse from the local funeral director -- and they only had one. So when someone got hurt, they tried to take care of him right there so they didn't have to take it to the hospital. If they took someone to the hospital, we had to stop the race until they got back.
"They had a first-aid kit with peroxide and Band-Aids. And eye wash, they had a lot of eye wash -- because you would get sand in your eyes. It was very tough to see. And once in a while you would pop off a seagull, too. It was a bloody mess when it hit your windshield. There were feathers and blood floating 'round"...
The common denominator of all the story-tellers was that old-school racing on the beach was fun -- pure fun...
"We're very proud of the progress the sport is making," Fleck said. "Of course it's more big business than it is sport today. It's almost like any sport. Any sport today is big business. And of course with it being more about business, it's not as much fun as it used to be."
He said it with a touch of sadness in his eyes. Or maybe it was sand.
From Hometown News, Volusia County, by Anita Bevins, February 9, 2007:
When the Living Legends of Auto Racing gather on Valentine's Day, former driver, owner, car builder, track designer and promoter Dick Fleck will leave the Plaza Spa and Resort with more evidence of his commitment to the sport he helped pioneer. The LLOAR will honor the part-time Daytona resident with its Distinguished Service award during his 52nd consecutive SpeedWeeks.
"I have been in all angles of the sport, from driver and owner and builder of my own race cars. I was also with the original group that formed the Living Legends of Auto Racing. We started the banquets and the parades on the beach. I was in the beginning of NASCAR and I raced on the beach from 1956 to 1958, and I raced at the new speedway in '59 and '60 in the Sportsman race," Fleck said.
"I've been in a lot of press rooms at different tracks, and I was in quite a few severe accidents, and I have a couple of fingers that don't work."
But Fleck still has a passion for racing, and he travels to Daytona for a few months each winter so that he can take part in SpeedWeeks activities and catch up with old racing friends.
"I have been here every year since 1956. In 1986, I had a colon cancer operation on Dec. 18. I wasn't quite up to snuff, but we came down here anyway for the races. I'm 74 years old now, and I'm still active. I still have motor oil in my blood. I enjoy all of the racing and talking about it, and letting the younger generation know where we came from."
The Distinguished Service Award is not the former racer and fighter pilot's first turn at recognition.
"Last year, I received an award from the Auto Racing Legends, the lifetime achievement award. The year before that was my 50th year down here, and a group from my old fan club gave me a portrait of myself on the beach. Then they gave me a gift certificate for a tattoo. I went all through the Navy with no tattoo, so on my left arm, I got a tattoo. It is a picture of me racing on the beach in 1956," Fleck said. "For my 50th anniversary, I celebrated by having a heart attack. I was dead for four and a half minutes. The ARL was having a meeting, and I zipped right out. I don't remember anything for five days. I got out of the hospital, and they had a parade in my honor in Ormond Beach."
Fleck will receive his latest honor during the LLOAR's 15th annual banquet Wednesday night. Racing legends Bobby and Donnie Allison, Rex White, Bobby Johns, Marvin Panch and Ernie Saxton will present the LLOAR awards beginning at 8 p.m.
Recipients include Paul Goldsmith, Distinguished Driver; Bill Wimble, Pioneer of Racing; Jimmy Mosteller, Russ Moyer Award; Speedy Spiers, Nuts and Bolts/Behind the Scenes; Frankie Schneider, Saturday Night Hero; Betty Skelton, Woman in Racing; Hurst Performance, The Allison Family Achievement Award.
From an article by Bill Keen for the Intelligencer (Doylestown, PA) published July 9, 2005 about the now-gone Hatfield Speedway and a special upcoming tribute event attempting to "recreate a day at the races":
Dick Fleck, 73... raced there as well as many other tracks, including Daytona, when it first opened in 1959 and 1960, and was the last Tri-Track champion in 1957.
He and partner Dave Montgomery were also responsible for bringing a super speedway to the Poconos, a project that became the 2.5-mile Pocono International Raceway.
"Hatfield was a George Marshman track," said Fleck, who from 1961 through 1967 promoted races at the facility under the Professional Racing On Speedways banner. "George also promoted races at Sanatoga (on Route 422, between Limerick and Pottstown) and at the old Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, and in '57, I won the title at all three.
"Racing at Hatfield was a thrill, all right. The first time I raced there was when I was 15 years old in 1947; I raced midget racers, but I used a (false) name so my parents wouldn't find out. At one point, I had about nine false names."
Chick Kulp is the unofficial historian of the Hatfield Speedway. He and [Bruce] Knoll attended the annual racing exposition in Fort Washington and often talked about an event like Sunday's tribute to the long-gone track...
Fans are encouraged to bring vintage photos of the track, news articles and other memorabilia. Antique cars and trucks will be there along with street rods and old motorcycles.
"We're trying to recreate a day at the races," said Kulp. "It's Dick Fleck's No. 2 car that he drove to the 1957 championship. I know it's going to be there because, as of this moment, it's sitting in my garage."
From an article by Earl Watson:
Whatever happened to Dick Fleck?
Okay, it's not exactly a household name but Hatfield Speedway stock car fans will remember Dick Fleck. Dick won 13 of 16 features at Hatfield in 1957 and he was also track champion in 1957 although his 50-year involvement in auto racing has earned him other recognition, particularly for his role in pioneering Poccno International Raceway.
During Dick's racing career that spanned 15 years - minus three years he served in the Navy during the Korean war, Fleck drove everything from jalopies to USAC championship cars, winning a total 57 checkered flags.
Dick Fleck's career as a race driver ended in 1961 when he smashed his car in an end-over-end accident at Hatfield. That's when, George Marshman, track owner, persuaded Fleck to join him in the front office, promoting the sport of racing on a full-time basis. In fact at the time, Hatfield was running drag racing year-round.
Racing came to an end at Hatfield when Marshman sold the track in 1966 but new avenues had already opened up for Fleck at Pocono International Raceway.
He and Dave Montgomery, a building contractor started toying with the idea of building a super speedway in the Poconos as far back as 1958.
Ground breaking for the track was held in 1965. The first phase was construction for the 3/4 mile oval. That was completed in two years.
Meanwhile, construction continued on the 2.5 mile track and it was a scramble to ready the facility for the USAC's 500-mile opener on July 3, 1971.
Dick worked 18 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week without any time off for months on end. He said "It all seemed like a bad dream until opening day."
Dick resides in Collegeville, PA now with winter quarter in Daytona, which as Dick points out is "where the action is". He is active in a local club "The Living Legends Of Auto Racing".
From an article by Jack Koblas and Audrey Parente published in September of 1994:
"Driver Dick Fleck was instrumental in the building of Pocono International Raceway"
Over a ham sandwich and a glass of beer in the spring of 1958, a popular race driver with an engineering background sat down with Dave Montgomery, president of Racing Inc; and vice president Dick Price. The race driver was Dick Fleck. From the historic repast came a decision to build Pocono International Raceway.
Montgomery appointed Fleck as superintendent and race director of the proposed multi-faceted complex, which would boast a 2.5-mile superspeedway, a 3/4-mile oval and road courses. The raceway would be constructed in the Pennsylvania mountains. The three-cornered track, which Fleck helped to design, was unique to NASCAR Winston Cup Racing. Each of the straightaways had a different length and radius.
The first race on the 3/4-mile oval was scheduled for October 25, 1967; but after three weekends of trying - weekends with fog, rain, and finally snow - they decided to have the Inaugural race in 1968.
The ran a full schedule of 16 to 20 races on the 3/4 mile-track in 1968 and 1969.
In addition to the Supermodifieds, Fleck and his partners also featured Midgets, Sprints, Modifieds and Late Models.
They ran the very first IMSA race, a Formula Ford event, on the 3/4-mile track. IMSA founder John Bishop and Bill France Sr. (who supported Bishop) were there and worked very closely with them as race director on that race.
The 2.5 mile track was completed in 1971. The first race, a USAC race for Indy Cars, was run July 3.
A gaternews.com blogger attending Daytona Speedweeks in 2005 wrote:
As we sat waiting for the parade to begin we bumped into Dick Fleck who was walking down Beach Street with camera in hand ready to shoot photos of the parade for three of the racing organizations that he is now doing press releases, emails, and other PR work for. As we mentioned that this was the 50th running of the Daytona 500, Dick spoke of running at the Daytona International Speedway in the race prior to the first 500. It was a modified race and Dick ran a coupe. He remembered going down the backstretch and due to the height of the coupes said the front wheels came off the ground. The drivers would have to let off the gas so that they could maneuver into the corners. Dick returned the following year but ended the day as part of a 37-car pile up.
From the DeLand Deltona Beacon, October 1, 2012: Richard W. Fleck, 80, of Daytona Beach, died Sept. 26, 2012. Alavon Direct Cremation Service is in charge.
Orlando Sentinel, October 2, 2012: RICHARD W. FLECK, 80, Daytona Beach, died Wednesday. Alavon Direct Cremation Service, South Daytona.
Published in Daytona Beach News-Journal from October 6 to October 7, 2012:
RICHARD W. "DICK" FLECK
A Memorial Service for Dick Fleck, 80, Daytona Beach, who died on September 26th in Daytona Beach, will be held on Wednesday, October 10, 2012. The memorial service will be held at Racing's North Turn Restaurant, 4511 South Atlantic Avenue, Ponce Inlet, FL. The service will begin at approximately 1:15pm. Condolences may be sent to Ken Fleck, 12 Fairview St., Stowe, PA 19464.
From the Norristown Times Herald of October 7, 2012:
Richard W. Fleck, age 80, of Collegeville, passed away on Wednesday, September 26th in Daytona Beach Florida at the Halifax Hospital. Born in Phoenixville May 17th 1932, he was the son of William Franklin Fleck and Rose Roberta (Erb) Fleck. Preceded in death by his daughter Virginia L Fleck. Survivors include a brother Robert Fleck and his wife Helen of Monroeton, Pa, a son Kenneth W Fleck and his wife Terry L of Pottstown, Pa., a daughter Roberta L wife of Thomas Frizzell, Phoenixville, Pa. Two grandsons, Ryan A Fleck of Pottstown, Kyle W Fleck and wife Dana Fleck, great grandson Kayden W. Fleck of Pottstown, Pa. June L. Coburn (companion) of Collegeville, Pa. Florence V Fleck (birth mother of his children) Sanatoga, Pa.
He served his country in the Navy during the Korean War and was Honorably Discharged. He was employed at Bethlehem Steel Co., and also worked in sales as an automotive parts salesman and manager at Sosmetal Co. He helped build and design the Pocono International Speedway. He was a stock car racer at local tracks in the 40's, 50's and early 60's. The local racetracks included Hatfield, Sanatoga and Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia Pa. and many more. He also won three track championships all coming in 1957. His racing career came to an end in 1961 when he took a wild end/over/end flip at Hatfield. He was an active member of the Living Legends of Auto Racing in Daytona Fl, and also wrote press releases for Daytona International Speedway. Recently a book was written by Godwin Kelly called "What The Fleck" with proceeds going to Victory Junction Camp in his name. Richard also enjoyed watching his grandchildren play baseball over the years, and was proud of his new great grandson, Kayden. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his graveside service at the Philadelphia Memorial Park, Inc. 124 Phoenixville Pike Frazer, Pa on Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. Memorial donations may be made in his memory to Victory Junction Camp, 4500 Adam's Way, Randleman, North Carolina 27317 or victoryjunction.org
A saying of Dick's I always remember after a bad day: "The sun rises at 6:15 tomorrow morning."
William Franklin Fleck (1907 - 1965)
Roberta Erb Fleck (1909 - 1987)
Judith E Gilmore Fleck (1938 - 2012)
Virginia Laura Fleck (1958 - 1989)*
Philadelphia Memorial Park
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Sep 26, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 97825222