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Al Keller
Born:   April 11, 1920 - Alexander, NY    
Died:
November 19, 1961 - Phoenix, Arizona
 

Al Keller participated in the NASCAR Strictly Stock series from 1949 to 1956 with 29 career starts. He won two races during the 1954 season and is the only driver in the history of NASCAR's top division to have won a race in a foreign-built car, winning the 1954 Grand National road-race at the Linden Airport in New Jersey, driving a Jaguar.

In 1954 Keller began a transition to champ cars. He drove in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1954-1959 and 1961 seasons with 32 starts, including the Indianapolis 500 races in all but the first of those years. He finished in the top ten 13 times, with his best finish in 2nd position, in 1956 at Atlanta and in 1961 at Milwaukee. His best Indy finish was 5th in 1961.

Keller died as a result of injuries sustained in a Champ car crash at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.

 

June 13, 1954:  Al Keller poses with his 1948 XK-120 Jaguar sports coupe at New Jersey's Linden Airport. NASCAR's first road-course event, the International 100, was staged over two miles of the airport's runways on June 13. The event was open to both American stock cars and foreign sports cars. Twenty-one of the entries in the 43-car starting field were foreign cars. It remains the only win for a foreign-made automobile in NASCAR's premier series.


Great model built by 'Steve' Website

Al Keller 1920-1961

Al Keller was born April 11, 1920 in Buffalo, New York. Growing up in Buffalo, Keller learned early on the harshness of winter in the north. Occasional trips to Florida gave Keller the desire to live in the southís warmer climate. At age 28, Keller migrated from White Plains, New York for sunny Tampa, Florida in 1948. He became a business partner with Frank Derby, Jr. in a speed equipment business and began driving Derbyís modified car at Plant Field, Speedway Park, Phillips Field and many other tracks in Florida.

In 1949, Keller entered W. O. Taylorís No.89 Ford in the NASCAR Strictly Stock event at Langhorne starting 22nd and finishing 8th. In 1950, Keller drove Taylorís No.89 in 3 NASCAR Grand National Division events. In 1952, Keller drove Perry Smithís No.23 Studebaker and Ford in Grand National competition finishing 11th at Palm Beach Speedway in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 1953, Keller moved to George Millerís No.31 Oldsmobile and Hudson making 4 starts in the Grand National Division.

In 1954, Keller made 12 starts in the NASCAR Grand National Division driving George Millerís No.23 Hudson. He won the 200-lap event on the Ĺ-mile dirt Oglethorpe Speedway at Savannah and recorded 2nd place finishes at Langhorne and at Wilson Speedway in North Carolina. He qualified on the pole for the 133-lap event on the ĺ-mile dirt Charlotte Speedway. He drove Paul Whitemanís No.4 Jaguar in the 50-lap event on the 2-mile road course at Linden Airport in Linden, New Jersey where he qualified 7th and won the event and a purse of $1,000.
 


In May 1955, Keller qualified the Offenhauser powered Kurtis Kraft 2000 22nd in the Indianapolis 500. A crash on lap 54 would eliminate him from the event.

Keller fielded his own No.64 Chevrolet in 4 NASCAR Grand National events in 1956. He finished 2nd at West Palm Beach and 6th on the beach course at Daytona Beach. In May, Keller qualified 28th for the Indianapolis 500 in an Offenhauser powered Kurtis Kraft 4000 and finished 14th.

In May of 1957, Keller qualified 8th in an Offenhauser powered Kurtis Kraft 500G for the Indianapolis 500. He was eliminated from the event by a crash on lap 75. Keller returned to the Brickyard in 1958, where he qualified 21st and finished 11th in the Indy 500 driving an Offenhauser powered Kurtis Kraft 500G2. For 1959 Keller qualified 28th in an Offenhauser-powered Kuzma for the Indy 500 but was eliminated on lap 163 when the engine expired.

Keller drove the Sam Traylor Special Offy at Indy in 1961In 1961, Keller qualified 26th for the Indy 500 driving an Offenhauser-powered Phillips and finished 5th. In November, Keller traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to compete on the famous one-mile dirt track there and set a one-lap record. During the 100 mile-race, Keller was involved in a crash and was fatally injured.

In 1965, Floridaís Governor Haydon Burns in tribute to Kellerís contributions to Florida Stock Car Racing as a long time track promoter commissioned the Florida Governorís Cup.

Hello! I am contacting you about a photograph used on your website.
Sid Keller in Al Schultz carI saw a picture on the Al Keller page that is my grandfather Sid Keller . The photo was sent to the Mt. Clemens Race Track webpage by the son of Al Schultz (owner of the 000 race car) and my grandfather Sid Keller drove for him. The photograph on Al Keller's page is the same photo from the Mt. Clemens Race Track page and according to the caption my grandfather is the driver in that picture.

This is a post from the grandson on the Mt. Clemens page and link to the page: http://www.waterwinterwonderland.com/autoracing.aspx?id=1609&type=9

5/3/2005 - Eric Schulz
- In approximately 1952 my grandfather, Henry Schulz and father, Al Schulz purchased Iggy Katonaís T3 roadster. They rebuilt it and renumbered it as 000 (H Schulz & Son Trucking). It was run at both Motor City and Mt Clemens for a couple of years until everyone converted over to sprint cars. The sprint cars were quite unusual in that they ran Chrysler Hemis. At the same time they got into the late model stock racing running mostly Dodges and Plymouths.

My dad had a knack for chassis setup and could get the old Chrysler six cylinder cars to out perform many of the V8s. During the 1950s those cars were some of the top competitors around. They won several championships. The original t roadster body is still in our family, still bringing back fond memories.

........Those were some of the most memorable days of my life. The traveling to all the different tracks, Mt. Clemens, Motor City, Checker Flag (Canada), Jackson, Flat Rock and more.

During those years we had many very good drivers. Bob Sampson, Jack Goodwin, Skeeter Ross and Sid Keller. Sid Keller bringing the most success.

Another post from him on the Mt. Clemens page was:
11/10/2009 - Eric Schulz For you old timers (race time 1952-1960) you may remember my dad Al Schulz. He teamed up with a guy named Sid Keller and produced some pretty good race cars. The number ''000'' Dodge , Plymouths and sprint cars. You may remember the sprint for the monster Chrysler Hemis he ran. He was known for his ability to get a car to handle and was able to get cars of lower classes to compete with the higher powered ones.

He won a number of championships in the mid 1950s at Mt. Clemens and Motor City. He past away October 28th. He and Sid had held their friendship all these years and I know Sid along with all of us will deeply miss him.

His first race car was purchased by my grandfather from Marion Adams. It was a T roadster that Iggy Katona had built and driven to many wins (the T-3 car) Lucky me!! I still have that body. It''s something I could never part with.

My grandfather Sid Keller passed away today and I wanted to write to you to tell you Thank you for your time and if you know of any information about my grandfathers racing career I would appreciate any information you might have as I plan to compile some old photos and clippings for my family (of which I have a few).

Thank you for your time,
Sincerely,
Mrs. Chi Benedict
Granddaughter of Sid Keller

The People of NASCAR: NASCARís First Road Course  
By Frank Morrison, Thunder Lounge

In the beginning Bill France, Sr. only allowed NASCAR to run on oval tracks. Hence Go Fast Turn Left. A nice variety of ovals between 1/2 a mile to 2 miles. Nascar tackled itís first road course on June 13, 1954 when race promoters staged the International 100.

The track was developed off the Linden New Jersey Airport out of runways and taxiways. To make things a bit more interesting foreign auto makers were invited to participate. This was not the first time foreign participation happened in NASCAR competition and as we know now it wouldnít be the last. The best a foreign car did to this point in NASCAR history was Lloyd Mooreís pole at Langhorne Speedway.

For Linden NASCAR made a race within a race for a trophy going to the top foreign car entered into the event. The two mile track had four left turns and a right hand bend. The total purse of $5,020 drew a large crowd of hopefuls. 21 foreign cars and 22 domestics qualified for the inaugural race. Sleek Jaguars, MGs, Morgans, Austin-Healeys, and even a Porsche lined up on the starting grid with the full-sized Hudsons, Oldsmobiles, Dodges, Plymouths, Fords and a couple of Henry J's (No Chevys made the starting field).

Buck Baker won the pole at a blistering 80.536 mph driving his trusty Olds 88. The outside pole went to Herb Thomas in his Hudson while M.R. ďEricĒ Peterson in a Jaguar qualified 3rd. Bandleader Paul Whiteman let New York Native Al Keller enter his car and qualified 7th in the Jaguar. Kellerís only NASCAR win came in Savannah in March.

Nearly 10,000 fans paid to sit in the grandstands for $4 and $3 to roam the course. Buck Baker lead for 9 laps before being challenged by Hershel McGriffís Jaguar, McGriff ended up going off course after locking horns with Buck and Herb Thomas took the lead during the scuffle.

Thomas and Baker swapped the lead a few times before Al Kellerís Jaguar took the lead just before the halfway point. Kellerís light Jag left the field behind and ended up winning by 1/2 mile in front of 2nd place Joe Eubanksí Hudson. Baker ended up finishing 3rd and Jags ended up take the next three spots.

During the celebration in victory lane Keller said he was quitting the Modified circuit and joining AAA tour. He had his sites on the Indy 500. Keller ran in 6 Indy 500s with his best finish a 5th in the 1961 classic. Keller died on Nov 19, 1961 after a fiery crash at Phoenix while running in an Indy car event.

The first road course for the Grand National Circuit was a great success NASCAR would not return to Linden for 2 1/2 years. Though road course driving would never become the marques event in NASCAR Grand National racing it is still fun to see the rednecks take a few left turns here and there. Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, and Terry Labonte like the checks they received from Watkins Glenn, Sonoma, and Riverside Iím sure. The best racing Iíve ever seen is Rusty and Jeff going at it in the hairpin turn at Sonoma.

Editor's Note: Though most news outlets reported that Al Keller raced the last foreign car in a NASCAR race in 1954 (when he won in a Jaguar at Linden, N.J.), a quick look at "Forty Years of Stock Car Racing" by Greg Fielden revealed the following: the last time a foreign car competed in NASCAR was in 1958, when the Crown America International Stock Car Race was held at Riverside International Raceway in California. On that day, 46 cars started the 100-lap, 263-mile event -- including two Citroens, a Goliath and a Renault. Eddie Gray won the race in a Ford.

NASCARís first brush with Ďimportsí   By WILLIAM JEANES

Toyota's announcement of its 2007 entry into NASCARís Nextel Cup moved numberless trivia experts to note Toyota would not be the first overseas nameplate to run with the good olí boys. There have been at least eight interlopers, with Jaguar leading the pack.

Burago 1/24th Diecast Replicar. Defining Jaguarís NASCAR effort requires pawing through records a half-century old and only marginally more dependable than Enronís or WorldComís. Yet there is sufficient information on driver Al Keller, an East Coast road racer, and other NASCAR moments to make some fascinating footnotes.

On June 13, 1954, racing at the Linden Airport in New Jersey, a 43-car field produced three NASCAR milestones.

  • One, it was NASCARís first road race.

  • Two, Kellerís win in the No. 4 Jaguar XK120 fixed-head coupe remains the only import win in NASCARís major seriesóthen called Grand National.

  • Three, because Keller had won on an oval in March at Oglethorpe Speedway in Savannah, Georgia, he became the first NASCAR pilot to win on both a road course and an oval in a single season.

A fourth milestone might have occurred. Because sports car luminary Bob Grossman drove, it might have been the first appearance of Gucci loafers at a NASCAR event. Expertsí opinions are divided on this.

Twenty-one import makes started at Linden, including Jaguar (13), MG (five), Austin-Healey (one), Morgan (one) and Porsche (one). Four Jaguars finished in the top-10 and five finished in the bottom-10. The Morgan finished 41st (in case youíre wondering).

Born in Alexander, New York, in 1920, Keller was a postwar USAC midget and champ car driver usually described as a journeyman. From 1955 to 1961 he competed in six Indianapolis 500s, finishing two of them, and in more than two dozen other major AAA and USAC events.

Keller ran almost as many NASCAR races, successfully transitioning from USAC ovals to NASCAR ovals and from oval racing to road racing. In addition to his Linden win, Keller turned in two other noteworthy Grand National performances in 1954. As noted, he won at Oglethorpe Speedway, and he took the pole at Charlotte Speedwayónot the superspeedway but the three-quarter-mile dirt oval where NASCAR sanctioned its first event ever.

Keller went head to head with NASCARís hot dogs during the 1954 season. Buck Baker won the pole at Linden and finished third, with Hershel McGriff and Lee Petty in the field. Herb Thomas took the pole at Savannah, and Baker won at Charlotte after qualifying second behind Keller.

Keller raced in 29 Grand National races from 1949 to 1956, winning two, logging seven top-five and a dozen top-10 finishes, and taking one pole. In 1954, the only year in which Keller ran more than four Grand National races, he won two of 13 races, had six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes and won his one pole. As Marlon Brando might have put it, ďKella coulda been a contenda.Ē

NASCARís effort to reach out to the international community ended in 1958 at the Riverside Grand National race, where a pair of CitroŽns, a Renault and a Goliath competed. The CitroŽns finished 18th and 19th, and the Goliath finished 27th. The Renault posted a DNF. The Goliath, still running at the finish, might have been the last import to cross a NASCAR top-series finish line before Toyota does so.

And what of Al Keller? After years of seat hunting Keller got a full-season ride in the Konstant Hot Phillips-Offy for 1961. He opened the season with a fifth- place at the Indianapolis 500, notched four top-five finishes and won two poles, the second at the November race in Phoenix. There, 40 laps into the race, he wrecked in Turn Four and was killed.

Thanks to Toyota, the memory of Al Kellerís Jaguar winóand Goliathís lone appearanceówill endure.

 

Al Keller Strictly Stock DRIVER Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn
1949 29 1 of 8 0 0 1 0 185 0 200 32 22.0 8.0
1950 30 3 of 19 0 0 0 0 328 0 50 125 38.5 36.0
1952 32 4 of 34 0 0 0 0 328 0 125 64 13.3 16.2
1953 33 4 of 37 0 0 0 0 73 0 115 107 20.5 26.5
1954 34 13 of 37 2 6 9 1 1811 378 5,135   13.0 9.2
1956 36 4 of 56 0 1 2 0 446 0 1,300 69 15.2 15.0
6 years 29 2 7 12 1 3171 378 6,925   17.7 16.1

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