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Ted Horn

Sport: Auto Racing

Born: June 23, 197

Died: October 10, 1948

Town: Paterson

Eylard Theodore Von Horn was born February 27, 1910 in Cincinnati, the son of German-American actors. The family dropped the ìvonî during World War I and eventually moved to Los Angeles, where ìTedî sent most of his formative years. At the age of 16 he began racing on California tracks, while earning his keep as a photo engraver. At 21, he began to make a name for himself at Legion Ascot Speedway in LA, where the top drivers on the West Coast rubbed shoulders with Hollywood elite. In 1932, he won enough to quit his job and go into racing full-time.

Ted’s long association with New Jersey auto racing started in 1934, when he hooked up with promoter Pappy Hankinson, who came to California scouting for talented young drivers. He established a base of operation in Paterson’s Gasoline Alley with Dick Simonek. His first eastern race was at the Ho Ho Kus Speedway in Bergen County.

THornPatersonNJIn 1935, Ford set up an auto racing team. It was run by Harry Miller and Preston Tucker (later immortalized on screen by Jeff Bridges). One of their drivers, Harry Hartz, convinced Ford to add Ted to the team. He entered the Indianapolis 500 for the first time and retired after 145 laps with steering problems. After that disappointment, Ted finished in the Top 4 at Indy 10 years in a row, though he never won. It is still the best streak in 500 history. The race was not held between 1942 and 1945.

Auto racing was dramatically curtailed during World War II. Ted tried to enlist in the army but was turned down when doctors saw x-rays of his countless racing injuries. He was back on the track in 1946 and won the first of three AAA national championships.

In September of 1948, Ted clinched his record third consecutive AA title at DuQuoin Raceway in Illinois. Technically he could have set out the rest of the season, but his return appearance at DuQuoin that fall was being heavily promoted and he did not want to disappoint the fans. Ted crashed on the second lap and was thrown from his car. His wife of 17 days, Gerry, was among the 5,000 horrified spectators. He died after arriving at the hospital from a crushed chest and head injuries.

Had Ted survived and recovered, there is little doubt that he would have ranked amopng the early luminaries in NASCAR. Few athletes could build and rive stock acrs—or coax as much power out of their engones—as he. Ted’s body was taken back to New Jersey and he was buried in Paterson.

 

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