Demo’s Dawn

demolition_19641.jpg

I mentioned in an earlier post that the now defunct Islip Speedway, which was located on Long Island, was the home of the original demolition derby. History shows other attempts to stage demo’s, but historians of the art of smash and crash pretty much credit one Larry Mendelsohn with the stroke of genius.

larry_mendelsohn1.jpg

Back in 1958 stock car driver Mendelsohn came to a shocking truth that few in the business would utter – most casual fans came to the track to see wrecks, not racing. So why not give them what they wanted. With that Demolition Derby was born.

demolition_advertizement1.jpg

Mendelsohn, who eventually became one of the promoters of Islip, made Demolition Derby a regular feature at the speedway. Although just a local Long Island short track, Islip became renowned via the many times ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the action.

Mendelsohn also invented Figure 8 racing, but that’s another story.

dfs70341.jpg

Comments

  1. troysdon says

    Just wondering if anyone could give me some information on Carl "Whitey" Voelker. He was one of the early figure 8 drivers at Islip. Thanks

  2. darrymendelsohn says

    I am Larry Mendelsohn’s son, would love to here from any Islip speedway fans who remember the good old days when my dad made auto racing a spectacular production on Long Island!

    • Bill Treschl says

      My uncle & aunt, Barbara & Gene Gamache both raced Islip & Riverhead in the late 50's & early 60's. When Barbara died your dad flew Gene to Daytona for speed weeks and hooked him up with a ride in the 125 but his mind wasn't there and he crashed early.

  3. Peg says

    My Dad is Don Pearsall who was a figure 8 driver at Islip for most of my childhood. He had an ongoing rivalry with Sammy Adkins who also happened to live in our neighborhood in West Babylon.

    I spent every Saturday night, every summer at the track watching my Dad race there. My Mom even drove in the “Powderpuff” races that were held every so often. What great memories I have of that place…The pizza stand was the best. Get a slice and sit under the stands to eat it. I almost always burned the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t wait to take a bite. We always sat in the same seats every week, behind and to the right of the finish.

    I have been trying for probably 10 years to find video of one of the big Figure 8 World Championship races that your Dad convinced ABC into putting on Wide World of Sports. Your Dad brought Figure 8 to the world by doing that!

    My father and all of my family have extremely fond memories of Islip Speedway.

  4. says

    I am sad to hear about Carl Volker, I have been trying to locate him, he worked for me in Florida in the 80’s and our family became good friends with Carl, if anyone can give me any info on the family I would appreciate it, thanks

  5. Doreen Wood says

    my dad was Larry Wood…he too drove demo and figure 8 at islip…he stopped in the early ’60’s to raise us girls…but we were at the track and i remember his trophy’s that he had won.

  6. Kevin Seitz says

    I grew up on Long Island and my dad and I were regulars every Saturday night at Islip Speedway from the mid 60’s to mid 70’s when I left for college. My dad knew your’s fairly well as I remember as we was invited to the bar-b-q for the Grand National drivers the weekend they raced. I still have many pictures that your dad gave me of drivers from that era, from local heroes to the Nascar big names. My favorite is one with me sitting on Ned Jarrett’s knee as I gave him a replica model of his car I had built. I have wonderful memories of your dad, the track, and the times I spent just visiting in the pits (at no charge!!) after the races. Aaah, those were the days!!

  7. Diana Royce-Novich says

    My father and mother both raced. My father had many cars 140, 40, 41 . I love going to the track with my brothers and watching them race. My Mother and Father are doing well. we still talk about the times from the speedway. Those were the best times I ever had.

  8. steve vollgraff says

    Diana My older brother My older brother bought the number 41 from your dad in the 70s and he won a few races with it

  9. says

    i grew up in islip AND PRETTY MUTCH AT THE TRACK I MADE A FACBOOK GROUP PAGE CHECK IT OUT ITS CALLED >>>ISLIP SPEEDWAY FANS<< YOU CAN FIND THE LINK THREW MY FACEBOOK PAGE OF MY NAME PLEASE HELP KEEP THE MEMORYS ALIVE OF THE GREATEST SPEEDWAY EVER AND IF YOU HAVE PICTURES FROM THE SPEEDWAY PLEASE POST THEM THERE WE HAVE LOTS ALREADY SO COME MEET SOME OF YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND WHO KNOW WHO YOU WILL MEET A FEW MEMBERS ARE STEPHEN PARK ,CALINOFF,BODINE ,SACKS, AND A FEW OTHERS AND WE ARE GROWING EVERYDAY http://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CHARLES PUTZER ADD ME AS FRIEND AND I WILL SEND YOU A LINK IF YOU CANT FIGURE IT OUT ALSO CHECK ME OUT AT http://WWW.RACERSREUNION.COM/CHARGINCHARLIEPUTZER

  10. Elson Tracey says

    Not trying to badmouth Islip speedway or anything because it was a great part of figure 8 racing history but figure 8 racing was invinted in Indianapolis, the world capital for figure 8 racing. Islip was still a great track from what i hear, wish it was still around so i could check it out. Anyone who loved those days of figure 8 racing at Islip should really schedule a trip to Indianapolis to see the World Figure 8 Championship 3 hour endurance race at the Indianapolis Speedrome. You would be in for a big treat. Its always in the second week of September.

  11. Sammy Stillwagen says

    As best as I can recall , the winner of Larry Mendelsohn's inagural demo derby at Islip was Newman Boggs, yet his name is nowhere to be found. Did this come to me in a dream? Can't really remember but my Bay Shore friends may have the answer. I was just a Freeport Stadium fan, cheering for the late great Bruno Brackey. But I was lcuky enough to see The King , Richard Petty, win a NASCAR race at Islip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *