Carl “Fuzzy” Van Horn
A driver who could race a Modified stock-car with equal skill on dirt or asphalt race tracks, Carl “Fuzzy” Van Horn of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, spent 45 years as one of the most recognizable personalities in Eastern racing. During his long and successful career he brought an air of excitement to the races that added greatly to his popularity.
It is interesting, though, that Van Horn never had any interest in racing until 1951 when his younger brother Clifford brought the possibility to his attention. Sixteen-year-old Clifford was really the one who wanted to race but he was too young. So, when another driver couldn’t get Clifford’s 1935 Chevrolet sedan qualified at the old East Stroudsburg (Pa.) Speedway, 18-year-old Fuzzy was pressed into service.
Seven tries later Fuzzy – who got his nickname for his crew-cut hairdo – finally got into a race and four years after that he got his first victory. All of this took place in what turned out to be one of the iconic bright yellow No. 71e Modifieds that he would drive – an identification that came when four other ‘71s’ were at the track and a letter was issued for ease of identity.
After East Stroudsburg, Fuzzy – who also raced a 1937 Chevrolet coupe No. 711 – raced at the old half-mile Vineland (N.J.) Speedway and Alcyon Speedway in Pitman, New Jersey. He was one of the first drivers in fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Tom Skinner’s famous black and white No. 659 GMC inline-6-cylinder-powered 1936 Chevrolet coupe.
In the mid-1950s, Fuzzy also became a regular at the old half-mile dirt Nazareth (Pa.) Raceway and at the five-eights-mile dirt Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, New York. At Nazareth, he won 19 Modified feature races and the 1974 track championship in Walt Garrett’s red No. 2A 1939 Chevrolet coupe, while at OCFS he won 29 main evens and the 1971 title in George VanDerwall’s white No. 28 1935 Chevrolet sedan.
In 1966, Fuzzy – who was living in Belvidere, New Jersey, at that time and was known as “The Belvidere Bandit” – began racing at the old half-mile dirt Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds in his late 1930s No. 71e coupes and sedans until he built a new late-model-bodied Ford Mustang Modified. Then, in late 1970, he began to drive Garrett’s red No. 2A Chevrolet Vega-bodied Modified and his overall victory total at the tough Reading track included six feature wins.
A union ironworker by trade who helped to build the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, Fuzzy also raced in the 1970s on dirt and asphalt tracks with the All-Star Racing League as one of Nazareth’s representatives. Often racing hours from home five nights a week, he frequently got only a couple of hours sleep before he had to be back on the job.
Fuzzy also drove the No. 125 that was fielded by Leo Conklin, and he also built, owned and promoted (1963-1964) the old half-mile dirt Harmony (N.J.) Speedway.
A competitor in 10 Super DIRT Weeks at the one-mile dirt New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, Fuzzy won 130 Modified races. But his most unexpected triumph came on September 14, 1968, when he won the Lebanon Valley 200 in West Lebanon, New York.
Originally Fuzzy had planned to compete in the rich Daniel Boone 200 at Reading, but when he arrived at the track with his yellow No. 71e 1935 Chevrolet sedan he was told that – despite having raced there all season – his car’s seat installation did not meet Reading’s rules. So he quickly called Lebanon Valley, told them he was making the five-hour tow and he got to the track just in time to lineup last in the final consolation race.
In storybook fashion, Carl “Fuzzy” Van Horn qualified for the main event and then took the lead after 120 laps around the half-mile track and was never headed. That amazing victory was still one of legend when he ultimately retired from racing in 1996.