Universally known as “The Old Master,” Lambertville, New Jersey’s Frankie Schneider (August 11, 1926) was one of the most successful touring professional racers. Best known for his signature red and white No. 2 coupes and coaches, the highly-talented and versatile competitor raced throughout the United States and in Canada and won over 750 feature events.
Raised on a farm, Schneider first raced at the old Flemington (N.J.) Speedway on June 15, 1947, which was also the day that fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Wally Campbell began racing. And his seventh-place finish in his street car – which had a silo band for a roll bar and a length of rope tied around his seat and waist for a safety belt – won him $70.
In 1952, Schneider won 62 races in 105 starts on a variety of East Coast dirt and asphalt short tracks to claim NASCAR’s National Modified Championship in John Bohlander’s No. 88 1937 Ford coupe. This, of course, required that all repairs and setup changes to his only car were made on the road – including the regular job of switching it over from a Modified to a Sportsman on the Chesapeake Bay Ferry so that he could race twice on Sundays.
He also raced in Florida every winter from 1948-1961 and once won 30 of 35 races at Lakeland, Winter Haven and Sarasota – plus two seconds and a third – before returning home.
Schneider’s considerable Late Model experience included when he and fellow EMPA Hall of Famer Al Tasnady were teammates for Vineland, New Jersey’s “Toots” Armellini & Romeo Gelsi. When not in their No. 2 and No. 44 Modifieds, they ran 392-powered 1956 Fords in United States Auto Club and local events with Frankie, for example, starting last and winning the Penn-Mar 100 at the half-mile dirt Williams Grove (Pa.) Speedway on September 9, 1956.
A Chevrolet factory ride was also Schneider’s and he won his only NASCAR Grand National (Sprint Cup) race with his black No. 62 1957 Chevy in a 150-lapper at the 3/8-mile asphalt Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Virginia, on April 25, 1958. He also made his car’s hardtop removable so he could race in NASCAR’s old Convertible Division, won three 1957 NASCAR Short Track races and a USAC/ARCA 100 at Williams Grove on May 24, 1959.
The winner of 100 races in 1958, Schneider was a smart, hands-on racer who watched his expenses. He won a season title with a car that only had $1,000 invested in it and built a winning engine with a $15 short block. And to make every dollar count, in the early 1970s he used that old ’57 Chevy NASCAR chassis to build one of his famous “Ol’ Bess”1936 Chevrolet coupes.
The winner of the 1954 and 1962 National Open Championships at the old one-mile Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway, Schneider was the first to ever qualify a Sportsman car at better than 90 miles per hour when he did so on the ’Horne’s dirt circle in time trials – 91.51 mph – in 1957. He also won eight special $1,000-to-win/100-lap races at the half-mile dirt Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, New York, and is the all-time Modified winner at the old 1-1/8-mile dirt Nazareth (Pa.) National Speedway with 11 wins, including nine of its first 15 events.
Schneider won 11 races at the old half-mile Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds – including Twin 50s in September 1965 – and was the track’s 1963 champion. He was also: the 1963 & 1964 champion at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, New York, where he won 58 races – including 11 straight in 1961 and three Eastern States 200s (1962, 1963 & 1967); the 1963 titlist at the old Harmony Speedway in Phillipsburg, New Jersey; and, the all-time winner at the old half-mile Nazareth (Pa.) Raceway with 64 wins and four titles (1962-1964 & 1975).
Frankie Schneider – who raced Sprints, Midgets, USAC Championship Dirt Cars, Sports Cars in The Bahamas and TQ Midgets indoors – got his last victory at Nazareth Raceway on July 31, 1977. But, ever the racer, he didn’t stop competing in Modifieds until well into the 1990s.