An outstanding dirt-track Modified stock-car and Sprint Car driver and innovative speed shop owner, Dick “Toby” Tobias (February 12, 1932-June 23, 1978) of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, designed, built and developed the first purpose-built “2 x 4” steel-tube chassis that revolutionized dirt-track Modified stock-car racing.
Tobias won the first race that he ever entered in 1950 when he took the checkered flag at the old Hilltop Speedway in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. And from that point on the U.S. Navy veteran (1951-1954) was usually found at the head of the pack.
Early in his career Tobias raced the “30 x 90” Central Pennsylvania “bugs” – Super-Modified-styled, cut-down early 1930s Ford coupes that sat on proprietary 30-inch x 90-inch home-built chassis. And he later progressed to the more “standard” dirt-track Modifieds.
From 1955 through 1964, Tobias dominated the central Pennsylvania Modified scene with many victories and championships at Port Royal (1959-1960), Williams Grove (1963-1964) and Selinsgrove (1963-1964). And during this time he had won so many races in a row that when he went to the old half-mile Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway the other competitors successfully petitioned the promoter to not allow him to race.
“Toby” and his wife Mary founded Tobias Speed Equipment in 1961 and it operated for 42 years until it closed in 2003. However, when he wasn’t serving his customers he was still winning races and in 1964 he claimed 36 victories.
In 1965, the tracks where Tobias raced switched to Sprint Cars as their primary attraction so the popular bespectacled racer headed for the old Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds and continued winning in the Davey Brown-wrenched A.T. Consoli No. 54 1936 Chevrolet coupe.
Tobias – who also promoted the old half-mile Penn National Speedway in Grantville, Pennsylvania – won 90 features and four championships (1966-1968 & 1975) at Reading, plus the 1966 Modified title at the old half-mile “D-shaped” Harmony Speedway in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
In 1969, Tobias added Sprint Cars to his racing schedule and won seven of 11 United Racing Club starts. In 1970, he won a USAC race at Williams Grove and was named “Rookie of the Year,” but this was also when he began to mass produce, sell and race – under the skin of his own blue No. 17 “Super Dog” three-window Chevy coupe – the highly-effective dirt-track Modified chassis that he created.
For the rest for his career, Tobias primarily raced dirt-track Modifieds and he won two Daniel Boone 200s at Reading – the 1973 edition in the 350-cubic-inch Chevy-powered blue and white No. 1 Anthony Furniture Mustang and the 1976 race in his own blue No. 17 Mustang II.
He also used his famed Mustang II entries to win the 1975 Schaefer 100 (now known as the Super DIRT Week 200 at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse), the 1975 New York State Fair Labor Day Championship and the 1975, 1976 & 1977 Schaefer 100 poles.
But “Toby” still kept his hand in Sprint Car racing and won three USAC races in 1971 (Reading; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Knoxville, Iowa) and two more at Reading in 1975.
He then scored his biggest USAC Sprint Car victories in 1978 when he won on the one-mile Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis and triumphed on Terre Haute’s half-mile “Action Track” in the “Tony Hulman Classic” – a race televised on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”
Tragically, however, Dick “Toby” Tobias’ life and career would come to an end shortly after these most impressive victories as the 46-year-old racer was killed in an accident during a USAC Sprint Car event at the old Flemington (N.J.) Fair Speedway.