A multitalented and unassuming driver, Bob Rossell (DOB: September 1, 1936) of Wrightstown, New Jersey, spent his racing career as one of the top drivers in Eastern Modified Stock Car Racing. And he is probably best remembered for his many winning runs in his self-built red and black fuel-injected/Chevy-powered No. 56 1936 Chevrolet Coupe.
But more than that, Rossell was also a highly-regarded builder of race cars for some of the top drivers in Dirt Track Modified Stock Car Racing.
Rossell began racing career in 1958 on what was then the quarter-mile New Egypt (NJ) Speedway and he built his first race car out of an old Chevy Coupe with an engine that came from a local wrecking yard. But getting a basic engine from that source was OK for the young racer and it was something that he did for his entire career and it proved to be a rather successful way of doing things.
When Rossell began his racing career, his base of operations was New Egypt Champion Howard “Stubby” Stevens’ nearby Jacobstown garage; the place where he also got his engines. And that site also served the same purpose for Rossell’s good friend and fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Gil Hearne.
But just as Rossell’s career as a frontrunner was starting to take shape, his U.S. Air Force Reserve Unit at the old McGuire Air Force Base was called up for duty in Europe in 1961.
However, while this foreign assignment kept the talented Modified racer out of action for a year, his duty time in France allowed him to attended the Monaco and Belgium Grand Prix races and the 24 Hour of Le Mans.
Upon his return from military service, Rossell raced up and down the Eastern Seaboard with the “Eastern Bandits” – Ed Flemke, Dennis Zimmerman, Rene Charland and “Red” Foote – and his stops included: Thursdays at New Egypt; Fridays at Southside Speedway just south of Richmond; Saturdays at Old Dominion in Manassas, Virginia; Saturdays at Marlboro (MD) Speedway; and, Sundays at Old Bridge (NJ) Speedway.
Rossell was a professional racer in every sense of the word and from 1967-1971 he was also a member of the All-Star Racing League which toured the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions with a popular series of special extra-distance races. Still, while he rarely raced someone else’s car, his last two victories (Nos. 50 and 51) were accomplished in 1976 with Dick Barney’s red No. 14 Chevrolet Sedan on the one-third-mile asphalt high banks at Wall Stadium (a 76-lapper on July 10 and his second Garden State Classic on July 17).
Among Rossell’s major victories were: NASCAR’s 200-lap “Battle of Bull Run” at Old Dominion in 1963; Wall Stadium’s 300-lap Garden State Classic (1968 and 1976); a 100-lap Syracuse Qualifier at East Windsor (NJ) Speedway in 1972; a 100-lapper at Nazareth (PA) Speedway in 1968; and, a pair of Langhorne National Open 100-lappers at Flemington (NJ) Speedway in 1971 and Orange Country Fair Speedway in Middletown, New York, in 1973.
But he also won an unusual 90-minute timed race at the old 1.125-mile-dirt Nazareth (PA) National Speedway on July 4, 1971, when he beat fellow EMPA Hall of Famer Frankie Schneider with a pass for the lead on the inside of the first turn and went on to win the 119-lap/133.875-mile race at an average speed of 89.742 mph. And in this race, Rossell (in his black and red Chevy-powered No. 56 1936 Chevrolet Coupe) and Schneider (in his beautiful red and white Chevy-powered No. 2 1936 Chevrolet Sedan) used one 4-barrel carburetor on their engines and gasoline in their fuel tanks in an effort to complete the race without a pit stop.
In addition to being a popular competitor, Rossell was also a much-sought-after builder of Modified Stock Cars and among his clients were the likes of Will Cagle, Billy Osmun, Tommy Corellis, Bob Pickell, Leon Manchester, Bob Toreky and car owner Ken Brenn (four chassis). And these Modifieds with their square-tubing chassis were of such quality that Cagle ran them almost exclusively from 1965-1972; a period of time that Wiley Will” ranks as some of his best years in Northeast Dirt-Track Modified Stock Car competition.
Interestingly enough, though, Rossell never retired from racing. One night after a rough night at East Windsor he just loaded his car onto its trailer and just never took it off.
But that was not the end to Rossell’s involvement with top-flight competition as the exquisite craftsman and fabricator was asked to build some sulkies for legendary harness racing driver, trainer and owner Stanley Dancer who lived in neighboring New Egypt. Then, from that beginning and for over a decade, he turned out a whole host of those two-wheeled/lightweight carts for a wide variety of top drivers and stables in American Standardbred Horse Racing.