AKA David Haupt
If William Shakespeare were writing this, he might say, “A racer by any other name would still be a racer.” However, in this case, “The Bard” would have to say three racers as Quakertown, Pennsylvania’s David Haupt actually competed under his birth name as well as that of “Don Allison” and his most famous assumed identity, “Joe Kelly.”
But no matter what name the popular dirt and asphalt Modified, Sprint Car and Midget racer used, he was always sure to be running at the head of the pack.
A U.S. Army veteran, brick-mason Haupt began racing his own Modifieds and those of other owners in the mid-1950s at such old Pennsylvania tracks as those at Sanatoga, Hatfield and Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium – where the Army-Navy football game was once played.
As a NASCAR driver, though, Haupt had to take another name to race elsewhere or he’d feel the sanctioning body’s wrath as it didn’t like it if one of its members raced anywhere else.
So, a driver named “Don Allison” – who looked a lot like David Haupt – sometimes raced in an “outlaw” Modified show or got an open-cockpit ride. “Allison” was such a good Sprint Car driver that he was named the United Racing Club’s 1957 “Rookie of the Year.”
When the opportunity came in 1958 to drive Don House’s famous Lincoln-powered pink and white No. XL-1 1937 Ford coupe, “Haupt/Allison” readily accepted it. However, a new name was also in order so since House lived on Kelly Street, “Kelly” was a perfect fit and “Joe” sounded Irish, so that is how “Joe Kelly” came into being.
“Kelly” and the XL-1 had many wins at New Jersey’s old half-mile Old Bridge and Vineland Speedways, and at the one-third-mile Wall Stadium in Belmar.
This winning combination proved to be very popular and “Kelly” stayed with the ride until fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Wally Dallenbach Sr. took over the seat in 1961.
In fact, Dallenbach and “Kelly” not only shared this ride but they also each drove Dick Barney’s famous Oldsmobile-powered 1936 Chevrolet coupes.
In 1960 and 1963, “Kelly” won the Old Bridge Modified title in the XL-1 and claimed it in 1965 in Barney’s red three-window No. 14. And “Gentleman Joe” and the XL-1 were the hot ticket in 1964 as they won the Wall Stadium Modified Championship, Wall’s 300-lap Garden State Classic and two 100-lap races at Old Bridge.
On August 23, 1964, “Kelly” drove the XL-1 to his most famous victory when he triumphed in a 200-mile NASCAR National Modified Race that featured 50 starters on the old one-mile Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. What made this popular racing achievement so extra-special was the fact that his right hand was in a cast as a result of it being broken two weeks earlier when a part off another car came into the cockpit and struck him.
In 1965, “Kelly” and Barney’s red No. 14 Chevrolet coupe won the last race that was ever run on the old Vineland Speedway oval when they took the checkered flag on Friday night July 30. And this combo also won a 100-lapper at the 5/8-mile track in Thompson, Connecticut.
As things happen, “Kelly” moved on to become more of a dirt-track racer and he drove the white and red No. 13 1936 Chevrolet coupe that was fielded by Jim Fodor at such old tracks as Flemington (N.J.) Speedway, Nazareth (Pa.) Raceway and Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds.
There is a sad ending to this story as “Kelly” was paralyzed at the age of 42 as a result of the severe injuries that he suffered on August 16, 1970, when a wheel came off his car and he crashed hard into the outside wall of Flemington’s fourth turn.
Never bitter about the accident that confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, “‘Gentleman’ Joe Kelly” died of a heart attack in December 1993 at the age of 66.