A real fan-favorite in Dirt-Track Modified Stock Car Racing for over 30 years, Sammy Beavers (DOB: June 2, 1940) won lots of races and was a frontrunner at two of the sport’s most demanding race tracks. But in addition to this the then Somerville/Whitehouse Station, New Jersey resident also devoted a good deal of time to making things better for some deserving kids.
Beavers began racing in 1958 at the old half-mile-dirt Nazareth (PA) Speedway in the Novice Division with the No. 94 1939 Ford coupe powered by a 1953 Mercury flathead engine that he and his cousin Harold built. Then after gaining some experience he joined the Sportsman ranks in a car fielded by Flemington, New Jersey, police officer Paul Popaduik. And with the Chevy-powered white No. 77A 1939 Ford coupe he won the 1961-1962 Flemington Speedway Sportsman title on the old half-mile dirt track (1917-1966) and was third in the 1962 NASCAR New Jersey State Sportsman Championship while only racing at the Hunterdon County oval.
Built like a linebacker but with a watchmaker’s touch, Beavers credits what he learned about being a top Modified driver from watching and competing against all-time Modified greats Al Tasnady, Frankie Schneider and Jackie McLaughlin. Then, while making headlines with his hard-but-clean racing style as he battled the likes of Stan Ploski, Billy Osmun and Mike Grbac, he became a role model and mentor for young racers coming up.
Those who saw Beavers race know he was a quick study in any car that he handled and his first Modified victory was the inaugural 25-lap feature race at the old half-mile-dirt Harmony (NJ) Speedway in Popaduik’s No. 77A Modified on June 7, 1963.
Then after a bit of seasoning he went on to drive such well-known machines as: Jim Fodor’s No. 13 1936 Chevrolet coupe; Joe Scarmadella’s No. 121 1936 Chevrolet sedans; Tom Grbac’s No. 7 1936 Chevrolet coupes; Ken Brenn’s No. 24 1937 Chevrolet coupe; Tony Sesley’s No. 16 AMC Gremlins; and, John Burnett’s No. 1 1936 Chevrolet sedan – all powered by 427-467-cubic-inch Big-Block Chevy engines equipped with eight-stacks of fuel-injection or a big 4-barrel carburetor. And he also had some time in Paul Deasey’s yellow No. 707 “Big Donkeys” – a Lincoln-powered 1936 Chevrolet coupe and a Boss 429 Ford-powered 1937 Chevrolet coupe.
But the unassuming racer with a ton of great stories is probably most associated with: Jim Horton’s No. 43s – a 1937 Chevrolet coupe and an AMC Gremlin (1968-1971); Horton’s No. 33 AMC Gremlin (1979) and radical/off-set No. 33 Cadillac Seville (1980); and, various black and gold No. 81s – a cut-down 1937 Ford coupe, a Ford Pinto and an AMC Gremlin fielded by Tony and John Norcia & George Schron (1975-1978) and a Norcia Brothers AMC Gremlin (1980-1981). And it was with these cars that he recorded 88 of his 107 Modified victories at two of Modified Stock Car Racing’s most famous dirt tracks – the old 5/8-mile Flemington Fair Speedway (49 wins) and the old half-mile East Windsor (NJ) Speedway (39 wins).
Beavers – who ran his own excavation company and in the early 1970s was a member of Flemington’s team in the old All Star Racing League – won four Modified titles and seven major extra-distance races. With the Horton No. 43 he was the 1971 Flemington Champion, the 1974 East Windsor Champion and the 1974 New Jersey State Champion, plus he won 100-lappers at Nazareth (1970) and Flemington (1971). While with the Norcia-Schron No. 81 he was the 1975 East Windsor Champion, plus he won the 1974 Southern Tier 100 at the quarter-mile Five Mile Point (NY) Speedway and two (1974 and 1976) Flemington 200s. And he won a pair of 100s with the Norcia Bros. No. 81 at Flemington and East Windsor in 1981.
In addition, he also had eight (1972, 1974-1978 and 1980-1981) Super DIRT Week starts at the old 1-mile New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse where he was the outside pole-sitter (33.302 seconds/108.433 mph) in 1980 in Tony Ferraiuolo’s purple and white No. 73 Chevy-powered AMC Gremlin and had a best finish of sixth on the “Moody Mile” in 1976 in the Norcia-Schron No. 81 AMC Gremlin. And his best run in the Eastern States 200 at the 5/8-mile Orange County (NY) Fair Speedway was fifth in 1981 with the Norcia-Schron No. 81.
Beavers also won 14 Modified races at Nazareth (six with Horton, three with Scarmadella and five with Norcia-Schron) and he did some URC Sprint Car racing in 1972. And he raced a bit in asphalt competition as he: drove the famous pink and white Don House XL-1 in the 1969-1970 Race of Champions at the old 1-mile Langhorne (PA) Speedway; competed in the 1970 200-mile NASCAR Modified race at the old 1.5-mile Trenton (NJ) International Speedway; and, was the 1992 Late Model Stock Car Champion on Flemington’s paved-over oval in Charlie Kingman’s blue No. 43.
The personable and well-liked Beavers – who now lives in Glen Gardner, New Jersey – won a total of 114 dirt-track events (including six Sportsman features) during his long and successful Stock Car Racing career (1958-1996). He even designed and built a “21st Century” Chevy-powered red No. 94 with which he had some success. And he has stayed involved with the sport for many years, either helping his son Ricky when he was racing or just watching and assisting other young drivers on their way up.
But Sammy Beavers was also a winner off the track as in 1975 he co-founded – with photographer John “Ace” Lane Jr. and writer Ken Kuhlman – an annual winter racing carnival and movie party that raised many thousands of dollars for the youngsters at the Matheny School for Cerebral Palsied Children in Peapack, New Jersey.