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Life of Jack "Speedy" Monaghan, former Checker Flag Raceway celebrated


by Sylene Argent

Photos submitted by Wendy Cunningham & Leanne Paquette.

In recognition of the one-year anniversary of Jack "Speedy" Monaghan's passing – and with many unable to attend his funeral due to the pandemic, members of the Sandwich South Historical Society hosted a celebration on Sunday to commemorate his life and the excitement that used to surround the former Checker Flag Raceway.

  And Monaghan was one of the fan favourite drivers, who often dominated competitions.

  Attendees were able to swap stories of their experiences at the former Checker Flag Raceway and share memories of Monaghan, while looking at displays set up at the Sandwich South Heritage Centre for the event.

  Checker Flag Raceway – a 3/8s of a mile oval track – was located at what is now the south-end of Lesperance Road, at County Road 42. It is now a subdivision. There is a park there that has a plaque, marking the track’s history.

  John Fahringer was associated with Checker Flag Raceway since the day it started in 1962; first as a spectator and racing fan, then, in its second year, as an owner of a race car with a partner who drove.

  He was pleased to share some of the raceway’s history at the event.

  Eventually, Fahringer got tied in with the Western Ontario Stock Car Racing Association, which primarily included drivers, pit crew members, and owners involved with race cars.

  This group was a big part of racing back then, Fahringer noted, because it basically controlled the races at the track, including what races were to take place and the duration.

  While being a part of the group, Fahringer went from being its Secretary in its third year of existence to being the President for two-years, upon which its membership grew to over 600 members.

  Credit for starting Checker Flag Raceways goes to Francis Pratt, Fahringer said. He had the property and wanted to start a go-kart track, but before he got that started, decided on developing a track for stock car racing. He took on two partners, Herman Modlinsky and Dennis Fauteaux. The trio ran it until 1962, then it was Fauteaux’s boys who ran it until 1974.

  In 1974, Fahringer, Monaghan, and Mark Kalbol bought the raceway, and converted the dirt track to asphalt. This trio operated the track until 1979. It was then sold and operated by others.

  Fahringer said he met Monaghan through racing, and the duo became good friends up until the time he passed away.

  “We had quite a time when Jack and I first bought it with the Township itself,” Fahringer recalled. “The neighbourhood didn’t like the idea of us becoming a dominant racetrack. They didn’t like the crowds that would come there or the dirt that would come from the track itself. Ultimately, we got it approved and went ahead with a major reconstruction in changing the track from dirt to asphalt. That was a lot of work.”

  At the same time, grandstands were added, which provided around an additional 1000 more seats to what was there initially.

  “It was quite an adventure to take on,” Fahringer said.

  “We would draw crowds of 3,000 to 4,000 on a two-nights-a-week basis,” he said, noting race nights took place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with rain dates on Sundays.

  Teams worked to acquire points at the races, which were gained in each class. “For a good many years, Jack Monaghan dominated racing there,” Fahringer commented. “Jack was an excellent driver and, I think, nine-years-in-a-row he won the Most Popular and won the points championship in most of those years.

  “He would start out with having a good car with a good pit crew,” Fahringer said of Monaghan’s recipe for success, adding his driving abilities rounded out his trifecta that often led to victory.  

  Monaghan raced outside of Windsor as well, going as far west as British Columbia and all the way to Nova Scotia and into the US.

  As a businessman, Monaghan was smart, Fahringer recalled, noting he also owned Hallmark Memorial as a family business. “Because of his popularity, he contributed to being able to open doors for us to be able to improve the quality of racing.”

  Having his hands in both parts of the business, as a driver and owner, Monaghan knew what the drivers themselves expected, and let their wishes known to his business partners, which helped everyone to get along.

  “It was a great experience for me being involved in it. I enjoyed it for the years I had it,” Fahringer said.

  The attraction of stock car racing in the area expanded dramatically once Checker Flag Raceway opened, Fahringer said. Prior, there were other tracks in the area.

  He recalls the old coupe cars that were used in the races, until around 1967, when late model cars were used. That caused fans to cheer for their favourite popular brand.

  “That was an interesting transition,” Fahringer noted, adding this brought in cars the fans drove. "They understood the cars and knew the cars."

  Checker Flag Raceway closed in 1992.

  Monaghan’s daughter, Leanne Paquette, said Sunday’s event was meaningful. 

The intimate and lovely event, she said, was a “Perfect closure to a week of remembrance, because it was the anniversary week.”

  In life, some people are fortunate to be good at, and have a natural affinity, for something. “And that was the case with him,” Paquette said of her dad as a race car driver. “From the time he was little, he and his brother were building go-karts and tinkering with that. He had a racing career that spanned over four-decades and it was a successful racing career.”

  Paquette noted her father also demonstrated a high-level of sportsmanship, and was respectful of the sport and fellow competitors.

  Going out to the Checker Flag Raceway as a child to watch her dad race was exciting, but also anxiety-provoking for Paquette, because she always worried about his safety.

  Monaghan, she said, loved his cars, riding motorcycles, his family, racing, and engaging with friends after races.