Dan Koonce
Car #63

 

Dan,
Attached is the only photo I have of my father, Dan Koonce, and his race car.† He raced at Playland in the mid- to late 60's but I don't know if this is a Playland photo.† He quit racing due to divorce and our subsequent move to Arkansas.† He was a little unusual as a driver as he had lost his left arm in a car accident (not race related) when he was about 19.† He was†nicknamed† "the one-armed bandit".† It would be helpful if someone could identify the year model of his car!† I believe it's a Ford.† He has passed on but I know Playland held some great memories for him.† I was just a little kid but I remember the thrill of seeing the Playland rides coming into sight and the noise and the smells of the track.† My dad mentioned several times that my mom tried her hand at racing too!
Patty Koonce

dankoonceracecar.jpg (46556 bytes)

From Have Hellerich: One thing I remember about Playland with the Plymouth was that even if you ran dead last all night, Abe Slusky always paid everybody something for just being there. Some of the racers that I had the privilege to compete with there were Bud Burdick, Don Ronk, Bob Kosiski, Bob Cave, John Beeman, Kurt Lind, Jim Wyman and so many more that the list is endless. There was a one armed fellow that drove a 47 Ford coupe( donít recall his name) one night he lost a wheel and it flew into the pit area striking a gentleman by the name of Ernie Matz, breaking his leg. He recovered and ended up building and maintaining a 32 Plymouth coupe that was later driven by Bob Kosiski.

From: Dave Hellerich
To: dan <playland@excite.com>
Subject: Story about Dan Koonce


As my memory of Playland years, fades in and out, I happened to read the post by Patty Koonce, about her father Dan. It jarred a cell loose, and the vivid story of my relationship with him. Only really knew him from the nights at the track, but he seemed like a likeable fellow and a desire to show all, that he could drive a stock car despite his so called handicap.

Sometimes a few of the other drivers, thought he should not race because of the possible danger to himself and others. He did a very good job most of the time, there were a few incidents he got in trouble, spin out, crash, etc. But that happened just as often with the rest of us too, in those days. When I took ole #23 to Grandview on a summer afternoon, was hit broadside very hard and broke the left front spindle. Being we towed on a tow bar, had no way to get it home to 35th and Center, in Omaha. Dan was there with his wrecker (did towing and salvage car work at that time). He asked if I needed help and towed the Plymouth to it's home, at no charge.

We kind of bonded after that, in the way fellow racers did back then. Sometime later, at Playland, my car was broken or wrecked?? Dan showed up with his Ford coupe #63, and asked if I would drive it for him. His good arm was very sore from working all day and he just did not want to risk getting himself or someone else in a bad situation. Of course I said yes and took the Ford out for warm up's, this car had a flathead engine and ran pretty good. The main thing I remember about the car, was it had a steering wheel on top of a steering wheel. This was to give Dan a better grip with his hand and arm. He had incredible strength in that arm, from continued use, in his job.

I don't remember the exact details of my race results, other than the fact that I could push the car a bit harder into the corner with two hands, and it seemed to handle fairly well. I think I did make the feature, and placed somewhere in the money that night. The engine was sounding a bit noisy, and afterwards, while Dan loaded it on his trailer, some rod bearings gave out, and the engine was toast. I felt bad about it, because I felt I had pushed it too hard and caused the problem. Dan was always pretty upbeat, and told me not to worry about it, he could fix it. Wish I could remember the outcome of that, might have been the last time, or close to it, that the car was raced? Don't even remember what year it was, but I think I went to Vietnam, not long after that(1968),



 

 

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