(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about Blair County Sports Hall of Fame winners.)
An East Freedom native will become the first race car driver inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame.
John Lingenfelter was seriously injured at a National Hot Rod Association Summit Sports Compact drag racing event in Pomona, California in 2002 and died of those injuries in 2003 at the age of 58.
He will be inducted posthumously.
“John Lingenfelter will be remembered as one of the great pioneers, innovators, creators and drivers in the history of racing and not just drag racing”, said former NHRA event announcer and drag racing historian Bob Frey, who will be Lingenfelter’s presenter. “There was a saying when John showed up, everyone was racing for second place.”
Lingenfelter has established himself as one of the world’s most prolific drivers, engine builders and tuners in motorsport. It has won 15 NHRA events and twice finished second in the Pro Stock Truck standings.
Lingenfelter graduated from Central High School in 1963 and earned an associate’s degree in drafting and design technology from Penn State Altoona.
He started street racing in high school. His first car was a 1940 Ford. Eventually his desire to become a serious racer led him to his famous Super Stock ’69 Camaro convertible with which he won his first NHRA National event in 1972 at Indianapolis, the biggest event of drag racing.
Soon after, he became a full-time drag racer and enjoyed significant success in many classes of drag racing in both the National Hot Rod Association and the International Hot Rod Association.
As his career progressed he moved into more difficult competition categories such as Stock Eliminator, Super Stock, Competition Eliminator, Pro Modified and Sport Compact, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Truck.
Lingenfelter’s greatest moment came at the US Nationals in 1986. It was there that he would qualify number one atop the fastest Indy Comp field in history and then win the race.
It was also during this race that Lingenfelter ran a spectacular 6.962, which made him the first driver in Competition Eliminator history to take a gasoline-powered, carbureted car into the six-second zone, said Frey, who was the announcer for this race.
“He’s won the U.S. National Championships, which is like our Super Bowl, three times in our most competitive category,” Frey said. “Only three guys have won it more than once. He was as good as anyone who competed. On a personal level, it was a joy to be with him. To announce with a guy like that in it, he was a pleasure to watch. He was the nicest guy. John had a great personality. He was always smiling like Chesire’s cat.
While strictly based on speed, his greatest accomplishment was in 1989 when he took a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am he built the engine for and set out to go 298 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
His goal was to drive the first production sedan to reach 300 mph.
“He burned with an inner fire that could only be tamed through intense competition. When it came to high speeds, he was absolutely fearless,” wrote Csaba Csere, editor of Car and Driver magazine.
Fellow runners David Fiore from Altoona and Herb Kutz from Bellemead remember Lingenfelter well.
“John was a very nice guy” Fiore said. “He had a great personality and was very charismatic. He was a very intelligent man. He had a knack for finding the power, finding the right car to have an edge over the competition. The guys loved drag racing. If we needed help, we could choose his brain. He was always available to us and a friend to everyone. He was a larger than life guy. »
“When I entered the race, I met John, and he helped me a lot at the start,” said Kutz, who now lives in Laguna Niguel, Calif., and has worked at Royal Purple in the automotive aftermarket for more than 20 years. “He always thought of ways to make his car faster. He was more interested in making the fastest car, setting records. He always wanted to be the best. John was truly an innovator in the sport of drag racing.
To support his races, Lingenfelter founded Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, which is a globally recognized brand in the performance engineering industry.
The company offers engine building components, engine and chassis tuning and installation for vehicle owners, component product development, services to manufacturers, aftermarket and equipment suppliers. origin, prototypes and preparation of product development vehicles, end-of-life product performance upgrades, durability testing and vehicles for shows and media events.
Lingenfelter became well known for building engines.
“As an engine builder, there was no equal,” Frey said. “He was the best. He was excellent at everything he built. As a builder, there was no equal. John wrote the book on small-block engines.
Lingenfelter actually wrote a book “John Lingenfelter on Modifying Chevrolet Small-Block Engines,” in 1996.
“This book became the bible for anyone who wanted to build or improve a small block Chevrolet,” Frey said.
Lingenfelter has also published books and written numerous magazine articles sharing his wealth of knowledge.
His internal combustion engine expertise and intuitive sense for maximizing engine and vehicle performance led Lingenfelter Performance Engineering in the mid-1980s to develop improved fuel injection and engine performance packages for the Corvette, Firebird and Camaro.
Nearly 20 years after his passing, LPE continues to strive and excel in the automotive performance industry. Long-time company veterans have risen to the challenge and continue to exemplify Lingenfelter’s excellence in service, performance and ethics.
Lingenfelter is missed, but his influence and reputation will be cherished and remembered through his achievements in motorsport and the success of the company he founded, according to the company’s website.
Jason Haines, now a principal powertrain engineer for Nostrum Energy, had worked for LPE for nine years before Lingenfelter’s death.
“He was a very driven and focused person. He worked very hard and expected the same from others. Not afraid to get his hands dirty. No job is too small for anyone,” Haines said. “Driving a racing car was his passion but also his escape. When he was in racing mode, he didn’t have time to think about day-to-day work activities. He was a very competitive person. It was all a race or a competition – an official drag race or just a few of us on the track testing a car, he wanted to win and beat the other person or the team.
Lingenfelter was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame in 2006, and in 2019 the Indiana Racing Memorial Association unveiled a historic marker in northeast Indiana honoring him and his company.
“When you think of aftermarket Corvette performance tuning, one of the first names that comes to mind is John Lingenfelter. John was definitely an icon in motorsport and motor racing,” Corvette Hall of Fame spokeswoman Katie Ellison said.
Lingenfelter’s family is happy to see him inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame. He has two daughters and five grandchildren, and two of his sisters, Jayne Longenecker and Mary Ellen Claycomb, still live in Roaring Spring.
His brother, Charlie, who resides in Charlotte, will accept the award. Another brother, Jerry, died.
“It is an honor for John’s family, many of whom still live in Blair County, to see him recognized for his significant achievements in motorsport by the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame,” said Charles Lingenfelter. “It is also with great admiration that he joins over 100 of the most accomplished athletes and teams who have already been recognized for their significant achievements. It is very satisfying that John is one of the first motorsport athletes to be recognized. Our family is very grateful to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame.
Blair County Sports Hall of Fame
What: 19th Induction Banquet
When: Saturday, April 9, 2022
Where: Blair County Convention Center
Tickets: $95 each and $950 for a table of 10 thereafter. Call Kathy Millward at 814-312-4753 or email [email protected].
Individual inductees: John Hayes (football), *John Lingenfelter (motorsports), Eric Malone (jet ski), *Eddie Miller (basketball), Tawney Nardozza Schmitt (swimming). *Posthumous
Team Inductee: 1970 Bishop Guilfoyle Men’s Basketball Team
Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Roseborough
Guest Speaker: Doug Flutie