Jr. Hanley

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What I have written here is but a small snapshot of Jr. Hanley’s accomplishments during his 40 plus year driving career. Jr. has raced at countless tracks all over North America and has won hundreds of races.

He has been described by many as ‘the total package; driver, builder and innovator and a master at aerodynamics. Talented and a creative superb craftsman, smart business man and one of the best full-time short track racers ever.’ To this day he is still well known and respected throughout the racing world in Canada and the US.

It was in 1961 when Jr. Hanley began his racing career in his native Nova Scotia. He started off by doing some drag racing and dirt racing before he focused on paved oval tracks.

It didn’t take long for Jr. to become a perennial winner in the Maritimes and was a threat to win at any track he chose to race at.

Jr. won track championships at Dartmouth International Speedway and Riverglade International Speedway. He was winning races in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. In 1971 Jr. won the Maritime Provinces Championship.

During this time Don Biederman was making annual trips to the Maritimes and soon became friends with Jr. At Don’s urging he convinced Jr. to move to Ontario in where he could race more often and easily make trips to nearby tracks in the US.

Jr Hanley in his STA-POWER Cammaro in 1975.
Jr Hanley in his STA-POWER Cammaro in 1975.

The spring of 1973 brought Jr. to Don’s race shop in Oakville Ontario with only a pick-up truck, trailer and his race car. That was all he had for equipment but it became the start of the next phase of Jr.’s career that would take him to the pinnacle of short track racing in North America.

Racing multiple times a week quickly became the norm and success came early. Victories started to happen at local tracks such as: Pinecrest, Flamboro, Peterborough, Cayuga, Delaware, Speedway Park, Sunset, Sauble Beach, Checker Flag etc. It didn’t take long for him to start venturing out to tracks in neighbouring US states and began to win there as well.

After a couple of years, the friendship between Don and Jr. started to fall apart and one of the greatest rivalries in Canadian racing began. Many fans enjoyed watching the two of them going head to head where ever they raced. They were both fierce competitors and neither one of them would settle for second place.

The Dual of The Decade’ at Delaware Speedway in 1979 became the benchmark of their on-track exploits. It consisted of 3, 10 lap races, between the two of them at Delaware Speedway in London Ontario. The stands were packed and when the dust settled Jr. had won the ‘Dual of The Decade’

He became known as ‘Mr. Excitement’ by running flat out in every race. As time went on, he began to realize that by pacing himself during longer races he could win more. Like fine wine he became better with age, much to the chagrin of his competitors!

By the early 80’s Jr.’s name was becoming well known among the racing fraternity. He was setting track records and adding many feature wins to his resume. He was fast becoming one of the most dreaded short track racers in North America and also highly respected by his competitors.

He would continue to race as many times a week as possible. As an example, it was not unusual for Jr. to race on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday nights, and then off to Mount Clemens Speedway in Michigan Sunday afternoon, load up and drive to Sharon or Toledo Ohio for a Sunday evening show! All night drives to tracks were a common occurrence for Jr. and his crew.

The 1980 season was unbelievable in the fact that he raced in 61 features and won 45 of them!

As he began to race more and win, other competitors took notice and Jr. began to build cars for them. His first shop was a small garage behind a swimming pool business in Oakville. Within a few years he bought a building on Wallace Rd in Oakville and in 1977 started Hanley Racing Enterprises. It quickly became the shop of choice for many prominent racers of the day.

He built the fastest and winningest cars for all his customers whether or not they were perennial winners or up and coming racers. Every customer got treated the same way, he built cars that could win anywhere for them. It was not unusual to see his cars either winning or being at the top of the finishing order at many tracks.

Jr. doesn’t have any hobbies or other interests. For all of his adult life Jr. has been totally dedicated and 100% focused on racing. At the track, even today, he is all business, quiet but always thinking and observing. He eats lives and breathes racing every day.

Fifteen plus hours a day, 7 days-a-week, working year-round ensured his success on and off the track. Because he became so successful there were always rumblings that to win that often he must be cheating.

Jr. has been described as ‘one of the sports’ all-time great backyard aerodynamicsist and loophole locator. He is a master at building cars that take every advantage of what is in the rule-book. No cheating, just building to the fullest extent that the rules would allow.

There is no one who pays more attention to detail than Jr. He put in the enormous number of hours in the shop so when he unloaded at a track, he was competitive, and more than capable of winning. That is why he is one of the sport’s all-time greats!

With the help of long-time employees Lloyd Heath and John Fletcher Sr. and other part time help, Hanley Enterprises produced hundreds of cars from rolling chassis to complete ‘turn key’ race cars.

The other side of Hanley Enterprises was repairing wrecked customers cars. Damaged cars would be dropped off on Monday and would be repaired before the next weekend. Whatever it took to complete the repairs, long hours and even working all night, to get the job done.

The success of his chassis building business can be attributed to the fact that he built fast, safe and quality cars and by paying special attention to the fine details.

Jr. also raced what he built so he could relate to the needs of his customers by knowing what a car would do and by advising drivers on setups and driving tips. There were a few times that a customer would beat Jr. on the track but, although he didn’t like to lose, it was good for business because it showed that he didn’t have a ‘trick’ car just for himself.

Jr. had become one of the premier and sought-after car builders in North America. His list of short track cars supplied to notable drivers such as: Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Bill Elliot, Darrell Waltrip, Gary Balough, Freddy Friar, and many others is impressive!

Alan Kulwicki and Mark Martin would also spend time at Jr’s Oakville shop during the off season to help with their cars.

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