HOF Nominee - Johnny Gartner

Posted by John Gartner 8/9/2016 12:02:31 PM

Johnny Gartner, Bismarck, ND

Era:  Pioneer

Car #:  147

Class(es): “B”, “A” & Super Modified (early sprint cars)

Club Affiliation:  President, Stock Car, Inc.--1958

Toughest Competitors: Curly Werner, Andy Nikitenko, Lawrence Pfau


Johnny Gartner started what is now a three generation racing family in 1955 at the old Twin City Speedway. Friends convinced him that racing was safer than less than legal street hotrods of the time, and a new track was ready to go east of Bismarck.He started in a “B” car that was owned by Bob Anderson and took the then three digit Bob’s Body Shop phone number “147” as his number for his car. He moved up to the “A” division in 1956, driving for Ken Landers and sponsored by the new Big Boy Drive Inn owned by Harley McDowell.


Gartner’s best year was 1958 when his car was powered by a Corvette 283 V-8 with fuel injection that was the engine of choice for the day. He raced all over the state with great success in 1958-59 and developed a close friendship with fellow shoe repairman Andy Niktenko of Minot.


In 1960Gartner moved up to the Super Modified division with a car powered by an Oldsmobile fuel injected engine with the early Sprint car chassis that sported a wing on the roof. He was severely injured in a rollover at a race in Jamestown that convinced him that cars were evolving faster than safety.


Always the life of the party after the races, he became longtime friends with all of his competitors. He believed that sportsmanship and family were important to the sport.He also believed that giving back to the sport was important. His two young boys—John and Greg-- were often times seen sitting in his car after the races making car noises.  Gartner died at the young age of 46 in 1974. His many friends encouraged and helped his sons change from drag racing to stock car racing that same year.

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