'62 Thunder Road winner was National Modified Champion
CRANBERRY ISLES, Me. -- Modified racing legend Ernie Gahan passed away at his Maine home on Thursday night at the age of 83. Gahan was the 1966 NASCAR National Modified Champion.
Among the many honors bestowed upon Gahan, who began racing in 1948 at a track in his home town of Dover, N.H., were inductions into several Halls of Fame; he was part of the inaugural class of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, and is also a member of the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame, the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Beech Ridge (Me.) Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.
Gahan's 300-plus feature victories included a Triple Crown effort at Barre's Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl on July 19, 1962; he was a frequent competitor there and at the former Catamount Stadium in Milton in the 1960s. Gahan made 11 starts in the NASCAR Grand National (Sprint Cup) Series from 1960-66, and was given the Buddy Shuman Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR after helping DeWayne "Tiny" Lund rescue driver Marvin Panch from a fiery crash at Daytona Int'l Speedway in 1963.
Gahan's last competitive start with a NASCAR touring series came in 1987 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway in a Whelen Modified Tour event, finishing 20th with his famous number-50. His son, Bobby, has amassed 15 championships and nearly 400 feature wins in a 40-year career in and around sourthern New Hampshire.
"Ernie was part of the Modified legacy that has helped make NASCAR what it is today. He was a great racer and true New England legend," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications. "On behalf of NASCAR and the France family, our thoughts and prayers go out to Gahan's family and friends."
Services for Gahan will be held Wednesday at Purdy Memorial Chapel, 2 Concord Rd., Durham, N.H. The wake will be from 12-2 pm, followed by the funeral service.
(Photo credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)