GEORGE WINGER & JACK MUNN
"The Panther and the Duke"
George Winger was one of those
individuals who also raced stock cars at merrittville
Speedway in the early years. A very quiet cigar smoking
individual who also let his driving do the talking. George
was there when Merrittville was built and he also worked for
many years at Ed McPherson Construction in St. Catharines.
George always had good equipment, going back to Bill
Willard's #21 Ford coupe, or later on hismost memorable ride
Jack Munn's #18 Chevrolet coupe, gold coloured with the
panther on its side.
During the 1959 season, George won many
features with the gold #18 coupe, but one of the most
memorable had to be the closing evening in 1959. If I can
quote an article from the St. Catharines Standard, it
stated: "A record crowd of 4,327 race fans contributed to
the drivers share of the purse, $1,705.00 was an all time
record for Merrittville Speedway." George Winger had already
clinched the stock car points championsip, since he had
already won a record 10 feature races, surpassing the later
Jerry Winger's record of 8 wins, by 2 in 1957.
Co-incidentally, by winning the 50 lap fall championship
feature, George became the first recipient of the Jerry
Winger Memorial Trophy an honour he would never forget,
since Jerry had only passed away six weeks ago, and the
trophy was purchased by Jerry Winger's pit crew in his
An idea of how the race wnet, it was not
a cake walk, although he won by half a lap. He had to duel
with long time friend and competitor Cam Cagliardi of
Lockport New York. He took the lead from the Lazy 8 on lap
18, but had to use a "heavy foot" to maintain his lead over
the next 32 laps. Third place went to Ken Meahl of Lockport
Gagliardi and Winger were friends in the
pits and both could be seen in the pits smoking their cigars
and working on their cars. The antics of practical jokes
flourished with exploding cigars being exchanged between the
two. While George was the successful pilot behind Jack
Munn's #18 Panther coupe, it was Jack Munn who wore many
hats at the Speedway.
Jack Munn was a successful construction
company owner in St. Catharines who loved the new sport of
stock car racing. Jack was the man who became Merrittville's
Race Director and later Speedway Park's as well, who kept
the drivers organized in the pits under the N.A.R.A. banner.
During 1959 and 1960, Munn's attention was also as that of a
championship car owner. In fact, it was at this time as a
youngster that I got my first ride in a stock car.
I will never forget sitting on the floor
board of the gold #18 Chev coupe riding around
Merrittville's 1/4 mile oval with George Winger. Most
drivers had nicknames emblazoned above their windshields, in
George's case, it was "The Duke". So here I was riding with
the Duke and the Panther. In 1959 the gold coupe was almost
unbeatable, and 1960 was no different.
With a crew made up of Jack Munn, Norphy
Rosetto, and Junior High, they were a potent combination.
After George retired as a driver, Jack Munn continued his
duties as N.A.R.A. race director both at Merrittville
Speedway and Speedway Park until 1970. Jack also continued
to be involved in his hobby building and flying radio
control model airplanes, all over the world in competitions.
George re-appeared at Merrittville
Speedway in the early 1970's driving the Toyota Pace Car
supplied by Dominey's Toyota of St. Catharines. A couple of
years ago, George was inducted on to the Wall of Fame and
was also interviewed for Rogers Cable. Today, George's
health is failing, and I know the wishes of the racing
community are with him. If I can say one thing to you
George, it is to say "Thanks" from a little kid in 1960 of 7
years old, who will never forget his first ride with "The
Duke" in the #18 Panther. Sincerely, Rick Kavanagh