Remembering Red Rinehart by Stan Kalwasinski

Remembering Red Rinehart

Hammond, Ind. – Former area stock car racer and race official, Frederick “Red” Rinehart passed away on January 30 at the age of 89.

Rinehart, who for many years owned an auto body repair shop (R&R Auto Body) in Hammond, was part of the racing scene at the now-closed Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, where he both competed and officiated as the track’s pit steward. 

Racing out of Hammond, Rinehart was the 10th ranking driver at Illiana in late model stock car action in 1963 and won several feature races on the half-mile paved oval the following year (1964).  Ending his driving career, Rinehart fielded a late model car as a car owner for a year or two.  Soon after, Rinehart began handling the pit area duties for Illiana owner, Harry Molenaar, a position that Rinehart held till about 1978.

When late model stock car racing was introduced at Raceway Park in Blue Island, Ill., in 1957, Rinehart was among the competitors, battling the likes of Bud Koehler, Bill Van Allen, Tom Pistone, Bill Cornwall, Bill Brown and others.  Rinehart, wheeling a 1957 Plymouth convertible, scored one feature win during the ’57 season and was among the top drivers in point standings in mid-August.  A two-week stint with the Army Reserves in August put a tamper on Rinehart’s racing but he still finished eighth in the final standings.

The Plymouth was formerly driven by Rinehart’s brother-in-law, Don Oldenberg, who competed in both local and NASCAR competition, dating back to the early 1950s.  Oldenberg was a factory-backed driver for Plymouth in the early part of 1957 in NASCAR’s convertible division. 

Earlier in his career, Rinehart travelled through Indiana and Ohio, competing at tracks like Indiana’s Lafayette Speedway and the Cincinnati Race Bowl in Ohio, wheeling a 1954 Buick in 1955 and competing against drivers such as Jack Farris, Jack Shanklin, Andy Hampton, Bobby Hunter and others.

During the 1955 season, Rinehart competed in several SAFE “Circuit of Champions” events.  SAFE stood for the Society of Autosport, Fellowship and Education with Oldenberg being the champion for the ’55 campaign for the all-convertible stock car circuit that included races from New York to Texas and Canada.    

Rinehart is survived by his three daughters, Kathy, Carol and Karen and their families.  Rinehart’s wife of 63 years, Yvonne, passed away on July 5, 2018.  The Rineharts had been living in Monticello, Ind., and were the former owners of the Lakeside Resort there.

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, February 5, at White Funeral Home, 921 W. 45th Ave., Griffith, Ind.  Friends may meet with the family on Monday, February 4, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm at White Funeral Home.

RIP, Red.

Red Rinehart carries the checkered flag after scoring a win in his 1957 Plymouth convertible (89) at Chicagoland’s Raceway Park in 1957.  (Rinehart Family Photo

Red Rinehart won a number of races in his fast 1957 Ford (91) during the 1963 season at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind.  (John Lutzo Photo)

Red Rinehart always didn’t have the best of luck at Illiana in 1963 as this photo of his Ford (91) in the fence proves. (John Lutzo Photo)

Red Rinehart (left) poses in victory circle after winning a feature race at Illiana in 1963.  (Rinehart Family Photo)

Officiating at Illiana since the late 1960s, Red Rinehart (center) poses with driver Rich Sundling (left) and assistant starter Bob Adams before a racing program in May of 1973.  (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)