Jack Donohue wasn’t successful in his five Sprint Cup Series starts from 1974 – 76, finishing no better than 19th twice.
But the native of Nobleton, Ontario, Canada, who now lives in Fletcher, North Carolina, has found success in one field – making a farm tractor go faster than God intended.
Donohue, 81, has surpassed a land speed record that had previously stood since 1935. At a land strip in Wilmington, Ohio, the former racer made a modified 1952 Ford tractor go 96 mph.
“It really is not that difficult to drive, but you do have to stay up on the [steering] wheel,” Donohue told CNBC. “It can be twitchy, especially if you get any side winds, but it is that way with any race car.”
The previous record of 67 mph was set by David Abbott “Ab” Jenkins at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
How did Donohue turn the tractor into a force to be reckoned with on anyone’s farm?
He replaced the engine with a flathead eight-cylinder engine, the kind that was available as an option on Ford 8N tractors in the ’50s. Donohue’s shop changed the gearing and other alterations that doubled the engine’s horsepower to around 200.
Donohue now plans to take the tractor to the Salt Flats and other land speed events. He also has a stock car in the works that will be used to try to break more records.
“The stock cars at Bonneville, off-the-trailer, probably run anywhere from 200 to 230 miles an hour,” Donohue said. “And we feel the car we have will do 250 plus. So that will give us a record with a stock car. Of course the goal is 300 mph. We don’t know if we’ll get that far, but we’ll try — 300 with a stock car would be pretty neat.”