Keller’s second win is first for Jaguar

Sunday, June 13, 1954 – Al Keller’s second and final win in the NASCAR premier series was a first for a foreign manufacturer as the New York native piloted a Jaguar to the victory at Linden (N.J.) Airport. Joe Eubanks (Hudson) finished second and was the only other driver on the lead lap. It was the second NASCAR event to allow foreign-made cars.

Keller made just 29 starts in NASCAR, eventually working his way into open-wheel competition. His first victory on the stock-car circuit had come months earlier, at Oglethorpe Speedway in Savannah, Ga. He drove a ’54 Hudson to the win in that race.

Foreign-built cars had also competed in 1953 at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway; Dick Allwine’s sixth-place finish in a Jaguar was tops for a foreign entry until Keller’s win.

The 50-lap race, which took place on a 2-mile layout, is considered NASCAR’s first contested on a road course.

Attendance was listed at 5,000 for the first and only race to be held at the airport venue.

Keller’s car was owned by prominent big band leader Paul Whiteman. Junior Johnson (’54, 55) and Gwyn Staley (’54) also made starts in Whiteman-owned entries.

Twenty-one of the 43 cars in the starting lineup were foreign-built: 12 Jaguars, two Austin Healeys, five MGs, one Porsche and one Morgan.

Keller competed for several seasons in open wheel and made six starts in the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of fifth in 1961.

Keller was 41 when he died from injuries sustained in a crash during the Bobby Ball Memorial race in November of ’61 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Ariz.

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