Irish Jack Murphy crosses his final finish line

— Before I even started kindergarten, my family lived in Liverpool on Salina Street in an upstairs apartment rented by Mary Landers and squeezed between two thriving businesses, Steve’s tavern to the north and Irish Jack Murphy’s auto repair shop to the south.

Jack was a master mechanic, but I knew, even as a 5-year-old, that he was much more than that. Jack was a champion race-car driver!

On May 2 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Jack crossed his final finish line. He was 85 years old.

Six Laps for Jack

Whether he was steering modifieds or supermodifieds, Jack’s cars were easy to spot. They were painted green and white and decorated with a shamrock on both sides. He always ran the number 6.

I remember him endlessly tuning up his iconic Shamrock 6 at his two-bay garage there on Salina Street. He must’ve turned that wrench the right way because he won the inaugural International Classic at Oswego Speedway in 1957. At the time, Jack was already a star in the Port City where he had excelled ever since it opened as a dirt track in 1951.

As a tribute to Murphy’s life and legacy, Oswego Speedway added “6-Laps for Jack” to its May 4 ‘Steel Palace’ SuperSeries opener, increasing the distance from 50 to 56-laps.

Murphy’s racing career actually began in 1949 when he returned from the service and teamed up with Fred Sass to build a sportsman stock car to compete at Brewerton and Lafayette tracks. During the 1951 and ’52 racing seasons Jack dominated on the dirt in Oswego, and in 1952 he captured the track points’ title.

Throughout the 1950s Shamrock 6 was a fixture at Brewerton, Canandaigua, Dryden, Oswego and the Monroe County Fairgrounds racetracks. Jack was proud of setting a world’s record for fastest time in Trenton, New Jersey. He took the checkered flag first in the annual New York State Fairgrounds Labor Day Championship in 1959 and then again as a last hurrah in 1970.

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