By ED & BETTY BIITIG
Along with the great racing we saw, one of the best things about being at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals in February is not just the weather, that can be unpredictable, it’s seeing all the people we’ve met in racing over the years. Florida Speedweeks brings fans from all over the country.
One of the first people we ran into was Sportsman driver, Dave Rosa, who raced at Afton on Friday nights. Rosa is unsure that will be the case this season due to Afton Raceway changing their night of racing to Saturday. Dave said, “I like racing on Friday so I think I’m going to Penn Can.” Penn Can is just over the border in Pennsylvania and races on Friday nights and pays well, according to Rosa.
We also met Danny Ballard at the same time and his plans for 2023 are to put his grandson in a Slingshot at Glen Ridge. Ballard said he still has a car so whether he will race in 2023 is still up in the air.
Brian Berger recently retired from his job and now says, after 32 years of weekly racing, he is semi-retired from racing and will pick and choose where and when he will race. He was in Florida for the DIRTcar Nationals and having fun although a bit disappointed when we spoke to him prior to the final night of racing.
Jim King, his brother, Todd and Howard Potter were also roaming around the pit area and happy to be part of the Northeast reunion of racing veterans that popped up. Potter attended Fonda as a kid with his father and remembers being in the stands when Pete Corey lost his leg. King’s father was a long time car owner at Fonda. Jim started out as a photographer at Fonda before being tapped for the announcing duties when the regular announcer didn’t show up. And his brother Todd was one of the first members of the “River Club” at the track.
CG Morey can be called “reliable” when it comes to the SDS and when we saw him this past week he said he was very appreciative of the recognition given him at the DIRTcar banquet for that reliability. He follows the series faithfully each season.
As we continued our trip around the pit area at Volusia we were reminded that racing has undergone many changes since we began our journey as writers and that’s a good thing. We believe the future is in good hands.
We met two young Sportsman drivers from New York, Derrick McGrew, Jr., and Fire Swamp. We knew Derrick because he races in our area and we had seen Fire Swamp race at Fonda last season when he was waiting for his home track of Mohawk International to open in late May. McGrew, Jr., has been racing for a few years now and we asked him what he thought could be done to get the young fans in the stands. He said, more promotion on social media and at schools with driver appearances and free passes to events.
Fire said he started racing about three years ago after working at Mohawk as a flagger for one year and realizing that the guys behind the wheel of the race cars were having all the fun. He bought his first car at 14 years old and has been racing ever since. Fire comes from a racing family: his Uncle Casey Swamp is a racer, his grandfather, Joe Cook was a racer and his other grandfather, Dennis White was once the promoter at Mohawk. This past weekend he was helping on the Demetrios Drellos car and watching, listening and gaining knowledge.
When we went to the stands we found two more young men that will be part of the future and the changing face of racing, young flaggers, Lucas from South Plainfield, NJ and Aiden from St. Thomas, Pennsylvania. Both were eagerly watching flagger Dave Farney and working the flags like pros. We remember Joe Kriss as a young flagger in the stands at Fonda and now he’s the head starter at Fonda, Utica-Rome and on the STSS.
On the final day of the DIRTcar Nationals we came across a birthday celebration at the Drellos pit area. Paxton, the son of Demetrios and Lexie, was celebrating his second birthday with his new best friends, Audrey and Amelia Wight, daughters of Larry and Brooke. So while the fathers were out on the track competing the kids were in the pits enjoying themselves. They enjoyed a chocolate cake, with a candle, served on a table made from tires and a kneeling pad covered with a celebratory table cloth and all the birthday trimmings.
So for all of those who may like to complain about what’s going on in racing today and that racing is not what it used to be. You’re right, it’s on a new path forged by a new generation and we want to enjoy the ride while we are still able.
BD Motorsports Media LLC owner Brett Deyo “made it official” with NASCAR’s Brett Tisdale, Senior Manager Weekly Racing Operations, during a NASCAR Home Tracks meeting at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., last Wednesday. The four historic dirt tracks that Deyo will promote in 2023 will be racing under the NASCAR banner for the 75th anniversary season of the iconic auto racing organization.
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