By: Ron Szczerba
FONDA, NY – On Sunday May 15, the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) inducted seven people into their Hall of Fame including JoAnn Flanigan, Gene Cole, Randy Ross, Roger Treichler, John P. Flach, John C. Flach, and Brett Hearn. The induction ceremonies were held at the Fonda Speedway Museum & Hall of Fame for the first time after many years of being held at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. Dan Martin was the emcee for the event.
“This is something that we haven’t been able to do for a couple years due to the Covid pandemic pause that we had,” Martin said to the crowd. “It is a treat to be at such a historic place like the Fonda Speedway Museum & Hall of Fame with some of the memories that it brings back from years ago.”
On hand at the ceremonies were current NYSSCA Hall of Famers Nick Ronca along with Marty & Hertha Beberwyk.
NYSSCA President Rick Hodge addressed the crowd saying “I’d like to welcome you all to the Fonda Speedway Museum & Hall of Fame. Good friend John Keegan got me involved in NYSSCA and along with being the new NYSSCA President I am also a track rep at the Utica Rome Speedway. I’d like to introduce and congratulate our 2021 Hall of Fame inductees JoAnn Flanigan, Gene Cole, Randy Ross, Roger Treichler, John P. Flach, John C. Flach, and Brett Hearn.”
Martin then thanked Boomer’s Performance and the Bedell Family for the support of the NYSSCA Hall of Fame over the years. “Brian Bedell is on hand with us today and he along with Boomer’s Performance have been responsible for the NYSSCA Hall of Fame Plaques, jackets, and hats and have been supportive of racing for generations,” Martin said.
Special awards that are normally handed out at the NYSSCA banquet or Hall of Fame ceremony that haven’t been handed out in a couple of years started the program with two very special Dedication to Racing Awards going to Jamie & Denise Page and Jay Johnson.
Jamie Page was a former racer before he and his wife Denise became the promoters of the I-88 Speedway from 2010 to 2016. During that time, they partnered with Brett Deyo to host the Short Track Super Nationals starting in October of 2014. That event remains at Afton to this day. Jamie and Denise joined BD Motorsports Media LLC in 2019 when the team took over the Fonda Speedway and in 2021, they stepped up to take a similar role at the Utica Rome Speedway. Jamie started full time for BD Motorsports Media LLC this past April.
Jay Johnson has been a NYSSCA member since 2001 when he won the Outstanding Performance Award for the Four Cylinder division at Afton. He started helping out at Afton as a track rep in 2003 and has been the lead rep there since 2018 and really steps up when it comes to getting people to sign up for NYSSCA. On a side note, he has worn all of the hats in racing as crew, car owner, driver, and sponsor. He was a well-known car builder in the Four Cylinder division, building many winning cars in the division. In the past he has been connected to drivers Tim McCreadie, Stewart Friesen, Paul Jensen, Mitch Gibbs, Alan Barker, and Bobby Varin along with drivers in many other divisions.
NYSSCA put a group of very special people, a group that has a bit of a variety to it including an officer and a member, a gentleman who was a championship car owner, another that wore many hats as an owner/sponsor, track operator and owner, and a list of drivers to induct today, truly an all-star Hall of Fame cast.
“Starting out with a very good friend of mine, JoAnn was a dedicated member of the NYSSCA team,” Martin said as he inducted JoAnn Flanigan. “She came on board when NYSSCA was kind of flailing, there weren’t a whole lot of members going to the meetings, and they didn’t have great attendance. NYSSCA put together a group that brought the life back into NYSSCA under the tutelage of former President Bill Willman who made a team around him that really put a spark back into the organization.”
JoAnn took on the role of treasurer which she held for 28 years, and she also took on the role of chairperson of the NYSSCA banquet along side her good friend Gail Riley. JoAnn also served as a track rep at many different tracks and served on the committee for the former NYSSCA Golf Tournament and the Motoracing Mania Car Show.
“When you look at the accomplishments this person had it won’t show up as statistics, or feature wins, they won’t show up as how many features she qualified for, but she is known by all of our members as one of the most dedicated NYSSCA members ever,” Martin said.
“I have met so many wonderful people through the years, you get involved with a racing family and you have a new family,” Flanigan said. “So many people, John Keegan, Jay Johnson, Hertha and Marty Beberwyk, it is a family that I belong to, and I really enjoyed it.”
Gene Cole’s son Tom inducted him into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame saying: “My father was a little wild as a child, a little heavy on the right foot,” Tom Cole told the crowd. “One night one of the local cops showed up at his stepfathers shop and said you have to do something about your son going a little fast around town, maybe get him a stock car.”
It wasn’t too much later that Gene got an old coupe and started putting a race car together so that was where the racing started right there. After Gene got back from the service, he started driving for Willy Wust from Edmeston, NY. back in the day when they had $15 to win feature events. They also had a $25 bounty on Gene if someone could beat him as he was undefeated back in the days of Brookfield, Columbia Center, and Morris, the old horse tracks.
After his stock car racing days, he bounced around the insurance world, but he stayed involved in local racing sponsoring Paul Jensen in the Gates-Cole Insurance Special. If there was a fifth or sixth place car on the track and then the next week that driver ran up front it was because Gene had given that driver a motor.
“My father had like five or six motors at one point, but he always told me that if your mom knew about it, we would be in trouble, so I had to keep that quiet,” Tom Cole said during his induction speech.
Gene sold one of the most deeply footprinted insurance agencies in the country to Tom and his brother, bought the Utica Rome Speedway in 2002, and took it to another level. He bought the track from the late Erik Kingsley who taught Gene how to prepare the racetrack so that the drivers would be happy with it. It was always about the drivers for Gene Cole. He always built a team around him, and they made him look successful.
Some former employees of Gene’s that were mentioned by Tom in his speech were Doug Zupan, Connie Chandler, Dick Sweet, Barb Clark, Brenda Belden, and John Tiff along with all of the other “team” members that worked for Gene including bathroom attendants and grader operators. Many of those people were on hand at the Hall of Fame ceremony showing the respect that they had for Gene Cole.
It didn’t matter to Gene Cole what banner he was running under at Utica Rome whether it be DIRT, NASCAR, or as a complete Outlaw, he didn’t really care. He put up a purse and did what he had to do. “My father was a driver at heart, and the number one fan of stock car racing,” Tom Cole said. “He was one of the few guys who went from driver to promoting and managing a business and the revenue in order to turn a profit.”
“In 2002 or 2003 a brat showed up in the tower at Utica Rome, a writer for one of the racing rags that was like the bible to local racing back in the day and still to this day,” Tom Cole added. “That was Brett Deyo. He has a love of the sport and the ability to get the job done. We look forward to the years coming up at the Utica Rome Speedway, it is in good hands.”
When asked what some of his favorite memories from the past in racing were Gene responded, “All of them.” “I had a lot of experience hiring people in the insurance world and it carried on to the racing world. Hiring dedicated people to get the job done was the key to my success.”
“If you had the good fortune of getting to hang around, getting to know car owner Randy Ross you knew that you had met one of the most unique individuals you will ever meet,” Robin Yasinsac-Gillespie said as she inducted Randy Ross.
Ross’s interest in racing started at age eleven when he attended the Albany Saratoga Speedway and that was all that it took. Ross started to hang out at neighbor Billy Webb’s race car garage and then became a part of Kenny Coon’s bountiful but short career at Lebanon Valley. Next for Ross he became friends with the late Bryan Goewey and Rick Beckman, a friendship that would last for decades.
They race chased all over the Northeast, not coming home until they had no money left in their pockets. The Ross/Goewey/Beckman trio ended up on Dave Leckonby’s race team before Ross and Goewey decided to become co-owners of a car with Goewey doing the steering. Together they had success at Syracuse during Super DIRT Week winning the non-qualifiers race in 1988 along with the Rookie of the Race after placing fifth in the big event.
Business commitments took Goewey back to reality with Ross going on to put Matt Quinn, Bobby Wilkins, and Kenny Brightbill in his race car. But the best was yet to come. Ross and driver Billy Decker, who was getting a lot of attention at the time, united in 1995. It was a nine-year marriage that produced 70 wins, seven track championships, the overall Mr. DIRT title, the Super DIRT Series championship, three Super DIRT Week Modified victories, the 358-Modified championship at the mile, and an Eastern States 200 win.
When Decker and crew chief Scott Jeffries went on to John White’s team in 2003, Ross put Matt Sheppard in his car. Together Ross and Sheppard won 31 events at nine different speedways. “Ross’ only regret was that when he had Sheppard in his car that the economy wasn’t doing well, and the funds just weren’t there to support the family-owned Adam Ross Cut Stone Racing efforts like it did back in the Decker days,” Yasinsac-Gillespie said.
Ross retired from the sport in 2008, the hardest part of it selling his prize possession the familiar yellow toter home that became a normal sighting going up and down the New York State Thruway on weekends. Since then, it has been a struggle for Ross with health issues and the loss of many close personal friends and family, but at age 62 he has mellowed out and is currently trying to turn it all around.
“You are a character Randy, you added a lot of history to this sport, and you should be very proud of your accomplishments including 130 career feature wins, which is pretty impressive,” Yasinsac-Gillespie said.
“That is what it is all about, having fun, and that’s one thing that we always did we had fun,” Ross said. “It is definitely an honor to be inducted into this Hall of Fame with old friends Marcia Wetmore, Kenny Brightbill, legends like Jack Johnson. I don’t know if I belong here, but I am honored to be here.”
“It is definitely all about a team, I learned a long time ago to appreciate the people who were helping you most of them weren’t paid people,” Ross continued saying.
“It was tough finding a lot of info on him, they just didn’t keep track of a lot of the facts, figures, and statistics like they do now,” Martin said as he inducted Roger Treichler. “But there was enough to prove why he belongs here in the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.”
Roger Treichler was known as the “Flying Florist” from Sanborn, NY. The last name, familiar to Halls of Fame, Treichler is a cousin to fellow NYSSCA Hall of Famer Merv Treichler. In the early sixties, Roger started his 30-year racing career racing Late Models at Merrittville and Hamilton Speedway, just across the border in Ontario. In 1963 he ran Late Models at Lancaster Speedway before moving to the Modifieds in 1967.
Treichler had great success at Lancaster capturing five track championships and racking up 78 wins good for second all time. He also raced many years at Spencer Speedway winning three track titles and 22 feature events. He won out on the road too at places like Shangri-La, Fulton, and Cayuga up in Ontario to name a few. But no doubt his greatest win came in the Race of Champions at the Langhorne Speedway in 1971 which back then was the biggest race of the year and the predecessor to Super DIRT Week.
“It was a long career and right from the beginning just about everything we did was done right there in Sanborn, NY at the flower shop,” Treichler said. “The race garage was right next to the flower cooler, and we would all day in the flower shop and all night in the stock car garage.”
“Back in the day at Langhorne there were over 200 cars to try and qualify for that race in 1966, 1967, & 1968,” Treichler continued to say. “1968 was the first year that I made the show and I finished 10th but it took me 100-laps to figure out that I needed to blink, I was so scared about going that fast, but I settled in and learned my lesson. In 1969 I set fast time and ended up second in the big race to Ray Hendrick. Then the next year I also finished second, this time to my cousin Merv who beat me to the line by three feet. 1971 was the charm when I beat Jim Shampine to the line for the win.”
JOHN P. FLACH
“Rarely is there a father and son inducted into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame, what a very remarkable accomplishment, both former champions, both have accomplishments on the racetrack and they both touched many lives along the way,” Martin said about the induction of John P Flach and John C Flach.
“Stanley Wetmore was a big part of my dad’s racing career back in the 50’s and 60’s,” John Flach said as he inducted his father John P Flach. “I’m grateful, honored, and blessed to be able to speak on my father’s behalf into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.”
John Phillip Flach raced from 1956 to 1962 at many tracks including Arlington, Oriana, Rutland Fairgrounds, Route 66, Burden Lake, Lebanon Valley, and Langhorne. Highlights of his career were winning the Modified Track Championship at Lebanon Valley in 1962, winning the Langhorne Qualifier at Lebanon Valley and finishing ninth at Langhorne the same year. Flach lived his life by example according to his son, and taught them to be honest, hardworking, upstanding, respectful, always strive to do their best, to always believe in God and trust in him.
After the 1962 racing season Flach laid his helmet down so he could work on building a future for his family. He started many construction companies from 1970 to 1985 and most of them continue today as successful companies in industrial construction.
“I know that you are looking down and smiling on us today, we love you dad and miss you,” John Flach said in conclusion. “I loved to play on the dirt floor in the garage with my Matchbox cars, making a track on the dirt floor and pretending like I was winning races. I have a lot of memories of my father growing up, racing go-karts, and teaching us how to race, how to work on things. Growing up was just a tremendous time with a lot of great memories for us, I was just so blessed with my parents and my upbringing.”
JOHN C FLACH
“What is there to say about my father John C Flach,” Keith Flach said as he inducted his father. “I describe my father with words like knowledgeable, determined, meticulous, respected, and very talented with anything with wheels and a motor. I only have a handful of somewhat foggy memories of my dad racing in his prime years being he had such a short stint. The aforementioned words describe how my father was able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”
Like his father did, John C Flach had a very short stint of about six years in full time racing, starting his career in the early 1980’s with a Modified purchased off of Mert “Socks” Hulbert, 1983 being his rookie year at Lebanon Valley. He recorded his first win that year which according to Brian Bedell was a pretty difficult feat in that era. For the next couple of seasons, he would work on his consistency and get more wins.
In 1987 Flach finished third in the point championship at Lebanon Valley behind Kenny Tremont Jr. and Mark Fleury. The following year be backed that up with his first Modified Championship at Lebanon Valley and would defend his title with a second championship in 1989. Starting in 1990 Flach stepped away from full time racing to race part time with impressive full-time career numbers including 13 wins and two track championships at Lebanon Valley.
“Most people saw the racing side of John C Flach,” Keith Flach said during his induction speech. “I got to see the other side of John C Flach which was just as important as the champion John C Flach. When he retired from full time competition, my father used the same qualities he used in his racing career, to build a legacy of successful businesses, strive to help others, and eventually to push the careers of my brother and myself, first in go-karting, then in flat track racing, and finally in Modified stock cars.”
Bottom line is my father always pushed us to do our best and put our full effort into everything,” Keith Flach continued to say. “Everything my father has strived to do came with passion whether it was in his successful businesses, driving anything with wheels and a motor, helping different people or charities, pretty much anything he put his mind to. These qualities have led him to being a successful, respected, and a person looked up to by so many.”
“I went through a pretty tough time in my life with some personal stuff, the loss of my son, and everything,” John C Flach Sr. said. “I let it get me down, but you pick yourself back up, get back on your feet, and put one foot in front of the other. My wife was a big part of that. I told her that I needed something to do, something that brings back some excitement and joy.”
“I didn’t know anything about the Vintage class, so I spoke to Stanley Wetmore, and he told me what kind of cars they allowed and what engines they run. I put a car together and it has just been tremendous,” John C Flach continued to say. I have been truly blessed in every aspect of my life, I just give it all to the Lord, he’s protected me and kept me and my whole family safe.”
“We could sit here and talk about Brett Hearn’s career numbers all day long,” Dan Martin said as he inducted Hearn into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame. “To say it wouldn’t be all about numbers, it wouldn’t be true.”
The winningest Modified driver in Dirt Modified history has a total of 920 wins after his victory in the World Finals in Charlotte, NC last fall. He is a five-time Super DIRT Week Champion, a seven-time Super DIRT Series Champion, and an eight-time Mr. DIRT Modified Champion. In all he has 97 track or series championships won at 48 different tracks in 11 states and two Canadian Provinces.
At his home track where he started racing, the Orange County Fair Speedway he has a total of 308 career wins and 12 Eastern States 200 wins. He is the winningest driver at the Albany Saratoga Speedway with 136 wins and he also has 13 track championships at Lebanon Valley. He was voted as the Driver of the Year by the Eastern Motorsports Press Association (EMPA).
When Hearn raced for Ray Brammall in the Freightliner car, he amassed 99 wins in a three-year period including three titles in both the 358-Modified and Big Block Modified divisions along with two Super DIRT Week victories, a Track Championship at Rolling Wheels, two DIRT Asphalt Series Championships, and a Mr. DIRT Track Championship.
“I spent most of my time in a camper the last 30 years of my driving career,” Hearn told the crowd at the induction. “Traveling from New Jersey to this area of the Northeast to race we beat the odds but traveling that much and spending that much time on the road really blows my mind.”
“Back in the early 90’s I was a little smarter than I was later on in my career because I realized in the early 90’s that to try and run 100 races a year out of one shop with one group of guys, was too much,” Hearn continued to say. I started to split my time up when I met Guy Madsen and started to run his small block. That led to eventually racing for Jody Gable, Vinny Salerno, and others splitting my career up in segments so I would drive some for myself, I would drive some for one or two other teams and that was how I regulated my season, keeping the workload spread out and I think that created some success.”
Later on in Hearn’s career he thought that he could do it all again on his own and the last five years they just wore themselves out. Hearn went from his three-year ride in the Freightliner car back to his own deal.
“I had some really close friends that I had conversations with over the years that I ran for Freightliner,” Hearn said. “It was the only three years of my career that I didn’t own my own stuff, I had limited control and I didn’t like it. I was a driver that wasn’t happy with my situation, so I decided to reform my own team in 1992 after some really tough conversations with people that were really close to me. 99 wins in three years who would walk away from that, but I just felt that I needed to control my own destiny.”
Hearn started his own team again with Auto Palace as a sponsor, paid his own bills, and was in control of his own destiny until Guy Madsen bought him out in 2008. He finished his final 12 years with Guy and Brian Madsen who he considers to be very close friends of his. He had a short stint in NASCAR without much success but learned a valuable lesson from his time there.
“When I went down south to learn how to race more like a business, I was a guy that could get up late in the morning and never had a plan because I thought that what I had was good enough,” Hearn said. “After I went down there, I learned a lot of things about the business side of the sport, the technical side of the sport. Even though we were largely unsuccessful because we were completely out of our league, I brought back a lot of knowledge from that and that paid dividends throughout 1989 to present.”
“One of the things that I always tell young drivers when I’m coaching them is if you can’t imagine yourself in victory lane you’re probably never going to get there. Last fall on the trip down to Charlotte for the World Finals, I had to tell myself just that. I hadn’t been in the car very much at all in the last two years and that is a premier race, with the best competition, on a big stage. There was a time when second place wasn’t good enough, so I had to really focus on getting to victory lane down there and I did.”
For more information about the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) you can go to their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NYSSCA-New-York-State-Stock-Car-Association-111469315610533