By RON SZCZERBA
ALBANY, NY – On Saturday evening January 28, the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) celebrated its 48th annual awards banquet at the Polish Community Center in Albany, NY. A total of over 350 people filled the banquet room as drivers, owners, fans, and sponsors celebrated the accomplishments of their race teams for the 2016-racing season. Master of Ceremonies for the event were John Stanley and Dan Martin.
Earlier in the day, Hall of Fame ceremonies were held at the Saratoga Auto Museum for the 2016 inductees, which included Gary Balough, Don & Jo Ann Davies, Bill Greco, Paul Jensen, and the late Danny Ody. The Hall of Fame program was sponsored by the Bedell family in honor of “Boomer”. Ceremonies were also held at the banquet hall in the evening to honor the Hall of Fame Inductees once again.
First up to the microphone was outgoing president John Keegan who stepped in when needed to fill the role of president in 2016. Keegan was quick to credit Cheryl Catman, who is the NYSSCA banquet chairperson, for planning the banquet and setting up the banquet hall so that the ceremony could be held.
“Cheryl puts countless hours into this banquet and deserves all of the credit for putting it all together,” Keegan said. “I also want to congratulate the Hall of Fame inductees tonight; Gary Balough who changed the history of the sport, Danny Ody who recorded it, Don & Jo Ann Davies who write about it, Paul Jensen who is still winning races after 40 years, and Bill Greco who has quite a record and a history of his own.”
Later on in the program, current NYSSCA President Tom Coughlin addressed the crowd saying: “I want to thank Dan & John for being the Master of Ceremonies for this banquet along with all of the officers, board members, and track reps of this organization. Looking towards the future in my opinion we need fans in the stands in order to keep our sport alive and well.”
HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS
The first Hall of Fame presenter of the evening was Lew Boyd of Coastal 181 who inducted Gary Balough into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.
“It was October 12, 1974 at Fonda when an unfamiliar hauler came into the fairgrounds at Fonda,” Boyd said. “It was one of the hottest guys in town at the time in the Ferraiulo #73 modified. The Whip Mulligan built car was a crafty innovation and beat everyone to the checkered flag on one cylinder.”
“Gary started racing at age 14 and would sneak out of and back in to the house to do so. At 16 years of age, he built a 1951 Chevy bomber and at that point, his father kicked him out of the house. He paid his dues early on in life.”
“Balough was told about dirt racing up in New York State and all of the money that could be made doing it so he spent six years doing just that before going back down south to race on the asphalt. At New Smyrna he had six wins in a row but while going for his seventh win in a row he was involved in a bad wreck, suffered a broken neck, and was out of racing until the following October.”
“It was in October of 1980 that Balough changed the history of the sport at Super DIRT Week in Syracuse, NY at the New York State Fairgrounds one mile facility. He showed up with what is now known as the “Batmobile” and was setting lap times quicker than the sprint cars! Balough won the event in the most dominating win ever at Syracuse.”
“Gary again paid his dues after getting involved in contraband and was out of commission for a decade. After winning over 1000 races in his career, he is now 69 years old and serves as an advisor to Stewart Friesen and the Halmar Racing Team saying jokingly “Friesen is almost as talented as I was”.
In accepting his Hall of Fame induction Balough had this to say: “It is just unbelievable to me that I could come to New York and race for six years and now be in the NYSSCA Hall of Fame with all of these other great drivers. This is special, very special. New York has great drivers and now to be on the same page as them is just unbelievable. May God Bless.”
The next inductee was Bill Greco who was inducted by Rich Belmonte.
“Bill Greco started his racing career in 1950 at the West Haven, CT Speedway where he would go on to win a total of three track championships during his career,” Belmonte said. “He won his first of a career total of 57 wins at Riverside Park in 1962 and also claimed 18 of 20 features in one season at the Pine Bowl Speedway in Troy, NY.”
“His track championship at Albany Saratoga some 50 years ago will always keep him in the history books of NYSSCA and New York State as well.”
In accepting his induction, Bill said: “It is an honor to be inducted into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.”
Mel Thomas of Thomas Video inducted the next driver into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame, Paul Jensen.
“For the past 40 years Paul has raced and is a long time member of NYSSCA and a longtime supporter of the organization as well,” Thomas said. “He has a total of 135 wins at 10 different speedways topped by his 1993 win in the Victoria 200 at the Fulton, NY Speedway to go along with 13 track championships at six different tracks including Utica Rome, Fulton, Thunder Mountain, Brookfield, Fonda, and Afton.”
“Paul was also the Outlaw Circuit champion in 1990 and 1992 and was dubbed as the Smokey Yunick of Central New York by long time Utica Rome Speedway promoter Gene Cole because of his innovations. Jensen won a race at the I-88 Speedway in Afton, NY in 2016 and 2017 will be the 41st year of competition for the owner of Jensen’s Speed Equipment in Edmeston, NY.”
In accepting his induction, Jensen said: “I want to thank all of my current and former crew members along with Gene Cole, Kevin Enders who always built me a great motor, and everyone else who has helped me during my racing career.”
Shane Andrews was the next presenter and he inducted Don & Jo Ann Davies to the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.
“They came from different backgrounds but as husband and wife are motorsports reporters,” Andrews said. “They are humble and have done so much for racing and asked for nothing in return. They offer one on one interaction, integrity, and honesty and they do it right.”
“Don attended his first race at the old Brookfield Speedway in 1949 and that began his lifelong passion for stock car racing while Jo Ann’s first race was at the famed Flemington Fairgrounds where she fell asleep at her first try at a stock car race. In 1969, Don & Jo Ann were married and began their career in motorsports journalism in 1972 for Val LeSieur’s Speedway Scene after a diner in Fonda, NY brought the two parties together. Their son Brian, who now works for Hendrick Motorsports, spent his four month birthday at the Martinsville Speedway with his parents.”
“In 1986 the two changed venues from the Speedway Scene publication to Len Sammons Area Auto racing News where they still pen a column to this day under the NY Modifieds title. Jo Ann also does media relations and sign in operations at many tracks during the racing season. Their columns are not about the results of the races, they are about the details of the drivers, race teams, race tracks, and fans at the races they attend.”
Some quotes from various drivers and others about the Davies’ are:
Lenny Sammons Area Auto Racing News – “they bring insight and breaking news to all of the race fans through their column, they are two great friends”.
Harvey Fink long time promoter – “They give racers their moment”
Jimmy Phelps driver and promoter of the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, NY – “Jo Ann’s candid knowledge and guidance are a great asset at the track and Don’s trust is something that you don’t get from most”.
Brett Hearn driver and race promoter – “There is nobody who is as thorough as Jo Ann and Don is always someone who you can trust to talk to anything about”.
Mike Perrotte DIRTcar official – “Don & Jo Ann are truthful and accurate.”
Joe Skotnicki – “I have always appreciated their professionalism and fairness”.
Don & Jo Ann’s son Brian added, “I am proud of my parents and thank them for such a great upbringing as it has been key to my life and my career. I am very proud of my parents for what they do and I never really knew that they were so influential on the New York racing scene.”
Dan Martin added with emotion “After I was hurt in an accident and when my parents passed away they were both right there for me for anything that I may have needed and that is the personal side of Don & Jo Ann. I can’t imagine a Friday night at Albany Saratoga without them there.”
In accepting the award, Don had this to say, “This is a very emotional night for us, it is all the people through the years who have made what we do possible”.
The last NYSSCA Hall of Fame inductee of the evening was Danny Ody who was inducted by his close friend Walter Cook.
“I met Danny “O” in 1988 at the Lebanon Valley Speedway. At the time, I was 14 years old and after that, Danny became my friend, my mentor, and my racing dad. That is what he did for many kids and up and coming racers.”
“Danny convinced me to buy an IMCA car and after a race at Fonda he gave me a checkered flag which said on it Walter’s first finish. Danny was not only a driver; he was a pit crew member to anyone who needed help and a savvy business guy.”
“Danny had a saying which he called the 6 P’s which was piss poor preparation equals piss poor performance. He started racing at age 16 and was the street stock champion at Fonda (what is now the pro stock division) in 1981. He would race anything with wheels on it and raced in many different divisions of racing. He was low budget throughout his career and would fabricate and fix things himself in order to save money.”
“Ironically Danny’s 100th career win came where his first win came, at the Fonda Speedway in a legends race back on July 7, 2007. He was a big advocate for the IMCA division in the area and was very successful in the class with a career total of seven wins in the division at Fonda. Danny’s last two career wins came at the Utica Rome Speedway in Everett Kneer’s pro stock. In all Danny ended up with a total of 102 wins, 15 track championships, and two National point championships during his racing career.”
“Danny was also known for his rides around the Super DIRT Week camping areas in Syracuse on his “chopper bike”. He would stop at nearly every campground to say hello and talk to all of his friends. He was also a big advocate of getting children involved in racing and one year at the Fonda Speedway car show he allowed kid’s to design the paint scheme for his racecar that year. After the weekend contest was completed a winner was chosen and Danny painted his car according to the winning paint scheme from the contest.”
“After he was done racing, Danny became a historian of the sport with his “Lost Speedway” videos as he tried to preserve the history of tracks that are no longer open. He always followed his heart, he was very humble, and if he were here with us right now he would thank everyone who was involved in his racing career.”
“In 2012 Danny was awarded with the Dedication to NYSSCA Award in Memory of Arty McCarty but his biggest victory celebration of all was his induction into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame tonight.”
Dan Martin added: “Danny’s father John bought Danny his first car to get back and forth to school with but Danny took the windows out of it and made it into a race car. That is just the way Danny Ody was and how he will always be remembered. “
Danny’s mom and dad accepted the award in their son’s honor.
NYSSCA SPECIAL AWARDS
HUMANITARIAN AWARD IN MEMORY OF CHAPLAIN DAVE MILLER – KEITH FLACH – On Chaplain Dave Miller’s birthday which was the same day as the NYSSCA banquet, Keith Flach was awarded with the Humanitarian Award in Chaplain Dave’s honor. Keith and his wife Chelsea are advocates for many different charities and use the race car as a tool to bring awareness to them.
“It is an honor to accept this award,” Keith said after receiving it. “A couple of years ago Chelsea and I decided to try to give back more so we got involved in many different charities and use the race car when we can to bring more awareness to them. We are huge animal lovers and there are some charities involving animals that we are currently trying to bring awareness to along with all of the other ones that we are involved in.”
Keith’s racing plans for 2017 are tentatively the same as last year as the new season approaches.
MEDIA AWARD – MARK BROWN – started his photography business Kustom Keepsakes back in 1983 and is a current member of the NYSSCA Board of Directors.
NYSSCA PERFORMER OF THE YEAR PRESENTED BY RACE PRO WEEKLY’S MIKE WARREN – MATT SHEPPARD
SMALL BLOCK MODIFIED ROOKIE/NEWCOMER IN MEMORY OF J.C. FLACH – RICKY DAVIS – plaque presented by the Flach family including John, Liz, Keith, Chelsea, and Nicole
CAR OWNER OF THE YEAR – JAKE SPRAKER – a dream season for the car owner out of Gloversville, NY with two of the most popular drivers at the Fonda Speedway in his cars Ronnie Johnson (modified) and Rocky Warner (sportsman) who both won titles in their respective divisions at the “Track of Champions” in 2016. Between the two drivers, they won a total of five track/series championships at seven different tracks.
OVERALL OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE – MATT SHEPPARD – 29 total wins in 2016 at 15 different tracks, won his fifth career Super DIRTcar Series title in 2016 with a total of 12 wins in series events after starting up his own race team in 2016.
Sheppard was not able to attend the banquet as he was at the Bicknell Racing Products Open House but sent an e-mail to NYSSCA President Tom Coughlin, which said:
“I would like to thank NYSSCA for all that they do for our great sport as well as for this award. 2016 was a very special season for me and this award really means a lot. Also, congratulations to all of the award winners and Hall of Fame inductees tonight. Thank you!”
NYSSCA AWARD OF EXCELLENCE – JOSH COONRADT – put up numbers in the street stock division that are second to none with 22 wins (14 at Fonda and 8 at Albany Saratoga), 30 top 5’s, and 34 top 10’s in a total of 34 starts in 2016. Coonradt is a third generation driver who will be racing pro stocks in 2017 and the award was a very special one to him after the loss of his father Darryle and his grandfather Harry.
DEDICATION TO RACING IN MEMORY OF HARRY PEEK – JOHN KOLLAR – John is celebrating his 50th year in racing and started his racing career in 1968 in his famed #10%. In 1970, he got his first win on the asphalt at Utica Rome and after 28 years of trying, he got his first win at the Fonda Speedway on July 15, 1995.
Kollar had a total of three wins in the modified division at the “Track of Champions”, the last one coming on August 1, 1998. After a bad wreck at Fonda in 2000, Kollar decided to retire from driving and became a car owner with his most recent driver being Tim Hartman Jr. He won his first NYSSCA award back in 1969 for being the Most Improved Driver at Fonda.
“I won my first ever heat race against Harry (Peek) at Fonda,” Kollar said after accepting his award. “I want to thank my father Larry, another NYSSCA award winner tonight Andy Romano who did a lot of work on my cars over the years and who I bought cars off of as well, Bruce Dostal, and Jim & Dianne Boehler.”
DEDICATION TO RACING JIM LANGENBACK MEMORIAL AWARD – KENNY GATES – An award named after the late Jim Langenback who raced for 49 years and won over 150 races during his career.
“When Jim (Langenback) raced at Fonda we pitted next to each other and I also raced the DIRT Series with him so to win this award in his memory is truly an honor,” Gates said. “I started my career in 1993 at Fonda and my goal was to just win a race at Fonda and to race where people like Lou Lazzaro and Jack Johnson raced. To have five championships and 65 career wins at Fonda is truly special to me.”
DEDICATION TO NYSSCA IN MEMORY OF ARTY MCCARTY – BOB JAMES – the McCarty family presented the award to Bob who is a longtime supporter of NYSSCA and currently a board member of the organization.
“I started videoing races at Fonda 25 years ago and I look forward to many more,” James said after accepting his award.
LIFETIME CONTRIBUTION TO RACING IN MEMORY OF KENNY SHOEMAKER – ANDY ROMANO – Master of ceremony John Stanley introduced Romano as the award winner as Stanley himself is now involved in racing due to Shoemaker’s influence.
“I started racing in 1957 and Kenny (Shoemaker) actually raced one of my cars at one time,” Romano said. “My father Joe actually got involved after I did and then Mike and AJ (Andy’s two sons) came in after me and they were two great racers. Kenny (Shoemaker) was the best; he was a tough guy that I learned a lot from.”
Romano will be a car owner again in 2017 with Peter Britten and Jeremy Wilder as his two drivers.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT – BILLY VANPELT – Known as “Captain Quick”, VanPelt completed his 30th year of racing in 2016 with his 18th career championship at Woodhull where he also has 200 career wins. In all during his career, VanPelt has a total of 24 career titles at different speedways and had a total of 13 wins during the 2016 season.
“This means a lot to me,” VanPelt said of his award. “It is because of all of the good people that I have had behind me during my racing career. I am still driving but I have also started to be in a mentor type roll to young drivers and I look forward to a new opportunity that I have coming to me in 2017.”
DRIVER OF THE YEAR
MODIFIED – Marc Johnson (Albany Saratoga), Ronnie Johnson (Fonda), Jeremy Wilder (Glen Ridge), Brett Hearn big block and Kenny Tremont Jr. small block (Lebanon Valley), Matt Sheppard (Utica Rome), Andy Bachetti (I-88), Tommy Meier both big & small block (Orange County), Billy VanPelt (Woodhull)
SPORTSMAN – Jeremy Pitts (Albany Saratoga), Rocky Warner (Fonda & Glen Ridge), Jeff Watson (Lebanon Valley), Matt Janczuk 602 and Steve Way open (Utica Rome), Charlie Hendrickson open and Harold Humphrey crate (I-88), Tyler Boniface (Orange County), Chris Daugherty (Woodhull)
PRO STOCK – Robbie Speed (Albany Saratoga), Kenny Gates (Fonda), John Roese (Glen Ridge), Rob Yetman (Lebanon Valley), Pete Stefanski (Utica Rome)
STREET STOCK – Josh Coonradt (Albany Saratoga & Fonda), Dustin Harris (I-88), Mike Vigiletti (Orange County), Kurt Stebbins (Woodhull)
FOUR CYLINDER – Steve Ryan dual cam and Mike Parodi single cam (Albany Saratoga), Kenny Stager dual cam & Jim Williams single cam (Lebanon Valley)
ROOKIE SPORTSMAN – David Manchester (Fonda)
CRUISER – Chris Andrew (Glen Ridge)
IMCA – James Cornell Jr. (I-88)
EMPIRE SPORT TRUCKS – Rob Loucks (I-88)
XCEL MODIFIED – Will Eastman (I-88)
MINI STOCK – Chris Woodard (Woodhull)
FWD – Shawn Gleason (Woodhull)
CAPITAL REGION SPRINT CAR AGENCY (CRSA) – Kyle Smith
LATE MODEL – Bruce Miller (Woodhull)
MODIFIED – Stewart Friesen (Albany Saratoga & Orange County), Jeremy Wilder & Bobby Varin (Fonda), Bobby Varin (Glen Ridge), Keith Flach big block & Brett Haas small block (Lebanon Valley), Larry Wight (Utica Rome), Rusty Smith (I-88), Michael Bills (Woodhull)
SPORTSMAN – Connor Cleveland (Albany Saratoga), Dave Constantino (Fonda & Glen Ridge), Timothy Davis Jr. (Lebanon Valley), Rocky Warner 602 & Claude Hutchins Jr. open (Utica Rome), Claude Hutchins Jr. open & Harold Humphrey crate (I-88), Jesse Leiby (Orange County), Josh Keesey (I-88)
PRO STOCK – Walt Brownell (Albany Saratoga), Luke Horning (Fonda), Jason Morrison (Glen Ridge), Jay Corbin (Lebanon Valley), Mike Welch (Utica Rome)
STREET STOCK – Jason Meltz (Albany Saratoga), Johnny Young (Fonda), Doug Polhamus (I-88), Jim Maher (Orange County), Teddy Morseman Jr. (Woodhull)
FOUR CYLINDER – Jason Lang dual cam & Robert Garney single cam (Albany Saratoga), Shawney Hazel dual cam & Tim Meltz single cam (Lebanon Valley)
ROOKIE SPORTSMAN – Travis Billington (Fonda)
CRUISER – Dan Haslun (Glen Ridge)
IMCA – Matt Cole (I-88)
EMPIRE SPORT TRUCKS – Brandon Clapperton (I-88)
XCEL MODIFIED – Kamdin Maby (I-88)
MINI STOCK – Ron Dailey Jr. (Woodhull)
FWD – Codie Baker (Woodhull
CAPITAL REGION SPRINT CAR AGENCY (CRSA) – Emily VanInwegen
LIMITED SPORTSMAN – Zach Daurio & Jack Lehner (Albany Saratoga)
LATE MODEL – Glenn Whritenour (Woodhull)
ROOKIE/NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
MODIFIED – L.J. Lombardo newcomer (Albany Saratoga), Brandon Walters (Fonda), Alton Palmer newcomer (Glen Ridge), Ricky Davis Jr. small block modified in memory of JC Flach (Lebanon Valley), Marc Johnson newcomer (Utica Rome), Alan Barker (I-88), Brendan Finley big block & Joe Falanga small block (Orange County), Boyd MacTavish (Woodhull)
SPORTSMAN – Chad Edwards newcomer (Albany Saratoga), Nick Scavia (Fonda), Chris Curtis newcomer & Brian Calabrese rookie (Glen Ridge), Dan Lyle (Lebanon Valley), Charlie Tibbitts 602 & Mark Effner open (Utica Rome), Lisa Williams open & A.J. Digsby crate (I-88), Daniel Morgiewicz (Orange County)
PRO STOCK – Nick Arnold (Albany Saratoga), Jason Morrison (Fonda), Jason Samrov (Glen Ridge), Ray Hall Jr. (Lebanon Valley), Luke Horning newcomer (Utica Rome)
STREET STOCK – Jeff Meltz Sr. newcomer (Albany Saratoga), Bill Yager (Fonda), Rob Nober (I-88), Mario Contarino (Orange County), Dan Gardner (Woodhull)
ROOKIE SPORTSMAN – Josh Neal (Fonda)
CRUISER – Ashley Celebucki (Glen Ridge)
IMCA – Jim Cummings (I-88)
EMPIRE SPORT TRUCKS – James Fowlston (I-88)
XCEL MODIFIED – John Burnside (I-88)
MINI STOCK – Jeffrey Daugherty (Woodhull)
FWD – Dave Richmond (Woodhull)
CAPITAL REGION SPRINT CAR AGENCY (CRSA) – Sydney Prince
LIMITED SPORTSMAN – Derek Bornt (Albany Saratoga)
LATE MODEL – Kurt Stebbins (Woodhull)