By BUFFY SWANSON
WEEDSPORT, NY – Longtime DIRTcar luminary and Lebanon Valley legend Ken Tremont Jr., consummate Western region champion Brian Swartzlander and pioneer driver and car builder Bob Rossell will officially be inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in July. These three driving greats add their names to a stellar list of Modified standouts that was started in 1992 when the Hall of Fame was established on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, NY.
The 27th annual induction ceremonies honoring the Class of 2018 will take place Thursday, July 26 at 7 pm in the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame and Museum, on the grounds of the beautifully reimagined Weedsport Speedway. The event is free and open to the public, and will feature pre- and post-program festivities. That Saturday evening, Weedsport Speedway will present its Super DIRTcar Series Hall of Fame 100 for the big-block Modifieds.
The Tremont legacy began close to 60 years ago with the father, Ken Sr., fielding race cars for Chuck Ely and other Capital District drivers. Young Ken had to wait until he graduated high school before he was given a crack at the controls of his dad’s potent #115 racers. And the son steered the Tremont name from local legend to a level the father had hardly hoped to attain: Since 1982, Ken Jr. has won feature events at 20 tracks in New York, Vermont, Florida, New Hampshire and two Canadian provinces. He has 13 Modified and four small-block championships at Lebanon Valley, where he is the winningest Mod driver in the track’s history. Add in 13 point titles at Albany-Saratoga (one when the track was paved), eight at Devil’s Bowl, and one each at Rolling Wheels, Utica-Rome, Weedsport and Glen Ridge and the final number is 42, not counting the Mr. DIRT 358 series title in 1998 and two overall CVRA championships. He mastered the Syracuse mile in the 1999 Modified classic, and was first four times in the Super DIRT Week small-block event. Never a professional racer like many of his circuit rivals, Ken scored more than 300 of his 357 career wins driving his dad’s cars powered by motors built and maintained in their West Sand Lake, NY, shop.
The Swartzlander name is synonymous with racing in the Westernmost reaches of big-block Modified country. Watching his grandfather Neal, father Melvin and Uncle Dick stack the bricks of success to form the area’s racing foundation, “Flyin’ Brian” has cemented his own cornerstone onto the family reputation. At the age of 58, Swartzlander has nailed down 170 feature wins at 14 tracks in Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and West Virginia. He is a seven-time track champion at Lernerville, where he stands atop the all-time big-block Modified win list. In addition, Brian holds four point titles at Tri-City, a pair at Sportsman Speedway, and was track champion at Marion Center in 1992 and Sharon in 2006. The third-generation driver from Leechburg, PA, is a four-time winner of the #1 Cochran Cavalcade of Auto Racing points championship and a three-time BRP Modified Tour champ. Brian was twice named DIRTcar Western region champion, in 2007 and 2008, and was the Area Auto Racing News Winningest Modified Driver in the Northeast in 1998 with 25 victories that one season.
New Jersey native Bob Rossell began his stock car driving career in the late 1950s at Ft. Dix Speedway (now New Egypt), but was soon barnstorming up and down the Eastern seaboard, tagging along with the infamous “Eastern Bandits” — Ed Flemke, Dennis Zimmerman, Rene Charland, Red Foote and the like. In a typical week, the bunch would race Thursday at New Egypt, hit Virginia’s Southside Speedway on Friday, Old Dominion in Manassas on Saturday, run Marlboro, MD, on Sunday afternoon and Old Bridge, NJ, Sunday night. Rossell held his own with that take-no-prisoners posse, most notably winning the 200-lap Battle of Bull Run at Old Dominion in 1963. Always a factor in the extra-distance contests, he went on to claim high-profile events at Orange County, East Windsor, Wall Stadium, Flemington and the Nazareth National big track. Bob was also a member of the All-Star Racing League, winning on that tough tour of champions. In addition to driving, Rossell was a sought-after builder and fabricator, constructing topflight cars for Will Cagle, Joe Leto and Ken Brenn, to name a few. Cagle ran Rossell cars almost exclusively from 1965-72, arguably some of his best years racing in the Northeast. The dominant Leto #50, built by Rossell, was driven to two Lebanon Valley championships by Tommy Corellis.
Also being honored at the July 26 induction ceremonies are Ray Bramall, Maynard Troyer, Gary Spaid, Don and Jo Ann Davies and Linda Cosco.
The 2018 Gene DeWitt Car Owner Award goes to Newburgh, NY’s Ray Bramall. Like many in the business, Bramall started out small, following Joe Lawrence and D.D. Harris from track to track, then sponsoring Chuck LoPresti’s efforts at Middletown and Syracuse. Before long, Bramall owned LoPresti’s operation. From there, it all exploded like an M-80 in July: In 1989, Ray found himself with three new cars and none other than Brett Hearn as his driver. Almost overnight, his Freightliner Trucks of Newburgh #6 became one of the most celebrated Modified teams to compete on the DIRT circuit. Ray pulled mechanic Charlie DeAngelis out of his truck shop to work full-time on the race cars, and built a new race garage, which lacked for nothing. It all paid off: In 10 seasons, Bramall’s team racked up almost 200 victories split between drivers Hearn and Danny Johnson. Highlights included three Super DIRT Week Modified wins (1990, 1991, 1997), three Syracuse small-block scores (1989, 1990, 1994), three Eastern States 200 triumphs (1992, 1993, 1997) and close to 40 victories on the Super DIRT Series trail. Bramall retired as a car owner following the 1998 season.
Maynard Troyer, recipient of this year’s Mechanic/Engineering Award, has done it all — and done it extremely well. At the top of his game as a driver on the NASCAR scene, in 1977 Troyer used his still-fresh fame to begin building cutting-edge asphalt Modifieds out of his shop in Rochester, NY. Four years later, with his legion of tar cars setting records, Troyer wisely calculated a clay racer might sell just as well. Basing his first foray into dirt design on a radically offset Modified built by Alan Johnson, Maynard added his own details — and his meticulous workmanship — onto Alan’s suspension geometry and the Troyer Mud Buss was created. That initial year — 1981 — Alan clicked off another 26 wins, clinched the Weedsport championship, the CRC series championship and the overall Mr. DIRT title, while Merv Treichler smoked the Syracuse field in his Troyer dirt car. The following year, over half the cars that made the Syracuse starting grid were Troyers, at a time when there were more flavors of chassis produced than ice cream. Indeed, Troyer dirt Mods dominated the 1980s in sheer volume alone, as Maynard proceeded to manufacture en masse one of the most marketable Modifieds ever built.
Longtime DIRTcar official Gary Spaid will receive the Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing. Since 1979, Spaid has served the sport as a writer, handicapper, scorer, statistician, program editor and in a myriad of roles both in front of and behind the scenes. As a scribe for Gater Racing News, he reported the news from his Central New York base. By the mid 1980s, he was on the payroll at DIRT Motorsports, and continues to work for DIRTcar today, traveling to all the far-flung tracks on the circuit and setting up operations to score, handicap, record and archive the results of each race. Gary also puts together the annual souvenir program book for Super DIRT Week. A founding member of the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame, Spaid chaired the selection committee for 24 years, from 1992-2015, and continues to sit on the museum’s board of directors.
Journalists Don and Jo Ann Davies, Feura Bush, NY, will be the recipients of the Andrew S. Fusco Award for Media Excellence, in memory of Hall of Fame board member and legal counsel Andy Fusco, who passed away in 2015. The husband-and-wife duo met in college in the late 1960s. Don had the racing bug and infected Jo Ann with his enthusiasm, and soon she, too, was caught up in the sport’s excitement. They married and moved to the Capital District, and started writing about racing — a joint byline in the New England-based Speedway Scene — in 1972. For the past 46 years Don and Jo Ann have covered the Northeast dirt Modified arena, first for Speedway Scene and later for Area Auto Racing News. Trusted by participants, respected by both promoters and fans, their weekly columns provide race insights, first-person commentary, technical and rules updates, and little-known backstories to the major headlines. They always make deadline — and they always give readers the straight scoop.
Linda Cosco, owner and promoter of Ontario’s Humberstone Speedway, will be honored with the Outstanding Woman in Racing Award. Linda followed her husband, Pete, onto the racing scene in the early 1980s. He was a drag racer, then a go-kart racer, then started hanging out at Merrittville Speedway. He sponsored a few cars, owned a few, drove Sportsman and then Modified on the Ontario tracks. After a controversy at Humberstone in 2004, Pete and Linda up and bought the place, reopening it in 2005 after extensive renovations and major improvements. It was a family affair, with Pete at the helm, Linda in the front office and daughter and son-in-law Tanya and Bob Davidson on board. Then in 2014, out of the clear blue at age 60, Pete Cosco died of a brain aneurysm, leaving Linda not only the track to run, but also his long-held trucking business. In the worst of circumstances, Linda stepped forward to keep both operations humming. Aided by a staff dedicated to keeping Pete’s dream alive, Linda has added special promotions, sanctioned events, sponsorships and partnerships that have enabled the facility to endure.