WEEDSPORT, NY – Four-time Super DIRT Week big-block winner Billy Decker, Pennsylvania small-block champion Craig Von Dohren and 1950s North Country pioneer driver Don June will officially be inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in July. These three racing legends 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 30th annual induction ceremonies honoring the Class of 2022 will take place Wednesday, July 20 at 7 pm in the Northeast Dirt Modified Museum and Hall of Fame, on the grounds of the state-of-the-art Weedsport Speedway. The event is free and open to the public, and will feature pre- and post-program festivities sponsored by the track. The following Sunday, Weedsport Speedway will present its Super DIRTcar Series Hall of Fame 100 for the big-block Modifieds.
Following his family onto area tracks, Franklin, NY’s Billy Decker bought his first racer from his cousin, Hank — a six-cylinder Tiger car — and went out and won seven times in his rookie season at Penn Can Speedway in 1981, when he was still a kid in high school. Groomed by his father Floyd—and later mentored by the late, great Jack Johnson—Decker went on to craft a world-class career, starting with his first SBM score at Fonda in 1985 and full-blown Mod wins the year after. In 1988, he found his niche: winning the big ones. In the span of eight days that September, driving his dad’s car, Decker took the Lebanon Valley 200 and 100-lap events at both Fonda and Rolling Wheels. Those extra-distance races have remained his sweet spot. More than a third of the 308 Modified victories Decker has claimed to date—128, to be exact—have come in special events of 50 laps or longer. And he’s particularly shined during Super DIRT Week: Decker grabbed six Modified pole awards and won the big-block classic four times on the Syracuse mile (three for car owner Randy Ross, and once for John Wight). He was even better in the 358 ranks, taking SDW honors six times at Syracuse and once at Oswego. Decker was the overall Mr. DIRT/SDS champion in 1998, 2008 and 2014, and he’s got an arm-long list of individual track titles: five at Brewerton, four at Fulton and Weedsport, two each at Rolling Wheels and Lebanon Valley, and a single championship at Canandaigua. An accomplished traveler, “The Franklin Flyer” has posted wins at an impressive 35 tracks in nine states and two Canadian provinces.
Longevity is the name of the game for Oley, PA’s Craig Von Dohren, the senior statesman of the tough Pennsy small-block scene. Recording his first victory at Big Diamond Raceway on August 1, 1980 before his 17th birthday, and his most recent at Delaware’s Georgetown Speedway in March of this year, Von Dohren has strung together an incredible streak of 43 consecutive winning seasons, second only to Hall of Fame driver Alan Johnson in dirt Modified racing history. CVD’s other numbers are equally impressive: He is a 12-time track champion at Grandview Speedway, where he tops the all-time win list. Von Dohren also sits at the head of the class at Big Diamond, where he holds four small-block Modified titles, and was the 1995 champ and Lebanon Valley 100 winner at the defunct Penn National Speedway during the Tri-Track Series days. And he’s done well in the big area races, especially south of the PA border, taking seven small-block and six big-block crowns in the year-end Delaware State Championship events; and scoring three times — one Mod and two small-block — in Hagerstown’s Octoberfest. Back home at Grandview, CVD won the big Freedom 76 race five times and is a nine-time winner of the Forrest Rogers Memorial. He is a four-timer in Big Diamond’s Coalcracker. All told, Von Dohren currently has 347 career wins to his credit, at 13 tracks in five states. In 2021, he finished third in the NASCAR Weekly Series national point standings and was named Northeast Regional champion, collecting a total $28,500 in point monies for his efforts.
The late pioneer driver Don June, of Theresa, NY, proved to be a natural right out of the gate when he began his racing career at age 21. June dominated the inaugural season at Edgewood Speedway in 1951, winning 11 feature events at the Alexandria Bay oval—a rookie with a total investment of $50 in his race car. He also claimed the 1951 championship in the Adirondack Stock Car Club, which sanctioned racing at the Watertown Fairgrounds in addition to Edgewood. Racing a Ford numbered 117, sponsored by a local dealership, June was so unbeatable that many nights they’d start him on the backstretch, a half-lap behind the field. A master mechanic, June earned the nickname “Stroker” after his experiments with stroking a crankshaft in a Chrysler produced big horsepower gains — and a bunch more wins at places like Canton and Evans Mills, in addition to Watertown and Edgewood. Despite the fact that June’s racing endeavors were curtailed by his military service during the first half of the ’50s, he was the ASCC’s top winner, and held his own with the Northern Stock Car Club in the ’60s, where he competed against Hall of Fame drivers like Dick May, Guy “Shorty” Robinson, Bob Zeigler, Cliff Kotary and Gary Reddick. Retiring after being injured in a work accident, June kept his hand in the game, becoming the North Country’s first Hoosier Tire representative and going on to serve as a tech inspector at Can-Am Speedway. Don June passed away in 1999, at the age of 69.
Also being honored at the July 20 induction ceremonies are Guy Madsen, Eric Mack, C.J. Richards, Ace Lane Jr. and Mimi Lazzaro.
The 2022 Gene DeWitt Car Owner Award goes to Guy Madsen, who got his feet wet at Lebanon Valley back in 1985 and went on to make a huge splash with some of the biggest names in the sport. Madsen first fielded a Street Stock for his friend Lou Gerrain’s son Brian at the Valley — which is where he got hooked up with Hall of Fame Modified driver Kenny Tremont. In the early ’90s, Madsen Overhead Doors of Spencertown, NY, sponsored Tremont on the Modified circuit, as Guy’s son Brian began his Sportsman career. After winning the 1992 division championship at Rolling Wheels, the younger Madsen moved up to the 358 Mods, traveling the small-block series before a back injury sustained in a crash at Syracuse in 1994 ended that. The next year, the most successful driver in the history of our sport — Brett Hearn — climbed in the seat of Madsen’s SBM and won everything there was to win in the 358 ranks from 1995-2004, at tracks in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and two Canadian provinces. Then Madsen took a chance on a young up-and-comer named Stewart Friesen, giving the future star his first break in 2004-5; Friesen proved his promise, winning 15 times for Madsen before hitting the road. Hearn returned to the seat for good the next season and has driven for Madsen exclusively since 2010. Together, they have accrued an astounding 281 wins, including five of Brett’s 12 Eastern States 200s; Brett’s last Syracuse Modified victory in 2012; Super DIRT Week small-block scores in 2013 and ’14; the Mr. DIRT 358 title in 2006 and the Modified series title in 2013; nine championships at Lebanon Valley, six at Albany-Saratoga, and one each at Orange County and Accord.
Eric Mack, recipient of this year’s Mechanic/Engineering Award, was just a youngster in 1986, riding his bicycle a half mile up the road from his home in Perth, NY, to hang around the race car garage of two-time Fonda Speedway champion Maynard Forrette. The kid got hooked: although Forrette was at the tail end of his racing career by that time, he was a good teacher, showing Mack and his buddy Dave Constantino how to do it all—from engine rebuilds to chassis fabrication. By the time Eric was in high school, he was running Forrette’s parts truck in the pits at Fonda and setting up his car on race night. He got behind the wheel himself, briefly in the early 2000s, before pursuing more lucrative business ventures, buying a bar/restaurant in 2006. That’s where he connected with Stewart Friesen, whose career was just beginning to skyrocket. Mack was “the toolbox,” traveling with Friesen, wrenching on all of his random rides. As Stewart’s star rose, Mack was content in the role of team player until 2015, when he assumed the official title of crew chief. Eric was in the pits, calling the shots when Friesen won the finale at the Syracuse Fairgrounds, and the following year when Super DIRT Week was moved to Oswego. In the meantime, Mack and his old friends Dave Constantino and Kyle Hoffman formed DKM Motorsports in 2012, pioneering CNC race car bodies for their customers and other fabricators, and then constructing complete race cars. Their DKM chassis, nicknamed “The Cyclone,” is an homage to the man who sparked it all: Maynard Forrette.
The late C.J. Richards, founder of the Champlain Valley Racing Association whose innovations helped reshape the landscape of Northeast dirt track racing, will receive the prestigious Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing. Richards began his career in motorsports in the mid 1960s, promoting races at Fairmont Speedway in his home state of Vermont. Two years after taking over Fairmont, faced with increasing opposition from local townspeople, Richards bought farmland on Route 22A and built Devil’s Bowl. But it wasn’t until he took over operations at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in 1977 that Richards really put his promotional skills to work. Once a hotbed of asphalt racing in the 1960s and ’70s, the Malta, NY, track was in decline when Richards took the reins. He immediately did something radical: C.J. threw dirt down on the old pavement and began pulling the greatest drivers from Lebanon Valley and Fonda on Friday nights. A true visionary, Richards realized that racing needed to cut costs in order to survive. With an eye on economics, he became the first promoter in the region to mandate track tires, then took the biggest gamble of his career in 1985, outlawing big-block Modified motors and instituting small-block 358s in his premier division. The switch to more affordable 358s rejuvenated the careers of many drivers who could no longer compete against the big-money big-blocks, and racers like Don Ackner, Bob Savoie, Don Ronca and Hector Stratton thrived on the CVRA circuit. Today, following Richards’ lead, the 358 small-block is the engine of choice at most Northeast dirt tracks.
Second-generation photographer extraordinaire, John “Ace” Lane Jr. of Parlin, NJ, will receive the Andrew S. Fusco Award for Media Excellence, in memory of Hall of Fame board member and legal counsel Andy Fusco. From the age of five, Lane shadowed his father, award-winning Hall of Famer Ace Sr., at area tracks and in the darkroom, learning about racing and photography and falling in love with both. At Flemington, where his dad was track photographer, young Lane would shoot 8mm movies of the racing action, perched atop a stepladder in the infield parking area. At Langhorne, he filmed for his dad from inside the first turn. After the races, father and son would rush to the darkroom in their home in South Plainfield, to develop the film and print the most spectacular shots by deadline for the area’s daily newspapers before sending them to the trades. When Lane reached the age of 18, old enough to be permitted in the pits at New Jersey tracks, he began shooting in tandem with his father, and forming his own style. After the senior Lane died suddenly, at age 54 in 1973, his son stepped into his shoes. For the past 58 years, Ace Jr. has contributed many of the most iconic images in auto racing to such titles as Area Auto Racing News, Stock Car Racing, Open Wheel and National Speed Sport News, among others. Always looking to perfect his craft, Lane holds a B.S. from Montclair State and continues his studies in Photoshop techniques. A member of the Eastern Motorsports Press Association and the North Jersey Press Association, Ace Jr. is the winner of over 150 awards for his photography.
Melissa “Mimi” Lazzaro, victory lane announcer at Fonda Speedway and on-the-spot pit reporter for DirtTrackDigest.TV, will be honored with this year’s Outstanding Woman in Racing Award. The daughter of the late Hall of Fame driver Lou Lazzaro wasn’t even born when her father was in his prime, but she relished all the stories growing up—his exploits and those of Steve Danish and Ernie Gahan and all the local stars of the era. It gave Mimi an abiding respect for the history of the sport, leading her to volunteer time and effort to the Fonda Speedway Museum, and mounting a memorial race for her father at the track he loved so much. In 2010, she accompanied her uncle to the Chili Bowl, winning a fan auction to announce a heat race, and Lazzaro discovered her calling. Back at Fonda, she began handling weekly post-race interviews, and friend Scott Morlock, who worked at the Albany FOX News affiliate, put together a demo tape of her driver recaps which she submitted to MAVTV. Mimi did some pit reporting for Race Pro Weekly, and when Brett Deyo took over Fonda in 2019, he tapped her as victory lane interviewer. For the last two years, Lazzaro has been working with the DTDTV broadcast team, as pit reporter for some of their STSS racing programs, which air on Flo Racing and MAVTV. With her contagious enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport and its local players, Mimi is a bright spot on those programs—one of the only woman announcers currently covering the dirt Modified division.