By: Ron Szczerba
PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGES ON SATURDAY, JULY 20 DUE TO THE EXTREME HEAT CONDITIONS PREDICTED – ALSO PLEASE NOTE THE CORRECTED NOTES ABOUT HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES DICK BENNETT & BERNIE MYRUSKY
Fonda, NY – An exciting and memorable night is upon us this coming Saturday July 20 at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway when the Recovery Sports Grill & BBL Companies presents “Hall of Fame Night”.
The Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place at the Fonda Speedway Museum starting at 3:00 p.m. The 2019 inductees into the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame include drivers Dave Camara, Danny Ody, Randy Glenski, and Jack Cottrell; car owners Dick Bennett and Bernie Myrusky; track personnel Doreen Marcucio; track contributor John Grady; and Chet Hames will be honored as the Bill Fake-Track Pioneer.
The 4th Annual Bruce Dostal Dedication to the Fonda Speedway Museum awards will also be handed out to Laurie Fallis, Peter Lazzaro, and Bobco Videos!
Due to the predicted extreme heat on Saturday, the time schedule has been adjusted for Saturday’s racing program. Gates will now open at 5:00 p.m. with Hot laps at 6:30 p.m. and Racing begins at 7:30 p.m.
The racing card will include the Sunoco Racing Modifieds, the Swagger Factory Apparel 602 Crate Sportsman, the Montgomery County Office for Aging Inc. Limited Sportsman, the Algonkin Motel Pro Stocks in a Best of 8 Series event presented by American Racer, the Trackside Body Works Street Stocks, and the Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modifieds (MVVDMS) are all in action!
Below are excerpts from Fonda Speedway Museum’s own Matt Noles, which appeared on the Fonda Speedway Museum & Hall of Fame Facebook page the past couple of weeks. Noles writing is Hall of Fame worthy in its own right so please enjoy his short stories on each of the 2019 Hall of Fame inductees.
DICK BENNETT & BERNIE MYRUSKY
The Fonda Speedway has been home to many of dirt racing’s most iconic drivers. At the same time, it has also been home to some of the most iconic cars of the day as well. Yet one color combination managed to have more staying power than most; the Bernie’s Liquor No. 71.
The #71 was owned by Bill King, who owned racecars at Fonda from 1955-1984 under the King Family racing name according to Bill’s son, former Fonda Speedway announcer and 2015 Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame inductee Jim King who was and always will be known as “the voice” of Fonda Speedway. Bennett hung around the garage and worked on the racecar according to Jim while according to the Fonda book it was sponsored under the Bernie’s Liquor Store name.
The #71 car became famous in its own rite with drivers like Jim Luke, Ken Jones, Lee Millington, Lou Lazzaro, Don Wayman, Jack Farquhar, Robbie Kotary, Don Wayman, Irv Taylor, Ken Shoemaker, Jack Johnson, Lew Boyd, and others finding themselves behind the wheel of this historic machine. Many of them went on to become Hall of Fame drivers in their own time.
When the street-stock division – now known as the pro-stock division – came into existence in 1981, nobody knew how impactful it would be almost 40-years later. Some of the best drivers to race at the Fonda Speedway have come from the full-fendered class that some fans saw as a one-off, one-season wonder. Drivers with names like Towns, Hoffman, Achzet, Arell, Ballard, Hart, Martin, Noviczski, and Gates became household entities.
Yet there was one that came before them all, Danny Ody. Danny Ody – or known simply as Danny O – became a pioneer in his own way during that fateful ’81 season. With three-career victories to his name in the division, the driver of the No. 1 drove to the first-ever street-stock/pro-stock track championship in the history of the “Track of Champions”.
It wasn’t just his racing career that left an important mark – though with his career victory tally surpassing the century mark in countless types of cars and at countless different venues certainly helped – it was also his work through the New York State Stock Car Association and his own love of racing through Old Speedways that solidified his well-known love affair with motorsports.
Sadly, the local racing scene was blindsided with the devastating news in January 2014, when his untimely passing was made known. Little did we comprehend the void, which was to be left behind in the wake of his loss and over five-years on, that void is still there. From street-stocks to mini-sprints, from IMCA modifieds to vintage modifieds, Danny Ody raced them all and he raced them well. Quick with a smile and determined to make you laugh, Danny O was quite simply an ordinary man that managed to do extraordinary things.
The Utica, New York region has long been a hotbed for dirt racing talent and for good reason; Lou Lazzaro. The ‘Incomparable One’ did more than win races throughout his storied career; he also influenced many young men to follow in his footsteps. One has to look no further than the list of winners from the region. The names and faces stand out like neon signs on a moonless night. Names like Richie Evans, Tommy Wilson, Ben Novak and last but not least by any means, Randy Glenski.
Though the kid with the All-American looks knocked out two quick modified feature victories in his sophomore season in 1983 and another in 1992 – along with a runner-up finish at the Mile in Syracuse that October – Glenski’s powerhouse 1981 season behind the wheel of his legendary No. 17 late-model solidified his stature as one of Fonda’s greats.
Garnering the late-model title in 1981 – which vaulted him into the realm of the modified division in 1982 – and 16 overall victories in the division – placing him fifth on all the all-time win-list – the name Randy Glenski became synonymous with the “Track of Champions.” To those that call Fonda Speedway their home, his name still – undoubtedly – very much is.
The term pioneer is often overused to the point of nausea. Yet few words are apt for his description. Chet Hames was Fonda’s first starter throughout what became known as the “Glory Years” and the colorful Saratoga resident – for all intents and purposes – developed the mantra that all flaggers have emulated since; be a part of the show but don’t be the show.
Starting the races from his perch in the center of the front stretch, Hames fit in as a daredevil amongst the legion of barnstormers that were the early years of dirt racing at the famed Fonda oval. With his silk flags flying, full-bodied coupe missiles that were ill handling at best would pass by within what seemed to be fractions of an inch every Saturday night.
The dust infused ballet that should have resulted in the untimely demise of Hames did nothing short of inspire a young generation of race fans to become flaggers themselves; or at least dream of being so someday. In short, it was awe inspiring, entertaining, pioneering and above all else, legendary.
The history of Fonda Speedway is rich and deep leaving many to comprehend the mystique behind the “old girl”. Yet as important as the stories are, they would be merely words on a page if not for the thousands upon thousands of iconic images that accompany them. Like a venerable story unto themselves, the photos that have been captured since day one up to the present catalog what the “Track of Champions” truly is.
Since the inception of motorsports photography at the Montgomery County oval, many men – and women for that matter – have captured the moments, the emotion, and at times, the agony of competition at the half-mile facility. It’s a work of art that was started by the late Russ Bergh that continues to this day. Among those that have dubbed themselves as photographers, one man stands out seemingly more than most. With the eye of an artist, our next inductee was always in the right place at the right time to capture the history through his viewfinder.
For longer than many of us have even been on this earth let alone in attendance on Saturday nights, John Grady was there capturing the most memorable moments. When the NASCAR Grand National cars returned to Fonda in 1966, Grady was there to capture the action. When there were still snowbanks lining the infield at the opener in 2001, Grady was once again there.
While some will never be more than picture-takers, Grady was a photographer to the very core. He documented decades of history in a way that few before – or since for that matter – were able to accomplish. In short, he has become as iconic as the photos he’s taken though he would have been the last one to admit such a thing. After all, a good photographer places the subject matter in the foreground while he or she remains out of sight in the background. That’s what John Grady attempted to accomplish every single solitary moment at the speedway.
It’s often amusing – for lack of a better term – how often history seems to repeat itself. When Jack Johnson, a man who really needs no introduction, began his racing career, he was given a helping hand by his friend and mentor Harry Peek. The latter went on to become a four-time track champion at Fonda and – as the founder of the coveted “Peek charge” – he would also go on to become a Hall of Fame member.
Fast forward a few decades. When Dave Camara, a man who really needs no introduction, began his racing career, he was given a helping hand by his friend and mentor Jack Johnson. The latter went on to become an 11-time track champion at Fonda and he would also go on to become a Hall of Fame member. As was stated, history does tend to repeat itself.
Dave Camara didn’t sit behind the wheel of a modified until 1990. What’s more, he never sat behind the wheel of anything else. With an Olsen chassis put together by his teacher, Camara immediately showed what he was capable of. Fans and competitors alike took notice of the Camara Slate No. 26.
By the mid-90s, the Vermont native was calling Fonda Speedway home on Saturday nights and it didn’t take him long to cement his place in the history books – he went to victory lane for the first time in 1995 – and by 1998, he beat out fellow competitor Mike Romano for his first-career title at the “Track of Champions.”
If there were any detractors stating that his triumph was a fluke, he backed up his performance the following year with another title in 1999. His critics were silenced in short order. Though he retired from racing with little to no fanfare at all – which it can be assumed was his preferable way of making his exit – the imprint he left behind is still very much felt by those who watched his rise from obscurity to dirt modified prominence. In fact, on the not so rare occasion, his name is still mentioned with the wonder and hope that his return is imminent. On Saturday, July 20, it is for at least one more time.
Saratoga County has long been known for producing winning racecar drivers and our next inductee is no exception. Rock City Falls, New York is merely a dot on the map. In fact, if one were to attempt driving a scant two miles-per-hour over the speed limit, one would simply miss it. Aside from a paper plant, there really isn’t much to see aside from trees and the occasional stop sign.
Yet from this venerable speedbump arose one of Fonda’s greatest talents in the late model division and one of the more consistent drivers of his era in the modified division as well. He is none other than the “Rock City Falls Rocket”, Jack Cottrell. From the outset of his career – one that would inevitably land him in the Hall of Fame – Cottrell was a special talent. With a simply adorned No. 8 that would become his trademark until his retirement in 2004, Cottrell battled with some of the best that Fonda’s first full-fendered division had to offer.
What’s more is he bested them all on numerous occasions. With 11-career victories to his name – landing him seventh on the all-time win list – Jack Cottrell brought all of his talents to the forefront in 1979, garnering his first track championship at the hallowed fairgrounds oval. It was only logical that he would move on to the modified division and for the Fonda faithful, it was a move well made. Heading to victory lane in September of 1981, Cottrell proved that he belonged with the stars of the top division. By 1988, he even surpassed a few of them.
Actually, he surpassed all of them.
When D.I.R.T (Drivers Independent Race Tracks) decided to head north of the border and take a swing at putting dirt modifieds back on the asphalt, Jack Cottrell answered the call. Loudly. Emphatically. Victoriously. He bested all of the top names of the day leaving Fonda fans with an immense sense of pride that one of their own went on the road and brought home the trophy. It’s a story that’s still told with pride by those that are in the know. For some, it’s a story that still brings chills and smiles in equal measure.
With his final victory coming at the “Track of Champions” in April of 1999, Cottrell left one more fond memory behind as he claimed the 358 Modified title that season. Retiring a scant five-years later, the memories of his exploits both at Fonda and elsewhere have left a long-lasting imprint in the minds of many. It’s amazing what a man from a dot on a map can accomplish.
Speedways are full of unsung heroes. Officials, track maintenance personnel, ticket booth workers and so on show up every week – sometimes for decades – and perform their jobs with little or no recognition; no fanfare to speak of. Nearly every job performed at the racetrack goes unnoticed. It seems to be a thankless occupation.
Yet every now and then you run across an individual from the aforementioned list that has not only put in an incredible amount of time and dedication into their work, they’ve done so with such devotion that they can’t help but stand out from blurred background of behind the scenes activity. In this case, her name is Doreen Marcucio.
Since 1969 – that’s quite literally five decades – Doreen has showed up to work the various concession stands around the Fonda Speedway. Week after week and season after season, she’s been there faithfully taking care of both the passionate patrons and the drivers they watch. One can say it’s nothing short of a love affair.
She did take a few years off after the arrival of her sons. Still, for 46 out of 50-years she’s been signing-in weekly. It’s not perfect attendance but it’s damn near close enough. Though she will be the last to admit it – and the last to have expected any recognition at all – Doreen has successfully and thoroughly weaved herself into the colorful tapestry that is the “Track of Champions”. In her own way, she’s as much a part of its storied history as the members already in the Hall of Fame. Now it’s her turn to take her place amongst them.
The 4TH Annual Bruce Dostal Dedication to the Fonda Speedway Museum Awards will also be presented to Laurie Fallis, Peter Lazzaro, and Bobco Videos!
Race Day Information:
Gates Open: 5:00 p.m.
Hot Laps: 6:30 p.m.
Racing 7:30 p.m.
Seniors: (65 & Above) $9.00
Kids 11 & Under: FREE
Pit Entry W/Fonda Speedway License: $30.00
Pit Entry W/O License: $35.00
Parking in Speedway Lot: FREE
Concession Stands & Beer Booth Open
Fonda Speedway Novelty Stand: Brand new Fonda Speedway available for purchase.
Speedway Office Phone: 518-915-4395
Speedway Address: 21 South Bridge Street, Fonda, NY 12068
Speedway E-Mail: email@example.com
Speedway Website: www.thefondaspeedway.com
Speedway Twitter: @thefondaspdwy
Speedway Facebook: www.facebook.com/thefondaspdwy
Since 1953, the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway has hosted the best in stock car racing. Now under the management of BD Motorsports Media LLC, the speedway will operate weekly on Saturday nights from April through August plus several special events. Fonda Speedway is located on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds off New York State Thruway Exit No. 28 at 21 S. Bridge Street Fonda, NY 12068.
Fonda Speedway is on the web at www.thefondaspeedway.com. To learn more, call the office at 518.915.4395, like Fonda Speedway on Facebook www.facebook.com/thefondaspdwy or follow on Twitter: @thefondaspdwy.