FONDA SPEEDWAY SET TO INDUCT FIVE NEW MEMBERS INTO THEIR HALL OF FAME
By: Ron Szczerba
Fonda, NY – Coming up this Saturday, July 1 five new members will be inducted into the prestigious Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame. The festivities will start at 3:00 p.m. rain or shine, at the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame & Museum. The Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame induction class of 2023 includes two race car drivers, a track official, a track personnel/pace car driver, and a crew chief.
An original member of the “Grand Gorge Gang” Danny Ballard towed his familiar 22M from Grand Gorge, NY to the Fonda Speedway and its victory lane, over, and over, and over again. The Heavy equipment operator found success in the Street Stock Division (now the Pro Stocks) where he amassed 17 career victories and claimed the 1994 track championship.
With the IMCA Modifieds joining the competition at the Speedway in 2000, Ballard would change classes and the success would follow. Claiming 27 checkered flags, he sits 2nd on the all-time win list, while besting the competition to claim track championships in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
Since retiring from the big car racing Ballard can still be found in victory lane competing in the Slingshot Division at nearby Glen Ridge Motorsports Park where has claimed another 26 victories and the 2020 and 2021 track championships.
In 1968 at the Fonda Speedway, Jack Miller started his racing career with a 1956 Chevy that Harry Peek found for him at a cost of $350 for the car and some spare parts including tires and wheels. In 1969, Miller built a 1954 Chevy that he ran from 1969-1972 getting his first feature win at Fonda in that car. 1973 was a banner year for Jack with seven feature wins and the 1973 Limited Sportsman Track Championship at Fonda, including one night when he won his qualifying heat race along with two feature wins on the same evening!
Miller ran a Modified for a few years with limited success, took a few years off from racing, and then raced an Open Sportsman car at Utica Rome with great success including feature wins and the 1998 Track Championship. When things started getting crazy and his age was getting up there, Miller decided to go racing in a Vintage car in 2020 with great success.
Over the years Miller ran at 21 different racetracks, some of which are not open any longer, in states including New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Delaware, and Canada. In 2019 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA). Miller was born on May 1, 1951 and was married to his wife Karen on June 9, 1978. He has a large family including three children, two daughter in laws, and six grandchildren.
JOHN W. “JACK BLACK FLAG” BLACKWOOD JR.
Blackwood worked as crew chief for Ernie Gahan in the 1960’s. In 1966, Ernie won the NASCAR Modified National Championship and Jack, as crew chief, was named the NASCAR Modified Crew Chief of the year. With this title Jack was presented the P.A. Sturtevant Master Mechanic award and he was named to the Mechanics Hall of Fame during the 1967 NASCAR Championship Banquet in Daytona Beach, FL. At this time, the Master Mechanic award was the highest award a mechanic in motorsports could receive. Jack is the only mechanic from the Northeast to have received this award. This trophy is currently on display at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Jack was chief starter at Fonda Speedway during the 1970’s and assistance starter at Albany Saratoga (Malta) Speedway during this time as well. He was best known for starting each night’s feature events from the track instead of the starter stand. One evening Jack black-flagged Maynard Forrette for an on-track incident. This did not settle well with Maynard; however, the next week he attempted to make peace with Jack. In doing so, Maynard presented Jack with a black flag with Maynard’s #99 emblazoned on it along with the peace symbol. Hence, from this day on, Jack was dubbed “Black Flag” and this nickname stuck through the rest of his life.
During the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s Jack could be seen with his wife Sue as co-pilot in the Macek’s Garage tow truck every Saturday night at the Fonda Speedway. In the latter part of the 1980’s and early 1990’s Jack was back at Fonda Speedway each Saturday night wrenching for then modified driver of the #15 Randy Snyder. Later in the 1990’s Jack wrenched for Randy Snyder in the #3 Busch Grand National North NASCAR Series for many racing events. Jack passed away in February of 2001 and is greatly missed by all whose lives he touched in racing and beyond. In 2009 Jack was posthumously inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame (NYSSCA).
When Billy Peek was around seven years old he started going to the races at Fonda with his grandfather. As he got older he started helping his cousin Clyde, who has since started driving again in the #99 Crate Sportsman car, with his racecars. His first job at Fonda around 1980 was driving a wrecker for Gigi Conover who taught him many things about a racetrack and as time went on he became a full-fledged member of the track crew, working under promoters Ralph and Ron Compani, and Seymour Hayes.
Peek continued working at the Fonda Speedway well into the 90’s, working for Ric Lucia, who he has a lot of respect for. He would drive fire safety and EMT Safety trucks for Lucia until the untimely passing of Donnie Rose. After Donnie passed away, Peek took over the reins of the pace car in the early 2000’s. After Ric Lucia left, and the DeLorenzo era started, he continued driving the pace car at Fonda, and would work the first year for Pete Demitraszek.
When Brett Deyo took over Fonda, Peek returned to drive the pace truck for around a year before retiring. Peek said that he has “millions of laps” packing mud around the Fonda Speedway over the years, nearly 40 years of spending Saturday nights at Fonda, only missing one Saturday night event over that span of time.
Working with four different drivers over his racing career as a crew chief, Jeff Carter spent 1978-1995 working with Dave Lape with some amazing statistics following them during their time together. The Lape/Carter combo were winners of five Track Championships at Fonda back in 1983, 1986, 1987, 1991, & 1992 along with Track Championships at Albany Saratoga (1982), Utica Rome (1985), Weedsport (1982 & 1983), and the DIRT CRC Series (1982).
During the 1982 season, Lape/Carter ran 109 races, finishing 105 of them on the lead lap, with 27 feature wins! Big wins achieved by the duo were the 1985 & 1989 Rolling Wheels 200, along with the 1984 Eastern States 200. Carter also worked with Jimmy Johnson, Todd Stone, and Troy Audet winning 40 races and eight Track Championships together with that trio of drivers.
“In 1981, I drove Lape’s red #22 at Utica Rome as the original start and park driver,” Carter told Jackie Lape as she gathered statistics for his Hall of Fame induction. “David was frugal about towing the car to the track to run a 10-lap heat race and two laps in the feature for $100 a week to take the green flag. Chuck Wright bought the fuel for the car while Roosevelt’s covered the oil changes for the car, which is currently in the DIRT Museum & Hall of Fame in Weedsport with the same four tires that I ran on the car. We were probably the only ones that made money racing back then.”