Racetrack Memories (Weedsport Part 1)

Posted: January 25, 2017 in Racing
Tags: , , ,

   Hello everybody, come on in have a seat. In this series I will be talking about race tracks that I started flinging to as a kid and what dirt Modified racing was like back then. 

   Dirt track racing in the 7o’s and 80’was what I lived for. We lived on Rt 41 in Scott, NY. This was the route that a lot of the race car haulers would take to get to Weedsport Speedway, and Rolling Wheels Raceway. On a normal race night drivers like Mike Colsten, Don Beagle,  Carl ” Bub” Nagle, and The Pink Panther Chuck Akulis would drive right by my house. This was awesome seeing my local heros passing by as I was getting ready to head to the track my self. 

   What was really cool was when one of tracks were running a special show, like a Crc series race or a mid week 100 lapper. Then the big guys from out of town would pull their open trailers, and ramp trucks up the hill near our house. I could hear them before I could see them. After a while I could tell who it was before they went by. Horton and his beautiful statewide #3 ramp truck, Brightbill, Tobias, Brenn, Hearn, you name it they went by. 

   We knew who was going to be racing that night before we even got there, now this was cool. My Grand father would pick up my dad and myself every Sunday afternoon.  After the 45 min drive we would hang a right into the Speedway. As we pulled into the parking area the time the pits were on our right, outside of turn one. Butterfly’s would fill my stomach as we drove out into the field to park. 

   Open trailers lined up at the pit gate while the bleachers filled up with loyal race fans. My Grandfather and Dad would buy the tickets and  we would walk through the gate behind the front stretch. The place was always busy with people roaming around, and the lines to the food building were starting to form. The smell of Hoffman hotdogs exited from the building on our left, making my mouth water as soon as I walking in. It seemed like there were 100 hot dogs on the grill at any given time. 

   Just behind the announcers tower was where the lucky number program table was. The guys yelled “get your lucky number program here”. Along with a guy selling the Gator News Racing paper.  To the right of us was the popcorn stand, hand cut french fry booth, and the photo stand. All the way down into turn one was the pit entrance, and the men’s bathroom. We would always go to the left and enter the bleacher area at the flaggers stand. Mud packers were always making laps on the very wet clay surface. We would sit in the same area each week, 1/2 between turn four and the flaggers stand. 

   This gets me all excited just talking about it. The track would always come in pretty quick. Making hot laps fast and exciting. The latemodels would be the first race cars on the track. After making a few slow laps the surface be ready hot laps. These cars were more like street stocks of Today. They always put on a great show, rubbing fenders and using their bumpers. Modified greats like Castle, Paine, Kappeser started in the latemodel class. 


Bob Vormwald in his always fast Chevelle. (Unknown photographer)

   After the latemodels completed their hot laps it was time for the Big blocks. I remember starring down into turn one as the modifieds enterd the track on the high side of turns one and two. This is why we were there, the Mods. Jake Johnson, My Hero Will Cagle, Jimmy Winks, Pete Cortes, Ray Delmata, Johnny Podalak, Mert Treichler, Dave Late. The list goes on. It was Sunday so most everybody was there to end their weekend of racing. 

   During the 70’s “The Tampa Terror” Will Cagle won six track championships. Dave lape Got one from Cagle in 1977 and Jumpin Jack started the 80’s with a track championship. 

   Donny Bushbacher, Mike Colsten, Walt Mitchell, And Jim Gabriel won Championships in the Latemodele division. Denny Plank was the man to beat int the 320 Limited Sportsman class  in the mid 70’s. 


Denny Planck and his crew. ( unknown photographer). 

   Back then the cars were not the cookie cutter cars that we watch today. Drivers and crew members would cut, weld, and grind on their machines to get an advantage on their fellow racers. Innovation was moving fast back then. Coupe body’s, and coaches were on their way out for the most part in the middle 70’s. The Gremlin, Vega, and Pinto made up most of the cars that raced on the DIRT circuit. 

   Every week the stands were packed with fans,  and the pits were full of fast race cars . I remember yelling for my favorite drive for the entire 35 lap feature. Lap after lap. I loved watching Cagle set up the car in front of him to gain a spot in the heavily stacked field. Sometimes he would move a guy if he had to. I did not agree with that, but hey when your racing for a living every position counts. The crowd would go nuts if he moved somebody to get by It was awesome. 

   Young guns like Alan Johnson, and his brother Danny were making their way into the modified division with consistent runs at Weedsport. I remember Danny in the Sicerbeaux 0 car.That car was very cool. 

   Weedsport did not have walls around it then. A car would go off of turn one into the corn field. We would watch to see them re enter the track on the back stretch with corn stalks packed in the front shocks. Flagger Bobby Watson could see if the car was still moving from his perch.  After the heat races legendary announcer Jack Burgess would talk about the nights racing so far, and call out lucky numbers from the program. 

   We would have a couple track dogs and a drink while the crews prepared their cars for the feature races. Everybody would make their way back to the bleachers when they heard the pit Stewart calling for the latemodels to the staging area. Some times they would have the drivers bring their cars out onto the track for Kiddie Rides. We would line up at the gate on the front stretch to hopefully get a ride with my favorite driver. The officials would pack us kids all over these cars for a couple laps around the track. I remember the smell, noice and heat that was coming off the cars as we made our laps. Plus seeing the drivers without their helmets was very cool too. Good times for sure. 

   Both feature races seemed to be exciting almost every week. First the latemodels, then the Big Block Modifieds. After the last feature’s Checkered flags fell, we made our way back to Grandpas car. On the way home we would talk about the nights races, and what went on during the feature. We all had different drivers that we pulled for. This made it more interesting how we each viewed the race. 

These days can never be replaced, and for good reason.  

Next time I will talk about racing in the 80’s at “The Port”

Please stop again by for some more memories of Early DIRT racing. 

Talk to you soon,

John. 

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Comments
  1. Great read……spent a lot of muggy nights there as well.

  2. James Sherman says:

    Good article John. It reminds me of the Saturday nights we spent at Skyline when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s. I remember the whole family sitting on and under blankets in the stands early and late in the season and being on a budget we took in a grocery bag 1/2 full of popcorn for the family to share. Awesome racing and good times hanging out with the family watching heroes duke it out on the bullring. Thanks for the memories.

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