(Photos by OTTO)
OTTO DOES THE
They might come cooler than our buddy Otto
Graham in upstate New York, but we doubt it.
Otto has been
around racing since dirt was young. He ran modifieds at Brookfield,
Mid-State, Fonda back in the glory days of the fifties and sixties.
These days he’s doing fabulous photography. Check out his site,
A week ago, Otto went to the annual fall show at the historic
one-mile oval at the Syracuse Fairgrounds to capture the scene for
us. The IMCA-type mods have their Boone Nationals, the late models
have the Dream, but this is the show-down for the center-steer,
beam-axle mods so prevalent throughout the Northeast and
Mid-Atlantic. This is the big Kahuna, a ticket to Legend.
The Fairground’s environment is the
standard state fair scene: huge grandstand, excellent PA system,
infield access tunnels, large pit area, and a race surface that was
worn out thousands of laps ago. The commanding oval is somewhat
symmetrical but quirky. A pack of cars exiting turn two always needs
to funnel into the narrower back chute, with sudden constriction
that has caused monster pileups in years past.
Even the top “one percent” will wince at the dough it takes
to run a team at Super Dirt Week. The mile requires huge, costly
horsepower and totally balanced chassis. And the people. Inspections
start on Tuesday and the action goes right through Sunday.
Apparently Kenny Tremont and his dad, who run the popular and
enduring #115 team on a shoestring budget, brought 36 helpers this
down economy, there was a very positive karma at SDW this year. The
whole scene was livened for sure by what was considered the best
weather ever. It was warm and so sunny that cars like Ronnie
Johnson’s looked particularly pretty. The evenings in some parts of
the Fairgrounds were a version of Talladega North, the dust of the
day washed down with prodigious beer drinking.
On Thursday, Unadilla, New York’s Billy Decker outbraved
everyone with the fastest lap, 29.927, his sixth time setting the
pace at SDW. As usual, he was amazingly speedy all week.
Given the prestige of SDW, lots of former competitors reconvene
each autumn. Are Saranac Lake, New York’s Wes Moody and Buzzie
Reutimann of Zephyr Hills, Florida, telling tall tales? Doubt it! On
the day in 1970 when “Slugger” Moody blasted his 454-powered ’36
Chevrolet coupe to the first 100mph average lap ever run, Syracuse
became instantly known as “the Moody Mile.” The 70-year-old Buzzie,
just off a win a couple weeks back down South, won Syracuse’s
Schaefer 100 in 1972, the feature event of the first Super Dirt
As crowds began piling in in decidedly bigger numbers than in
recent years, Friday offered a mishmash of racing events. A first
came when an Australian Pete “Batman” Britten romped home winner in
a feature for big block drivers who had not run here before. Jimmy
Blewett, once just an asphalt specialist and multi-time Wall Stadium
champ, swept the analogous run for 358 first-timers. Both started on
the point. Among other pavement guys who tried the dirt were Chuck
Hossfeld and Ted Christopher. Hossfeld, who crashed on lap one, was
quoted saying, “it’s the ultimate rush.” TC, who did not qualify,
said with a chuckle, “This is a culture shock. But I love it and
would do it again next year under a better situation.” Also new was
racing under the lights that night. It was well received by the
fans. Many the old-time race watcher will say that a racing motor is
the music of the night. The drivers, however, were not so sure. Otto
spoke to Danny Johnson about how he felt about the ’Cuse under the
stars. The “Doctor,” one tough cookie, told him the infield lights
had cast shadows in the track through the turns, making it difficult
to know how far away the wall was.
Lebanon Valley, a lightning quick New York half-mile a couple hours
to the east in, are always in the hunt. The faces of drivers Eddie
Marshall, Andy Bachetti, and Kenny Tremont (L to R) reflect the
intensity of Syracuse.
In years past, all kinds of divisions have competed on SDW
Saturday. There have been late model races, USAC events, some very
scary open competition shows, and WoO sprinters. This year, a huge
field of sportsman cars, whittled down to 32 starters, was topped by
fast-timer Neal Williams out of Pittsgrove, NJ. A regular autumn
participant at the ’Cuse, Williams races weekly at Bridgeport, NJ, a
sweeping 5/8-mile dirt oval. He was heard saying after his 30-lap
win, “The first lap, I decided that I had to run the outside and it
was scary. Every time I went into the corner, I thought I was going
to hit the wall, but it worked!” The marquee event of the day,
though, was the star-studded Nationwide 358 modified event. Just
like Neal Williams, Billy Decker, torridly fast all week in anything
he drove, had a pole shot. Shown above, he led the whole deal, with
the exception of rounds 35-53 guided by speedy Canadian Martin Roy,
an Airborne Park hot shoe. Remarkably, this was the fourth time in a
row Decker has dominated the Saturday proceedings.
with the 25-lap Bacc-Off Pro Stock championship. Fonda Speedway
regular Rocky “the Flying Squirrel” Warner #79 starred in what was
called the best race of the week. It was spirited, leader-a-lap
stuff, and in the end not everyone was quite as pleased as Rocky.
Everyone in the stands was in the vertical mode for the parade
lap of the Small Engine Fuel (SEF) 200 for the modifieds, Decker
setting the pace.
Two hundred miles is one long afternoon. And it seems that, much
like Sprint Cup racing these days, it’s not how fast you go as much
as it is what you’ve got in your tank.
It’s dust and commotion between laps 150 and 175 when mandatory
pit stops take place. Each team must at a minimum jack up the rear
of the car such that at least one wheel comes off the dirt.
smiling Stewart Friesen, the current generation of an ultra-
talented racing family, got there first. But there was some
commotion. Some folks, especially in Decker’s Gypsum crew, thought
that Friesen’s crew never jacked up his car when he made his stop.
Here the affable Shane Andrews gets the scoop for Speed TV.
Apparently, the officials thought there was no infraction.
So, it looked like young Stewart was, as Ken Squier would say,
off to the land of milk and honey for his second SDW victory in a
row. Racing will be racing, though, and there was a wee fly in the
ointment, a little skimming of the milk. A post-race inspection
found the size of the fuel cell in the #44 a tad on the generous
side, and the team was penalized 50% of the $50,000 first-place
© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181
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