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Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

(Photos by OTTO)



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, www.ottosraceaction.com.

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 year.


Despite the 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 Week.


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.


Racers from 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.


Sunday began 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.


Fan favorite, 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 treasure.

© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

If you were interested in this Tearoff, you might enjoy the books below:

Fifty Years of Racing at

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by Bones Bourcier

Available from Coastal 181 only from
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by Lew Boyd
50 Years: Oswego Speedway
International Classic

by George Caruso Jr.,
with Carol D. Haynes

Price Was: $50.00
SuperSpecial: $29.95

Stop by our Book Store Directory for a look at our book and DVD selections:

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.: Previous Tearoffs :

9/30/11 - Saturday Folk at New Hampshire

9/14/11 - About J.R. Hildebrand - and that Last Lap

8/30/11 - Sideways and the Dzus Queen

8/16/11 - Totally Fast

8/2/11 - Perrotte at Plattsburgh

7/14/11 - So Here's What Jack Says

6/30/11 - Quick to Quickest - Jim “Mr. Magoo” Maguire

6/16/11 - Climb to the Clouds

6/2/11 - Irv and the Hall of Fame

5/18/11 - Makin' MOWA

5/4/11 - The Running of the Racers

4/21/11 - Pruett's Perspective

4/4/11 - Winter of Discontent

3/23/11 - Thinking of Gene Bergin

3/8/11 - Sprint Car World Record?

2/21/11 - Dinner at Daytona

2/10/11 - The Call Him 1/4ley

1/28/11 - Doc's Beard

1/15/11 - Reconsidering Generalizations

12/31/10 - Powerful Passion

12/19/10 - Tearoff at Yuletide

12/6/10 - Indy in December

11/21/10 - Mutt and the Brutal Ballet

10/29/10 - The Johnny Bensons and Their Supers

10/13/10 - Anatomy of an Accident

9/28/10 - Maybe Marty

9/14/10 - Push Refresh for Speedway Illustrated

8/23/10 - An Ode to Senior Supers

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12/09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2007-11 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181





































































































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