Irv Taylor drove
everywhere, for everyone. (Biittig Collection)
IRV AND THE HALL
Amidst all the parades in hamlets across
upstate New York, another little pearl was being polished on
Memorial Day weekend.
Each year since 1992, the DIRT Hall of
Fame and Museum at Cayuga County Fairgrounds Speedway in Weedsport
has honored Modified racing veterans with style, in a building awash
in racing memorabilia and famous vintage stock cars.
Johnny Botz’s famous Reading-mobile on display (Dave
The 2011 driver inductees were multi-time
national champion Jerry Cook; huge DIRT and pavement winner Doug
Hoffman, now promoter of Mahoning Valley (PA) speedway; and standout
pioneer from the 1950s and ’60s, Irv Taylor. No different from past
years, it was an emotional event.
It was a profound honor for
me to induct Irv Taylor. An on-the-gas throttle jockey, no frills,
basic as dirt, Irv was a major hero to me growing up. Here’s some of
what I said about him.
“Irv was everywhere, Montreal to
Daytona, Stafford, Connecticut, to Rochester, New York. The deal was
to turn a buck and move on. Free agent, no binding contract. He won
at 11 tracks, driving for 22 different owners… He was racing’s Lone
In 1959, after he raced Henry Caputo’s 283-fired ’37
Chevy Sportsman coupe on the Daytona Trivoval (can you imagine?!),
they went down to Middletown, New York, to run with the Mods. Irv
started flipping. He told me, ‘The lights went out when I finally
stopped. I was okay and I got to thinking that death ain’t that bad.
Then a track light came into focus and I realized I was in a gully
covered with muck. We banged the roof out, but Henry was really
pissed. That’s okay. I had other stuff to drive.’
side of Irv’s life wasn’t a whole lot different. Once I asked him
what he did for a living and he said, ‘I can’t really say, but I can
say I’ve never had a vacation.’ Of course, I couldn’t figure that
out. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve probably had 50 or 60 jobs. I’ve always
done what I had to do to keep going. When I needed a vacation, I’d
quit. When I needed work, I’d start work.’
At 83 Irv is still
doin’ his thing, now on a motorcycle sallying forth from his home in
Florida or the camp in Old Forge, New York. You can see him leaving
the races at Fonda or Weedsport or Utica-Rome heading solo into that
But not to worry about where Irv ends up. He’s
always had his centering devices to keep him straight and washed and
waxed. Those are Irv Taylor’s “D-Taylors.” First, there’s Dorothy,
his wife of 62 years, and their daughters Diane, Donna, and Deborah.
Maybe they’ll give a wave so you can say hi after the ceremony.”
Irv appeared to like the last thought and to take the whole
thing in stride as he ambled up to the lectern. With a giant grin,
he thanked his ladies for putting up with him. And he thanked
everyone in the audience for making it possible for him to have so
much fun over the years.
Then, stunningly, he burst into
tears. He struggled for a couple of minutes, uttered, “Thank you.
That’s it,” and he sat down.
Shane Andrews watches as Irv brings out the water truck.
(Dave Dalesandro Photo)
And in so doing, Irv Taylor, the racing
veteran, won yet another feature right there at the Hall of Fame. He
stole everyone’s heart in the place, save mine. He’d already had
that in his pocket for over 40 years.
That Hall of Fame and
Museum is pretty darn cool, but it has struggled of late. It was not
really a part of Glen Donnelly’s sale of DIRT to Boundless Motor
Sports or of the subsequent takeover by World Racing Group. WRG has
offered up critical life support over the last few years. However,
the Hall must now find a sustainable path to the future. We who love
racing and treasure its history have all got to be conscious of it –
and all the others across this country. Just recently, attorney and
lifelong racing buff Andy Fusco has organized the group in 501(c)(3)
non-profit, educational status, on behalf of Trustees Tom Skibinski,
Gary Rowe, and Gary Spaid. We can help. For membership or
tax-deductible contributions to the Hall of Fame contact:
Andrew S. Fusco
Attorney at Law
23 South Street
The Class of Inductees, 2011.
Left to right, Bill
Ste-Marie, Crew Chief; Doug Hoffman, Driver; Jerry Cook,
Irv Taylor, Driver; Dick Cozze, NJ-based Car
(Dave Dalesandro Photo)
© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181