2014 Central New York Stock Car Hall of Fame Induction
On September 21st Midstate Speedway lives again as the Midstate Antique Stock Car Club invades the Otsego County Fairgrounds for the 19th Annual Central New York Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. How's that for a mouthful? Get used to it, there's going to be a lot of jawing at this event. The bench racing will be intense as the 'older we get, the better we were' rule applies. This year's list of inductees is as diverse as it is deserving, in alphabetical order:
Fred Barse - Hailing from Sidney, 'Mr. Ford' chose Ford power because 'everyone said if you want to win you have to have a Chevy.' I like this guy already. Fred started racing at Midstate in 1967 and won the 1970 Super Stock Championship at the track. and Skyline. His red #18 graced Midstate until it's closing and then his career continued as a driver and car owner through 1999 at Penn Can, Afton, Skyline, Thunder Mountain and Skyline.
Harry Eckert - A National Treasure at 90 years young, Harry started racing in 1947 in his own car, one he had purchased prior to WWII but didn't ahve the opportunity to drive until afterward. And this was a real race car, a sprint car with a model B Ford block and Cragar overhead valve conversion. No roll cage. Many drivers of this era believed it was better to be thrown clear of the car rather than be strapped into it. Harry won his first feature in his rookie campaign at Shangri-La with the Triple A. He won 36 features over the next 5 years including one at Morris in 1949, earning himself the nickname 'Wonder Boy'. Bill Marsh recalled one race at Warrensburg he had his 'bucket of bolts' flathead on the trailer when Harry's car broke. Bill related '"Get the flathead out" says Harry. And he trimmed them, including the New England champ.' Harry raced with a 'who's who' of the AAA, his name is besides those of Shindler, Hinnershitz, Gritzbach, Holland and Mantz. He won the Shangri La Eastern States Championship, the Canadian Auto Racing Society Championship in 1949 and the Southeastern Midget Championship in 1950. He relates his most memorable moment as being escorted through qualifying procedures at Indianapolis by Lee Wallard and was inducted into the National Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He also qualified at Langhorne, how many can say that? What a 5 year career!
Clyde Hewitt - Clyde grew up on the west end of Oneonta and got hooked on racing by hanging around the local Mobil Station where Danny Smallin housed his '37 Chevy coupe. Clyde became the water boy and tire changer at age 13 and was hooked. At age 17 he was in his first demo derby and in 1964, his first race car, a 1937 slantback Ford sedan #77Jr in the "B" class. He won his first feture at Morris in 1965 and knocked down 10 in his career. His wife Sandy won two powder puffs to boot. He also raced at Skyline, 5 Mile Point, Twin Valley and Fonda, finishing up in 1996. He counts his racng friends as Fred Barse, Willie Wightman and Mel Ogden who he related deserves great recognition for his efforts in promoting local auto racing - I'll buy that. Clyde was also elected 6 times to the Board of Directors of Mid-State Speedway and served two years on the technical committee for CNY Racing Club.
Linda Mewhorter - Linda started racing because her husband Earl "Loved and lived racing, and he still does." She started racing his blue 1957 Chevy #23 in 1967 and won her first race in 1968. She also won the Midstate Powderpuff Championship in 1968. She related 'not knowing how to drive a standard shift, she had problems getting started. Finally Earl stuck it in 2nd gear and it stayed there through out the race. I remember the engine being so loud, I thought I was going 100 mph, in reality it was much slower. It really doesn't matter as long as I won. And to top it off, I won before Earl had his first win at Midstate and I never let him forget it either. To go on and win the championship was the highlight of my short racing career.' She names her toughest competitor as Janet Rose, (most of the guys named Janet's husband Bill..) and also related that 'those darn racing helmets raise hell with your hair...' Not if your bald they don't. She concluded by saying she had many good memories of racing at Midstate.
Carl Nagel - Bub has been racing in the Southern Tier since 1959 and has done a lot of winning over 7 decades, starting in 1961 with his first win at Penn Can. The first of approximately 200 wins and multiple track championships at Penn Can, 5 Mile Point, Thunder Mountain and Herb Harvey Speedway. He related his most memorable moment in racing was being honored at 5 Mile Point in 1990 for having raced in 5 different decades, and winning the feature. His number 7N is retired at 5 Mile Point, he won the first 100 lapper at Penn Can in 1965 and also won 7 features in a row there in 1981. He's won the Irv Heath Memorial 3 times and for his accomplishments has been inducted into the DIRT Motorsports HOF in 2005, Penn Can HOF and is listed as one of the top 50 Greatest Drivers at 5 Mile Point. Aside from the tracks mentioned Carl also has raced at Weedsport, Rolling Wheels, Twin Valley, Syracuse, Shangri-La, Lebanon Valley, Waterloo, Nazareth, Reading, Moc-A-Tek, Fulton, Flemington and Midstate amongst others. He related that he had a lot of fun racing and met a lot of nice people.
Ralph Raasted - Ralph started racing in 1958 at Midstate speedway driving the V8 car pieced together by boys (including my father) from New Berlin. Ralph soon became the guy in New Berlin that hopeful racers sought out for advice and help. He raced late models at several tracks including Fonda, Smyrna, 5 Mile point, Twin Valley and Brookfield. He related that his first feature win was at Midstate, and they paid him in dimes... Ralph was a good driver, but an even better car owner and built the famed 26A lumber wagons that Dick Schoonover drove to 4 track championships at Fonda. Ralph also has to be credited with restoring the first stock car in the area - the #88 of Rudy Schlaepher and Bill Salamacha, and was one of the original 5 that started the Midstate Antique Stock Car Club.