Article Published in Volume 39 #5, April 2, 2004 in the Gater Racing News

Over the winter of ‘59-’60 Albert and Cliff decided to
build their own car and found one that Billy Blum
had built for Oswego, Pepper Eastman owned the car
which was to become the first 60X. “It was super
light, had the sprint car steering and was built at
the time that you could do anything you want.
Pepper owned the car and ran it at the Fair with
Dave McCredy’s motor and jingled it a little bit, not
bad. They had a disagreement over something, Dave
ended up with it and sold it to us.” The car was built
originally for Watertown with a 248 cu. in. Flathead
and a 355 Crane cam, at least to start. “Bill Beamon
of B&M and I became good friends when we were
running the Studebaker. During 1959 we made a
deal with him that he would do my balancing if I
would do some R&D for him. So that year we ran
Freddy’s car with a different cam nearly every week.
They were often cams other guys had taken back to
Bill saying they wouldn’t work. We put ‘em in and
Bill would tell his customers ‘you know that cam you
brought back saying it wouldn't work? Well, you got
beat by it last Saturday.’ So anyway, he wanted us to
run Waterloo for the advertisement since Waterloo
was a lot closer to Rochester than Watertown. So we
could run Saturday at Waterloo and Sunday at
Watertown until Watertown switched over to
Saturdays. So we went to Waterloo where they were
running 270 cubic inch and won the heat and semi
before the feature got rained out. Went to Watertown
the next day and won the heat, semi and feature.
Went back to Waterloo the next week and won the
double feature. Went to Watertown the following
week and they put us through an hour inspection,
finally measured the wheelbase and said we were
illegal by two inches. We jacked the frontend back
and they had to let us run, we won the heat and
semi, but lost the feature in the lead when the
battery connection came loose, I grabbed it and got
it started back up and finished 5th or 6th holding
the battery cable. It was such a hassle up there we
decided to run at Waterloo where the guys were a
competitive sort that wanted to beat you. At Waterloo
there was already a car #60 so we added the X.”
After 5 weeks of winning the 60X got torn down at
Dominick Tantalo’s garage. “An old machinist had
the tools and after he measured us up at 248 cubic
inches he said ‘I wonder when I tell them how that’ll
grab ‘em.’ Bobby Cain built a stroker and beat us a
couple weeks so we decided we had to build a 270 so
we took it up to B&M and Bill did the machine work,
put it back together and it run beautiful but had no
power. We were struggling to run in the top five, that’
s when we ended up with the 425-2 and ran the rest
of the year. It ran much better and that’s the cam
that we won with at the Fair when Dutt Yani and
Wee Willie finished right on our bumper. We did
have the quickchange in by then with the 5A gear,
(4:77) with 82 and 85 inch rubber, so do the math
and you know about what we were turning.” My
guess is 6500 RPM. Son Roy comments; ‘We always
felt that there were guys there that had engines with
just as much horsepower at the fair. It was a
combination of the weight, the gear and his driving
that won us the fair, he drove it in 20 car lengths
deeper than anyone else. I recall two guys from
Morris standing in the corner saying “That sounds
like an overhead.’ “That probably was me” says Dad,
“I remember saying that.” In 1960, everybody had
their eyes on Cliff at the NYS Fair as he copped what
he rates his biggest win, his first State Fair
Championship at The Geddes Mile. He added his
one and only track championship that year as well
at Maple Grove as he ran steady at Waterloo that
In 1961 Waterloo gave up their 4-barrel rule and
went to the any 4 holes rule in which most went to
the two deuce set up. “We ran sporadically at
Waterloo, didn’t run much to be honest. We painted
the car up dark blue with silver trim for the fair,
pretty car, that was the only year we run it that
color. That was the year we ran the first Schooler
cam and a 13 gear at Waterloo, (5:83) plenty of gear
for a half.” At Syracuse that year they won again
with a 3 5/16 X 4 Mercury and plexiglass side
windows. Always the innovator, Cliff was thinking
aerodynamics before most at the Fair.
In 1962 the 60X returned to a white paint scheme
and a lowered front end. “We lowered the front end,
moved the radiator ahead and dropped the hood,
that made a big difference in handling.” Again they
ran at Waterloo, albeit sporadically but enough to
stay sharp for the Fair race. Their engines had
another little secret as well, but as Willy Wust found
out when he asked what camshaft they were
running, Cliff responded with “That’ll cost you many
pesos.” Let’s just say that the only other fellow that
did the same thing was Dutt Yani “the most
underrated driver of the time, he doesn’t get the
credit he deserves” according to Cliff. At a NASCAR
show at Syracuse that year, Cliff timed two seconds
faster than any other flathead and 8th out of 100
overhead modifieds. This was the day that Wimbles’
sedan caught fire and the limited sportsman
(Flatheads) never ran. “Ed Otto was Bill France’s
henchman and good buddies with Chuck Mahoney.
Chuck talked him into paying us because they
weren’t going to give the fans their money back so
we got paid for where we qualified. Dave McCredy
couldn’t get over where we qualified.” “We won the
fair that year and Howie Commander from Lebanon
was there, he wanted us since we had won the fair
and offered $200 or $300 to show. We knew we
couldn’t beat the overheads but figured we would
take top prize for the Flatheads which would make it
worth our while. Frankie Schneider sat on the pole
with a 389 Pontiac and three deuces, Lazzaro was
there with his sportsman and of course the Valley
guys. 60 laps in and we’re running second to
Frankie, we had a caution and I thought something
was broken in the front end, it was just a radius rod
on the left front. Al sent me back out and we
finished 8th. We go to get paid, get eighth place
money, our show money and we’re looking for the
bonus for being first Flathead. Howie Commander
said ‘there’s no way there’s a Flathead in that car.’
Well, I didn’t have time to change the engine, come
take a look, he did and paid us shaking his head. I
couldn’t beat Frankie but I could’ve beat the rest.
Lazzaro’s buddy Junior Bianco said afterward ‘I
couldn’t believe it, Louie’s out there running as hard
as he could and that Flathead’s staying ahead of
him.” At the last Waterloo points race that year, Cliff
lent his 60X to Sammy Reakes whose Three Aces
had been wrecked on the trip home the week before.
Sammy was in a tight battle with Wee Willie Allen for
the points championship and after his car conked
out in the heat, Cliff offered Sammy his. Reakes
couldn’t do anything with it in the heat or semi,
‘How can you drive this thing?’ he asked. “Al was
getting hot, he said ‘we could be winning with that
car.’ We found a broken weld where the radius arm
connected to the radius rod, and got it welded.”
Sammy won the consi and the feature to claim the
track championship over Allen much to Cliff’s
delight. At the end of the 1962 season Al decided he
had had enough of racing and wanted to get out, so
he sold out to Cliff.
“In 1963 we started out the season with the car but
didn’t really have time to run it, we ran a few times
but the garage was busy and we just didn’t have
time so we decided to sell it.”
The car ended up in Seneca Falls and was driven by
Don Naragon that season as the 61X. Cliff had
contemplated quitting many times up to this point
and in 1963 he didn’t drive at all, at least not until
Labor Day was coming around. “After I’d won the
Fair three times, I figured I owed it to the other
drivers to run because from a competitive
standpoint, as a competitor I wouldn’t want to win it
because the other guy didn’t come. The last three or
four years we ran at the fair was because of this.”
“Leon Chesbro had the #90 and Bill Dudley had
gotten hurt in it at Waterloo and so they weren’t
running much. We knew Leon from Fulton, he had
Roger Dunsmoor in the Three Aces and we couldn’t
beat him at Fulton but when they come to Waterloo,
he couldn’t beat us there. Leon could really make a
car handle on blacktop, so we traded notes, he
helped us out a lot, and became friends. In ’63 we
hear that they’re really flying at Waterloo, you
always hear that. So we went to Waterloo with our
stopwatches, Leon, Carl Rice and us, and we find
that they’re running a little slower than the year
before. So we talked it over, Leon found the #90 and
worked a deal. It was a good car, Leon had built it,
and we build a motor. B&M always did our balancing
but couldn’t do this one for some reason, so we took
it to a guy in PennYan. He asked, “How will I know if
I did a good job?” Leon responded, “Well, look at the
paper in the next few weeks, if the guy that won the
fair the last three years wins it again, you did a good
job.” The car got put together and “became the best
handling car I ever had,” the secret was a Willy’s
front axle with a big drop that set the front end low
and setting the car up at Fulton. “We found that
setting the car up at Fulton always got us in the best
shape for the Fair.” The fellow from Penn Yan got his
confirmation on his job after the Labor Day Fair
event as Cliff ran off with his 4th NYS Fair
Championship. Shortly afterward Cliff pulled the
motor and the #90 went back to Fulton, then on to
Gordy Wood and finally into my garage.
“Over the winter of ’63 –‘64 we decided to build our
own car with Leon and Carl Rice. Leon brought the
chassis down to our shop, it was built again for
Oswego and was super light, it came with no body.
They were switching over to Supers at Oswego so it
was made to run without one. We found a five
window body but it didn’t fit the cage.” Some
judicious work with a hammer fixed that. This car,
the second 60X, had always perplexed me, I couldn’t
understand how they got its stance. “We moved the
frontend ahead 3 inches as well as the rearend. The
motor sits in the stock position in the frame, with
the firewall cut back, this gave it the appearance of
engine set back.” Again Cliff was able to run off with
wins at Rochester and Waterloo the weekend before
winning once again in front of 20,000 at the Fair, his
fifth in a row.
“In 1965 we had built our best motor, took about 5
months to build it, and it was the best motor we ever
built. Took it out to warm it up and blew it up at
Rochester about two weeks before the Fair. We
found a rod with a bad casting as the culprit. So now
we’ve got no motor. Leon finds this 3 3/8 X 3 7/8
engine, and the block had been ported right
through the intakes, junk. But Leon’s got all the
guts with it and we got the cam. So we had to get
them welded up, we took it up to Hank Murray in
Rome and he welded up the intakes. We reground
them and built the motor figuring we aren’t going
anywhere with this thing. We get to Waterloo and try
it in the heat, Leon figured we’d try the gear and put
in more if we needed it. I came in and brother, this
engine had more than any of the others.” “At the
Fair, it really shined, we ran that Fair the fastest we
had ever run.” Cliff claimed victory #6 in a row at
Syracuse that year, a mark never equaled.
The car remained parked until two weeks prior to
the Fair in 1966. It was the only year they didn’t
build a new engine for the Fair. The Sunday before
Labor Day, they ran it up at Futon to set it up and
run 20-30 laps. Cliff felt a little vibration in the
engine and checked compression to find 10 lbs.
extra on one cylinder. “ I knew we had stretched a
rod but it was too late to do anything about it. So I
decided if it blows early that’s OK, if it doesn’t I’ll
hold back, run as close as I can until 5 to go, then I’
ll let it go. So, we get down to five, Mike Miller’s
leading it and I get the five to go from Billy Hacket
and get by Mike. Going into one I let off and she
blows. People write the story that I hit Mike, blew his
tire and my engine. We never touched, Mike’s tire
went down on it’s own and my engine blew on it’s
own.” The picture I have of the moment confirms this
as Millers car is listing to the right (an outside tire
down) while Cliff is going under him. Regardless
neither finished and handed the win to Larry Nye
who must have been a surprised winner. Cliff’s reign
at the Fair was over but he enjoyed winning races at
Utica Rome in Vern Angels Corvette equipped
Studebaker, again for 40%. “Easiest money Vern
ever made.” Cliff also piloted his nephew Dave’s
asphalt car with a 327 at the ’67 Fair placing fourth
behind winner Dutch Hoag. He continued his
interest in racing by officiating at Utica Rome for
several years, but really, Cliff’s story is one of
dominance at the Geddes Mile.
Consider winning every race at the event for six
years in a row, heat and feature. Not only that but
Cliff also ran off with every event run at Rochester
and Waterloo preceding the Labor Day event for
those six years as well. “Everybody thought we had it
easy after those wins at Rochester and Waterloo.
Just unload the car at the Fair, but it wasn’t like
that at all. I always thought that preparation and
hard work won races. After Waterloo, we took the car
to the shop and tore it down, completely. We worked
12 to 14 hours on Sunday getting ready for Monday.
One year we found a bad bearing that had to be
replaced, another year it was a lock nut and ring in
the rear end. Preparation is what won us those
races.”  A little luck helped as well, a flat tire on the
first lap of one fair event was an averted catastrophe
when the race went to yellow and allowed Roy to
change it on the track and keep their starting
position. Regardless, Cliff’s Fair record will never be
matched, and his approach to life has been one in
which he has applied his racing theories, hard work
and preparation. Cliff can list many
accomplishments in life, he has remained an elected
official in his hometown of Floyd for years, his
contributions to his community include raising
funds for a park as well as the Rome Sports Hall of
Fame. He has always remained close and loyal to his
family, I’d submit that if one wanted to take on a
Kotary in the pits in the 50’s or 60’s, you’d be taking
them all on. It’s most impressive to me to call the
man on the phone and have him immediately ask,
“How’s your family?” Quality people end up in
quality places, Cliff’s 300 wins landed him in five
Hall of Fames including being a charter member of
the D.I.R.T. HOF in Weedsport, Kodak Park in
Rochester, Rome Sports HOF, Eastern States HOF,
and the Fonda HOF. He especially proud of the work
done at the Rome Hall of Fame and it’s a place to be
checked out.
OK, rather long I admit but it’s pretty hard to cut
stuff out. Lastly, I had to ask, along with his biggest
win (Syracuse 1960) and biggest disappointment
(Rochester 1956), ‘who were the toughest
competitors you raced against?’ “Oh Gee, well
Sammy Reakes was very good, I think that with my
equipment he would’ve won them all. And Pete
Corey, he was the best, I’d see him never lift at
Fonda. And Bill Wimble, he was good everywhere.
You know, I often wondered, how good was I?” Well,
Cliff, you were pretty damn good, it seems to me that
he could win just about anywhere he put his mind
to. It was really wonderful talking to Cliff and his son
Roy, many thanks to both for their time and for
sharing their memories, it won’t be forgotten.
Flattech Dept: So, you wanna know that little secret
that Cliff and Dutt used in their engines. To coin a
phrase, ahem, ‘That’s gonna cost you many peso’s.’
Hate to be a Squirrel Dept.: Especially with a 165 lb.
Italian Smooth Hound (Belvedere and Napolean got
a shave) bearing down on you. Tail gyrating to bring
the load to a stop, I wonder what goes through a
squirrels mind, no matter, sure is fun to watch. Like
a bowl full of jelly ambling at breakneck speed, I
know what’s in Belvedere’s mind, @#@$%#&!
Thanks: To the Gater Staff for putting up with my
long articles. To Norman F. Wagner of Bedford, Ohio
for the nice card. To Wayne Emm for the nice note
and also to Jimmy Markle (1958 Lebanon Valley
Champ) for the complimentary phone call. Thanks to
all, compliments never go out of style and like Ren
said to Stimpy, ‘Don’t be stingy with your love.’ After
all it doesn’t cost anything. With that, I’d better give
some love up to my better half who’s put up with me
the last three days I’ve been writing this. I was
buying her a single rose the other day and a veteran
of this move was standing behind me, ‘What did you
do?’ He asked, “Nothing”, I replied, I was just paying
in advance. Not a bad thing to do. Jeff Ackerman,
6256 State Route 17C, Endicott, NY 13760.
1960, before the X was added at Waterloo.
Mr. Competiton at Waterloo.
The Kotary Special.
Brother Al on left with the harware, 1961 NYS Fair.
The 60X was dark blue with gold accents in 1961.
1961 NYS Fair race checkers.
Confident Cliff Kotary, 1961. Dave Allen Photo.
1962 NYS Fair race checkers.
Lou Lazzaro. John Grady Photo.
Cliff leant Sammy Reakes his car to win the Waterllo championship in 1962.
Art Reynolds drove the former 60X in 1963. Don Phoenix Photo.
1963 Feature lineup, Reakes, Kotary, Yanni on front row. J&H Photo.
Courtesy of Carl Rice.
Cliff takes the checkers from Willie Hackett, 1963.
1963 flag lap, Don Phoenix Photo.
1964 @ Waterloo, sharp car.
Carl Rice and Leon Chesbro with the 60X.
Kotary, Reakes, Nye, McArdell, 1965 State Fair. J&H Photo.
J&H Photo.
Decisive moment in 1966, Cliff's engine let's loose, Miller's tire goes down.
1964 NYS Fair start.
Pace lap 1964.
Cliff interviewed by Jack Burgess, 1964. J&H Photo.
Jeff, Sammy and Cliff @ Utica Rome, 1995. Tom Ackerman photo.
Central NY Old Time HOF Induction, 2006. Nikki Ackerman Photo.
Photo by Nikki.
1963 NYS Fair winning car, driver and trophy. Photo by Otto Graham.
Roy and Cliff Kotary, Waterloo, 1964.