Weedsport, NY — May 19, 2008 – By Gary Spaid, Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Selection Committee
*Joe Marotta Behind Mic (Ken Dippel Photo)
Long-time ‘voices of Syracuse’ and DIRTcar Racing NorthEast, Jack Burgess and Joe Marotta have been named co-recipients of the 2008 Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Memorial Award which recognizes outstanding contributions to auto racing. Burgess and Marotta will be honored when the 17th annual Northeast Modified Hall of Fame induction ceremonies take place Sunday, May 25 on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series event at the adjacent speedway.
Before DIRT Motorsports became a household name, the late Jack Burgess, an employee at WSEN Radio in Syracuse, began his announcing career at the famed Oswego Speedway, home of the ultra-fast supermodifieds. Burgess’ distinctive voice was a perfect fit for auto racing. His low tones could be heard even while the cars were at speed.
Burgess befriended Glenn Donnelly, a relatively new auto racing promoter in 1970, and joined the team as the announcer at Weedsport Speedway on Sunday evening. This allowed Jack the ability to stay at Oswego on Saturday nights.
No sooner then when he started to announce at the famed Weedsport track, he began sending out news releases and race result stories that captured all the speedway activity. He set the standard for those that followed in his footsteps.
Burgess advanced up the ladder at work and became the General Manager at WSEN. Along the way, Jack always found time for his passion — Contact Bridge. He was a member of the American Contact Bridge Association and an outstanding player.
Jack expanded his announcing duties to include the historic Syracuse Mile and Rolling Wheels Raceway. In 1974, Joe Marotta joined the announcing team. Glenn Donnelly heard Joe announcing and wanted him to announce at his track to help out Burgess with the growing load.
Marotta started announcing races in 1966 at Fulton (NY) Speedway. Fulton was paved at the time so Joe announced races which involved some of the greats in asphalt racing like Richie Evans, Maynard Troyer and Jerry Cook. Marotta’s move to dirt added to his list of great drivers for whom he has announced. Joe was behind the mike when Gary Balough brought his now famed Weld-built “Batmobile” to Syracuse in 1980. “It was a year that everyone was running for second.”
Jack planned for the future. He trained Gary Spaid to do the pre-releases for the DIRT circuit and had Marotta in place behind the microphone. He also had started to train Brian Spaid in announcing races. Spaid currently works at Tri-City Speedway in Pennsylvania as an announcer with Walt Wimer.
Jack passed away in 1993 after a long, drawn-out bout with diabetes. The last few years Jack announced from the concrete stage at Syracuse, as climbing up to the “Eye in the Sky” became just too difficult. In 1993 an empty stool stood on that stage in his honor. The NE Hall of Fame honored Jack’s memory by naming the small in-house theatre the ‘Jack Burgess Memorial Theatre,’ where fans can see old racing videos.
Marotta carried the ball for DIRT behind the microphone. He joined with Doug Elkins, Paul Szmal, Tim Pitts, Brian Mulligan and John Burr, and currently shares the mike with Shane Andrews at Rolling Wheels and Cayuga County Fair Speedway (aka Weedsport). He also returned to the asphalt for a number of years at Spencer Speedway and was joined there by Dennis Peglow.
Joe has also replaced Jack at Oswego Speedway, where he shares announcing chores with Roy Sova. Joe admitted, “Warren Ruffner, who announced at the old Reading Fairgrounds, was still one of the best ever.”
Joe maintains his business as a candy broker in the Syracuse region. He has also been the announcer for the Hall of Fame inductions for many years. Joe can also be heard throughout Central NY on his Sunday morning weekly radio racing program on WTLA 1200 AM, “Around the Tracks”.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts and Hoosier Racing Tire. Rite Aid Corporation is a promotional partner and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks, Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Dig Safely New York, Holley HP Carburetors, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks, Rislone Oil Stabilizer and Wrisco Industries.