Weedsport, NY — May 18, 2009 – By Gary Rowe, Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Selection Committee
Canadian chauffeur Joe Plazek has been selected as a 2009 inductee into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame. Driver inductions and special award ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday, May 24 on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the annual Memorial Day Weekend holiday show at the adjacent speedway.
Super DIRT Week and success at the ‘Moody Mile’ have long been the standard by which dirt modified drivers of the Northeast have been measured. The high speeds and tight turns of the Syracuse Mile race track located at the New York State Fairgrounds have intimidated drivers for nearly a century and there have been very few drivers who have met the challenge and have been successful even once at the track.
And darn fewer who have put together the string successes that Joe Plazek did in 1995, 1996 and 1997 when he won three straight Labor Day races on the Salt City oval.
Plazek’s success at Syracuse was not just limited to Labor Day Weekend but also Super DIRT Week as in 1993 he won his first Super DIRT Week pole award, and then in 1997 set fast time for the annual Super DIRT Week event at Syracuse. “I really thought that 1997 was going to be our year,” Joe commented about the event. But despite also sitting on the front row and winning one of the Triple 20’s, he got into a lap 138 jingle that essentially ended his day.
“Somehow after that race I lost the desire,” Joe reflected. “Over the next year or so, I kind of lost focus, my mind started to wander at the track, which is not good because to be successful in this sport requires a total commitment. Before that, not only was I focused on the car but I also tried to eat and sleep right. To take care of myself in general so that I could be in the best physical shape possible. To be successful it really requires a certain life style. Then the kids were getting older and I needed to spend more time with them. So it was a mixture of things that led me away from the DIRT Modifieds. However, I do regret getting out cold turkey. If I had to do it over again I would have probably done it differently.”
1997 was the closest Plazek came to winning the sanctioning group’s top race. “Syracuse is a tough place to race,” he said. “It is a real challenge. I am proud of those Labor Day races that I won. I sure would like to have won the big one at Syracuse, but I never did grab the brass ring.”
Plazek ran a limited schedule on the dirt until 2000, and then parked the Modified to commit more time to the family business and to his five children. “You can’t dabble at racing. It is something you have to do every day or you bow out.”
Joe’s long career in a DIRT Modified was not just about Syracuse. He also captured the 1995 track championship at Cayuga County Fair Speedway along with back-to-back track championships in 1996-97 at Canandaigua Speedway.
In addition, Plazek had to share his only career 358 Track Championship with Danny Johnson at Ransomville Speedway which stands as the only Modified tie in track history.
By the end of his DIRT Modified career he had amassed 68 career Big-Block wins that included six Super DIRTcar Series victories. Interestingly, his Series wins only came in his best years of 1996 and 1997, with the first win in the series coming at Brewerton Speedway on June 28, 1996 and the last at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park on September 1, 1997. Joe also captured one Super DIRT Series win at his Saturday night home of Canandaigua Speedway on July 31, 1997.
“Canada” Joe Plazek started his racing career in 1973 on motorcycles in motocross racing for the Canadian Motorcycle Association. In 1977, on a request from dad and mom (and because of their fear of injury to their son), Joe traded two wheels for four. “Dad didn’t like the moto-cross stuff because it was hard on my body and so he pushed me towards cars,” Joe explained. “There was no carrot or anything, just a lot of encouragement.”
Purchasing an asphalt compact car, and racing Cayuga and Flamboro Speedways, he cut his teeth as a 16 year-old against most competitors old enough to be his father. He ran a Late Model in 1979 and a Mini-Stock for a coupe of years after that. In 1982 Joe could see the demise of the Ontario asphalt circuit that he competed on and decided he would move his racing efforts to the DIRT sanctioned tracks and started racing a Sportsman Modified on the clay ovals on both sides of the Niagara Frontier as well as in Central New York State. But when the 1983 racing season came around Joe was behind the wheel of a mighty Big-Block Modified.
“It was a fast progression, but that was the way to do it,” Joe said. And over the next 18 years, the Plazek family spent the weekends racing. At first it was just he and his siblings and his parents. Then when he married, wife Sue went to the ovals with him.
The accomplishments on the DIRT circuit would make a career for most but after wrapping up his career behind the wheel of a DIRT Modified, Joe went asphalt racing in the CASCAR Super Series in 2002. Now, driving a black full-fendered Chevy with half the power of his Modified, Joe showed his versatility by becoming the series’ rookie of the year in ’02. Yet after racing a couple of seasons with CASCAR he lost his sponsorship and decided to call it a career.
“We did well in the series,” he said. “But we lost our Sony Play Station sponsorship. They pulled the plug and that was the end of my racing. Seeing how things have evolved I wish that maybe I had stayed in DIRT a little longer,” he reflected.
Today, “Canada” Joe Plazek works at the family auto recycler business in Caistor Centre, Ontario and limits his motoring activities to cross-country motorcycle riding and snowmobiling.
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com, home of the 2009 DIRTcar All-Star Weekend, July 17-19, featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Sportsman and Big-Block Modifieds in the richest short-track show of its kind in the nation — the $20,000-to-win Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series “DIRTcar All-Star 100” on Sunday, July 19.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
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, Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.