Weedsport, NY — March 28, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director
Popular Floridian Wayne Reutimann, New Jersey favorite Carl VanHorn and former National Champion Dick Nephew will be inducted into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum on Memorial Day Weekend ‘08. These three driving greats add their names to a growing list of Modified legends that was started in 1992 when the Hall of Fame was officially christened on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, New York.
The 2008 Induction Ceremonies will take place Sunday, May 25 at 2 p.m. in the NE Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum. The evening race program at Cayuga County Fair Speedway will be highlighted by the Hall of Fame 76, the third scheduled points event in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds.
Still active today racing down in the Sunshine State as well as following the budding career of his son Wayne Jr., Reutimann, 63, followed in his older brother Buzzie’s tire tracks to carve his own niche in the Northeast Modified record book. Although competing up north for a just a handful of seasons, the Zephyrhills, Florida pilot made his mark at nearly every track he visited, including Orange County Fair Speedway, Nazareth Raceway, East Windsor Speedway and the since razed Reading Fairgrounds. He steered the beautiful Blair #3 and renowned Ritter & Kleintop #666 Big-Blocks, in between capturing the prestigious Eastern States 200 Championship and track points title at Orange County in 1975 aboard Richard Marinelli’s potent no. M1 machine.
Recognized around the Northeast behind the wheel of his familiar yellow no. 71e Modifieds for more than 40 years, VanHorn earned a reputation as a hard charger from New Jersey to New York and his exciting driving style attracted an affectionate fan following up and down the coast. Starting out at home state tracks Vineland Speedway and Pitman Stadium in the 1950s, the ‘Belvidere Bandit’ later represented Nazareth (PA) Raceway in the All-Star Racing League promoted by the late Larry Mendelsohn. Garnering track titles at Orange County (1971) and Nazareth (1974) while racking up more than 120 feature wins during his prime, “Fuzzy” captured the 1968 Lebanon Valley Speedway 200 and was a consistent competitor qualifying for 10 Super DIRT Week 200s in three different decades.
As the Pioneer Committee’s selection for 2008, Nephew was a champion in both the United States and Canada, collecting more than 400 first-place trophies and a dozen track titles on dirt and paved ovals from Florida to Quebec. The north country standout from Mooers Forks, New York contended for more than 30 seasons, frequenting tracks closer to home in Fort Covington, Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh, where he was the 1969-70 at Airborne Park points king. Following a brief retirement from racing, Nephew returned to short-track competition and ran Mohawk Int’l Raceway (formerly Frogtown) where he posted a handful of top-five DIRTcar Small-Block feature finishes in 1988. Needing to pile up valuable points to tie Billy Wimble for the 1961 NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, Nephew also made stops at Fonda, Victoria and Albany-Saratoga speedways in New York, and Devil’s Bowl in Vermont.
Also receiving recognition during the induction ceremonies will be Joe Marotta, Carl Myers and Charlie Langenstein, while the late Jack Burgess will be honored posthumously on this special occasion.
Marotta enters the Hall of Fame sharing with Burgess the Leonard J. Sammons, Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing. Initiating his legendary career as a prized public address announcer in 1966 at Fulton (NY) Speedway, the Lakeland, N.Y. resident has been a familiar voice during Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse since the event’s inception in 1972. Marotta was the first-ever PA man at nearby Rolling Wheels Raceway Park —where he still mans the mic today— when it opened in 1969 and continues to serve as the first-string announcer at charter member DIRTcar track Cayuga County Fair Speedway in Weedsport.
Another mainstay behind the microphone, Burgess spearheaded young promoter Glenn Donnelly’s public relations staff with the purchase of Cayuga County Fair Speedway in 1971 and moved his talents to the fledgling DIRT circuit where he authored press releases, compiled race reports and announced to the fans at Cayuga County, Rolling Wheels and the New York State Fairgrounds, eventually serving as host of the popular “This Week On DIRT” television production. A long-time General Manager for WSEN Radio in Syracuse, he first gained notoriety at the famed ‘Oswego (NY) Speedway beginning in the 1950s, soonafter emerging as the voice of supermodified racing at the ‘steel palace’ during the 60s. Burgess passed away in February of 1993 at the age of 66.
Bursting on to the DIRTcar Racing scene as the primary backer of step-son Vic Coffey in the Sportsman ranks in 1994, Gene DeWitt Outstanding Car Owner award recipient Myers has evolved into one of the most respected car owners in the Northeast. With sponsorship support shared over the past decade among DIRTcar Big-Block stars Danny Johnson, Steve Paine, Doug Hoffman, Tim McCreadie and Justin Haers, Sweeteners Plus President and CEO Myers’ proudest moments have come following thrilling Super DIRT Week Rite Aid 200 victories with Coffey behind the wheel in 2002 and again in ‘07.
Langenstein will receive the Mechanic of the Year Award after molding a successful career that has carried him from the Syracuse Mile in New York State to the superspeedway of Daytona International in Florida. Currently residing in North Carolina, the New Jersey native first ventured to Nazareth, Reading and Flemington (NJ) Fair Speedway in 1972 and over the next two decades surfaced as one of the top wrenches in the Northeast. From 1976-82 Langenstein accompanied George Smith’s Statewide Racing team with Jimmy Horton behind the wheel, then joined forces with big-Block star Brett Hearn before building a car for notorious owner Tony Ferraiuolo and his driver Ken Brenn Jr. to close out the 80s. Charlie relocated to the Tar Heel State and helped Rob Moroso capture the NASCAR Grand National title in 1989 before working at the Kneisel Speed Shop in Pennsylvania from 1992-95 and serving a one-year stint with Team Freightliner owner Ray Bramall. Today, he is the technical supervisor for Hendrick Motorsports on the Cup circuit, overseeing everything mechanical for the cars driven by internationally acclaimed touring stars Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Co-recipients of the seventh annual Gater Racing Photo News “Outstanding Woman in Racing” award are long-time motorsports supporters Zelda Reakes and Marilyn Toal from Upstate New York.
Wife of Hall of Fame Class of ’94 inductee Sammy Reakes, Zelda worked behind the scenes for Bob Rogers’ Tri-County Racing Association that flourished in the 1960s organizing events on the Central New York circuit in Brewerton, Weedsport and Waterloo. Family activities carried plenty of weight in that era at the local speedways and she not only scored the events, sold tickets and worked the concessions on race nights, she offered countless hours of volunteer service as the clubhouses remained open until the morning hours to entertain both young and old racers and their fans throughout the summer months.
Toal can be credited with first introducing the Rochester, New York-based Eastman Kodak Company to the world of DIRTcar Racing. Through the efforts of Marilyn and her husband, Don Toal, the Kodak Park Athletic Association (KPAA) was a prominent fixture at Canandaigua and Cayuga County Fair speedways as well as the New York State Fairgrounds during Super DIRT Week from the time DIRT originated in 1976 until the mid 80s. Kodak cameras were popular give-a-ways on all race nights sponsored by the KPAA, with a special award handed out annually to the top Big-Block qualifier at the Syracuse Mile. Marilyn retired from Kodak in May of 1986 just two months after she orchestrated the final KPAA booster club auto racing awards banquet in Rochester.
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.