Weedsport, NY — May 19, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Selection Committee
*Jay Fish Photo
Long-time motorsports advocates John and Laura Wight from Phoenix, New York will receive the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame ‘Gene DeWitt Outstanding Car Owner’ Award in 2009. The 18th annual 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.
Culminating with their first overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship in the Big-Block Modified ranks last season, the Wights have emerged among the most successful car owners during the newest millennium. Billy Decker first climbed behind the wheel of the LJL Motorsports no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers Modified in 2004 and in his fifth season reached the pinnacle of the DIRTcar Racing world with the help of a record-tying 10 victories in Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series competition.
“Winning is everything,” stated John, a self-made trucking magnate from Central New York, who was born in Watertown and raised in Oswego before relocating to the Baldwinsville area. “I knew we could do it (Mr. DIRT), I was actually a little disappointed we hadn’t done it the previous three years so deep down I kinda expected it. But we just didn’t come through and we had some problems. Last year things finally started rolling our way and everybody did a great job.”
Steering the potent Gypsum 358-Modified entry, Pat Ward garnered the first overall Mr. DIRTcar title for the Phoenix, New York couple in ’04 and son Larry Wight was named DIRTcar Rookie of the Year in both Big-Block and Small-Block Modified at the end of 2008. Decker’s fourth Super DIRT Week Rite Aid 200 victory in 2005 was his first driving for the Wights as he established an all-time race record leading 160 of the 200-lap distance in the two-day affair.
“2008 was a great season, I really have to thank the crew for all the hard work they put into this. All I did was try and convey a desire to be number one, to win at whatever you do and to be the leader. I’m not someone who looks back and worries about what anybody else is doing and I think that’s the same for Billy. He never turns around to see who was just passed, he’s always looking ahead to see who he can get by next. Racing is just like business in that regard, it’s important to do the best with what you have control over and keep moving forward,” added Wight, a former owner of Can-Am Motorsports Park from 2001-03 and the newest landlord of both Brewerton and Fulton speedways in ’09.
While the Wights have been ahead of the trucking game since Gypsum Express Ltd. began operation in 1982, they officially entered the auto racing arena in 1998 with Central New York chauffeurs Roger Phelps and J.J. Michaels enjoying the earliest support. And just as seven truck terminals now exist to serve the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest regions of the country today, Wight issued the services of seven open-wheel drivers to share space under the red Gypsum umbrella during the team’s 10th Anniversary campaign .
On the road the company slogan remains that ‘Our Drivers Make the Difference’ and in 2008 Big-Block standouts Pat O’Brien, Ryan Phelps, Roy Bresnahan and Sportsman contender John Pietrowicz joined veteran pilots Decker and Ward and his 16 year-old son Larry to provide some of the best representation at the track. Not only did Decker score a career best 22 DIRTcar Big-Block feature wins at nine tracks in New York, Pennsylvania and Canada, Ward (12), Wight (6), Pietrowicz (3) and O’Brien (2) bolstered the season total further while World of Outlaws Late Model Series star Tim Fuller added two more in the full-fender ranks.
“Laura and I both truly enjoy the comradery that our racers share with the fans wherever we go. We had boats in the beginning but when Larry started getting more active we needed to find a land sport. There’s always a good family atmosphere at the tracks where all the people are pretty much down to earth. We figure to be around as long as we are having fun … and keep winning, of course,” smiled John, who has been married to Laura since 1991.
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.