Classic Drivers Countdown: Billy Blum Captured 1958 Classic When Bliss, Bellinger and Swift Tangled

OSWEGO, NY – As the countdown continues toward the 59th running of the Budweiser International Classic 200 at Oswego Speedway on September 6, we look back at the next historic Classic driver on our list, 1950’s Modified ace Billy Blum.

Bill Blum won the 1958 International Classic driving for Oswego, NY's Virgo Brothers.
Bill Blum won the 1958 International Classic driving for Oswego, NY’s Virgo Brothers.

Blum is the first driver on our countdown that graced Oswego’s victory lane in Classic competition, and he did so all the way back in 1958.

From Syracuse, Blum was driving the Virgo Brothers owned No. 23 out of Oswego, and was sitting tight in the ’58 Classic behind Lee Bliss, Nolan Swift, and Eddie Bellinger Sr. in the early going of the now 150-lap Classic event.

On lap 37, Bliss failed to see the Buck Holliday No. 72jr which was stalled on the track.  Bliss slammed into the stopped machine with Bellinger unable to miss the collision.  Bellinger would then clip Swift, taking all three drivers out of the race.

Several others were also involved, including Indy 500 veteran Jim Hurtubise.

Blum was the first racer to come through unscathed, and would go on to cash in on the biggest win of his and car owner Nick Virgo’s career in the International Classic.

“Winning the Classic was my most memorable moment at Oswego,” said Blum.

Blum also contended in the very first International Classic in 1957, won by Jack Murphy, with a 17th place effort.

After Blum’s triumphant ’58 victory, he returned in 1959 driving for George Adams and Joe Magari in the day-glo orange No. 90.

Blum went on to capture the first heat race of the day to start the International Classic on pole position, setting himself up as the early favorite to be the first repeat winner of Oswego’s crown jewel.

The battle for the ’59 Classic would go back and forth between Blum and Bliss.

Blum led the first 43 laps from pole, with Bliss snagging the top spot for just three circuits, before Blum again inherited the lead for another 64 laps as the leader.

Eventually, Bliss made the winning move on lap 110 and held off the field for the final 40 laps.

Blum would go on to a runner-up finish in the Adams/Magari No. 90, capturing his second and final top five run in the International Classic.

Other than Blum’s victory in 1958, most may recall his name as a result of the spectacular 1960 Classic fire which consumed the Adams/Magari No. 90.

After suffering steering failure on the No. 90, Blum parked the car racer in turns one and two, and exited the machine.

The car was stuck on the track for 10 laps when Bill Greco came along and tagged the rear end of the No. 90, rupturing the fuel tank.

Eventually the race was red flagged so the massive flames could be extinguished.  Blum was fine, but the car was destroyed and never raced again.

The 1961 Classic would mark the end of an era for Oswego’s famed Modified competitors, as the Supermodifieds came onto the scene.

Blum contended in his final Classic in ’61, scoring a 9th pace run.

For years, Blum was one of the most fierce competitors on the Oswego oval, and will go down as one of the greatest Oswego A-Modified drivers of all-time, especially in the International Classic.

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