OSWEGO, NY – The small stretch of blacktop that connects Route 104 to East Albany Street was re-dedicated Saturday morning (Aug. 3) to the man who still has a huge influence over Oswego Speedway.
Jim Shampine Drive was re-dedicated in honor of the late speedway champion prior to the running of the 27th annual Mr. Novelis Supermodified this evening.
“I basically noticed the sign was missing (at Route 104 and Shampine Drive). It got misplaced when (the state) widened the road. I asked the mayor to look into what happened. So, he called DOT and that started the ball rolling,” Oswego’s “Downtown Mayor” Mike D’Amico explained.
The sign at the top of the hill, at East Albany and Shampine Drive “was really weathered and beat,” he added.
The mayor told him to look into what it would cost to replace both signs.
“One thing lead to another. I talked to a few people,” D’Amico said.
Pathfinder Bank, Romey Caruso (whose family formerly owned the Oswego Speedway for decades), the current speedway owners, the city and others all pitched in to help replace the signs, he said.
Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen, Speedway representatives, as well as D’Amico and Jim Paternoster were on hand to re-dedicate the road and unveil the brand new street signs designed by Paternoster, who also made the sign poles and 8 Balls on top.
The entire process took about five or six months, D’Amico said.
Paternoster’s newly designed Jim Shampine Drive signs are one of a kind with the added flare of airbrush artist Matthew Hubbard of Airbrush Plus, of Minetto.
The artwork is so detailed, you can see the spark plug wires, D’Amico said.
Each sign, located at either end of Jim Shampine Drive, features two of Shampine’s most historical racing machines in airbrush form.
“Each sign probably took 50 to 60 hours, each side. There is a lot of detail,” Hubbard explained. He has done works all over the country and is very pleased now that some of his artwork will be prominently displayed in his hometown.
He based his artwork on photographs of the famed 8 Ball.
“It was a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed racing. I came up here (Oswego Speedway) as much as I could as a kid. We had a lot of kids in the family, so we could afford too many trips. It was a lot of fun. I always enjoyed it. One of the first things I remember drawing as a kid was race cars,” Hubbard said. “So, when they asked me to help with this, I was thrilled.”
He couldn’t wait for the signs to be unveiled. After working on them for months, many times viewing the work in progress through a magnifying glass, he was anxious to see them mounted on the sign poles.
“This gives them a little bit different look. It’s nice to see people enjoying them,” he added. “They did a great job with the design work and everything. It’s neat. I’m excited! I think it’s a good treat for the track and for the city.”
Growing up in the Port City, the mayor recalled how youngsters used to “drive” their homemade race cars.
“Mine,” he said, “was the 8 Ball. It was metal with baby buggy wheels and they had no brakes.”
He thanked Shampine’s daughter for attending the ceremony along with her husband and daughter.
The Pine died in an accident at the track in September 1982. The following year, the city and speedway management moved to dedicate the street in his honor.
During Classic Weekend in September 1983, the original dedication ceremony was conducted.
The original sign on the north end of the street “is missing in action,” according to the mayor.
When they did the reconstruction of Route 104, “they took the old sign(s) down and they disappeared. They resurfaced and then disappeared again. It’s a mystery as to where they ended up at,” he said.
“I have to give the credit to Mike (D’Amico), the ‘Downtown Mayor,’ the guy who really spearheaded this. He worked day and night on getting this accomplished,” the mayor said.
Gillen also recognized the efforts of Paternoster, the speedway owners, Pathfinder, Caruso, the city’s Traffic Department and Community Development Office and Lighthouse Lanes who sponsored a small gathering with refreshments following the ceremony.
D’Amico recalled going to the speedway as an eight-year-old. He had built a replica of Shampine’s 8 Ball and wanted to present it to him after the night’s racing.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and thought it was his friend. However, when he turned around he discovered it was a woman who wanted to get a closer look at the car. He was shocked when she introduced herself to him – Mrs. Jim Shampine.
She took him over to the pits and introduced him to her husband.
“He took the car out of the box and looked it all over. He said, ‘this is pretty nice, it’s really good – please do not bring this to the races any more!'” D’Amico remembered Shampine telling him.
“I looked up at him and said, ‘Why, Mr. Shampine?’ And he said, ‘It is pretty intimate … if the competition sees this, they are going to go right by me!'” he said.
“As part of the Caruso family who owned Oswego Speedway from 1951 through 2003, and arguably the biggest Jimmy
Shampine fan growing up as a kid although Mike D’Amico and quite a few other kids would challenge that statement, I’d just like to comment on the importance of this re-dedication,” Caruso said.
Shampine’s accomplishments at Oswego Speedway are well documented, he said.
Shampine is the all-time leader in Supermodified wins at Oswego Speedway with 84, was a seven-time Speedway track champion, and a three-time winner of the prestigious Budweiser International Classic (one of those in 1980 in which he led every lap), three Budweiser Modified 200 championships and he sat on the pole five times for the International Classic.
“What might not be so well documented is the type of ambassador Jim Shampine was for the Oswego Speedway and supermodified racing. Similar to Mike D’Amico, the reason I got to be a big Jim Shampine fan was not his prowess on the racetrack. In 1965, during a rain delay, he was up in the grandstand signing autographs and talking to people; he was really just a nice guy who truly enjoyed being with the fans, being with the people,” Caruso told the large crowd. “I didn’t know then that in the years to come, he would re-write the record books here at Oswego Speedway. That is what made Jim Shampine so popular.”
He would always find time and “never turn down an invitation to an event to promote the speedway.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that it was just as important to him to make the kids and people in attendance happy,” Caruso added. “I remember a couple of times he even showed up at East Albany and Burkle Street to watch us race our soap box derbies.”
Those and many other stories about Jim Shampine are endless, Caruso said, adding, “They demonstrate the true measure of the man. So, we re-dedicate Jim Shampine Drive today not only for his talent, dedication and accomplishments (on the track) at Oswego Speedway, by for the person he was away from The Steel Palace.”
“Seeing it from out here, it is different, it is good. I like it,” Hubbard said as he checked out the signs after the unveiling.
“I think this is wonderful. It’s such a tribute to my father so many years later,” Shampine’s daughter told Oswego County Today. “We live in Baldwinsville now. And, I hardly ever get up this way any more, haven’t been to the speedway in years. This is really great; very touching.”
As a part of the re-dedication, Paternoster displayed Shampine’s restored ‘wedge’ Supermodified, the most prolific of Shampine’s designs that took him to his first International Classic victory in 1970.
Shampine’s daughter said she best remembers her father’s “rear engine (race car) sticks in my mind the most, just because it was cool looking.”
“All I can tell you is that he spent hours and hours in that garage. I can remember he’d come home from work, eat dinner and then out to the garage! He lived, ate and drank racing. He was really smart, he knew his stuff. I probably got in the way a lot riding around in the garage with my three-wheeler,” she added with a laugh. “I’d just be driving around, getting dirty. Then I’d go in the house and my mom would go, ‘arrg, not again!'”