Submitted by Carol D. Haynes, for Oswego Speedway-Mitchell’s Oswego Speedway Hall of Fame
OSWEGO, NY – The resplendent Lake Ontario Event & Conference Center in Oswego was once again the site of the annual Oswego Speedway awards banquet on November 7, as many attendees gathered to acknowledge the outstanding individuals from the 2015 season.
The Mitchell’s Speedway Press Hall of Fame 2015 inductees were also introduced to the crowd of almost 400 on hand for the season-ending event.
During the invocation by Romey Caruso, a moment of silence was held for Cindy Nicotra, wife of car owner John Nicotra and former Oswego tech man Ted Powers who both passed away recently, among others.
The evening began with three special awards presented annually to members of the Oswego race community. The 2015 Ed Clark Spirit Award was given to a long time Oswego cornerman who would eventually take over on the flag stand, Don Forbes. Bob Rose, who is a volunteer who helps with grounds upkeep on race weekends, received the 2015 Oswego Speedway Recognition awards for his years of service.
The Lois Matczak Memorial Award, sponsored by husband Skip Matczak, went to Marion Naramore, supermodified car owner of the number 83, driven by Lou LeVea Jr.
2015 Mitchell’s Speedway Hall of Fame inductions began with driver Randy Ritskes, whose career started on the dirt and then moved to asphalt driving for numerous car owners over the years chalking up 12 feature wins at Oswego and 6 with ISMA. The transplanted Canadian’s last year of racing, in 2014 garnered three feature wins for the Ken Locke 37 team.
The late Nick and Sam Virgo whose careers spanned nearly two decades during the 1950s and 1960s at Oswego Speedway were inducted as car owners. Most of the Virgo brothers’ successes came in the early stock car days but they were able to transition into the supermodified era in the early ’60s
Drivers such as Ronnie Wallace, Bobby Pierce, Donnie Stevenson and Jim Muldoon were among the those who sat behind the wheel of Virgo supermodified cars. Sam Jr. and Dan Virgo accepted the plaques.
In the Achievement category, Kirkville, NY, natives Mark and Shirley Letcher were inducted, having devoted most of their lives to auto racing, Mark as a driver, first on the local dirt tracks and then on the asphalt of Oswego, and many other legendary speedways. Letcher drove for car owners Herm Graf, Dick Rayner, Norm Hagen-Lyle Howard and eventually Jim Soule over the years while he and Shirley raised six children.
Shirley became an integral part of the fledgling International Supermodified Association formed in the early ’70s by the late Jim Shampine, Nolan Swift and Tom Heveron. She served as secretary, treasurer, handicapper, scorer and more while also writing a column for the Gater Racing News. Shirley returned to the Oswego Speedway to help out with the Eagles Fan Club and Mark as a crewman for the Danny Connors’ 01 supermodified effort, which continues today.
Shirley, celebrating her birthday Saturday night, indicated she and Mark plan on being dedicated to racing for years to come.
Oswego Speedway employees Fred Cavalier and Don and Marsha Bartlett for their efforts which began in the ’70s at Oswego Speedway.
Cavalier has served as a pit steward, a pit pass seller and then 25 years of manning the 40-car electronic scoreboard which was an entirely manual system until eventually being replaced by a computer.
The Bartletts are also jack of all trades with Don filming the on track action from a perch overlooking the speedway for 40-plus years, after helping out in the pit pass booth the same night.
Don still is a fixture on the sky deck filming the night’s racing.
Marsha has served as a program and Gater Racing News seller, manning a table under the grandstand each week, and then moving inside the main ticket office, where she continues to work today.
After the Hall of Fame presentations, each accompanied by some memorable video footage and words from the inductees, it was time to honor the present the driver-car owner awards from the season.
The 2015 Jake’s Automotive SBS Car Owner award was presented to former driver, turned car owner, Tim Barbeau, whose driver Dave Cliff finished second in the point standings and also picked up the big Mr. PathFinder Bank Small Block Super event.
The Jake’s Supermodified Car Owner honor was given to Craig Danzer, whose son, Dave, finished a fine third in the points, winning one feature event.
The team also fielded a second car, the 72, driven by SBS driver Cliff, doing double-duty in 2015. It was Danzer’s 29th year of car owner competition.
The 2015 Jake’s Automotive SBS Crew of the Year went to the the 3rd place finishing Doyle Racing crew while the Jake’s Automotive Supermodified Crew of the Year honors went to the very successful Nicotra Racing team who at times were fielding three cars in competition.
The 2015 Turning Stone Casino Most Popular Driver Award, as voted upon by the race fans, went to Mexico native Michael Barnes, driver of the Syrell 68.
The Eagles Fan Club, which raises money during the season to pay out to member drivers in both divisions also handed out four prestigious awards.
The Tony White Memorial award went to long time crewman and sponsor Paul Stepien, owner of the Front Door Tavern, who has also most recently helped out in building car bodies in the SBS division.
The Jim Shampine Memorial went to Bob Hoefer, car owner of the Lavery 22 and sponsor on multiple cars as owner of Lighthouse Lanes.
Two new awards initiated by Chris Nelson State Farm Insurance were Most Determined Driver honors going to supermodified driver Stephen Gioia III, still recovering from a late season accident in his family-owned 9 and Dalton Doyle, owner and builder of his own 01, in the SBS division.
Jim Dowd, senior VP and chief financial officer of PathFinder Bank, name sponsor of the SBS division, introduced the top SBS awards. Alex McRae, grandson of Joe Hawksby, won the Butler Disposal Rookie of the Year Award and a $250 check after finishing in the top 20 in points.
The top 10 in the SBS final point standings were Mike Bond, Dave Cliff, Dalton Doyle, Andrew Schartner, Anthony Losurdo, Jack Patrick, Kreig Heroth, Matt Magner, Jay Andrews and Jason Simmons.
Each received a plaque, and checks from the Oswego Speedway and from the Eagles.
Bond also received a jacket and trophy indicating his championship title.
Bond spoke briefly, thanking his car owner Denise Merrill of Four 7s Motorports, his family, crew and sponsors.
Bond won a very close battle for the SBS championship which saw him take the title by just 5.5 points over Cliff.
Tom Salvador, of Novelis, name sponsor of the supermodified division, spoke about the current expansion of the aluminum company in regard to providing Ford Motor Company with product for their truck and cars. Salvador also acknowledged the Oswego Speedway can recycling effort which occurs each year with cans collected from the speedway and also from fans at special times during the season.
He indicated that the total can count has reached more than 1.1 million, allowing more than $70,000 to be presented to local charities over the years since the inception of the program.
Aric Iosue, driver of the Graham-owned 11 super was honored as the Novelis Rookie of the Year award after improving to a 12th place finish in the Budweiser International Classic 200. Iosue, whose uncle is Gary Allbritain and dad Dave is a longtime crewman and crew chief, thanked his mom and dad for getting him started, along with Ray Graham, his car owner and brother-in-law, his crew and sponsors.
He received a $500 check for his efforts.
Last but not least were the presentations to the Novelis supermodified top 10, led by the Bob Bond, who garnered his first championship title in a tight battle with Otto Sitterly which went to the last race night and ended in just a 3.5 point advantage. Bond’s title also made history as he and brother, Mike, both of Mexico, became the first brother duo to top the point standings in the same year.
Bond was also one of only 24 drivers over the years to add his name on the championship winners.
Bond, whose successful year included a win in the Budweiser International Classic, also spoke briefly thanking his car owner Denise Merrill, his family, crew and sponsors.
He earned a $5,000 check, a jacket and a trophy for his efforts.
Otto Sitterly, David Danzer, David Gruel, Pat Lavery, Jeff Abold, Kody Graham, Shaun Gosselin, Brandon Bellinger and Joe Gosek rounded out the top 10.
A very tentative 2016 Oswego Speedway schedule was announced with details to be finalized in the coming months.
Millennium Music and DJ Ron Gray took over to provide the entertainment for the rest of the evening.
Dan Kapuscinski served as MC, also putting together the excellent video coverage.
Thomas Video will have DVDs of the award ceremonies, Hall of Fame inductions and entertaining commentaries from the recipients, available in the near future.
Check Oswegospeedway.com for further information.