By Doug Zupan
ALBANY, NY - "The Incomparable" Lou Lazzaro, Utica's pioneer stock car racing legend, will be inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) Hall of Fame at the 32nd Annual NYSSCA Awards Banquet on January 20, 2001 at the Polish Community Center in Albany, NY.
Lazzaro, who passed away on May 1 after becoming ill the previous Saturday following racing at his beloved Fonda Speedway, will receive the award posthumously, and it could very well be one of his biggest achievements in the sport he so dearly loved.
NYSSCA President Ed Biittig commented, "Rules for induction state that a driver must be retired for two years before being considered for induction. Without a doubt Lou Lazzaro would never have fit into that category. He lived for racing and raced until the very end."
Lazzaro, who was inducted into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Utica Sports Hall of Fame this past summer, raced an incredible six decades on dirt and asphalt tracks from Canada to Daytona and amassed 250 plus feature wins. He was extremely versatile and would successfully race and win with the same car on the dirt and the asphalt with only minor changes. Throughout his career, he continually beat the odds and served as an inspiration to many people, including current Fonda icons Dave Lape and Jack Johnson.
His Saturday night home track during his career was Fonda Speedway, where he has 113-career feature wins over four different decades and four track championships (1964, 1969, 1977, 1978). Lou's final Fonda Speedway feature win came on May 15, 1999, less than a year before his untimely death. Lazzaro was a lifetime guaranteed starter at Fonda, he has been described many times as "the embodiment of Fonda Speedway".
His greatest win was Orange County Fair Speedway's Eastern States 200 in 1978. Lazzaro was also track champion at Victoria Speedway (1962, 1964) and Albany-Saratoga Speedway (1969). He was New York State NASCAR champion once in the Sportsman division (1964) and three times in the Modified division (1969. 1971, 1972). He also won the prestigious All-Star League title twice (1968, 1971).
One of Lazzaro's favorite tracks, besides Fonda, was the Utica-Rome Speedway, where he won 27 career Asphalt Modified features and three track championships (1963, 1970, 1971). Lazzaro was a three-time winner of the prestigious New Yorker 400 (1963, 1968, 1969) race held on the old Utica-Rome asphalt track. In addition, Lazzaro has two career Utica-Rome Dirt Modified feature wins, the first being the first ever dirt race held at Utica-Rome.
The NYSSCA Banquet is one of the most heralded and well-attended racing banquets in the Northeastern United States, and Lazzaro's induction to the Hall of Fame should be quite a celebration attracting great attention throughout the racing community. Receiving much press coverage, the banquet celebrates the past and the present of stock car auto racing in New York State.
Other extraordinary members of the racing community being inducted to the NYSSCA Hall of Fame include drivers Link Pettit Sr. and Ken Goodermote along with the matriarch of the Wetmore/Searing family, Ethel Searing.
In addition, NYSSCA will honor award winners for the 2000-racing season from every NYSSCA member track, which includes Afton, Albany-Saratoga, Devil's Bowl, Fonda, Lebanon Valley, and Utica-Rome Speedways.
Tickets for the banquet may be ordered through the NYSSCA Newsletter if you are a NYSSCA member or by calling Gail Riley at (518) 237-6350 or Ed and Betty Biittig at (518) 868-9300. Tickets are $30.00 each and dinner choices are Prime Rib, Boneless Stuffed Chicken, or Broiled Haddock.