VERNON, NY - The New Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon celebrated its diverse history during the racing program on August 20 this past summer, and the event was considered a great success by speedway management.
"For a first time effort, we really had a great turnout," said show Co-Coordinator Jon Button, who coordinated the event with speedway publicist Doug Zupan. Button, who is the speedway's head tech inspector, was also one of the old-timers at the speedway. He is a former track champion on the Utica-Rome Dragway and also on the 5/8-mile dirt track driving a Modified in 1980.
Past Utica-Rome Speedway drivers and other people important in the history of the speedway in attendance and introduced to fans were:
Al Bain, Ralph Holmes, Al Kotary, Cliff Kotary, Dave Kotary, Gene Kotary, Chip Lanz, Barney Lanz, Charlie Zupan, Tom Zupan, Harold Schrappel, Richard Bat, Don Wimmer, Gus Schmidt Sr., Don Austin, Ron DeYulio, Phil Kelly, Gary Lampher, Andy Romano, Joel Thomas, Tim Thomas, Don VanSlyke, "Daytona" Dave VanSlyke, Russ VanSlyke, Willy Seamon, Bernie Miller, Clarence "Speedy" Williamson, Doug Newman, "The Chittenango Cheetah" Jon Button, Jake Eastman, Paul Pavelka, Jim Thomas, Lynn Morey, Norm Moyer, Don O'Neill, Jack Miller, Bill Trexler Sr.
"I think that everyone really enjoyed themselves," said Button. "Everyone was talking about the old days, and I think they swapped many great stories and memories."
A variety of racing machines was also on display for race fans.
Race fan John Mason, who restores racecars, brought a restored Bill Wimble No. 33 Coupe Asphalt Modified to the speedway for the festivities. Wimble, of course, was one of the most popular drivers in the early years of the speedway, winning eleven features and two track championships.
Jon Button had his collection of restored Sprint Cars on hand, one of which is a 1934 Jim Carroll machine which Button races every winter in Zephyrhills, Florida. Also on display was Willy Seamon's 1957 Chevy.
The reunion was dedicated in the memory of "The Incomparable" Lou Lazzaro, Johnny "Pops" Michaels, Sammy Reakes Sr., and Pete Corey, all people who were very important in the history of the speedway.
Speedway management plans on making this an annual event at the speedway.
One driver that is hoped to be in attendance at the 2001 reunion is the famous cigar chomping Frenchman Rene Charland, who is three time track champion on the old 1/3-mile asphalt oval. Charland won the second ever race held at Utica-Rome, and was the speedway's first ever track champion.
"We had no way of contacting Rene this summer, but the week after the reunion he came to the track to spectate for the Super DIRT Series Big Block Modified event. I had an interesting conversation with him - wow, he had some great stories, and he said he'd be there for the reunion next year," said Zupan. "Without a doubt, having Rene on hand next year will be interesting to say the least."