Utica-Rome - Big Block Modified history

Big Block Modified history a storied one at Utica-Rome Speedway. VERNON, NY -- With the Advance Auto Parts Big Block Modified Super DIRT Series heading to Utica-Rome Speedway later this month on August 22 for the Tracey Road Equipment / ...

Big Block Modified history a storied one at Utica-Rome Speedway.

VERNON, NY -- With the Advance Auto Parts Big Block Modified Super DIRT Series heading to Utica-Rome Speedway later this month on August 22 for the Tracey Road Equipment / Freightliner SelecTrucks 100, track management decided it would be a good time to go through the history archives of Big Block Modified racing at the track.

The track was converted from a 1/3-mile asphalt oval to a 5/8-mile clay oval in the spring of 1979, and in the first dirt surfaced event with a Big Block Modified, a 60-lapper on May 30, the "Incomparable" Lou Lazzaro claimed the feature win. Bob Savoie, a current regular at the track, was the first ever dirt track champion that season. Claiming feature wins that season were Maynard Forrette (3), Bob Savoie (3), Wally Warburton (2), Lou Lazzaro (2), Leroy Hurlbut (2), Larry Dalmata (1), and Jack Johnson (1).

In 1980, the track was going through various legal issues and was only open for several races -- mostly open competition Small Block Modified specials. However, in 1981, the track was run by Ron Compani from the Fonda Speedway, and a two-track circuit was the main card, sanctioned for the first time ever by DIRT Motorsports. Art Kiser won the very first DIRT sanctioned Big Block Modified main that season, with Dave Lape becoming the track champion. Winning features that season were Jack Johnson (6), Dave Lape (4), Tommy Wilson (3), and Art Kiser (1). Lape and Johnson were locked in a tight championship battle to the end, with Lape taking the honors at season's end.

1982 was the second consecutive season sanctioned by DIRT Motorsports and operated by Ron Compani, and this time, Jack Johnson won the track championship. It was almost an all Johnson season, as Jack and Alan Johnson dominated the action with Alan taking the opener on April 23. Jack had eight wins, and Alan had six wins, but the incredible feat was that both drivers won all the features from opening day to mid July that season. Also winning were Merv Treicher, Danny Johnson, John Podolak, and Mike Romano.

In 1983 and 1984 the speedway fell silent due to various legal issues but in 1985, Jack Johnson joined Jim Beachy and Fred Burrows to promote the track with a specials only format. The track was renamed the New Venture International Speedway. Alan Johnson was victorious in the opener on July 16, with the championship going to Dave Lape. Winning one race each that season were Alan Johnson, Dave Lape, Jack Johnson, and Freddy Brightbill, who won the longest race ever on the dirt track, a 200-lapper on September 29.

In 1986, the speedway held several more special events for the Big Block Modified division, with Brett Hearn becoming the track champion. Hearn won five out of the six scheduled events, with the other feature win going to Bob McCreadie. In 1987, Kenny Tremont Jr came onto the scene and became the track champion. Twelve total features were run, with wins going to Tremont (4), Jack Johnson (3), Alan Johnson (1), Jack Cottrell (1), Dave Lape (1), Ray Dalmata (1), and Tim Dwyer (1).

Dwyer's victory was the final Big Block Modified race held at the speedway for over ten years, because in 1988, the track again fell silent due to legal issues. However, it reopened with a full weekly schedule in 1989 under the promotional reigns of Bub Benway and Eric Kingsley, with the Small Block Modifieds being the main draw. The Big Blocks did not return to the speedway until the year 2000 when Kingsley scheduled a 100-lap Super DIRT Series race and Danny Johnson went home the victor.

Now, the return of the Big Block Modifieds at Utica-Rome Speedway for the Tracey Road Equipment / Freightliner SelecTrucks 100-lap Super DIRT Series event is an annual affair in mid-August. Last year, Billy Decker led all 100-laps to dominate the event and take home his first ever Utica-Rome victory. This year, the 3rd Annual Return of the Big Blocks to Utica-Rome is set for Thursday August 22, and again it will be a 100-lap $6,000 to win Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series event. All the top DIRT professional touring stars will be in action in the first ever Big Block Modified event under the promotional reigns of the Cole family.

Track gates on Thursday August 22 for the Tracey Road Equipment / Freightliner SelecTrucks 100 will open at 4pm. Time trials for the Modifieds will be at 6:30pm, with racing taking the green at 7pm. For more information on the return of the Big Block Modifieds on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series to Utica-Rome Speedway, contact the track office at (315) 829-4557 or visit www.uticaromespeedway.com.

-urs-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Brett Hearn