New York State Stock Car Association Announces Hall Of Fame Inductees For 2021 Class
Story By: RON SZCZERBA / NEW YORK STATE STOCK CAR ASSOCIATION – ALBANY, NY – After careful deliberation among the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) Hall of Fame Committee, the NYSSCA Hall of Fame Class of 2021 was selected with four drivers, one car owner, one track owner/promoter, and an integral part of the NYSSCA organization who served as their treasurer for 28 years being elected into the associations prestigious Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will be held at 11:00 a.m. Sunday, May 15th at the Fonda Speedway Museum and Hall of Fame building located at the Fonda Fairgrounds followed by a luncheon at Winner’s Circle Restaurant. For additional information, please see the New York State Stock Car Association Facebook page or contact Cheryl Catman at 518-992-2775.
Many know Gene Cole as the owner of the Utica Rome Speedway, which he still owns, but what many may not know is that he started out as a driver as well. “Back in the 50’s every gas station had a stock car in the garage,” Cole said in a recent interview. “When you raced back then you signed a paper and if someone came up to you and offered you $150 for the car you had to sell it to them.”
Cole raced once at age 15 before he started racing weekly one year later. He did that for four or five years before enlisting in the military where he spent two years serving our country. Shortly after coming home from the military, he started an insurance business and 20 years ago this year he purchased the Utica Rome Speedway back in 2002. Bill & Kim Shea purchased the speedway from Cole to start out the 2015 racing season but after six years in early 2021, Gene and his son Tom reacquired the speedway and put it up for sale yet again.
After many interested parties inquired about buying the speedway, some not for racing purposes, the Cole’s spoke to Brett Deyo of BD Motorsports Media LLC about leasing the track for two-years with an option to buy once the two years is up. “I knew Brett (Deyo) from when he was a writer for the Area Auto Racing News and decided to sign a deal with him. My son Tom handled the sale and last year Brett did very well at the speedway.”
Cole will be 85 years old on February 6 and continues to go to the races at Utica Rome every Friday night. “A lot of people said to me,” What are you doing buying a racetrack at age 65 when you are ready to retire,” Cole said. I told them that “I got my first social security check and I had to spend it.”
When you go to Brett Hearn’s website www.bretthearn.com at the top of the page it says, “America’s Winningest RaceCar Driver.” With a career total of 920 victories and 94 track and series point titles at 48 different tracks, including five Super DIRT Week victories and seven Super DIRT Series Point Championships, Hearn is considered by many the Greatest of All Time.
Hearn’s first win came on May 15, 1976, in the Sportsman division at the Orange County Fair Speedway. After 44 consecutive full seasons of racing, Hearn took a position at what was his home track throughout most of his career, the Orange County Fair Speedway in 2020 as the Director of Motorsports.
He is first on the All-Time Win List at two speedways, Orange County with a total of 308 victories (177 Modified, 114 Small Block Modified, 15 Sportsman, & 2 Sprints) and Albany Saratoga with a total of 136 victories (50 Modified, 86 Small Block Modified). He is also second on the All-Time Win List at the Lebanon Valley Speedway with 120 wins (105 Modified, 15 Small Block Modified). Hearn was inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in 2021.
Hearn has run a part time schedule for the last couple of years and last November he proved that he wasn’t done winning yet, leading every lap of the NGK NTK World Finals Modified feature at the Dirt Track at Charlotte for his first Super DIRTcar Series victory since 2018. After his win at Charlotte, he looked like he had just won his first feature event.
“I’ve been sitting on the sidelines running a racetrack for the last two years,” Hearn said after his win at the World Finals in Charlotte. “I never really envisioned being back in Victory Lane because I was so far out of the seat. As I drove down here tonight, I said to myself If I can’t see myself in Victory Lane, I’ll never get there. I came into tonight visualizing myself on this stage and that’s what happened.”
Randy Ross started going to the Albany Saratoga Speedway at age 11. He started helping his neighbor Billy Webb who raced at Lebanon Valley, then helped Eddie Webb before ending up on Kenny Coon’s crew during Coon’s championship years of 1976 and 1977. In 1987 Ross became a co-owner of a race team with Bryan Goewey whom Ross met while helping Dave Leckonby on his racecar.
Goewey drove the car that he co-owned with Ross and won the non-qualifiers event at Super DIRT Week in 1988. Goewey then finished fifth in the main event on Sunday earning the Rookie of the Race award for his efforts. Ross had three drivers take turns driving for him up until 1995 when he and Billy Decker got together to form a team to be reckoned with. In the nine years that Ross and Decker were together, they won a total of 92 feature events, 34 of them being extra distance races at 20 different tracks.
Out of the seven championships that Ross and Decker won together, two of them were in 1998 when they won both the Super DIRT Series and overall Mr. DIRT titles. Ross and Decker had a lot of success at the New York State Fairgrounds, winning three Super DIRT Week Modified events in 1998, 2000, & 2001 along with two July events in 1995 and 1998, and the Small Block Championship event during Super DIRT Week in 2002. Decker also won the 1998 Eastern States 200 event in Ross’ race car.
Matt Sheppard took over the famed Ross Motorsports ride in 2004 and from 2004 to 2007 he won a total of 31 events at nine different racetracks. Sheppard won eight feature events at the New Egypt Speedway in 2007 on his way to the track championship. Overall, Ross had a total of 130 wins during his tenure as a car owner.
John P Flach started his racing career in 1959 at age 19 at the Lebanon Valley Speedway racing against the likes of Howie Westervelt and Stretch VanSteenburg who are both NYSSCA Hall of Famers. In 1960, Flach came out and gained his first top five finish and backed it up with a fourth-place finish one week later. At season’s end Flach finished with two victories and a seventh-place finish in final points winning him Rookie of the Year honors.
1961 saw Flach win the prestigious Langhorne Qualifier at Lebanon Valley, representing the Valley at the prestigious Langhorne event. The next year in 1962, Flach won the Lebanon Valley Track Championship at the age of 23 in a car owned by NYSSCA Hall of Fame member Stanley Wetmore. Flach called it quits in 1963 to raise his family and start his business but continued to back his sons once they started their racing careers.
John C Flach started his racing career in 1982 in a small block modified, taking home a fifth-place finish in his first season of racing. In 1983 he won a Big Block Modified event at Lebanon Valley on August 20 for his first career Modified feature win. Track championships came his way in both 1988 and 1989 with his 13th and final win at the Valley coming on June 8, 1991. In 1993 Flach changed his role in racing to that of a car owner, first in Go-Karts and then Modifieds for his two sons JC and Keith.
John C Flach couldn’t stay away from the cockpit of a racecar forever and came out to race a Modified in the Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series where he was the Track Champion in the Modified division in both 2019 and 2020. Between John P Flach (father) and John C Flach (son) they were involved in the sport of racing in many different ways for over 60 years. They were the only father and son duo to win Track Championships at Lebanon Valley and when Mark Flach (John C Flach’s nephew) won the Modified title there in 2008 it made three generations of Flach’s to win Modified titles at the Valley.
Roger Treichler “The Flying Florist” from Sanborn, NY Roger is a cousin of NYSSCA Hall of Famer Merv Treichler. In the early 60’s Roger started his 30-year racing career racing late models at the Merrittville and Hamilton Speedways, both located in Ontario Canada. In 1963, he began racing late models at Lancaster New York Speedway before moving to Modifieds in 1967.
Treichler would have great success at Lancaster capturing five track championships and racking up wins totaling 78, good for second all time. Roger also raced many years at Spencer Speedway, winning that track’s title 3 times and winning 22 features. When he visited other tracks, he also won with wins at Shangri-La, Fulton and Cayuga, Ontario to name a few but no doubt his greatest win came in the Race of Champions at the famed Langhorne Speedway in 1971 which was the biggest race of the year and the predecessor to Super Dirt Week.
JoAnn Flanigan was the treasurer of the NYSSCA for 28 years. She was the chairperson for the annual NYSSCA banquet alongside Gail Riley for many years as she gave assistance for the big event. Flanigan also served as a track rep at different tracks throughout her tenure with the organization including the Moody Mile during Super DIRT Week. She helped organize the former Motoracing Mania car show for many years along with the annual NYSSCA Golf Tournament.
Special thanks to Brian Bedell and Andy Hickok for their help with information used in this release.