Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Nostalgia Night is always one of the fan’s favorite events of the season. It is so awesome to see the legendary drivers and display cars come back to the speedway.
This year’s festivities were enhanced by numerous teams that sported a throwback scheme for the occasion.
In all, nine race teams had throwback schemes for the event. And they were all spectacular.
Reiser Racing’s usual #33R had a mid to late 80’s scheme of the Mike Cignarale #8.
“Years ago, Mike Cignarale decided that he wanted to go racing,” car owner Doug Reiser said. “Kirk Horton, who I was friends with since first grade, won with Mike’s car the 8th time he raced with it. During the summer, I had the job of taking care of the racecar while I was off from college. After Kirk left the team, Steve Behrent raced it until his accident. Mike Ricci took over and won his first race with the team, the 1988 Fall Twin Track Series race, held during Eastern States Weekend. After the race, we found a transmission problem, so we took the car to the shop an hour away in Loch Sheldrake. We came back the next day to finish 4th in the Eastern 200. Great memories from when I was with that team. This scheme tonight is about Mike Cignarale and his wife and daughters. And for my friends who drove it, Kirk, Steve and Mike. This scheme represents all these guys.”
“There’s no pressure tonight,” said team driver Pat Reiser with a smile. “This car won a lot of races. It’s an honor and super cool to carry on that tradition tonight.”
Halmar Racing’s 4 Big Block teams all had special schemes, each honoring an iconic car from the past. Allison Ricci had the look of the Ferraiuolo 73. Matt Janiak had the Tighe Scott #28 look from the mid 70’s. Jimmy Horton had the unmistakable colors and numbers of the legendary Carl Fuzzy Van Horn’s #71E. And 2 time OCFS Modified champion, Bob Malzahn’s Fireball #99, was honored by Tyler Boniface.
“It’s a great thing to honor the Ferraiuolo’s on the car,” said Allison. “It was such a successful car from the 70’s and I’m glad to be racing their number and colors tonight. And the car looks really good.”
“It’s pretty cool to be driving the Fireball 99 tonight,” said Tyler. “He was one of the championship drivers from the past and it was pretty cool when Mr. (Chris) Larsen wanted to honor some of the driver’s of the past with these schemes.”
While some of the schemes were known via social media before Saturday that they were appearing, some came as a complete surprise. Jared Miller’s scheme of Rusty Creeden’s Candy Cane Special 16x from the mid 70’s was one of those.
“Basically, Dave Farber and I got together for this idea. I was originally going to do a Danny Creeden scheme. And then, Dave and I decided to do a Rusty Creeden one, the iconic Candy Cane car of his,” Jared said. “We were debating whether to show it or not to people. We decided to surprise everybody.”
Pat Giuliano’s #51 showed up Saturday with a scheme that honored Gary LaBagh, the 1985 OCFS 358 Champion. Jared LaBagh, Gary’s son, is the team’s driver.
“We did the scheme from my Dad’s 1985 car. It’s a surprise to him, he didn’t know it,” said Jared. “Hopefully, he’s going to have a cool reaction when he sees it.”
“Gary is a good guy and I think he will be surprised,” Pat said. “Gary supports us and Jared is a good driver. It looks good and hopefully, it stays in one piece.”
Greg Sleight’s #85 had the late 70’s orange scheme that his father, Bob Sleight Sr. used as an owner and driver.
“It’s a tribute to my Dad. He and Paul Washburn owned the car,” Greg said. “It was 78-79 when Don Elliott drove for them. It was something that I wanted to do for the last couple of years. But due to Covid, we couldn’t do it. I didn’t have a car last season, so that’s one of the reasons for coming back was to honor them.”
“Bob and Paul were partners and Dad raced it,” recalls Donnie Elliott of his dad’s experiences with the team. “They did very well with what they had, they did it all out of their pockets. I forget that the 85 was a panel car, which is what my Dad called it. Greg remembered that. It may have been the first one. They had some sheets left over from a siding business. So the panels were free to make. Bob drove it after my dad stopped driving it, I remember helping out on the car.”
Henry Sharp’s 11A was honored with a scheme that was driven by Tighe Sherlock. The popular “Sharp Henry” was a top runner in the Limited Sportsman division in the 70’s and later on, raced in the 358 Small Blocks and Modifieds with the John Robinson team.
It’s pretty awesome that these teams took the time from their busy maintenance schedules and the added expense to do this for the night’s event. One team I talked to said with the new panels and wrap, he estimated that it was about $2,000 cost. That’s a big price, but these cars brought a lot of smiles and enjoyment to a lot of people like Gary LaBagh, Donnie Elliott. the Creeden family, Tighe Scott, Henry Sharp and many others, including this writer. Thank you for enhancing what is such a great night, the Orange County Fair Speedway Nostalgia Night.