Story By: PHAZE 3 RACING – CASTLETON, NY – Hard to believe that there are only three races at Lebanon Valley left. We are currently tied for fifth in points with two points races to go.
My apologies for the extremely long story, but if you get to the end, you’ll understand why.
These are tough times for sure… some racetracks are struggling for car counts and many have even shut their doors amidst rising expenses and sharp criticism by racers and fans on social media. However, some tracks and series are out there thriving, doing better than ever.
Without getting into all the specific elements of why some are thriving while others are struggling, I will offer my opinion on where it starts. The difference starts with people and leadership. Tracks that have strong leaders and strong teams under them who treat racers and fans with respect, who communicate well and who focus on consistently doing things the right way are winning. It’s a sad state for many tracks, but those that don’t do these things well will continue to lose cars and fans until they no longer can stay open.
This post is not about racetracks though… I wanted to point out how critical people are to the success of any organization. This post is about all the great people who have been responsible for our team’s success in racing for over 30 years. It takes a strong team of people to do well in this game, and I wanted to make sure everyone knows who really made this all happen for us year after year.
My Uncle Bruce gave me a shot behind the wheel of a Big Block Modified in 1990. I had been a weekly fan at Lebanon Valley since I was in diapers in the early 70’s when Bruce was racing there himself… he eventually became a car owner and had multiple drivers wheel his cars from the 80’s on. My dream was to race and win at Lebanon Valley, and in 1990 I started out in our backup #28. He provided race cars for me to learn on and maintain up until 2007, and he provided infinite amounts of direction, advice and wisdom. He taught me many valuable life lessons through racing… the work, dedication and commitment it would take to be successful was laid out up front, and I made the choice to go all in. I learned that no matter how many times I stuffed the car in the wall in the heat race, that we would do whatever it took to get the car back together and get out there for the feature. Parking it wasn’t an option, we would make it happen, no matter what. I’ve taken that approach throughout my life… in racing, work and at home. We came very close to winning twice in the 90’s, and in 2005 we got that elusive first win… we’ve been to Victory Lane 7 times now in total.
We’ve finished in the top 10 in points 12 times and have been in the top 15 18 years in a row (2005-2022), the 4th longest current streak behind Tremont, Marshall and Bachetti (according to Brian Bedell). As a driver, I’ve never been one of the best drivers you think of when you remember all the Lebanon Valley greats, but we have been able to enjoy some decent success at the track for so many years… our success is thanks to Bruce and all of the great people that have been a part of this team.
Jeff Dean and Tom Lennon have both been dedicated to our racing teams since the mid-80’s. Jeff has been a relentless leader of this team with ridiculous mechanical skills and an insane passion for racing. Tom has been by my side since he picked me up with the car on the open trailer every week in 1984. He’s been willing to race anywhere and anytime and we certainly have logged some miles together over the years. Darvin Munger has been grinding on tires since the late 90’s. Kevin & Laurie Robinson, their son Kevin and nephew Sean have been major contributors to this team for more than a decade. There have been so many others who have been a key part of this team over the years, including Scott Kingsley, who was our leader and crew chief for over 10 years and got us our first 4 wins… Bob and Bob Martin, Sr. & Jr. were a big help with our program for many years. John Turner, George Tetreault, Dan Kingsley, Dickie Williams, Josh Williams, Mike Batho, Jim Parise, Joe Cavanaugh and so many more have helped us. The commitment to me and this team from all of these people has been constant and second to none. In this world where people don’t want to work and everyone wants more money, they all volunteered their time week after week, year after year and I am eternally grateful. We have certainly earned a lifetime of amazing memories that nobody will ever take from us.
We’ve also had great help from a long list of sponsors over the years. This game takes all the help you can get and I am proud to have partnered with so many great people and businesses. Dickie, Rene, Bill, Jeff, Scott and Josh from Williams & Kingsley Auto Repair have been great supporters and partners of our racing efforts really since the 1980’s. Brian and Margaret from Boomer’s Performance have been with us for two decades… Joe from JAM Performance, Jeff Walter from Snap On Tools, John from John’s Tractor… these are all great supporters of our team. Over the years, we’ve had significant help from Bruce & Kath with Zoom n’ Groom and B&B Auto Sales, Mike and Liz Garrity from Garrity Asphalt Reclaiming, John from Turner Auto Repair, Rob at Legend’s Bar & Grill, Bill at WH Bergdoll Concrete, Scott at Webster Electric and so many more. Just want all of them to know how thankful I am for their support. Everything was appreciated so very much.
We’ve had some great suppliers, manufacturers and engine builders. Thanks to all of them for helping us out. We raced Budd Olsen race cars for decades before we went with PMC Race Cars from 2004-2013. Pete Chuckta built the highest quality cars and was awesome to work with for so many years. We got our first 4 wins in PMCs. We raced one year in a Teo and one year in a Troyer and now the last 8 years in Bicknell race cars. I learned some good things in the short time I got to work with Billy Colton and have had a great relationship with Randy Williamson. With as many cars as Randy has out there, it’s amazing how much time he is willing to spend with drivers like me who don’t win all the time. I’ve enjoyed working with all of these guys. Dickie Williams and Jeff Dean used to build our engines back in the 80’s and 90’s… they did an amazing job turning out great horsepower, but they turned the building over to guys who do it for a living back in the 2000’s. In 2005, I bought my first Bedell Racing Engine and Dan has been building me strong powerplants ever since. All of our wins came with Bedell power under the hood. Thanks to all the parts suppliers we’ve worked with… from Larry at Capital Speed to Don at Ackner’s, Brian at Boomer’s, Bobby at DMC, Pete at PMC, Mike at Andy’s Speed Shop, Chris at Elmo’s to Scott at SHR, it’s been a pleasure working with all of you. Our cars always looked great, thanks to Ron Blake at Rapid Signs, Dan at Pilat Design and David Sanchez at DMS Designs.
I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my family. My Uncle Bruce and Aunt Andrea got me involved in racing when I was a year old. They’ve both been instrumental in my racing career. Aunie and Tony helped out my program every year and religiously supported our team at the races every week. My parents graciously gave up their backyard so I could build a garage back in 2009… they along with my brother and sister have endured the constant work on the cars throughout the week and on weekends. My mother provides brownies for the team every Saturday which has been really good fuel for the team! I met my wife at the race track. The former Kim Tremont and I met in 1996, and I bought a small block from her dad that year so I could race three nights a week (Albany Saratoga, Lebanon Valley and Devil’s Bowl) in 1997. We got married in 1998 in January so our families didn’t have to miss a race. We’ve spent our life at the races. We brought our kids to the races because that’s what we did. We’ve had amazing memories throughout the years with our family… we developed an even bigger racing family with the creation of Phaze 3. We have camped at the track with our Phaze 3 family for decades now and have so many great memories. I wouldn’t trade the path we’ve taken for anything.
This has been the best year of our career results-wise. Sure, I’d love to enjoy this kind of success for many years to come… but the time has come to put a bow on this amazing racing career and slow down a bit. Many of you know already that this will be our last year, but for those of you that don’t, my time behind the wheel will come to an end this year.
Labor Day weekend will be our last race at the Valley… we might do a few post-season races after that. I won’t say that I will never race again, but I am done spending money and consuming all the time and energy it takes to be successful in this game full-time. I know that we will all be able to look back and smile when we think about what we’ve done together as a team throughout the years.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who helped make this an amazing ride!
Let’s enjoy these last few weeks at the track