Story By: BUFFY SWANSON / NORTHEAST DIRT MODIFIED HALL OF FAME – WEEDSPORT, NY – The Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame joins the greater racing community in mourning the death and celebrating the life of pioneer driver/promoter Bob Zeigler, who passed away on February 22 at the age of 93.
Zeigler, from Boonville, NY, was inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in 2002.
Bob built his first race car in 1950, before getting the call to serve his country in the Korean War. Following two years of military service, Zeigler picked up right where he left off, scoring his first win at St. Lawrence Valley Speedway in Canton in 1953, his first year back. He claimed the first championship of his career in ’54, on Fort Covington’s big half-mile, right on the Canadian border.
Zeigler continued to clean up on the Canton-Fort Covington circuit until 1956, when Hall of Fame promoters Doug Atkinson and Howard Rowe took over Watertown Speedway. That’s where he made his legend: Bob was a regular at that track for only five years but fractured the record books, scoring 31 feature wins, the most in Watertown’s history, and taking three track titles, in 1957, 1959 and 1961.
Always a weekend warrior who raced close to home, Zeigler switched his well-known flathead Ford for an overhead-valve Chevy coupe in 1963 and changed venues, as well, competing primarily on the pavement at Spencer, Owego, Ottawa and Utica-Rome raceways. He was a two-time winner at Spencer and scored eight wins en route to the 1964 championship at Ottawa.
Zeigler hung up his helmet at the end of the 1965 season to partner with his brother Dick in building a new race facility on Route 11, just north of Watertown—Evans Mills Speedway, which opened as a dirt track in 1967. Bob served as promoter at Evans Mills for the next dozen years, finally retiring from the sport in the late 1970s.