Oswego Speedway Honors Jimmy Shampine, Richie Evans & Tony White
By: Jeremiah Fish May 27, 2006
OSWEGO, NY- Memorializing legends is never an easy thing to do properly. The lives led by these giants of auto racing memorialized Saturday night at the Oswego Speedway could never be adequately honored to the magnitude that would give their contributions and accomplishments due fanfare and adulation. They have authored books about Shampine and Evans over the last couple of years, doing a remarkable job in recounting the wins and the losses of these racing giants, but volumes more could be written and still never scratch the surface of the effects still felt to this day as a result of the advancements that each brought to the sport.
Shampine was an Oswego Regular for two decades until his untimely death at the Oswego Speedway on International Classic weekend of 1982, in the Budweiser 200. Shampine reinvented the supermodified class numerous times, first with the Wedge in 1969. The wedge was a proven winner, and dominated for nearly a full decade, until 1977. History would have reflected no differently on Shampine if he had stuck with it, but in 1977, Shampine would unleash the “Radical Offset” on the racing world. The radical offset machine is still the standard for what a supermodified is measured against to this day and is perhaps the finest short-track racing machine ever devised. Shampine only brought the car out for practice sessions during the 1976 season, and once loaning it to a young Steve Gioia, Jr. on the last night of the season to help the young Gioia compete for the championship against, well, you guessed it, Jimmy Shampine himself. Legends are built on stories like this. Gioia had wrecked his car earlier in the evening and had all but written off the night and the championship, until Shampine personally offered up the ride in the radical offset and a shot to win the championship. More than wins and losses, Shampine was made of the stuff we want out heroes to embody.
Now to the nights racing, dedicated to the names of these racing luminaries. One of the big stories heading into the event was the news that Greg Furlong had left the USAC Silver Crown team that he had begun the season running with. “ I race to win.” Greg said by phone on Friday afternoon as he was making an appearance for his sponsor, Community Bank, N.A. at a local branch in his hometown of Hannibal, NY. Greg also commented that his plans for the season at Oswego would not change, he would not step up his plans to be in the #72 any more than originally planned. Furlong and his team still plan on putting some different drivers in the dominant 72 for quite a few of the races on the 2006 Oswego Speedway schedule,
First on tap for the Memorial night racing event was the Pathfinder Bank Limited Supermodifieds. This is a division that has worked extremely well in support of the mighty supermodifieds for the better part of 15 seasons. This is much more than a feeder class or a minor league; the Limited Supers have established themselves as a class that provides very tight and competitive action each and every week. And this week they would be fighting it out to honor their fellow limited super driver, Tony White, who passed on almost a year ago at the track, following a race in his #4.
This being the inaugural Tony White Memorial 35, the stakes for this field of Limited supermodified were at an all time high. The heat races were taken en route to the feature by Chris Proud, Michael Barnes, Mike Bond and Brian Sobus. Proud looked very strong in his heat race, holding off the strong, young gun, Josh LaRochelle to record the win. Proud would take his time measuring the field as the feature began. Starting from row number two, proud would let the race come to him through the first 5 or 6 laps, as things began to develop, just ahead of the mid way point proud took the # 3 to the low side and worked his way to the front past early race leader Craig Danzer. For the remainder of the race Limited stalwart Russ Brown in his #13 Ray Hedger chassis would doggedly chase Proud. Brown has numerous feature victories and track championship to his racing credits, Brown would use that wealth of knowledge in the closing laps of the Tony White Memorial race to try to get by a tough Chris Proud. Proud would have his back bumper tested time and again down the stretch, Brown would go high and low, waiting for the opportunity to take the win. Proud would not have any of that on this particular night, outlasting brown for the win. Following Proud and Brown to the line were Mark Regan, Josh LaRochelle, Lou LeVea, David Gruel, Kevin Knopp, Mike Barnes, Dave Cliff, Rob Pullen, Mike Bond, Allen Barker, Tim Barbeau, Guard Nerbin,Craig Danzer, Larry Muroski, Cameron Rowe, & Pat Mullen
Next up, The Parts Plus, Richie Evans Memorial 100. The touring divisions of the Race of Champions Modified series race on this Memorial weekend would come down to a pair of second generation drivers with famous names. For anyone who has ever followed Modified racing in the Northeastern United States, the names Jan Leaty and Tony Hirschman are quite familiar, but it would be there sons on this night that would stand center stage and show that the next generation in the modified division had arrived in a big way. Mike Leaty would start out front for the 100 lapper and stay there by sheer grit and tenacity. It would be no easy chore staying out in front of 38 of the best that the Race of Champion tour has to offer. Matt Hirschman said after finishing second, following Leaty to the line after battling him for numerous laps “ If I was going to pass him, I would want to do it clean, because I expect him to do the same for me. I was there, so close, I was all over him, but he didn’t make a mistake or slip up enough that I could have mustered up a run on him… we just came up one short.”
The win for Mike Leaty was a first for him at the Oswego Speedway, and it came in a big one, the Memorial Day, 100 Lap tribute to the great Richie Evans. The Top 10 were Mike Leaty, Matt Hirschman, Eric Beers, Zane Zeiner, Jan Leaty, Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Holmes, Sege Fidanza, Lee Sherwood, & Earl Paules.
Finally came the crown Jewell of the Memorial weekends racing events, The Jim Shampine Memorial 75. The first stages were dominated by Tim Gareau in the Kerfien 5. Gareau would stay out in front using his customary low line around the 5/8-mile paved oval. On lap 43 Gareau’s lead would quickly evaporate, as the brand new 79 of Otto Sitterly flashed to the lead in a dazzling streak of yellow and black. “I knew we had a good car and a very good motor, the car has an awesome feel to it, it felt totally different running it at night, so we took a little stagger out for the race.” With three of the dominant Hawk chassis out on the track on this night, being driven by Tim Snyder, defending track champ Greg Furlong and the latest addition, Sitterly’s yellow and black 79, Sitterly always the consummate competitor, said following his triumph in the 75 lap event, “I heard Greg had problems on the radio and they couldn’t get him re-fired, I thought to myself, jeez that sort of dampers it for me, Id rather have him (Greg Furlong) finish.” Sitterly was obviously a happy in victory, but it was also quite obvious that he wanted to see the race come down to a shootout with Furlong, himself and Timmy Snyder in the Subway Sponsored Hawk #0. Sitterly is a brand of competitor that wants to beat the best of the best. In the end he would dominantly close out the final 32 laps of the race in convincing fashion. Following Sitterly to the line were Tim Snyder, Todd Stowell, Jerry Curren, Craig Rayvals, Timmy Gareau , Hal Latulip, Stephen Gioia III, Pat Lavery, Greg Furlong, Andy Noto, Kelly Miller, Travis Bartlett, Keith Shampine, Bill Peri , Keith Gilliam, Gary Morton, Doug Heveron, Shawn Muldoon, & Mike Casey.
Next up for the Oswego Speedway is a two for one family admission night at the Steel Palace. That will be next Saturday night, June 3rd with the nights events kicking off with a Kids autograph session with all the drivers at 5:15 pm and racing to get under way at 6pm sponsored by RJ Caruso Tax and Accounting and C & B Farm & Garden / Piggers Party Barn.
Other notes from area tracks. Friday night: washed out at the Brewerton Speedway.
At the high banks of the Fulton Speedway, Pat Ward came away with the win. Sunday at the Cayuga County Fair Speedway. The Bill McNabb Hall of Fame Classic was won by the “Doctor” Danny Johson in the JIR Motorsports #27.