Wow, that is hard to come up with you know. But here goes:
Started working part time at DIRT Motorsports in 1985 and that is what I thought it would be – part time. Glenn donnelly was my boss for 19 of those 20 years. Couldn’t ask for a better one. He put you in charge of your own department and let you go with what you thought it needed. He gave the go ahead for early renewal of SDW tickets and the response was overwhelming. A little over 600 orders came in But after about 2 years I became full-time and stayed that way until I resigned in November 2005. During my time their I was able to institute many new programs that the customers were able to take advantage of. I actually took over all membership issuances, reserved ticket sales, season passes, employee passes, major bulk mailings, . I was the support person for the other employees in the office for years. I was responsible for starting presale of super dirt week ticketing a year in advance – from printing them to selling them plus handling the current year as well; offered reserved seats to season pass holders. Handled this type of operations for 4 race tracks: NYS Fairgrounds, Rolling Wheels, Canandaigua and Cayuga County. If you wanted a ticket, pass etc I was the go to gal.
When I first started so much of it was manually done. Not until late 90’s early 2000 did we actually move to more computer oriented programs so that did help immensely. When I stop and think of the amount of clerical work that was done out of that office with so few people – how it ever was accomplished. I guess my title was Office/Ticketing Supervisor.
A few years into this racing community my husband and I formed our own race team in 1989 with our son Gregory as our driver. We started out in the street stock division moving up to the sportsman division in 1992 and selling out in 2005. We had such a great time and met so many wonderful people and many of these people are still our friends now. No regrets; glad we did it, but financially we could not keep up with it anymore. Decided Florida was calling us in 2005; bought a home there and spend our winters there . No regrets there either.
Gary hope this is what you are looking for. As soon as I get my hearing back I will give you a call- hopefully this happens today.. I did not know if you wanted me to list individually all the programs I started but I think I have hi-lighted most of them. Have a safe trip home and see you soon.
By Gary Rowe
It has been more than a dozen years since Marcia Wetmore has been at the controls of a race track. Yet her influence, after being actively involved in racing for more than 30 years, is still very much present.
“I was never a race fan, my family were not racers,” Marcia related about how she got involved with a sport that has been so much a part of her life and livelihood. “My first visit to any race track came in the late 1960’s when I went on a date with a schoolmate. I must not have been too overly impressed as I remember that I fell asleep during the races.” Despite her falling asleep, Marcia’s first racing experience wasn’t really all that bad as that same schoolmate later introduced her to her future husband, Donnie, a member of the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.
“After meeting Donnie I started going to the races with him and then I got hooked on the sport. Of course in those days women were not allowed in the pits at any track so with Donnie racing I really didn’t have much to do while at the race track except watch. After a while my future mother-in-law, Ethel, who was also inducted into the NYSSCA Hall of Fame, and was one of the original scorer’s at Lebanon Valley Speedway, would bring me into the tower and introduce me to that side of the sport.” Being inside the Valley’s tower so much I got to know my first mentor, Hertha Beberwyk (a Gater News recipient of the Women in Racing Award in 2002).
“Hertha was the one person that I leaned on a lot for advice and counsel all through my years in the promotion side of the business,” Marcia reflected.
In 1982, as Donnie, who has over 200 wins and six track titles at Fulton Speedway, eight Brewerton track titles as well as titles at both Utica-Rome and Cayuga Speedway, was beginning his trek to the top rungs of DIRT modified racing by relocating the Wetmore family to Weedsport, NY where Donnie started a full time racer and also managed the M&B race shop.
“With the kids in school and being new to the area and not knowing very many people outside of racing I literally started hanging out at DIRT headquarters. Then one thing lead to another and I started helping out Annette, “Chickie” Lutz (a 2007 Gater News Women in Racing Honoree) who eventually became another mentor to me. That was a real learning experience; to see the business side of racing and how things were done off-track. Things like soliciting sponsors to making sure that provisions were order for all the concession stands. That is how I got to meet and know Norm and Donna Patrick from Gater News.
At that time the biggest race for what was then the 320 small block Modifieds was the Pabst Shootout at Can Am. Cars came from all over for the event. Not only were the regulars there but cars come from Middletown, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Then, most years, there would be some mid-week shows at Brockville and Cornwall Motor Speedways tied into the Pabst Shootout. It was because of these events that I ended up getting to know a lot of the top runners from New Jersey and Pennsylvania on a first name basis. But if it wasn’t for Donna Patrick opening up those doors with the NJ, Pa., drivers and teams and Bob Thurston, Sr. introducing me to the Tobias family (Tobias son-in-law Paul Lotier won the 1976 Pabst Shootout the first and only time that any driver won any main event at Can Am without ever seeing the track) I would not have had the connections that were so vitally important to me in the next phase of my career.
I guess that the success that Can Am had with their small block event got Bub Benway and Eric Kingsley thinking about doing something at Fulton, but at the same time doing something to honor the memory of Bub’s wife, Vicky, who had recently passed away. I got a call from Bub asking if I was interested in going to Pa., and talking to the various car owners and teams to see if there was any interest in creating a race at Fulton, which I did. But if I hadn’t had those connections and the creditability from the Patrick’s I would have never been able to do it.
The first Victoria was in 1986 and I was with Fulton Speedway in some capacity or another from then until Robin Manus asked if I wanted to move to Tennessee to work at a new Richard Childress project called Race World.
In 1994, after receiving high recommendations from Hertha, Alex Freiesen, who had just taken over the promotional duties at Fulton, called me and asked if I was interested in coming back to Central New York and being his General Manager. After Alex’s passing I stayed with Fulton for another season and then that was the end of my daily involvement in the sport.
I have been extremely blessed and fortunate to be where I was when I was. To meet all the people that I have met; racers they are my people, my family. I still miss all those special little moments that use to happen at the track. I love those times watching my son and Dale Planck play around the stands at Fulton and even watching Paul Jensen throw his helmet had its impact. Now a day’s my involvement in the sport is when I go to the races and watch my son-in-law, Vinnie Vitalie, compete and then when I come up for Super DIRT Week Hertha, Chickie and I still make it a point to have dinner together.
It is because of her hands on involvement and leadership in the growth of dirt modified racing that the DIRTcar Hall of Fame is please to recognize Marcia Wetmore as a co- recipient of the 2013 Gater News “Outstanding Women in Racing Award.”
BLACKIE WATT DIRTcar Hall of Fame, Walt Wimer
His birth certificate reads “William Oliver Watt”, but for thousands of long time race fans in the western Pennsylvania area he is just simply known as “Blackie” Watt, one of the greatest drivers to ever come out of the western regions of the Keystone State. To Watt it didn’t matter if it was an open wheel Modified or a full fendered Late Model, he drove them both and was a big winner in both types of cars. While Watt had jet black hair, that is not where he got the nick name “Blackie”, by which he will always be known to race fans. The nick name came from his card playing days back at the family garage. He and his brothers often played cards around the garage and Watt was quite often the winner. In many of these games he had just climbed out from under a car or out of the grease pit and had black greasy hands. When he would reach for the pot after winning the others would say “Here comes those black paws”. From that came “Black Paw” and then “Blackie”, a name that would stick through a 38 year race driving career.
Watt was born on December 13, 1933 the, son of a garage operator in New Alexandria, Pa. Growing up around a garage it was no surprise that he developed an interest in cars at a very early age, and in 1951, at the tender age of 17, he built his first race car, a 1935 Plymouth sedan. However, he had a friend driving it. That was until that fateful night when his friend didn’t show up at the track. Watt drove the car himself and one of the greatest racing careers in western Pennsylvania was born that night. Blackie Watt would go on to have a very long career as a race driver, but a tour in the Army sidetracked him for a couple of years early on n the 1950s.
In 1961 Watt teamed up with Brackenridge, Pa. car owner Joe Pitkavish, who was a great fan of the old Chrysler Hemi engines. Most of the old coupes were becoming “cut-downs” in western PA by that time and Pitkavish put together a cut down Ford coach with a Hemi engine for Watt to drive. It is with that car that Watt began to be a big time winner at tracks such as Jennerstown and the old long gone Latrobe Speedway, and anywhere else they ran in the area. and together Watt and Pitkavish won the very first Laurel Highlands 101 at Jennerstown in 1964. Behind the wheel of that red and white #88 Watt set fast time for the classic Langhorne race in 1961 and was running third in the race when a kingpin broke. Time moved along and Langhorne was paved in 1965. In 1968 Pitkavish built a new car for Watt to run at Langhorne on the pavement, a 1937 Chevy coupe with a 426 Dodge Hemi. While Watt was running dirt tracks at home, he already knew plenty about pavement racing having spent the 1966 season running nearly half of the races on NASCAR’s Grand National circuit including races at the super speedways such as Daytona and Charlotte. While the Pitkavish-Watt team was always competitive the four years they ran the Langhorne race on pavement, they never had much luck. Like right out of the box in 1968 when Watt was running with the leaders in the consolation race when the late Dave Kneisel blew an engine right in front of him and with oil all over the track Watt went hard into the wall at over 100 mph. Pitkavish and son Jimmy rebuilt the black and orange #88 and were back the next year. But after four tries at the Langhorne race, Pitkavish decided to convert the car to a dirt track racer. Good move!! From 1972 until the car was replaced with a newer Tobias Gremlin bodied racer, Watt won 110 races with the Chevy coupe which had been renumbered to #1 when reworked for dirt racing. It certainly was during the 1970s. In 1974 Watt won a track record 14 races at Lernerville Speedway with the car and another 14 at the Schmucker’s Speedway near Latrobe. Neither record has ever been broken. Watt won a number of track championship during the 1970s with the car and three times topped the annual #1 Cochran Cavalcade Points during 1973-76. After the famed Hemi-coupe was replaced by the Gremlin bodied car, Watt won another 34 races with Gremlin until 1986 when Pitkavish retired from the sport for a grand total of 144 races together for the Watt-Pitkavish team in those two cars alone. That is quite a record, but is dwarfed by the fact that Watt and Pitkavish were a team for 25 years something seldom seen in the volatile world of auto racing!!
While Watt drove for Pitkavish for 25 years he also drove Late Model cars for a number of car owners, winning many more races. During many of his best years Watt did double duty in the two classes more often than not. This was a regular occurrence at both Lernerville and Schmuchers while there were many nights he ran in just one class or the other in the splintered western PA circuit. At Lernerville Watt is fourth all time in Modified wins with 61 and fifth all time in Late Model with 23 wins.
Watt drove for quite a few winning car owners in Late Model action including Bill Fowler, Don Crownover, Jack Lentz, Chet Johnson and Dave Cochran, winning many races for all of them. By the time he hung up the helmet in 1988, Watt had run races at 79 different tracks in 15 states. His last track title came at Lernerville in 1987 driving the Cochrand owned #35. It was his second Late Model title at the Sarver speedplant to add to five in the Modifieds. In 1982 he won both the modified and Late model titles at the Sarver speedplant. He did the same thing at the Schmucker’s Speedway at Lartobe, PA.
While 1966 wasn’t a big winning year in Blackie Watt’s career, it was among the more memorable. That was the year Watt spent much of the season running the NASCAR Grand National Circuit (now Sprint Cup). Harry Neil, a local trucking company owner and a fried of Watt’s provided the hard charging driver with a 1964 Ford to take on NASCAR’S best. The Neal-Watt team ran about half of the races that season and in 20 starts had nine top ten finishes. Not a bad record for an under-funded team with a rookie driver at all those southern NASCAR tracks. One memory that stands out in that season was a consolation race to qualify for the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Watt won that race, crossing the finish line pretty much sideways ahead of Roy Mayne’s Dodge. Finishing third was a guy by the name of Bobby Allison, who would later become one of NASCAR’S all time greats. Despite a solid effort by Watt and the Neal team in 1966, the pair decided they were just banging their heads against a wall trying to run with the much better funded NASCAR teams so it was back to dirt tracks in 1967.
From the mid-1960s into the mid-80s the western Pennsylvania dirt track circuit was rather unique with a number of top driver doing double duty by driving in two of the top three classes, often on the same night. Lou Blaney, Ralph Quarterson, Bob Wearing and Blackie Watt were the top four drivers of those two decades. Blaney and Quarterson drove Sprint Cars while Watt and Wearing drove Late Models. What all four had in common was that they all drove Modifieds. And they were all very good at it. They all had nights they won features in two classes on the same night and all have hundreds of wins over long and successful careers.