A career behind the wheel of a dirt sportsman stock car in the 1950's was difficult at best. But when you are small enough to have to sit on pillows and put a block of wood on your accelerator pedal, it could be down right dangerous. That's how William Allen began his outstanding career at Hemlock Speedway in 1953. In that very first race Willie demolished his car. He returned to Hemlock before the end of the season and added Brewerton and Canandaigua to his weekly schedule.
In 1957 Willie changed his weekly racing to the Maple Grove Speedway in Waterloo and Weedsport Speedway. He had landed a ride in the Dominic Tantalo number "Leaning II" powder blue and white coupe. The following season he began to drive for Otis Dunham. Willie was now in one ofthe best rides of his career.
Besides winning, Allen earned many speedway
popularity contests and sportsmanship awards. He was a definite favorite among the children. He could relate to them "at their level." Once he pedaled an child's replica of a 1957 Plymouth convertible down the front stretch at Waterloo just for the children.
Willie took the black and white Dunham number 5 to numerous wins. He would finish second in WSCRA track points to Glenn Reiner at Waterloo on several occasions. Along with Willie, Otis Dunham formed a team of black and white cars, all sporting the skull and cross bones flags flying from the roof of each car. Bucky Dew drove the Dunham 5Jr., while Walt Ellison piloted the Dunham 555.
Allen returned to field his own team in the 60's. He returned to his green and yellow paint scheme and his original number A5.
It was during these years that Allen proved to be a top competitor at the New York State Fair Labor Day shows. He won the third heat race in 1959 to make the starting field. In 1960 he finished third in the feature. Nineteen sixtyone saw him complete the distance in seventh. His best finish carne in 1963, when he finished second to Cliff Kotary.
Willie began a very limited traveling schedule, winning a Lebanon Valley Open show. In 1964, he earned the track championship at Weedsport. Even with all of his many victories, this would prove to be Allen's only track points championship.
Willie would drive his tractor trailer truck route during the week, while his father prepared his stock car. In 1966, Willie's father "Pop" died. For the next three season's Willie would prepare his own car, now repainted to yellow, with a green number. In 1971, he was offered the ride in the Don Buschbacker number 671. He would campaign this car at Rolling Wheels, Five Mile Point and Weedsport. He tried to field his own Gremlin bodied car in 1972. But it would prove uncompetitive. His last big modified sportsman victory carne in a 100 lapper at Waterloo's Maple Grove Speedway.
By 1979, he had switched to D.I.R.T. late model racing, driving a powder blue number 6 owned by Jeff Heffer. Ironically he finished 6th in Weedsport late model points. His career was over.
Willie would become the official pace car driver for D.I.R.T. Motorsports throughout the 1980's. As the decade was closing, Willie purchased a restaurant and bar near Montezuma, NY, where he and his friends relive the good old days. He also makes the yearly WSCRA old timers banquet in Waterloo, NY.
( Wee Willie)
William C. Allen
The New York State Fairgrounds has been hosting auto races since 1909. And Cliff Kotary is the only man to have ever won six races in a row at this Syracuse mile.
It was in 1963, at the defunct Maple Grove Speedway in Waterloo, New York, that the announcer nicknamed Cliff Kotary the "Copper City Cowboy." Kotary had been a regular runner at the speedway since the turn of the decade. This name referred to his home town of Rome, NY, and his vagabond racing life.
Kotary was one of the original stock car runners in New York State, making appearances at Fonda, Oswego, Vernon, Utica-Rome, LaFayette and Victoria during the fifties. Along with brother Tom, Cliff traveled throughout the eastern reaches of New York challenging the best drivers of that era. As time passed, another brother Robbie joined the Kotary clan to race.
At Fonda Cliff recorded 15 top five finishes, with one win coming in 1957. Both Tom and Robbie ran Fonda and Monroe County on a regular basis to earn NASCAR points, while Cliff strayed to the outlaw circuits of the day. He even recorded a top 20 finish at Oswego's International Classic event in 1959.
By 1960 both Robbie and Tom were ranked among the top 20 NASCAR sportsman drivers in the nation. Cliff on the other hand was earning track championships at Waterloo's Maple Grove Speedway. He drove cars for Carl Rice, his brothers and finally formed his own 60X team. Kotary was a perfectionist at Waterloo. He always seemed to beat the odds and finish the feature event. And ifhe finished it, he would be odds on favorite to grace victory lan~. Only once did the old "transmission alley" grab the Kotary luck away, sending his famed 60X flipping trough the tri-oval.
The Kotary story however is really a story about the Syracuse mile. An eighth place finish on Labor Day in 1952 and a second place finish in 1955, would herald things to come. Starting in 1960, Cliff won six New York State Fair Labor Day Championships in a row. In 1961, the motor rules at the Fair were changed to slow down the cars. Cliff's experiences at Waterloo, where the sportsman flat head Fords were king, propelled him into victory lane. In 1963, he recorded a seventeen minute, 30.2 second feature victory at the mile as the race went green to checker.
The 1966 Fair race saw Cliff blow the motor on his number 90 car, while running second to Mike Miller. Cliff's car hit the Miller number 55, causing Miller to have a tire go flat. Third place runner, Larry Nye would go down in the record books as the winner that year and the driver to end the Kotary domination at Syracuse. Kotary had won six straight races at the mile. It is a record that may never be duplicated.
By 1970, Kotary had hung up his racing helmet and took on a new role as flag man at Rolling Wheels and Syracuse. In August of that year, he along with Robert Petrocci and Bill McN abb, visited nearby Spencer Speedway to promote races at Rolling Wheels. As the trio, along with Cliff's son, sat in the pit grandstands, a car driven by Gary Cornelius climbed over the back of a car driven by John McAuthur. The Cornelius car sailed into the pit grandstands. Petrocci was swept from his seat and killed. Both Cliff and his son were listed among the eighteen persons injured.
After recovering from his injures, Cliff returned to the flag stand at both Rolling Wheels and Fulton Speedways. He retired from racing cars, but still found time to be part of the sport he loved. He also found time to work with the Richie Evans Museum in Rome, NY.