We have a new writer added to our staff here at the Hof. We welcome Nick Graziano, enjoy his first story with us.
WEEDSPORT, NY- April 2, 2013- Since 1992 the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame and ClassicCar Museum has provided race fans with the opportunity to go back in time and see the cars of racing legends. It is a museum filled with rich history that will fuel any motorsports fan’s passion for the sport, whether they are young or old. But even with the unique experience the museum provides, the attention it receives appears slim to none. To fix this problem museum members have devised plans to try and better show what the museum has to offer.
The first of their plan was broadcasting Joe Marotta’s “Around the Tracks” radio live for the museum.
“Back around Super DIRT week we did a live deal for Super DIRT week we do every year and talking to Jay [Fish] and he said ‘you know it would be good for the hall of fame if you could do it out there,’” Marotta said. “So I think the first one we did was the end of October and then we did one between Christmas and New Year. Then we have done one every month since then.” Marotta’s show brings together various drivers, owners and members of the racing community for a round table discussion. The show allows listeners to hear the other side of drivers they do not get to experience at the race track. With the show based in the museum not only do fans get to see the drivers and the history in the museum itself, but there is a friendly atmosphere where drivers and fans can experience the history together.
The latest show on March 30, show cased a number of Oswego Speedway Small Block Super Modified drivers with a wide age range, but for the majority of them it was their first time being in the museum and on the radio show.
“This is actually the first time I have ever been inside the hall of fame,” said Jeremy Pitcher,
Small Block Super Modified and DIRT Sportsman Modified driver. “I have raced many times down the road here, but have never been inside here. I think it is a great opportunity to get the word out about small block racing and the good drivers we have in the division. It is just a real nice setting.” Even for some of the guests that have been on Marotta’s show and to the museum before, the experience of having the two together was worth another trip. “This is a great set up for it,” said Small Block Super Modified driver, J.J. Andrews, on having the radio based in the museum. “It is of course great to come down here. When you go to Joe’s show, there is you and Joe and somebody else, but everybody is hanging around and it is a great experience here. It is nice to get together and chit, chat and relax a little bit before ‘the storm’ as they say.” A sentiment supported by DIRT Motorsports founder and the museum’s visionary builder Glenn Donnelly.
“The good part about coming here to this museum, it gives you another outlet whether you want to see the past or you just want to bring your friends,” Donnelly said. “It is another reason for coming out here and you get to see the show. You go to a radio station it is the same old thing and there is nothing there. And your friends aren’t going to want to see a radio station; they can just turn the radio on and listen. You come to this museum and it is a whole different ball game.
You really see the past here, at least the whole dirt racing for the past forty years is enshrined in this building.”
Marotta’s show was scheduled to take place in the museum just during the winter, but there is potential for the show to continue at the hall of fame due to the amount of success it has soon so far, according to Jay Fish, the museum’s PR director. Fish is also planning on bringing more attention to the museum through a swap meet and flea market which will be held on April 14 and possible other car shows. The hall of fame has also recently expanded by adding the Empire Super Sprints Hall of Fame. No matter if you are a fan of dirt or asphalt racing the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame and Classic Car Museum has something for everyone and the amount of history it holds speaks for itself. To experience everything there is to offer, the museum is located at Cayuga County Fairgrounds 1 Speedway Dr. Weedsport, N.Y. For more information visit
find them on Facebook at Facebook.com/dirtmotorsports.halloffame.
Canadian Racing Superstar & 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee, Joe Plazek
Published on May 9th, 2013 in Press Box
DIRT MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME CLASSIC PROFILE:
Story By: Nick Graziano/Photo By: Jack Hedstrom
WEEDSPORT, NY (May 8, 2013) Many racing legends have left their mark in the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame. Some have unfortunately left us, while others are still around to share their greatest memories. One of these racing legends is Ontario, Canada’s Joe Plazek. The Canadian has enjoyed a successful career in the DIRT Modified series and is now enjoying his life beyond racing.
Plazek’s passion for racing started at a young age, as both his parents were race fans and his father raced late models in Ontario back in the 60s. But it was not the excitement of the high-speed cars that grabbed his attention.
“I was drawn to motorcycles more when I was a kid,” Plazek said. “I started to race bikes when I was around 12 or 13. My mom and dad hate the bikes, all of the injuries and stuff that went along with bikes.”
Once Plazek turned 16 years old his dad wanted to get him out of bike racing and into a race car. It was a decision that Plazek said he did not fully agree with, but knew that it was what his parents wanted and they were going to support it, so there was no reason to fight it. A decision Plazek quickly grew to love as he started off racing an asphalt car in Ontario. He did that for about three years until the expenses of asphalt racing began making a negative impact on his racing budget. But thanks to his sister and her boyfriend, Plazek’s eyes were opened to the world of dirt car racing.
“I hadn’t been to the dirt races ever and I went down to Merrittville to watch a qualifier back in 80 or 81 and really thought it was cool,” Plazek said.
From there Plazek’s career in dirt racing took off, but it was not a smooth transition at first. In 1982 he began his dirt career racing an asphalt car that was converted to be a dirt car and according to Plazek “ran really really bad and was just in everybody’s way.” After getting bite by the poor performance of the car one too many times he bought a new car the next year and went dirt modified racing.
He had finally found his calling.
That year he won Rookie of the Year at Merrittville Speedway and Humberstone Speedway and missed out on DIRT Rookie of the Year by only a few points. And his career only grew from there. He began traveling to Central New York to race and by the late 80s started racing there exclusively. According to Plazek he had been fed up with the Canadian scene due to the small car counts and poor track preparations.
The Central New York area became like a second home for Plazek as he would stay there for four to five days at a time, as he would run Black Rock Speedway on Friday, Canandaigua Speedway on Saturday and Cayuga County Fair Speedway on Sundays, as well attending qualifying races that were close to Central New York. To some it seemed foolish for Plazek to always travel back and forth, but he had a big business to manage as well with his family’s Auto Recycling business.
“I was always told by a lot of people that ‘you know if you could just get away from your family business and just race you would be a lot better,’ but it was hard to break away because I had to have one to support the other,” Plazek said.
Even if the business was holding Plazek back he still made the most out of his career and racked out a number of accomplishments. He has six Super DIRTcar Series victories and 68 Big-Block career wins. He was the 1995 track champion at Cayuga County Fair Speedway and won back-to-back champions at Canandaigua Speedway (1996-1997). Plazek really showed his talent on the tough Salt City oval in Syracuse. Although he never won the Super DIRT Week race at the Syracuse track he did win three straight Labor Day races on it in 1995, 1996 and 1997. An accomplishment that Plazek says is the panicle of his career.
Having the funding to race is what Plazek attributes most to all of his success, as well as keeping his mom and dad part of his racing. “I think my biggest deal was that I kept dad and mom in it for years because I didn’t try to spend money foolishly,” Plazek said. “We didn’t try to travel to races that I didn’t think we wanted to be at. I’ve seen many drivers use up owners; they would run for them for a year or two and the guy just totally gets out of racing because it is so expensive.”
As Plazek continued racing the expenses began to grow while the amount of time he got to spend with family began to shrink. So as he was nearing his 40s Plazek decided it was time to hang up his helmet. But not too long after his dad pulled him back into asphalt racing to enter the CASCAR series in Canada. Plazek said it took a couple races for him to get use to sitting on the left side of a racecar again, but once he did his talent was showcased once again throughout the 12 race series eventually leading to Rookie of the Year honors at the end of the year.
But as quickly as he got back into racing, he found himself retiring once again. Sponsorship was pulled at the end of the year, so Plazek and his family was left with the decision to continue with their own money or sell the team and pull out; they decided to pull out and September 2002 was the last time Plazek stepped into a race car. The urge to race, however, has not left him.
“Looking back it was the right thing to do,” Plazek said.“Looking forward, now that the kids are grown up, you almost look back and say‘geez I’d love to keep doing it,’ but now you are so far gone and so far out of it, it would take so much to get back in it. I usually wait a minute and the feeling goes away and I am OK.”
Plazek admitted he has not been to a race in about 10 years to keep the urge away and has been enjoying life away from the track. Yet even there he can’t escape racing entirely as both of his boys race motocross.
Plazek’s accomplishments in racing are highly regarded and were recognized in 2012 when he was inducted into the FOAR Score club and in 2009 when he was inducted into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame. An accomplishment he is proud of and at first felt he did not deserve.
“When I got called I was like ‘no, no there are lots of guys older than me that should be in there,’” Plazek said. “Now looking back it was cool and the right thing to do.”
Dirt Motorsports Hall of Fame – Class of 2013
Frank Cozze - Cozze’s accomplishments are well documented throughout the Northeast. Based in Wind Gap, PA, Frank produced numerous modified victories in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Under the DIRT banner he has recorded 43 big block feature wins and 4 additional small block wins. His biggest victory coming during Super DIRT Week XXXVI, in 2008, taking his first big block feature win at Syracuse.
Mike McLaughlin - Mike McLaughlin fits in the same mold as Jim Hurtibise. Starting his racing career on the dirt at Waterloo’s Maple Grove Speedway, McLaughlin earned his first DIRT big block feature win in 1979 at the Land of Legends, Canandaigua Speedway. After a stellar dirt modified career McLaughlin moved on to the NASCAR Modified circuit were he won 16 races and took the NASCAR Modified Championship title in 1988. He then added an additional 7 wins in the NASCAR K&N Eastern