Glen Donnley Induction into Hall of fame Continued from page 1 by Andy Fusco
Donnelly received NYSSCA's highest accolade in a pair of induction ceremonies on January 26th, one in the afternoon at the Saratoga Automobile Museum (which houses the NYSSCA Hall of Fame), and another that evening at the annual NYSSCA Awards Banquet at the Polish Hall on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany. Donnelly's long-time associate, Andy Fusco, delivered both induction speeches.
In his afternoon Saratoga acceptance speech, Donnelly addressed the over-flow crowd and candidly shared his frustrations with today's short track racing industry in general, and more specifically with the company which bought him out in 2004. He said that dirt track modified racing can not thrive without a solid television coverage package or without marketing itself to a younger audience, concepts which he says his successors don't comprehend.
In his evening Albany acceptance speech, Donnelly told the sell-out dinner crowd of his plans for his newest endeavor, a multi-use motorsports venue in Brewerton, NY. Donnelly said that the first phase of the Brewerton complex, a two-mile, paved road course, will open in 2014. Then, he plans to construct a half-mile synthetic dirt oval on the grounds. Eventually, a drag strip will also be developed at the facility.
NYSSCA is a drivers-owners-fans benefit organization which was formed in the Albany area in the late 1960s. In recent years, it has spread its influence throughout the entirety of New York State, as well as Vermont. Donnelly is the first promoter outside of the immediate Capital District region to have ever been accorded NYSSCA's highest honor. He joins Albany-area track managers the late Lou Spanier, the late Jim Gage Sr., the late Ed Feuz, and the late Chuck Richards as the only promoters to have been enshrined in the NYSSCA Hall of Fame.
Also honored alongside Donnelly in the January 26th NYSSCA Hall of Fame festivities were blacktop standout George Kent, motor builder Walt Markert, midget pioneer Bob Devine, dirt and blacktop kingpin Don Diffendorf, and journalist Ron Hedger.
NYSSCA is the fourth Hall of Fame to have inducted Donnelly. Previously, he was enshrined by the DIRT Hall of Fame in Weedsport, the Charlotte Motorsports Hall of Fame in North Carolina, and the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in Syracuse.
Rene Charland, whose career began and ebbed on dirt, with an amazing stint on asphalt in between, is a 1996 inductee into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame.
The cigar chewing New Englander of French decent began his career in 1950 at age 21. Charland's no. 3 was a consistant
winner on the dusty bullrings of Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire during the 1950's.
But the somewhat obscure dirt ovals of New England did little to enhance Rene's reputation. It wasn't until about 1960 that Charland began to gain national prominence as a member of the "Eastern Bandits."
The Bandits, as they called themselves, were a group of New England drivers that the pickings were a little easier in the Mid Atlantic States that back home in the Northeast. Members of thisloose knit bunch included Charland, Denny Zimmmerman, Ed Flemke, and Red Foote. They traveled together and spent much of the week at small blacktop tracks. in VirginiaMaryland area, as well as New York.
Racing as much as five times a week, the Bandits devastated the locals, often sweeping the top five and carrying the lions share of the prize money home to New England.
As an Eastern Bandit, Charland entered about 80 to 100 shows a year from 1961 through 1966. Because most of the tracks which he and his cronies invaded were NASCARsanctioned, Charland began accumulating valuable NASCAR sportsmanmodified points.
In 1961 Charland finished fifth in the NASCAR national standings and announced that winning NASCAR's National Sportsman title in 1962 was his goal. Indeed, 1962 became his breakthrough season. He won 21 features that season and handily won the NASCAR title.
He repeated as NASCAR Sportsman National Champion in 1963, 1964 and 1965 and probably would have won the 1966 title too, but for being sidelined by injuries and burns sustained in a near fatal midseason crash at AlbanySaratoga Speedway. That mishap, memorialized on film by famed racing photographer John Grady, is what Rene and racing history called the "French Barbecue." That rene could joke about his own neardeath experience only helped to build his legend.
But joking is probably the one thing Charland did better than race. A litany of Charland practical jokes would fill an entire
book. But some of the better ones are as follows:
Rene once stole a bunch of tires from a fellow racer and sold them back to the victim before the guy even knew they were gone. And when Rene found out that a wellknown official had a gravefear of snakes, he started carrying a rubber snake with him. He jumped a restart (Charland was a master cheater) and when the official stopped his car to penalize him, Charland shook the snake at the official. The guy ran away at sprinter's speed, while Charland returned to the lead position. rene woiuld often steal a track's pace car and hide it in the parking lot. And he committed the NASCAR rulebook to memory. With his superior command of the rules, Charland BSed his way out of more jams
than Bill Clinton.
In the early 1960's Charland's pursuit of NASCAR points took himto Fonda Speedway twice a year for double point races. He fell in love with the place. And when he stopped running for NASCAR points, Rene decided to make Fonda his adopted home. The results: Charland was Fonda's winningest driver in 1967 and the track
champion in 1970.
Charland's rebirth as a dirt tracker continued throughout the early 1970's. His upset victory in the 1974 Lebanon Valley 200 capped his illustrious career.
In all Charland won an estimated 250 career features. He drove avariety of cars numbered 3, but he is also remembered for successful stints in the Cziepel no. 888, Russ Betz no. 59 and Platt brothers no. 99.
Over the years Charland aquired a number of nicknames, but is best known as "The Champ", due to his string of NASCAR titles. During most of his career he raced out of Agawam, MA, but today he resides just a short drive from the Fonda Speedway.
Presently, Charland is developing a racing museum near
Donations can be made in her name to: Niagara Hospice, 4675 Sunset Drive, Lockport, NY 14094-1231 or by computer at www.niagarahospice.org.
Bonnie was predeceased by her husband Jack in 2006. Jack also earned an award from the Hall of Fame backing in 2000, winning the Lenny Sammons Outstanding Service Award.
The following was the write up about her used during the 2004 Hall of Fame ceremonies:
BONNIE VEACH, THE WOMAN BEHIND THE RACING FAMILY
Many times it is said that behind every successful man there is a woman. But in Bonnie Veach’s case, behind every successful person is a “real” racing family.
Bonnie and her husband Jack, started their racing venture back at Lancaster Speedway in 1967, working at both the drags and oval events.
“I worked the ticket window helping fans and friends alike,” stated Bonnie.
In the mid-70's she moved her efforts to the dirt tracks at Merrittville and Ransomville, were she still can be found in the pit sign-in shack. She also began to sell Super DIRT Week tickets in the Niagara Frontier region at different tracks back when Super DIRT Week was in it’s infancy.
“I’m still working at Ransomville and loving every minute of it,” stated Bonnie. “But it was in November 1976, that I met Gert Farney and my involvement in racing took off.”
Gert was really the head of ticketing and the “Queen of the Sign-In Shack” for DIRT Motorsports. Gert used Bonnie to help her handle rain checks that fateful year during Super DIRT Week. From that point on Bonnie became an important part of the annual Super DIRT Week family.
Her duties have included answering phones, selling tickets and parking passes and just anything that needed to be done. She can be found at her post in the Media Offices just off the fourth turn waiting to sign in the officials and press. She still helps out everyone in need and tries to answer all questions she is asked
In 1985, Bonnie agreed to help with the Niagara Convention Center’s Indoor TQ Midget Racing Series. Each winter, usually once in December, again in Feburary and finally in March or April, the Convention Center was rented out and the Can Am Midgets took to building a 1/10 mile chemical based oval. Bonnie handled the back gate, signing in the racers and their teams, the press and the officials.
“All of these things have only been possible because of my family, Jack, Dawn and John,” she continued. “Dawn has worked with me over the years in the sign-in shack, John has been a flagger and Jack, who was honored a few years back with the Lenny Sammons Outstanding Contribution to Auto Racing Award, has been a working pit official at almost every track in Western New York.
“This has been quite a month for the Veach family,” Bonnie stated. “On the 9th, Jack and I celebrated our 40thyear of marriage and now to be named to the Woman in racing Award, is just wonderful.”
News / Events
Cars, Drivers Lined up for Syracuse Mile Program Nov. 14
Lined up for the start of the 1924 race at the Syracuse Mile are, from the front of the photo, Louis Chevrolet #3, Jimmie Murphy #12, Ralph De Palma #2, Eddie O’Donnell #9, Ira Veil #5 and Bennett Hill #7. (from the International Motor Racing Research Center’s Mike Fuller Collection)
Six cars representing different eras of competition at the Syracuse Mile will be on display at the International Motor Racing Research Center Saturday, Nov. 14, for a daylong program about the famed race track.
Among the cars will be a 1934 Ford and the 1980 Gary Balough “Batmobile.”
In addition to the array of cars, the day will offer a live radio show broadcast, a morning roundtable for stories from drivers who have competed at the Syracuse Mile and an afternoon panel discussion by Syracuse Mile experts. Special displays are also planned.
The Nov. 14 program at the Racing Research Center is free and open to all. The Center is located at 610 S. Decatur St., Watkins Glen.
The Syracuse Mile is one of the most historic tracks in the nation. Also known as the “Moody Mile,” the one-mile dirt track at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse hosted car races starting in 1903. It is considered to be the second or third oldest race track in the country.
Since 1972, the track was the hub of the hugely popular Super DIRT Week, a five-day racing extravaganza, which had its final run at the Syracuse Mile last month. State and county officials have a $50 million plan to build an equestrian complex, a hockey facility and an RV park on the site currently occupied by the dirt track and its main grandstand.
“While we’re saddened that our program about the Syracuse Mile comes just weeks after the last checkered flag dropped there,” Center President J.C. Argetsinger said, “gathering Syracuse Mile experts together to tell the track’s story and share their own memories is a fitting tribute.”
Mario Andretti, left, and Al Unser Sr. race at the Syracuse Mile in the USAC Silver Crown 1974 Syracuse 100. Unser won the race. (photo by Joe Cali from the International Motor Racing Research Center’s Joe Cali Collection)
The “Batmobile” modified racer is noted for winning the 1980 Super DIRT Week race after running away from the rest of the field. The car will remain on display at the Center through the end of the year. The car will be on loan from the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame and Classic Car Museum in Weedsport, N.Y.
The other cars, which will be on display just for the day:
- A 1934 Ford five- window coupe that raced at Syracuse in the late 1950s, driven by Ray Preston and Red Beardsley. The car is owned by Jim Hilimire of Branchport, N.Y.
- The Cliff Kotary coupe that won the 1963 New York State Fair Labor Day race. It is owned by Jeff Ackerman of Endicott, N.Y.
- A 1980s Pinto-bodied Olson Eagle chassis car. It is owned by Leo Kuleszo of Romulus, N.Y.
- A 1980s Gremlin-bodied Show Car chassis car, also owned by Kuleszo.
- A current TEO-chassis dirt modified that ran in this year’s final Syracuse 200. It was driven by and is owned by Brian Swarthout of Beaver Dams, N.Y.
The day will begin at 9 a.m. with radio personality and track announcer Joe Marotta doing a live broadcast from the Center of his radio show “Around the Tracks.”
At 10:30 a.m., drivers from all eras will share their stories in an informal roundtable setting. Participants will include:
- Brett Hearn, winningest driver of the Syracuse 200 modified race at Super DIRT Week, with six victories. Hearn also earned six wins in the small-block race. His start in the final race in October was his 38th at Syracuse.
- John Birosh, who ran both small-block modifieds as well as Sprint cars on the Mile.
- Malcolm Lane, who also ran both small-block modifieds as well as World of Outlaws Sprint cars at Syracuse. He is a six-time Empire Super Sprint Champion.
- Dan Kapuscinski, better-known as an asphalt super modified driver, who had his first - and last - experience running a Sportsman modified at this year’s Super DIRT Week, finishing 13th.
- Alan Johnson, three-time winner of the Syracuse 200 and the only competitor to win the race from the last starting position.
Glenn Donnelly is scheduled to be on the afternoon panel, but because of scheduling commitments, may join the morning session. Donnelly, who founded the Driver Independent Race Tracks, DIRT, organization in the early 1970s, the major event becoming Super DIRT Week, will talk about his time promoting races at The Mile and will perhaps give details of his new Central New York Raceway Park venture which will host Super DIRT Week in 2016.
“Anybody who has been a fan of the Syracuse Mile ought to be there because a lot of stories and memories will be shared,” Marotta said. “It’s going to be like visiting an old friend.
“As my good friend Jack Burgess always said, ‘You’ve got to have a favorite out there,’ and Syracuse is my favorite.”
Others planned for the 1 p.m. panel discussion, moderated by Marotta, include Hearn as well as:
- Jeff Hachmann, director, events sales and marketing for the World Racing Group/DIRT Car Northeast, who will share his memories of Syracuse, both as a young boy attending the races to his position working for the WRG and promoting the Super DIRT Car Series and Super DIRT Week for the past 10 years.
- Dr. Gary George, author and race historian and the man behind “signs by AJ” lettering on race cars in the 1970s. George will speak on the history of the track beginning from 1903, detailing some of the most famous drivers to tackle The Mile, some of the accidents and many of the famous events that ran over the years.ars.