With the recent announcement from Chad Sinon regarding his departure from local dirt track auto racing – it got me to thinking about the various car owners over the years that have literally poured their hard earned cash into this sport in one form or another.
In Sinon’s case – he was the daddy Warbucks behind Duane Howards racing for a number of years. With Sinon’s backing – and of course – a healthy dose of talent, Howard roared to a great many feature wins and more than a few track titles. The wealthy car owner also stepped up to sponsor the Grandview Speedway’s biggest event of the year – the Freedom 76 via his business, BPG Products.
So, I sat down and wrote down the names of a few car owners off of the top of my head that spent a good amount of time in the sport and contributed a great amount of resources to the sport in the form of bringing to the track each week, a top flight racing machine. Whether it be fielding cars for a variety of drivers over a long period of time, or keeping a certain driver behind the wheel for years.
So, here is my version of a thanks to all of these people I list – and all the car owners that have come and gone over the years and helped provide us with some fantastic racing.
John Zemaitis – John and his Zemco businesses have been a fixture on the scene for quite a while. Zemaitis himself gave the sport a try behind the wheel and eventually settled in to become a successful car owner in both the stock car and sprint car ranks. Tom Mayberry had a nice run in a modified owned by Zemaitis as did “Electrifyin” Elvin Felty. Mark Smith, Danny Lasoski, Stevie Smith, Billy Pauch and Bobby Weaver all enjoyed successful periods behind the wheel of Zemaitis’ #1 sprint cars. Pauch drove to one of his greatest wins aboard the #1 sprint car when he took top honors against the World of Outlaws during Super DIRT Week back in 1994, setting a track speed record that still stands to this day. Zemaitis remains in the sport to this day, putting a top notch car on the track.
John and Tony Norcia – John and Tony Norcia and their Black Horse Racing Team were a Northeast factor in the modifieds for years back in the sixties and seventies. The legendary Don Stives was one of their earlier drivers. Billy “O” Osmun, Stan Ploski and Sammy Beavers all brought the spotlight onto the team by way of one checkered flag after another. John and Tony are out of the racing game these days, but daughter Andrea Norcia brought the famed black and gold #81 back to the Jersey scene with Willie “O” Osmun at the helm this past season and Willie responded with two wins at the New Egypt Speedway.
George Smith Sr. and Jr. – These guys were the guns behind the scenes at Statewide Racing. Smith Sr. owned Statewide Highway and Safety which performed the guardrail work along much of Jersey’s highways – hence the Statewide moniker for their racing. You think of Statewide Racing and you can’t help but think of Jimmy Horton III. At one point a son-in-law to Smith Sr., Horton piloted Smith Sr.’s modifieds to tons of wins up and down the east coast, even ventured into local sprint car and asphalt modified racing. The Smith/Horton combo even went so far as to tackle the NASCAR Sprint cup division on a limited budget. Glenn Smith, Kenny Brightbill and Billy Osmun also sat behind the wheel of Statewide cars…Osmun winning up at Syracuse with the teams Mulligan chassied mount way back in the seventies.
Glenn Hynemann – Hynemann has had a host of drivers in his stable over the vast amount of seasons he has fielded equipment. Billy Pauch enjoyed some of his biggest success in a stock car in a Hynemann owned machine. Driving exclusively for Hynemann or in combination with car owner Pete Chesson, Pauch racked up consecutive seasons of 33 wins (87) 42 wins (88) and 45 wins (89). Craig VonDohren, Duane Howard and Jeff Strunk have all given Hynemann big wins with successful runs as a team. Pauch and Dave Calaman are just two drivers who have sat at the wheel of Hynemann owned sprint cars for 410 competition for the PA businessman.
Jim Horton Sr. – Horton Sr. is a mastermind in the garage. That has translated to success for a host of drivers over the years. Dudie Babie, Sammy Beavers, Fritz Epright, Jimmy Horton III and IV and Paul Richards have all enjoyed time in Horton Sr. owned and prepared machines. Jim Sr. is still around racing watching the exploits of Jimmy III in the mods and is a fixture on the car show circuit.
Ray Carroll – Ray Carroll and his Tabloid Graphics machines were a familiar and formidable force to be reckoned with for years in the Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Chip Slocum, Elvin Felty, Billy Pauch and Kenny Brightbill all won for Carroll, Brightbill being one of his final successful drivers.
Bob Faust – Faust jumped into car ownership full force and had a number of top flight drivers in his stable. Known for being a tough car owner to stay in good graces with, he still grabbed top divers to sit in his cars…because Bob Faust wasn’t afraid to spend the money to field top notch equipment. Billy Pauch scored his 500th win of his now over 700 feature event victories in a Faust #M1 at Bridgeport back in 1996. Frank Cozze spent time in a Faust team car and Craig VonDohren enjoyed quite a bit of success driving for Faust’s team as did Jimmy Horton. Tim Fuller ended up the final driver for Faust before Bob sold out, supposedly giving Fuller a great deal on the entire operation.
Mike and Brian O’Shea – The Trenton Mack “Bulldog Express” team of the O’Shea’s focused their racing mainly in Jersey and specifically on the now defunct Flemington Speedway. Never afraid to spend what it took to run at the front of the pack, Mike and Brian had the gamut of top drivers in their #74’s and #704’s. Most notably was Ken Brenn Jr. Brenn and the Trenton Mack Grant King #74 were feared whenever they hit the track….didn’t matter where…they were potent. The same went for Fritz Epright when he was their driver and they debuted a pristine Olsen built #704. For a while there….Fritzy was the terror of the tracks. Stan Ploski enjoyed some halcyon days in a Trenton Mack creation. Larry Kline won a Flemington modified title in a Trenton Mack car and Frank Cozze drove four or five different cars on his way to his Flemington modified title…the Trenton Mack car of the O’Sheas being one of them. Ricky Elliott and Billy Pauch both enjoyed success with the O’Sheas as their car owners as well.
Tony Ferriauolo - fielded a great many machines over the years…going back into the sixties with Whip Mulligan being one of their “shoes”. But bring up the Ferriauolo team and it’s no surprise that the subject of their Grant King and Mulligan cars are brought to the fore. That being said, the most notable name associated with the King car was Gary Balough and his Syracuse mile domination. Billy Osmun was also a hot shoe with the Ferriaoulo troupe. The Ferriauolo family is basically out of racing these days but enjoy showing their pristine and original #73 Grant King modified at various area shows.
Ken Brenn Sr. – Brenn Sr. didn’t have many drivers once he made the switch over to the modifieds from his former open cockpit era of ownership. He did so in the early seventies and hired none other than Stan “The Man” Ploski to be his driver. Stan gave Ken two consecutive Flemington Speedway modified titles before moving on. From there, Ken Jr. and eventually Jimmy Brenn took over the reins. Ken retired from car ownership many years ago, but promotes a successful annual car show and is visible all year at various shows and legends meets.
These men and a whole host of others have contributed so much to the sport over the years so that fans had exciting racing to watch. The drivers are the stars in the game – the ones to pose with the checkered flag, the one signing the autographs. But it’s the owners putting them there. Without them signing the checks and paying the bills, the sport wouldn’t be as exciting. Just wanted to say thanks.
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With 50 years of attending local racing events behind him, Fred ponders its past and present.