Contact: John Keegan at 607-965-8994
Dirt stars Paul Jensen and Gary Balough, asphalt ace Billy Greco, racer and historian Dan Ody and longtime media stalwarts Don and Jo Ann Davies highlight an all-star class of inductees for the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame ceremony set for late January.
Jensen, who long-time Utica-Rome Speedway promoter Gene Cole dubbed “the Smoky Yunick of Central New York” for his innovative mechanical skills, has enjoyed a 42-year career that saw him garner 13 championships at a half-dozen speedways: Utica-Rome, Fulton, Thunder Mountain, Brookfield, Fonda and Afton.
Along with some 135 wins at ten different speedways, topped by his 1993 triumph in Fulton’s Victoria 200, Jensen claimed the Outlaw Circuit championship in 1990 and ’92. And all along the way, Jensen built a reputation as a true gentleman who would help his competition at any time, in any way he could.
Balough, who started his career at age 14 in Hialeah, FL, is best known for his domination of Super DIRT Week on the Syracuse mile, where he won four times and changed the face of modified racing with his famed aerodynamic “Batmobile.”
His asphalt experience made him nearly unbeatable when the northeastern dirt tracks turned hard and dry and in 1977 he led the Eastern States 200 flag-to-flag, the only one to do so. Other notable wins came at East Windsor, Fonda, Flemington and Nazareth in a variety of cars, as the ever aggressive Balough was a winner in everything he drove.
By the 1980’s he was back to asphalt racing, winning such events as Pensacola’s Snowball Derby, the Miller High Life 300 at Charlotte and late model classics across the mid-west and deep south as he claimed the All-Pro championship in 1986. Balough also made two starts in the Daytona 500 and is thought to have over 1000 wins through his notable career.
New England asphalt ace Billy Greco, generally introduced as “Wild Bill,” won modified races across the Northeast following his debut at West Haven, CT Speedway, where we would go on to win three championships. He was especially good on the Riverside Park bullring, where he ranked second, with 57 wins, when the track closed to expand the adjacent amusement park.
In the Empire State, Greco notched five consecutive wins at Islip, Long Island to shake up the locals and also claimed 18 of 20 features one season at the old Pine Bowl outside Troy. But it was his feat of claiming the first ever Albany-Saratoga Speedway championship some 50 years ago that will keep Greco in racing trivia contests forever.
The late Dan Ody had a multi-faceted career that started at age 16 in go-karts and progressed through street stocks, slingshot, mini-modifieds, mini-sprints, 360 and 305 sprint cars, IMCA modifieds, late models, sportsman, 358 modifieds and big block modifieds. His first win came at the Fonda Speedway in the street stock class and he notched his 100th win there as well in a vintage modified race.
Best known for his mini-sprint success, Ody was the 1986 and ’87 PMSRA Driver of the Year and was named the PMSRRA “Driver of the Eighties.” He also had great success in the IMCA modifieds, though his 102nd and final career win came in Everett Kneer’s Pro-Stock at Utica-Rome. But Dan may be best remembered for his efforts in assembling videos of old speedways and long ago races from old 16 mm film provided by fans, racers and historians. His efforts have revived and kept alive memories of long-forgotten raceways while also highlighting long ago events at speedways still going strong.
Longtime Area Auto Racing News columnists Don and Jo Ann Davies began their careers as columnists for Val LeSieur’s Speedway Scene in 1972, a logical extension of Don’s lifelong passion for racing fostered when his parents first took him to the old Brookfield Speedway in 1949. In 1986, they moved to Area Auto Racing News.
The duo has long covered the weekly action in eastern and central New York along with following the Super DIRT Series and are the consummate “insiders.” For 75-80 events a year, Don walks the pit area non-stop, knowing and talking to everyone in both the modified and support classes, while JoAnne, who met Don in college and saw her first race at the famed Flemington Fairgrounds, gathers information from the press box. She also aids a number of tracks with their media relations and sign-in operations.
The Davies’ perspective has always been that they are race fans first, trying to present information they would want to know if they were not at that race or event while keeping personal opinions to a minimum.
NYSSCA Hall of Fame festivities will kick off at 11 am on Saturday, January 28th when inductees are introduced and their careers recalled at the Saratoga Automobile Museum on the Avenue of the Pines in the Saratoga Spa State Park, site of the NYSSCA Hall of Fame exhibit. This will be followed by the annual NYSSCA awards banquet at the Polish Community Center on Washington Ave. extension in Albany. The cocktail hour will begin at 4 pm with Hall of Fame introductions to follow at 5:15.