About the New Yorker
Some of the greatest names in short track racing, both dirt and asphalt have competed in the New Yorker but only a select few have won the event. Names like Richie Evans, Ed Flemke Sr., Geoff Bodine, Lou Lazzaro, Bill Wimble, and Billy Pauch, Stewart Friesen, Bobby Varin Steve Paine are just some the great drivers to take the checkered flag in past New Yorker events.
In 1963, Lou “The Monk” Lazzaro took the inaugural New Yorker event, then a 400 lap grind, to claim his first of five checkered flags (the next four came when the 400 lap distance was broken into two segments with each claiming a victor, Lazzaro took both segments in 1968 and 1969) in the prestigious event. The three time Utica-Rome Speedway champion, Lazzaro would collect 30 feature events at the speedway in his long career. Winner of hundred of events and dozens of titles across the Northeast, Lazzaro raced up to the eve of his death in May 2000.
The New Yorker 400 was broken into two segments in 1964, with each event declaring a separate winner. The two race format didn’t make much of a difference that season though, as Ed Flemke Sr. won both segments becoming the first of two drivers to complete the sweep. Flemke found success all over the Northeast, winning over 500 events in his career including 24 at the Utica-Rome Speedway. When the New Yorker 400 returned to one 400 lap grind again in 1970, Flemke was the victor again.
The 1965 edition of the New Yorker saw “The Flying Dutchman” Fred Harbach take his only Utica-Rome Speedway checkered in one of the 200 segments. The Long Island native raced throughout the Northeast for 40 years, winning the track championship as well as the last event at Riverhead in 1992, his final season behind the wheel.
Taking the second 200 lap portion of the 1965 New Yorker 400 was the legendary Bill Wimble. That season saw Wimble win his first of two Utica-Rome Speedway championships, this one in the Sportsman division which he followed up with the Modified title a year later. Wimble was the NASCAR’s national Sportsman champion in both 1960 and ’61. 1966 would show Wimble taking another 200 lap segment of the New Yorker, his second and final checkered flag in the famed event.
Don McTavish took the opening 200 lap portion of the New Yorker in 1966 and in 1967; he repeated that feat by taking another 200 lap segment. Two of McTavish’s four Utica-Rome Speedway career wins would come from this prestigious show.
Dave Kotary, member of the Kotary clan that has raced at Utica-Rome from its very beginning to the present grabbed his only checkered flag in the New Yorker, winning a portion of the event in 1967. Kotary had a total of six feature wins at Utica-Rome.
Probably the most famous and best driver in Utica-Rome Speedway’s history, Richie Evans grabbed the 1971 and ’72 editions of the New Yorker 400. Arguably one of the best short track racers in the country, Evans made his mark in Modified racing up and down the east coast, from Daytona to Vermont , grabbing nearly 500 wins and nine NASCAR National Modified Championships. Evans’ 33 career wins and four track championships at the Utica-Rome Speedway would have certainly been higher if it wasn’t for his banishment from NASCAR sanctioned events in the early 70’s. Evans would win the New Yorker again in 1978 when it was run as a 200 lap affair, making it three New Yorker wins for Evans’ as a driver and four as a car owner as Eddie Flemke won in the famous Evans numbered 61 in 1970 when Evans was serving his NASCAR punishment.
In 1974 Maynard Troyer, the soon to be owner of the famous Troyer Engineering chassis business, took the final 400 lap New Yorker. Troyer would have a total of four wins at Utica-Rome Speedway.
In 1975, the New Yorker was shortened to 100 laps, a dash compared to the former 400 lap distance, which saw a young hotshot out of Southern New York take the win. Chemung NY ’s Geoff Bodine took the win ahead of a stout top five of Lou Lazzaro, Jerry Cook, Richie Evans, and Ed Pieniazek. Bodine would finish his career with nine Utica-Rome Speedway wins.
After Richie Evans took the win in the 1978 New Yorker 200, the era of asphalt racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway came to an end. From 1961 until 1978, Utica-Rome Speedway was the center of the NASCAR Modified world, having the NASCAR National Modified champions from 1971 until 1978 (Jerry Cook held the title in 1971 and 1972 and again in 1974 until 1977 with Richie Evans holding the title in 1973 and 1978) call the Vernon oval their Sunday night home. Just to take a look back at the legendary names that raced regularly at Utica-Rome Speedway gives a sense of what tremendous racing action took place during that period, with drivers like Bugsy Stevens, Lou Lazzaro, Rene Charland, Bill Wimble, Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Kenny Shoemaker, Sonny Seamon, Bill Wimble, Maynard Troyer, and too many more to list.
In 1990, promoter Eric Kingsley brought the New Yorker name back from obscurity. Kingsley ran the event in conjunction with Fulton Speedway’s Victoria 200 in hopes of bringing in many of the same drivers the trek to that huge event. Run as a high paying 50 lap event, New Jersey ’s Billy Pauch took home the laurels in the first two New Yorker’s run on the dirt surface. Pauch would win the New Yorker one more time in 1993 when it was expanded to 100 laps with a break at the halfway point. Known for his versatility on both dirt and asphalt and in any type of race car, Pauch has over 500 career wins and continues to add to that total every year.
Dale Planck added his name to the famous list of New Yorker winner in the 1992 New Yorker 50. Out of Homer NY, Planck was four time track champion and three-time NASCAR Regional Champion on the strength of his Utica-Rome Speedway finishes.
The New Yorker was haulted after 1993 until 2007 when Stewart Friesen added his name to the great list of winners followed by Bobby Varin and Steve Paine in 2010.
This year (2011) Bobby Varin again proved to be the number man behind the 00 Dover Brake machine as he claimed victory in dominating fashion.
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