Balough, Wetmore and Delaney Selected for 2015 Hall of Fame Inductions

Date: 5/6/2015 9:28:36 PM

Balough, Wetmore and Delaney Selected for 2015 Hall of Fame Inductions

Special Awards to Brenn, Hillman, Heinke, Boyd and Clark


Weedsport, NY (May 1, 2015) – Five-time Syracuse winner Gary Balough, ’80s Outlaw circuit standout Donnie Wetmore and pioneer driver and crew chief Jim Delaney will officially be inducted into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame in August. These three driving greats add their names to a stellar list of Modified legends that was started in 1992 when the Hall of Fame was established on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, New York.


The 2015 induction ceremonies will take place Wednesday, August 5 at 7 pm in the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum, on the grounds of Weedsport Speedway. The following evening, Weedsport Speedway will present its Super DIRTcar Series Hall of Fame 100 for the big-block Modifieds. Fans will be delighted to see the extensive improvements made to both the speedway and the museum by owner Al Heinke and his staff.


A young phenom in his home state of Florida in the ’60s, the cocky and controversial Gary Balough cut a swath northwards in the early 1970s, dominating on the dirt just as he’d done on the asphalt. His first success in the Northeast Mods came in the pink #9, a Whip Mulligan-built Gremlin owned by Paul Hildebrand and Richard Ege out of New Jersey. Tony and Ronnie Ferraiuolo then bought the Mulligan car from Hildebrand-Ege—with Balough as part of the deal. In the iconic maroon Ferraiuolo #73 cars, Balough won four times at Syracuse, taking a preliminary July race in 1977, and three consecutive Super DIRT Week October classics from ’76-78. In 1980, in the wild Kenny Weld one-off Batmobile, he annihilated the field to claim his fourth October title on the mile. Balough’s record-setting .400 win percentage in the great race remains unchallenged and may never be surpassed.


“The Mayor” from Constantia, NY, Donnie Wetmore was the man to beat on the Outlaw circuit in the ’80s and ’90s. Wetmore was a Capital District native who ran well near home but became a star once he moved west to Central New York.  His 200-plus career wins include 37 in DIRT 358 Modified events and a trio of big-block wins—but he was the king of the old Outlaw circuit. Wetmore notched six Fulton titles, eight Brewerton championships and one each at Utica-Rome and Cayuga County in a career that ended with him the all-time win leader at Fulton with 68 and second on the Brewerton list with 67. Wetmore’s 21 wins at Utica-Rome places him 10th on the all-time dirt win list there.


Starting out on the Penn-Jersey dirt and paved tracks in 1948, Hope, NJ native Jim Delaney certainly knew how to build and drive those post-war stock cars with great success. In the early ’50s, he took the show on the road, chasing NASCAR points down south along with fellow Jersey ace Frankie Schneider. But Delaney ultimately had more interest in building cars rather than driving them. Although he beat the best to win Langhorne’s prestigious Race of Champions three times (in 1952, ’58 and ’59), Delaney eventually relocated to Indiana to oversee Winston Cup operations for Ray Nichels Engineering, the “Holman-Moody of the Midwest.” From there, he moved south to work for elite teams under Bud Moore, Travis Carter, Buddy Baker, Hal Needham and Rod Osterlund. Jim was with the original Osterlund crew in 1979 when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was named Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. He died of cancer in 1991.


Also being honored at the August 5 induction ceremonies are Ken Brenn Sr., Mike Hillman Sr., Al Heinke, Lew Boyd and Barb Clark.


The 2015 Gene DeWitt Car Owner Award goes to Ken Brenn Sr. of Warren, NJ. A celebrated legend in the world of Midget racing, when Brenn segued into owning Modifieds in 1971, he raised the bar of professionalism in our sport and completely changed the game by enlisting his open-cockpit buddies (Trevis, Stanton, King) to build him stock cars. The innovative Grant King car Ken commissioned and helped design created a firestorm that resonated throughout every garage in the Northeast. Every single driver who sat in the seat of one of Brenn’s #24 Modifieds was a winner—Stan Ploski, Will Cagle, Sammy Beavers, Billy Osmun, and his two sons, Kenny and Jimmy. Five of those six drivers are Hall of Fame inductees.


Mike Hillman Sr. took what he learned as a teenager on the dirt tracks of New York State and applied it to the highest levels of NASCAR racing. He will be honored with this year’s Mechanic/Engineering Award. The former Lockport, NY resident had some great teachers in Ross Holmes and Sege Fidanza before he hooked up with a young Alan Johnson at age 18. In the seven years he and Johnson teamed together, they won everywhere and everything on the DIRT circuit. Hillman also served as crew chief for Merv Treichler’s back-to-back Syracuse wins in 1981 and ’82, then followed Treichler’s team south to chase the NASCAR dream. Hillman has worked as a crew chief and team manager in each of NASCAR’s top three series, and currently co-owns the #40 Sprint Cup Series car driven by Landon Cassill.


Al Heinke of Newington, CT, will receive the Leonard J. Sammons Jr. Award for Outstanding Contributions to Auto Racing. In 2013, Heinke purchased Weedsport Speedway—immediately thinking outside the box to transform the neglected facility into a multi-use state-of-the-art motorsports complex, housing race teams, manufacturers, and the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame and Stock Car Museum. His vision and commitment are evident in the renovations and improvements that continue to be made to DIRT Motorsports’ original home. Former owner of the legendary Lime Rock road course, and a former racer himself, Heinke also fields two big-block Modified teams under the HBR banner.


A new award is being added this year in memory of Hall of Fame board member and legal counsel Andy Fusco, who unexpectedly passed away in March. Publisher Lew Boyd, Newburyport, MA, will be the recipient of the first Andrew S. Fusco Award for Media Excellence. In 2001, Boyd founded Coastal 181 Publishers and began producing unique books geared to the motorsports community. Coastal 181 is dedicated to offering books, DVDs and artwork that describe the history of motorsports and the stories of ordinary people who have gone on to achieve extraordinary things. Boyd has been involved in racing since the early ’60s, when he fielded his first #181 race car.


Barb Clark, Utica-Rome Speedway’s Director of Operations, will be honored with the Outstanding Woman in Racing Award. Clark, of Bouckville, NY, has served in various capacities under three regimes at Utica-Rome since 2000. Former track owner Gene Cole named her Director of Operations nine years ago and she continues in that role under the current management of Tim and Bill Shea, handling day-to-day and race day duties at the speedway. This past February, Clark was selected to participate in a three-member panel at the RPM Promoters Workshops “Leading Ladies in Racing” seminar in Daytona Beach.

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