|Date: 7/15/2015 10:18:36 PM|
First Hall Of Fame Andrew Fusco Media Award To Boyd
By Steve Barrick
Lew Boyd of Newburyport, MA -- an accomplished auto racing writer, publisher, business executive and race car driver -- has been selected to receive the first Andrew S. Fusco Award for Media Excellence, to be presented at the 2015 Northeast Modified Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Wednesday, August 5, in Weedsport, NY.
The honor is particularly poignant given the relationship Boyd cultivated with the late Andy Fusco, the Hall of Fame legal counsel and board member who passed away unexpectedly in March.
"Andy had a lot to talk about. There were no boundaries in his interests which extended well beyond racing -- trains, fishing, so many things. A lot of people probably don't know that Andy was also an extraordinary athlete,"
Boyd said. "And an attorney of great skill and reputation.
"The thing Andy was most proud of was being a dad. He and Andrea raised two great kids in Adam and Jennifer. His family was the most important thing in his life."
The two met while working as freelancers for Stock Car Racing Magazine many years ago.
"We soon realized we shared common roots in the Mohawk Valley," Boyd reflected. "I grew up in Amsterdam and he in Gloversville. We both shared great affection for Fonda Speedway."
Boyd and Fusco ultimately collaborated on several book projects, the first being their most mutually significant: "FONDA!" -- an examination of the history of the first track that captured Boyd's attention as a youth.
As a young boy, Lew contracted tuberculosis and suffered a prolonged hospitalization. One evening, a neighbor offered to take him on a car ride to lift his spirits; by happenstance, the trip took him by Fonda Speedway on a race night. That fleeting glance hooked Lew Boyd on auto racing forever.
"You have to remember, this was in the mid-fifties. The guys who were racing at Fonda were heroes: Shoemaker, Corey. It was compelling. But my parents didn't want me to have anything to do with it."
After his family moved to Boston, Boyd kept in touch with the events at Fonda through subscriptions to the local Amsterdam newspaper.
"When I got old enough, I drove to Fonda as often as I could, 250 miles each way," Boyd reminisced. "And I decided to build a car to race."
He sought and received permission from Pepper Eastman, one of his Fonda favorites, to use Eastman's blue and yellow colors and number 181 for his own car.
"I was running a car at Westboro at the time, getting ready for the feature, when somebody told me Pepper had gotten killed at Fonda. I got in the car and won the race that night. I had to win," Boyd recalled. "I had a tear in my eye after that one."
Boyd soon discovered a New England gathering point for racing types in Needham, MA, owned by driver Jack Malone.
"Jack owned a place with lots of garages that became known as 'Gasoline Alley.' Don MacTavish, Pete Hamilton, Bob Melick, Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and I hung out there and became friends.
"That's where Dick, Bruce and I got the idea of forming a racing team under the 'Jewish Lightning' name. I raced at Lakeville and Fonda, Bruce at Lakeville and Dick ran very well on the pavement at Beech Ridge."
At Lakeville, Boyd had considerable success, winning frequently. But the track was one tough place -- a big five-eighths mile dirt track with no rules and not much control.
"It was an extremely fast track and there were some awful cars there. There was everything from a NASCAR-style Late Model to New England cutdowns in the same race," Boyd recalled.
"One night when I was leading the feature, a tow truck, going the wrong way, appeared on the track. We both tried to miss each other but hit head on.
That one hurt. The car was a sedan I had bought from Lee Hendrickson and it was a mess. So I loaded up the pieces, headed for Lee's shop in Lawrenceville, NJ, arrived unannounced and asked, can you fix this? He just shook his head.
"I never had much mechanical aptitude," Boyd admitted.
Boyd has often described himself as being "half a bubble off center."
In his younger days, Lew became taken by the lure of moving across the country by train, and logged 35,000 miles riding the rails as a hobo.
By contrast, Boyd graduated from Harvard, and has spearheaded ventures such as a solar power company (in the '70s) and an environmental technical consulting firm.
Boyd's first book, "They Called Me The Shoe," is the story of New York State dirt and asphalt Modified standout Ken Shoemaker.
"I first knew Kenny because we parked next to each other in the pit area at Fonda. One night I had a run-in with him when I was trying to win my first feature. I flat out got into him and put him into the wall.
"Kenny was out of his car, waving his arms. Later in the pits, he said, 'I'll take care of you.' The next week, he did. I don't even remember what happened but there were less wheels on my car when I towed it back to Boston than there were when I brought it into the pits that night.
"The next week, I had no idea what to expect. Shoe walked over to me, I asked him calmly, 'What do we do now?' And Shoe looked me in the eye, extended his hand and said, 'Why don't we just be friends?'
"Years later, in 2000, I got a call from him, and I'll never forget this:
Shoe said, 'I'm dying, and I'd like to write a book about my career.'"
That was the start of Coastal 181 Publishing, which Lew runs with his wife, Cary Stratton.
When the Shoemaker book was finished, Coastal 181 had its first regional best seller.
New titles proliferated. "Hot Cars, Cool Drivers," a retrospective about several long-shuttered New England tracks, was next. Then came "Richie!"
Boyd's first collaborative work with Bones Bourcier. It is one of Boyd's favorites.
"It is the most psychologically interesting in part because Bones talked with and rode to the races with Richie (Evans) many times, long before Richie died."
A second Bourcier joint venture, "Bugsy!" charted the life and times of Carl Berghman (a.k.a. Bugs Stevens), a legendary New Englander cast in much the same mold as Richie Evans, with the crucial difference being that Stevens survived his racing days.
"Paved Track, Dirt Track," the stories of Old Bridge (NJ) and Nazareth (PA) speedways, was followed by "Flemke" (with Bourcier), "Dave Dion" (with Dave
Moody) and "I'll Never Be Last Again: The Bill Wimble Story." All told, Coastal 181 has published over two dozen books and has expanded into a nationally recognized source for hundreds of racing-related books, videos and images, through their website www.coastal181.com.
The success of the Parnelli Jones book (with Bourcier) in 2012 has convinced Boyd to seek additional opportunities in this market.
Boyd is also one of the driving forces behind Dick Berggren's long-planned Northeastern auto racing museum that will be located near New Hampshire International Speedway.
"I have known Berggie for years," Boyd said. "This is a worthy project he is involved in. It's moving forward."
The museum project received a check for $40,000 from Bentley Warren and his Boot Hill Saloon late last year. "Most people want to keep donations of this magnitude a little hush-hush. Not Bentley. 'Tell everybody you can, and tell them I said to match it,' he said. That's the kind of momentum this project has," Boyd related.
The museum's groundbreaking is set for September 2015.