2012 Awards Banquet

FRIENDS OF AUTO RACING HONORS McPHERSON, JANKOWIAK, INDUCTS BLISS, CATALANO, LORBER, PLAZEK TO HALL OF FAME

Dirt Sportsman racer Cody McPherson and asphalt Sportsman Modified driver Andy Jankowiak were named as the Drivers of the Year at the Friends of Auto Racing (Foar Score) Fan Club annual Awards Dinner, held on Saturday evening, December 8. Approximately 225 people attended the event, held at the Elks Club in Lancaster, NY. This annual affair of the Buffalo-based fan club honors top drivers in Western New York and the Niagara Region of Ontario.

In addition, the Friends of Auto Racing inducted Vern Bliss, Buck Catalano, Len Lorber, and Joe Plazek into its Hall of Fame.

Third generation racer McPherson earned track titles at both Merrittville and Humberstone Speedways, with six feature wins at Merrittville and three trips to victory lane at Humberstone. In addition, he followed the DIRTCar Sportsman trail, notching seven top tens including a victory at Brockville en route to the overall DIRTCar Sportsman championship.

Second generation racer Jankowiak received his second Asphalt Driver of the Year Award in three years. His 2012 resume included a first Holland Motorsports Complex NASCAR Pro Modified title, with five feature wins at the Western New York oval. He also scored major event wins in the Holland George Decker Memorial 100, the Dunn Tire Raceway Park Summer Slam 100 and US Open 100, and the Wyoming County International Labor Day 100 and Fall Shoot-Out 100. Andy was away competing in the indoor TQ Midget event in Baltimore and was unable to be in attendance; his cousin Matt Druar accepted the award on his behalf.

Vern Bliss was one of the top asphalt Late Model racers in the region from the late 90's through 2005 in the Bliss family owned machine, with five Holland Late Model championships in six years, three wins in Holland signature race of the time, the Budweiser 100, and four victories at Lancaster's US Open. Bliss also earned Holland titles in the Challenger and Charger divisions prior to his Late Model career.

Buck Catalano focused most of his 35 year racing career at his home track of Spencer Speedway, with 149 victories over the years in Street Stocks, Late Models, Sportsman Modifieds, and Modifieds. Through the years, he earned multiple Spencer track titles and a NASCAR Regional championship in 2002. At various times in his career, he also regularly competed at Lancaster and Holland Speedways, scoring a Lancaster Modified seasonal crown, as well.

Joe Plazek was considered one of the top wheelmen of a dirt Modified from the mid-80's through the late 90's. Plazek, who started his career in an asphalt Late Model, went full bore to dirt racing in 1983, and over his career, secured track titles at Ransomville and Weedsport, and earned a pair of championships at Canandaigua. He also picked up three wins over the years in the Labor Day New York State Fair Championship on the Syracuse mile.

Len Lorber had a promising post-World War II Midget racing career cut short by military service in the Korean Conflict. The Western New Yorker raced all over the northeast over a five year period, and though wins were few, he was a fierce competitor. Career highlights included chasing 1950 Indy 500 champ Johnny Parsons across the line in a AAA sanctioned Midget race at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in 1950, a win in an International Racing Association Midget event at Brewerton in 1949, and the only victory at his hometown Buffalo Civic Stadium in 1950. Len was not able to attend the dinner due to health concerns; longtime Midget racer John Casey accepted the award on his behalf.

Scott Kreutter was honored for his first career Patriot Sprint Tour American title with the Achievement on Dirt Award, while George Skora III received the Achievement on Asphalt Award for his first career Lake Erie Speedway Late Model title and his championship in the Pennsylvania based TBRA Late Model Series.

The Hoctor and Lalomia families were honored with the Families in Racing Award. William "Doc“ Hoctor was a championship racer in midgets and stock cars in the 50's and was one of the area's top car builders through the 60's and 70's. His son Rick has been a long time dirt Modified racer, while daughter Eileen has been a track official at various speedways in the area, and grandson Matt has been competing in a Street Stock. Ben Lalomia was a winning open-wheeled racer in the 50's; his son Tom was a successful area drag racer in the 70's and served as a pit crew member for Modified racers Bill Bitterman, Roger Treichler, and Tom Druar; Tom, Jr. is the reigning Four-Cylinder Champion at Dunn Tire Raceway Park.

The Dick Hammond Dedication to Auto Racing Award was presented to long time area racing supporter Bob Cordova of Original Pizza Logs. Modified Rookie-of-the-Year for both Ransomville and DIRTCar, Justin Wright, received the Rookie-of-the-Year on Dirt Award. Holland and Dunn Tire Raceway Park Sportsman racer Jake Vernon was named the Asphalt Rookie-of-the-Year. The Most Improved Driver on Dirt Award went to Ransomville Modified racer Erick Rudolph, while Dunn Tire Raceway Park Street Stock driver Matt Druar earned the Most Improved Driver on Asphalt Award.

The Perserverence Award was presented to Holland and Wyoming County track official Jerry Ward; the Woman in Racing Award was presented to Dunn Tire Raceway Park Street Stock racer and Foar Score Club Secretary Heather Weber; the Dunn Tire Four-Cylinder Lalomia/Bainbridge Racing Team received the Sportsmanship Award; former racer and long time Foar Score Director and Trustee Jim Nowinski was presented the President's Award for Exceptional Contribution to the Club.

The top seasonal awards of the Casey's Trucking TQ Midget Series were also presented. Camden Barber was named as Series champion; Kyle Hutchinson received the runner-up trophy, and Joe Barber was awarded the team owner championship trophy.

By Rick Mooney

Contact:  Rick Mooney: Rmooneypr@aol.com