FRIENDS OF AUTO RACING INDUCT DEMLER, FIDANZA, McCROSSAN, STEVENS, the TOALS INTO HALL OF FAME
At their annual awards dinner on Saturday, January 30th, the Friends of Auto Racing (F.O.A.R. S.C.O.R.E.) Fan Club inducted six new members into their Hall of Fame. The honorees included USAC Champ Car owner Norm Demler, asphalt Modified champion Sege Fidanza, Western New York racing pioneer Dick McCrossan, dirt Modified ace Brian Stevens, and long-time track officials and super-racing supporters Don and Marilyn Toal.
The annual banquet fetes top drivers in Western New York and Ontario’s Niagara Region, and introduces the newest members to the select Hall of those who have had a significant impact in the region’s rich motorsports history. Each of the inductees received a recognition award, while the permanent Hall of Fame trophy and display is housed at the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen. The banquet was held at the Elks Club in Lancaster, NY. Masters of Ceremonies Rick Mooney and Dave Buchanan presided over the inductions.
The late Norm Demler of Wheatfield, NY, was involved as a USAC Champ Car owner from the late 50's through the mid-60's, focusing on asphalt champ car events. The Demler Special made 22 starts, with nine top ten finishes, including four top fives at the Indy 500. A number of top drivers wheeled his racer, with George Amick taking 2nd at Indy in 1958, Paul Goldsmith taking the car to 5th place and 3rd place Indy finishes in ‘59 and ‘60, and Johnny White guiding the car to a 4th place showing at the brickyard in ‘64. Jim Hurtubise qualified the car 3rd in the 1961 500, and led the first 20 laps before fading with engine problems. Eugene Demler accepted the award; racing announcer and Foar Score hall of Fame member Ken Hangauer, Jr. made the presentation.
Over the course of a 40 year racing career, Sege Fidanza raced his way to over 135 career wins and eleven track titles. 124 of those wins were at his home track of Lancaster (NY) Speedway (now Dunn Tire Raceway Park). He broke into racing as a teen-aged phenomenon, earning 12 Late Model feature wins (and the 1971 divisional championship) in a little over a season and a half at Lancaster before jumping to the Modified ranks. The first of his many Modified victories would occur in late 1972, and in 1983, after coming close on a few occasions, he wrapped up his first Modified crown He was the dominating open-wheeled driver at the track throughout the ‘80's, ‘90's and the ‘00's. His tenth and most recent Modified title was in 2009. His victory total at Lancaster puts him on top of the oval’s all-time winner’s list. In addition, he scored Modified Race of Champions 200 wins at Oswego in ‘98 and ‘03, and was victorious in the SST Sportsman event during the ‘09 Race of Champions weekend. Retired racer and Foar Score Hall of Fame member Ron Martin made the presentation.
Dick McCrossan was an early star of Midget racing. Re-locating to the midwest from his Buffalo home after World War II, he and brother-in-law Roy Graham (already in the Foar Score Hall of Fame) barnstormed the tracks of the Tri-State Association, with Dick earning 31 wins at ovals in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Returning home in late 1949, he joined the newly formed International Racing Association, competing in the Fran Whitmer-owned Midget throughout the northeast US and Eastern Canada, picking up victories at tracks such as Brewerton and Bath, NY, Brantford, ON, and Snowshoe, PA. He finished second in IRA points in 1953. After retiring as an active racer in the mid-fifties, he stayed connected with the sport as an administrator for the racing action as Buffalo’s Civic Stadium, as a racing promoter at Little Valley, NY, and as an insurance liaison to USAC through his position with the insurance industry. Past Foar Score Club president Butch Fleetwood made the presentation.
Brian Stevens was born into a racing world, as his father, Foar Score Hall of Fame member Ray, was a reputable driver and a noted owner/mechanic. Brian learned the ins-and-outs of racing at a young age, and after a brief stint in the old Late Model division at Merrittville, jumped into a Modified, and by the turn of the ‘80's, was making a name for himself. He has well over 100 wins on his resume, including victories at Merrittville, Humberstone, Ransomville, and Weedsport. He has picked up Modified track titles at Merrittville (1982 and ‘92) and a pair at Humberstone (‘82 and ‘87.) He continues as a solid 358 Modified competitor to this day, and in 2009, earned fourth place points finishes at both Merrittville and Humberstone, and added a Humberstone victory lane visit to his collection. With Brian’s induction, he and his father Ray become the fourth father-son duo so honored. Ransomville Speedway Race Director Jeff Anstett made the presentation.
Don and Marilyn Toal have been important cogs in the successes of asphalt racing for over 40 years. Don served as a track official at a number of tracks throughout upstate New York, and both were instrumental in the efforts of the Kodak Park Association to honor top drivers in the Rochester area for many years. They have also made it their annual project to raise lap sponsorship funds for the Race of Champions for over 35 years - this is virtually a year-round task. Each season, they have been responsible for adding approximately $15,000 (or more) available to the racers at this event through their sponsorship and fund-raising efforts. Although an exact total is not available, estimates are that their time and efforts have provided for over $600,000 of such funds over the years. With this honor, Marilyn Toal becomes the first woman to be inducted into this Hall of Fame. Foar Score Vice-President and Historian Mark Southcott made the presentation.
This induction class brings the total membership in the Friends of Auto Racing Hall of Fame to 106.