Weedsport, NY — May 10, 2010 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director
The pitch of her voice will be a little higher, yet when Irene Dudzinski gives the order “Gentlemen, start your engines,” there will be no mistaking that the former first lady of Weedsport Speedway means its time to go racing.
Back to the home of DIRTcar Racing Northeast and the organization’s charter member track for the first time since 2004, Dudzinski will serve as Grand Marshal on May 30 when the 19th Annual Hall of Fame Classic moves to the forefront on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds.
“I’ve done just about everything else at the track, but never started a race,” said Irene, who turns 90 years old on July 20 and still can’t wait to get back to the track she helped open 55 years earlier. Her husband and late founder of today’s Cayuga County Fair Speedway, Stanley Dudzinski, was named posthumously in ’04 as recipient of the Leonard J. Sammons,Jr. Memorial Award which recognizes outstanding contributions in auto racing. “I was always taking care of our fans, they’re the ones I miss the most. They supported us from day one and made Weedsport such a special place to be on Sundays.”
“Before Brewerton (1948) started to run I had never even been to a race but I was on the edge of my seat every lap. When we got back home I couldn’t sleep, and the next morning I told Stan we should build a track on our own land. He thought I was crazy, but I bothered him so much for so long, after awhile he even believed it was his own idea,” recalled Irene, today living in nearby Jordan, N.Y. after relocating back north from New Smyrna Beach, Fla. where Stanley passed away in 1993 at the age of 77.
The rest is truly history as Weedsport Speedway officially unlocked it’s gates during the summer of 1955. Ron Narducci has been chronicled capturing the July 24 opener while Dick Turcott was eventually crowned the first-ever track Sportsman points champion.
Today, the likes of defending Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Champion Brett Hearn, current points leader Billy Decker, veteran Alan Johnson and upstart Matt Sheppard will lead a talented array of future Hall of Famers back to the storied Route 31 clay oval for a 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series shootout. And just like she was five decades earlier, Irene will be wide-eyed when the green flag waves and a full field of racers speed past as they contend for bragging rights on the one-time dairy farm turned into a sacred stomping ground for stock cars.
Himself a competitor at nearby Brewerton Speedway since 1951, Dudzinski made the decision in ’54 to build a track for local drivers to race on Sundays. Irene was relentless with her encouragement, pushing Stan to take on the project since he had always used the farmland as a practice ground for his stock cars between races.
Yet when he first began carving out a third-mile oval in his berry patch using railroad ties to mark the frontstretch wall, he never dreamed that five decades later the same field would become synonymous with the leading regional short-track sanctioning body of dirt racing in the country and offer nationally televised Modified events.
“It was hard for just a couple people who didn’t have anything to put their life savings into such an endeavor,” remarked Irene, who was in charge of the concession stands while Stan spearheaded every other facet of the speedway. Just like today, the midway menu featured hots and hamburgs, popcorn and pizza, with pop to wash it all down.
“I was the kind of person that could never stay satisfied, I was always looking for something better. But whatever happened, we just never wanted to be in debt. I remember everybody coming out for the opener and the place was packed. We were so thankful that things worked out and we were able to stay at it for so long,” Irene added.
Joining Irene Dudzinski in her return “home” on May 30 will be familiar foes and charter member Northeast Modified Hall of Fame inductees Billy Wimble, Dutch Hoag and Billy Rafter, along with ‘Irish’ Jack Murphy ’00 and 2nd-ever Mr. DIRTcar titlist Dave Lape from the Class of ‘04. This rare reunion of all-time greats shifts into high gear Sunday afternoon when the Class of 2010 is publicly recognized, featuring driver inductees Lin Hough, Ralph Quarterson and Gary Reddick, and special award winners Brian Mulligan, Jeff Brownell, Andrew Phillips, Tana Robinson, Judy Snyderman and Buffy Swanson.
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, home of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend in July. DIRTcar Northeast’s crown jewel event —Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse runs annually in October featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions. Ticket and schedule information is available by contacting the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during the day or logging into www.allstar100weekend.com and www.superdirtweekonline.com anytime.
The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and Chizmark & Larson Insurance www.chizmarklarson.com, and contingency sponsors are Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, MSD Ignition www.msdignition.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Vicci Racing Apparel www.vicci.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.