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Larry Ott: Tedesco is familiar figure at Holland

For the last 57 years there has been a truism about life in the southeast corner of Erie County. First, there has always been Holland Motorsports Complex and at Holland’s high-banked oval there has always been Sande Tedesco.

From his early days as a fan, to that of a tow truck operator and pit crew member for the legendary Art Clark, to more recent times as a pace car driver and promotions coordinator, Tedesco has been a major contributor to the history of Holland. Today at age 72, Tedesco is still enjoying his roles, which will include pacing the field Saturday night when the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour pays its annual visit for the “Thunder in The Hills” 100.

“It’s been a wonderful ride all these years at Holland and it is still going and I’m living a race fans dream,” said Tedesco, of West Seneca.”

Tedesco first attended Holland as a teenager in the early 1960s, when the track was still dirt. A few years later he brought his wife and three children and eventually found his way to the pits where he served both as a speedway tow truck operator and also on the pit crew of his great friend Clark.

“Once I got into the pits I started helping Art and I ended up being on his team for the next 10-15 years,” said Tedesco. “I went with him everywhere he raced including Holland, Perry, Cayuga and North Collins among other tracks.”

In the late 1970’s Tedesco met long-time Holland official the late Clark Rice, and Tedesco’s career took a big step forward at Holland.

“The Clutch Artists were having a show at the Memorial Auditorium and I met Clark at that event,” said Tedesco. “He was manning the Holland table passing out schedules and brochures about Holland.

“He needed a bathroom break and asked me to fill in for him for a little while. After the show, at some point he got a hold of Gordon Becker (former Holland co-owner/business manager) and asked Gordon to offer me a job as a promotions coordinator. Gordon called me and I accepted.”

Since then, Tedesco has worked promotional events and done other tasks to assist the Holland management.

“The Holland marketing department sets up the promotional events and I work them and tear them down when the event is over,” said Tedesco. “I work all the mall shows, parades, car shows and anywhere else we stage a promotional event. Every year is different but I average about 20 events per year.

“Over the years I have frequently driven all around Western New York in the track pace car dropping off schedules and promotional items at different locations. My record for the most drop offs stops in a single day is 66. I put between 5,000 to 6,000 miles on the pace car each year for promotional events.

“The pace car stays at my house all summer and I bring it to promotional events as well as to Holland on race nights. I keep it clean and maintained.”

While Tedesco is the regular Holland pace car driver, on occasion he shares that duty with longtime Holland supporter Denny Martin. Tedesco has witnessed many changes over the years at Holland.

“When I was working in the pits with Art way back, we pitted the cars on grass and sometimes mud. There was no pit lighting. We strictly worked with flashlights. Now Holland has the nice concrete pit pads, pit lighting and paved pit roads. The facility upgrades not just in the pits but around the entire track has just been so nice to see over the years.

“Of course, the car counts here and at other tracks are lower than they once were but that is mainly due to the fact that the sport has gotten so expensive even for the four-cylinders. When I was working with Art we built all of our parts ourselves and today when racers need parts, they just order them from a manufacturer and they usually are delivered to them overnight but at a much greater cost.”

Tedesco recalled many Holland memories of which one stood out.

“When I was working with the safety crew one night many years ago, Late Model driver Butch Holtz went clear over the third turn wall and down the embankment on the outside of the track. I ran to try to help him and when I got over the wall I ended up sliding down the embankment. I wound up sliding through some thorny briar bushes and that hurt. I helped get Butch out of the car and he was okay. I think I made out worse than him on that deal.”

During the 1990’s Tedesco also worked for CBS and Speed Channel as a spotter for the camera personnel at NASCAR Cup Series races at Daytona, Talladega and Michigan.

Understandably, Tedesco is proud of his accomplishments at Holland.

“The only time in all these years that I ever missed a Saturday night at Holland was when I had cancer in 1989 and had to have a bone marrow transplant and had to miss a year because of it,” said Tedesco. “I’ve had to cut back my schedule a little bit the last few years due to some health issues but I still make all the races.

“I am proud to have worked for the Bennett family all these years as well others at the track and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. At this point I cannot see myself retiring at all in the future and I think that when I finally pass away they should just bury me in the Holland infield.”

The Race of Champions Modified Tour will be showcased Saturday in the “Thunder in The Hills” 100. The NASCAR Pro Chargers, Hornets and NYPA TQ Midgets will also be on the race card which gets the green flag at 5 p.m. The “Thunder in The Hills” 100 is currently Holland’s biggest race of each season.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com