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HALL OF FAME INDUCTION ICING ON CAKE FOR HEWITT

Doug Hewitt joined the Friends of Auto Racing Fan Club's Hall of Fame during the group's 52nd annual "Gathering of Champions" awards banquet Saturday night at the Hearthstone Manor.

The Silver Spring native said the induction is the best thing that has happened to him in his many years in motorsports. Hewitt raced in this area before moving on to crew chief in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He currently works with the research and development department at Petty Enterprises.

"I started driving in the Limited Sportsman class at Holland and Perry speedways in 1969," Hewitt said. "In 1975, I moved up to the Late Models, driving for Gene Dewitt. In 1977, I went to the Modifieds until I retired from driving in 1985."

Career highlights include two Spencer Modified titles and a championship in the old Wednesday night Modified series at Holland.

He moved south and went to work with the Stavola Brothers Winston Cup team in 1986 with driver Bobby Allison. He stayed with Allison when the driver separated from the team. Hewitt later worked for Bobby Hillin after injury sidelined Allison.

In 1992, Hewitt was hired as crew chief for Bahari Racing and drivers Michael Waltrip and later Johnny Benson. He moved to Petty Enterprises in 1999 and was crew chief for Kyle Petty until this season's assignment to research and development.

"It's a deal that's going to be interesting," Hewitt said. "What I'm working on can't be announced yet but it will be different . . . it will be about development and not just racing."

Hewitt later told the nearly 500 in attendance that when it comes to explaining his research, "I will have to dodge that question for now," referring to the strong rumors that Petty Enterprises will switch to Dodge cars for 2001, when Dodge re-enters Winston Cup racing after a long hiatus.

Kyle Petty planned to attend the banquet but couldn't make it. Petty did supply his private jet so Hewitt and his family could attend.

"It means a lot that the Pettys did that for me so that I could be up here," Hewitt said.

Former driver Cam Gagliardi of Lockport also was inducted into the hall. He began racing in 1949 and retired in 1972, racing on and off for a few more years.

"I know all of those people who have gone into the hall before me," Gagliardi said. "Knowing what they meant to racing makes me proud that I'm now in the hall with them."

Ed Otto and Don Biederman were inducted posthumously. Otto promoted racing at various venues for many years, including the Hamburg Fairgrounds and Buffalo's Civic Stadium, later renamed War Memorial Stadium.

Biederman raced Late Models mostly in Canada, but often ventured to Holland, Lancaster and Perry speedways. He died last May.

A special mention was given to Tom Taber, a veteran Sprint Car driver from Belfast who was severely injured in a tire explosion at his shop last August.

"I had six major surgeries so far but I'm slowly recovering," said Taber, who still is walking with the aid of crutches. "It's great to get back out and see everyone. You get too depressed if you don't get out. The support from the racing community has been unbelievable. I've gotten over 500 cards. My goal is to get back to racing perhaps in another year."

Other award winners were: Chuck Hossfeld, Lancaster Modified Champion, Driver of the Year on Asphalt; Ron Smoker, USAC Midget star, Driver of the Year on Dirt; Kris Dow, ESS Sprints, Rookie on Dirt; Todd Hoddick, Lancaster Street Stocks, Rookie on Asphalt; Tom Walker, Ransomville-Merrittville Pro-Stocks, Most Improved on Dirt; Dave Reese, Holland Pro-Modified, Most Improved on Asphalt.

Chad Brachmann, DIRT Sportsman and Randy Hall, IMCA Modified, Achievement on Dirt; John Julicher, Lancaster Late Models, Achievement on Asphalt; The Freedom Raceway community, Perseverance; Mark Pennell, Lancaster Late Models, Sportsmanship Award; The Majchrzak family, Wyoming County Speedway, Special Promotion; Trey Hoddick, Mechanical Achievement; Laurie Mislin, Lancaster race driver, Woman In Racing; Mike Siever, President's Award.

The Buffalo News, Media Award; Rich Deney, Dick Hammond Dedication To Racing; Gordon Becker, retired Holland business manager; and Dan, Mark and Dave Schulz, DIRT Pro-Stocks, Special Recognition Awards.

Contribution Awards were given to the Empire Sports Network, WLVL Radio 1340 AM, Kendall Motor Oil and Martin Family Dealerships.

The top three finishers in the A-Main of the NAPA Niagara Indoor Midget Racing Series Saturday at the Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center were Lou Cicconi, Dan May and Mike Stahl.

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