On a weekend when Dunn Tire Raceway Park honored two of its lost racing stars from the past, Chuck Hossfeld climbed from his victorious race car Saturday night and reflected on the recent death of Debbie Hoddick, one of his biggest fans.
Hossfeld inherited the lead of Saturday's Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial Modified 100 on lap 71 when leader Mike Leaty pitted and then held off Jan Leaty to score the victory.
The race honors the memory of Druar and Jankowiak. Druar died in a Modified crash in 1989 when the track was known as Lancaster Speedway. Jankowiak perished in a wreck in Stafford, Conn., the following spring.
Hossfeld not only reflected his memories of Druary and Jankowiak but also of Hoddick, the wife of veteran race supporter and retired driver Trey Hoddick. Debbie Hoddick died after an ATV accident on Aug. 6.
"It just crushed me," Hossfeld said about Hoddick's death. "It's a shame. I'm sad about that. But these memorial races are very big to win. I grew up watching Tommy and Tony. I was little but I remember it. I thought the racers then were cool so to be a racer myself now is very gratifying."
Hossfeld's win Saturday was not trouble free as he pitted on lap 30 and then was involved in a spin on lap 36. He rebounded to work his way through the pack.
"I got spun out and that wasn't a good deal," Hossfeld said. "I questioned what I did when I pitted on lap 30 [for a tire change which turned out to be unnecessary] when everyone stayed out. I thought it might be a problem. But ... It all worked out well."
Elsewhere, 358 Modified standout Todd Burley led every lap of the $10,000-to-win, 27th Annual Alex Friesen Summer Nationals 100 Friday at Ransomville Speedway. It was Burley's second career triumph in this event, having also taken the checkered flag in 2008.
The race was named for the late promoter/racer Alex Friesen who died in a snowmobile accident in 1996.
Burley won his heat race and then in the pre-race redraw which determines the top twelve starting spots did himself a huge favor by pulling the outside pole position from the hat.
Burley took off from that spot when the Summer Nationals 100 went green and got the jump on pole sitter Pete Bicknell to assume the lead. He led all the way after that, holding off Brett Hearn.
The track was dry and slick for the running of the Summer Nationals. Traction was hard to find.
"Starting position was a big deal," said Burley, a multi-time Ransomville 358 Modified champion. "To start up front like that really helped. The car was really good early but got a little loose at the end. Brett raced us like a champion and you really got to appreciate that. It was a good night."
In the early going, Burley successfully fended off the challenges of Bicknell which included negotiating some heavy lapped traffic at times. About a third of the way into the race, seventh-place starter Hearn began to muster speed. With 40-laps to go the event developed into a three-car duel between Burley, Bicknell and Hearn.
Hearn advanced to second on lap 68 and then began to apply heavy pressure to Burley. On lap 92, Hearn pulled alongside Burley and appeared to have enough steam to make a pass but at that moment the caution flag flew for a car stalled at the entrance to pit road.
When the yellow lights came on Hearn had not yet gotten ahead of Burley, so Burley retained the top spot for the restart and Hearn was unable to mount another serious challenge.
"We were making the pass and the caution came out at exactly the wrong time," said Hearn, who was looking for some traction on an otherwise slick track.
Bicknell, Chad Brachmann and Danny Johnson completed the top five.
Elsewhere, the local racing scene is mourning the loss of one of its biggest stars of yesteryear with the death of Lockport's Cam Gagliardi this past week following a lengthy illness.
Gagliardi, 82, began his career at Buffalo's Civic Stadium in 1948 and raced for many years thereafter, primarily at Ransomville, Merrittville and Lancaster Speedways as well as selected national tracks.
In 1963, as owners, Gagliardi and Gil Cramer won a race at Daytona International Speedway with Lee Roy Yarborough driving their Studebaker 70. In his later years, the elder Gagliardi enjoyed assisting the racing career of his now retired son, Kim Gagliardi.