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WNY Auto Racing: FOAR Score adds four drivers to Hall of Fame

Mike Logsdon stood on the stage in front of the gathering at the 69th Annual Friends of Auto Racing (FOAR Score) Awards and Holiday Party Saturday evening reading from a list prepared by his wife of the people that he wished to thank as he delivered his acceptance speech while being inducted into the club's Hall of Fame.

Tears, laughter  and deep appreciation were exchanged by Logsdon who was inducted Saturday along with drivers Todd Burley, Neil Hopkins and Ron Richter. About 250 attended the event held at the Elk's Club in Lancaster.

After completing the reading of his list, Logsdon then further addressed the crowd with meaningful words that did not come off of a sheet of paper but rather unscripted and delivered from his heart as he covered a wide range of emotion.

"I have a lot of mentors, people that I respect that if it wasn't for those people I wouldn't be anything either in life or in racing," said a tearful Logsdon. "I appreciate everyone of them."

Moments later the mood swung as Logsdon told a humorous story from his long racing career.

"When I first started racing I wrecked a lot of cars," said Logsdon. "One day I was in the car getting ready to race and my dad came to me and said that if I wreck the car that night I better make sure I was in the ambulance because if I crashed he said he was going to kick my butt."

Logsdon began racing in 1974 at Holland and Perry Speedways, earning  Rookie of the Year honors at Holland. Logsdon eventually moved to the Limited Modifieds and in 1981 he scored 21 wins on the circuit along with a Perry track championship. He emerged with both the Holland and Perry season titles the following year and was named FOAR Score Driver of The Year.

Later in his career, Logsdon transferred to dirt track Sportsman competition winning championships at both Genesee and Perry during a span of time when Perry had switched from an asphalt track to dirt. Following his retirement, Logsdon, who raced for 31 years now mentors younger drivers such as Byron Dewitt III and his niece Cassie Logsdon.

Equally emotional was Burley as he recalled his racing career.

"I have to thank my parents who were there supporting me all through my 25 year racing career," said Burley as his voice cracked with emotion. "Over my career I had about 45 different crew guys that helped me  and of all those guys there was one, the only one who was with me from the beginning to the end of my career and that's my brother Chris. I don't know if I'm Hall of Fame worthy but I thank the FOAR Score for this honor."

In an era of specialization where drivers typically race exclusively on either dirt or asphalt during their entire careers, Burley is a rare exception who authored driving championships on both types of surfaces.

Burley emerged on the racing scene in the early 1990's at Genesee Speedway. During his early career on dirt, Burley collected 27 Sportsman feature race victories. Then Burley made the move to the asphalt Modifieds at Lancaster Speedway driving for car owner Dan Schum winning both the 1997 Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial and a year later the Lancaster Modified championship. Much more success would follow when Burley returned to dirt competition.

Over the next 15 years Burley would achieve much success most notably at Ransomville and Utica-Rome Speedways. In his career Burley scored 32 wins and the 2001 Modified track championship at Utica-Rome. Over a six year span he added 358 Modified season championships at Ransomville in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010. A 40 time victor at Ransomville, he also claimed the Alex Friesen Summer Nationals on two occasions.

Hopkins earned NASCAR Pro Modified season crowns at Holland in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006.

Best known for what became known as the "Neil and Neal Show" due to Hopkins intense rivalry with fellow driver Neal Dietz Jr., Hopkins also notched a trio of wins at Holland in the prestigious George Decker Memorial in 2001, 2003 and 2006. Hopkins won many races and two championships at Lake Erie Speedway. In all he collected over 50 wins combined at various tracks with over 40 of those at Holland.

"When I found out that I was being inducted and what I could possibly say that would reflect how I feel the only thing that kept coming back to me was the beginning of 2009 season," said Hopkins. "It was obvious to me that I needed to get more crew or be done racing. My family had grown up on me and my responsibilities at work had changed dramatically so I just stopped cold turkey. I still have all the cars. I'd like to go back and do a little racing but my driving suit for some reason doesn't fit quite like it did before. Every year it gets a little tighter."

Richter is best known for a long career that includes stock car and drag racing at many different track both in and out of this area.

Richter has raced for 48 years and at 87 different tracks, two countries, 25 different states and a dozen different divisions. Despite being 66, Richter currently has 12 race ready cars in his shop including dirt and asphalt stock cars as well as a drag race car. His highlights include local track championships at Genesee in 1984, Spencer Speedway in 1997 and at Wyoming  County (formerly Perry) in 1998.

"This Hall of Fame induction is the highlight of my career," said Richter, known as "Racer Ronnie." "I started in drag racing in 1968. I had bought a Modified stock car but I was too young to drive it so I had to get into the drag racing until I was old enough to get a stock car. Now I'm doing both. I'm not planning on ever stopping racing unless I go broke or something."

Other award winners Saturday were:

Patrick Emerling, Driver of The Year-Asphalt

Erick Rudolph, Driver of The Year-Dirt

Jody London, Dick Hammond Memorial Dedication To Racing

Kyle Inman, Achievement on Dirt

Jake Lyon, Achievement on Asphalt

Dave Catalano, Sportsmanship Award

Jenn Martin, Mickey Druar and Tina Seger, Women in Racing Award

Gary Lindberg, Rookie of The Year-Dirt

Kenny Wills, Most Improved Driver-Dirt

Daryl Lewis Jr., Most Improved Driver-Asphalt

Thompson Racing and Butch Zimmerman, Perseverance Awards

Joe Grabianowski, Media Award

Jake Jankowiak, Mechanical Achievement

the Carbone and Pennell families, Family in Racing Award

Betty Sherwood, Emily Casey Award

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