Hall-of-Fame inductions became commonplace during the storied drag racing career of West Seneca native Jim Oddy.
The next will come in March – and at the highest level – when Oddy is inducted with six others into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Oddy, a noted driver, owner, tuner, sponsor, engine-builder and racing-products businessman who now resides in Mooreville, N.C., will be inducted on March 15 at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center in Gainesville.
For his regional accomplishments, Oddy was placed into the NHRA Division I Hall of Fame in 1994. He was inducted onto the Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway Drag Racing Wall of Fame in 2015.
Now he climbs to the top of the ladder.
"It's been a great career," Oddy, 75, said. "I've spent the majority of my life – about 59 years I've been in drag racing. I had a really good NHRA deal in 2013. I got a lifetime achievement award from NHRA so that was another pretty big honor that I was surprised with. So the honor I will get next month will be the top of the line. It's as good as it gets."
Oddy regards the honor he received at Lancaster as something big in its own right.
"That was a pretty neat deal," Oddy said. "We were actually the very first group to be inducted. That was so great considering that I spent a lot of years there. It was a great honor for sure. I probably had the most fun racing at the local level."
Oddy's involvement into drag racing dates back decades.
"I actually started at the old Dunkirk Dragway in 1959," Oddy said. "I grew up in West Seneca. I belonged to a car club and we had a Sunday field trip and the whole car club went up to Dragway Park up in Cayuga (Ontario) to watch the drag racing. I saw all these cars running around with different numbers and letters on the windows. I just started asking questions and sure enough about a month later I went down to Dunkirk Dragway with my street car and the worse thing that could ever have happened did – I won a trophy. That set the hook."
Oddy drove through the 1960s and early '70s, winning numerous races and championships in various cars, including a triumph in the NHRA 1972 U.S. Nationals Competition Eliminator class behind the wheel of his Opel BB/GS entry.
In 1975, Oddy took a hiatus from driving to start his business, Oddy's Automotive, which specialized in building supercharged engines.
"When my twin sons Dave and Dan were born I thought about the business," Oddy said. "I was lucky enough to have a lot of customers that wanted the same stuff that I had built for myself for racing so I ended up building motors for people all over the country and all over the world. I had great customers in England, Sweden, Italy and Australia. Everybody that wanted a 2,000-horsepower, supercharged motor, we were the people that they came to get it from."
Oddy returned to the driver's cockpit in 1987 in his Top Sportsman Beretta. In August of 1989, the team became more potent when Fred Hahn joined the Oddy camp as a driver. The Oddy-Hahn pairing became legendary.
"I started building the car and Fred was a good customer of mine," Oddy said. "I had sold him some motors and built him a race car. We ended up building a car for this fast door-slammer class that ended up being called Pro-Mod in 1990. I was wondering who was going to drive it. I was so busy with the shop and the kids that I couldn't devote much time to the driving part. So I told Fred he could drive it. That was the beginning of 15 years and 15 different championships together racing all over the country. Once Fred got behind the wheel I never drove again."
Hahn retired in 2004 and Oddy's machine would next be piloted by Al Billes and Steve Bareman.
In 2006, Oddy ended his active participation in drag racing.
"Fred and I were running 30 races a year and we both had full-time jobs.," Oddy said. "I was just so worn out and burned out on it that I just couldn't do it anymore. It took too much time and work to keep going. I kept running Oddy's Automotive until 2009, when I turned the business over to one of my employees."
Oddy occasionally races in a select nostalgia Gasser-type drag racing events each year in his 1934 Willy's two-door sedan titled "Junkyard Dog."
"I now live in Mooresville and my wife Charlene and I will be coming back to Western New York this summer," Oddy said. "We've got 12 grandkids up there and another one coming so we look forward to spending a lot of time with them."
Oddy regards his induction into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame as a family and team accomplishment.
"I was able to do what I did in drag racing because of the support of so many good people throughout all those years," he said. "Probably the biggest support that Fred and I got was from our wives, Karen Hahn and my Charlene. The good part of the induction next month is that we get to share the honor at the induction with so many people. Fred and Karen are coming down. Both my boys and my daughter are coming down. I have friends coming from California, Arizona and of course Buffalo. So we're going to have a lot of nice people who have helped me through the years to share this honor in Gainesville. We're going to have a good party. I guess I saved the best for last."
Joining him in this the 28th class will be Top Fuel standouts Jeb Allen (Redding, Calif.) and Kelly Brown (Gazelle, Calf.), as well as Funny Car driver Gary Densham (Menifee, Calif.); chassis builder Roy Fjastad (Mission Viejo, Calif.); timing official Oliver Riley (LaVerne, Calf.) and drag racing historian Greg Sharp (Pomona, Calif.).
Andy J. scores a victory
Tonawanda's Andy Jankowiak emerged victorious in the indoor TQ Midget A-Main feature Saturday in Albany. Jankowiak called the win a total team effort, thanking his chassis builder Ricky Kluth, welder Jim Grandits and his uncle/crew chief Jake Jankowiak. The victory was Jankowiak's fourth career A-Main win in this his fifth winter of indoor TQ Midget driving.