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Cook helped build Hillside Modified history

Jerry Cook will not be racing at The Track at Hillside Saturday when the ROC Asphalt Modified Series makes its annual visit for the Thunder in the Hills 100.

There was a time many years ago, however, that the long-retired Cook, along with other notable retired asphalt Modified standouts such as the late Richie Evans, the late Maynard Troyer, George Kent, Jimmy Spencer and others raced in asphalt Modified specials at the track formerly known as Holland Speedway.

These racers dedication to their craft at Holland many years ago laid the foundation for a legacy of Modified racing there that has survived and continues to this day at the 59-year-old high-banked oval where asphalt Modified special events such as the one that will unfold Saturday still take place.

For many years Holland hosted individual NASCAR Modified races that awarded points toward the NASCAR National Modified title. In the later years, Holland hosted annual events for the traveling NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and currently still hosts an annual race under the ROC banner.

Cook, now 75, is a Lockport native. He lived his adult life in Rome while racing Modifieds. Cook, currently residing in Mooresville, NC., retired as a Modified driver in 1982 and soon became a high level NASCAR administrator until he retired from that role in 2015.

Cook excelled on and off the track. He won six NASCAR National Modified titles and it all culminated with his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016.

Cook was best known as the driver of the Pete Hollebrand Trucking No. 38.

"Whenever Holland ran a NASCAR Modified race we were usually there," Cook said. "Back when I was winning the points, every race that was NASCAR sanctioned counted toward the national championship points. We ran 60 races and sometimes more a year all over the country. Every race counted. Sometimes we even ran two races in one day.

"Back then as a full-time Modified racer we raced everyday that there was a race and that's what we did to make a living. We needed to pay our bills and eat. We had to run a lot of races. The most I ever ran in one year was 96. At that number they weren't all NASCAR sanctioned but they paid money."

Cook, who began driving asphalt Modifieds in 1961, has a fondness for Hillside and the high-banking there.

"We usually liked to run there because it was close to home and a lot of the people that followed me from the surrounding area came to Holland from Western New York," Cook said. "We had to make changes to the car where we had to raise the car up to run there otherwise it would drag the bottom because of the banking in the turns."

Local retired attorney Ron Bennett has been a part of the ownership team at Holland for all of the track's history. This season Daniel J. Hutchinson assumed operational duties there. Like Cook, Bennett also became a NASCAR administrator for many years.

"For awhile Ron was the director for the NASCAR Busch North Series," Cook said. "I worked for awhile with Ron and got to know him very well."

Cook was recently visiting the area and when hearing of the ROC race Saturday said that he was very pleased to know that the Modifieds are still racing at Hillside on special occasions.

"I'm certainly glad to see they're still racing there and that they haven't forgotten the class and are still running Modified races," Cook said. "I've been fortunate to have the career that I've had and making the NASCAR Hall of Fame is the highest honor that I could ever have received."

Laps turned at Hillside many years ago helped Cook reach his lofty status.

TEDESCO WILL BE MISSED

Longtime Holland official Sande Tedesco Sr. died July 14 from health issues. From his early days as a fan to that of a tow truck operator and pit crew member for Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame driver Art Clark, to the more recent times as a pace car driver and promotions coordinator, Tedesco was a major contributor to the history of Holland.

Tedesco was born Nov. 1, 1944 and began going to Holland as a fan in the early 1960s. His participation there eventually developed into so much more.

In a 2016 Buffalo News article about his longtime career at Holland, Tedesco summed it all up in his own words.

"I am proud to have worked for the Bennett family all these years as well as for others at the track and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I think that when I pass away they should just bury me in the Holland infield."

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