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Hall of Famer Leaty remembers 'Pops'

Jan M. Leaty, a retired stock car driver and current team owner, proudly stood before his family, friends, team members and much of the area auto racing community Saturday night as one of four inductees into the Friends of Auto Racing Fan Club's (FOAR Score) Hall of Fame.

Also inducted at the ceremony during FOAR Score's 71st Annual Awards and Holiday Party held at the Elks Club in Lancaster was veteran race official Art James; retired driver, official, Bill Brainard and announcer, race official, broadcaster, writer and promoter, the late Gary Montgomery.

There was one individual however who was very much on Leaty's mind Saturday who was not present at the induction: his father, Jan R. "Pops" Leaty, who died earlier this year at 81 from an aneurysm.

It was the elder Leaty, who had much to do with introducing his son to the sport of auto racing.

"My dad never missed a party, " Leaty said. "He'd be here tonight if he could. I really miss him. It's been a big adjustment to be honest going on without my dad. He was a big part of our racing team. Not only do I miss him as my father but we miss him in the race shop and the work he did with us.

"Dad really never raced oval track racing but he was a hot rod kind of guy. He did some drag racing when he was younger. We lived half a mile from Spencer Speedway so we'd hear the cars practicing down there on Friday nights. I'd always bug him, "Dad, let's go to the races."  So he took me when he could.

"He had been involved in drag racing but I wanted to do it longer than a few seconds at a time so I did the oval track thing. I'm super-proud of him."

The younger Leaty started racing when he was 18 in the Street Stock class and later the Late Models at Spencer. He moved to the asphalt Modifieds where he would have his greatest success as a driver from the late 1980s to the 2000s.

Leaty had many wins and titles in local competition as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, earning 72 top-five finishes in NASCAR competion that included nine wins.

Outside of NASCAR his two biggest wins were in the Race of Champions event at Oswego Speedway in 1996 and 2007. Today he runs L2 Racing which features his son Mike Leaty.

"Over 40 years now I've been involved in racing," Leaty said. "It's been a great ride. It's gone by awful quick. I've been very lucky over the years to be affiliated with good people and meet a lot of friends. I've enjoyed it. It's been great. It's been more then just a hobby or a sport. Its been a lifestyle for me."

James has worn many hats during his over 50-year career. His career as an official began in 1963 at Lancaster Speedway. Over the years he has worked at numerous tracks including Perry, Holland, the NASCAR Busch North Series and the Race of Champions. He was a former competition director and race director at Holland for many years beginning in 1983.

He worked as a television spotter at NASCAR Cup Series races for CBS, ESPN and Turner. James currently serves as a consultant for The Track@Hillside and Lake Erie Speedway.

"I started going to auto racing at the old Civic Stadium in Buffalo," James said. "I started at Lancaster in 1963. My very first job in auto racing was handing out two ladies passes per car and picking up the welding fee, which you do not see anymore in racing.

"I've been doing consulting work for tracks probably since about 2000 when CBS lost their contract for televising. I was involved with TV from 1983 until 2000.

"This Hall of Fame honor is a really nice thing for me. I appreciate it and was awful surprised. I always still try to stay involved in auto racing but this January I'll turn 80 so we'll see. My health is still good."

Brainard's driving career took off in the mid-1960s on the Holland-North Collins-Perry ERCA circuit Super B class driving both the Doc Hoctor No. 18 and the Lenny Kaminski No. 11. He moved to Late Models from 1966-1968. Then it was on to the Modifieds.

Brainard was top five at Lancaster in points from 1969-1972, also winning the 1971 Genesee 150 at Holland. In the later years he served the sport as an official in various roles.

"I got to be very honest," Brainard said. "This is an outstanding award for me. I had over 60 years of playing with race cars and I still attend races in Florida where I now live. I started when I was 19 and I went in the Navy. When I got out of the Navy I came right back to racing.

"I drove both dirt and pavement. I've got a lot of good memories and a lot of good friends from racing. I also lost some good friends in racing but all in all I had great years."

Montgomery, who died from cancer in 2016, served the sport in a multitude of roles from 1959 until his death.  He was represented Saturday by his cousin John Baker and Baker's wife Karen.

"Gary was very passionate about racing," John said. "He was a great announcer and a great guy and family man to be around. It was a lot of fun. He'd be proud tonight."

Various other awards handed out Saturday included: Family in Racing, the Thompson family; Rookie of the Year on Dirt, Matt Farnham; Most Improved on Dirt, Dave DiPietro; Most Improved on Asphalt, Jayme Thompson; Sportsmanship, Russ Gian.

Also Mechanical Achievement, Ed Hawkins Sr.; Media, Alex and Helen Bruce; Woman in Racing, Amy Skotnicki; Perseverance, Ricky Knapp Jr.; Achievement on Dirt, Mat Williamson; Achievement on Aphalt, Daryl Lewis Jr.; Dick Hammond Dedication to Auto Racing, Mike Meyers; Driver of the Year on Dirt, Billy Van Pelt; Driver of the Year on Asphalt, Andy Cryan.

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