What began for Bill Eschborn as long bicycle rides as a teenager many years ago culminated this past Saturday evening with an induction into the Friends of Auto Racing (FOAR Score) Fan Club Hall of Fame.
Also inducted Saturday during the club's 72nd annual Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Party held at the Lancaster Elks Club were Frank Batista Sr., Karl Hehr and Ted Renshaw. A gathering of 240 attended the function.
While the other three inductees knew of their FOAR Score Hall of Fame inductions prior to Saturday, Eschborn did not learn of his induction until it was announced during Saturday's event.
Eschborn has been a jack of all trades contributor to area racing for over four decades serving as a driver, car owner, mechanic, crew chief, while building his own Street Stocks, Super Stocks and Late Models.
During his teenage years, Eschborn rode his bicycle to an area race shop to help a local team as he was too young to drive.
"I rode my bike to the Gesel's shop on Erie Ave, in North Tonawanda to help Peter and Tommy Gesel," Eschborn said. "The bike ride from where I lived to the Gesel's was 17 miles one way. When were were done Peter would throw my bike into the back of his car and take me home because it was late at night. I was 13 years old at the time.
"I was very surprised and very humbled about this induction. It's just about all the people and friends that I've had around me for a long, long time. They've let me do what I love to do and I'm honored and privileged with FOAR Score giving this to me. I'm overwhelmed.
"I"ve pretty much done it all. I worked on motors, built the cars for a long time."
Eschborn had the privilege of contributing to over 50 championships during his career and enjoyed several big race wins.
Batista Sr., took interest in the sport when his father took him to the stock car races held at the time at the Civic Stadium in Buffalo. He later worked on Bill Torrisi's "3 Aces" coupe before becoming a driver himself in the Late Models at Lancaster Speedway in the 1960s. He also raced at Spencer, Holland, Perry, Cayuga and many more tracks during these years. His most memorable year came in the 1970s when he amassed 19 heat race victories at Lancaster.
He raced into the 1980s, eventually retiring from driving and became a flagging official at Lancaster. During this time his son, Frank Batista Jr., began driving. Today, the elder Batista can still be found on race nights helping his son.
Batista Jr., has earned two Lancaster Street Stock season championships at Lancaster and later progressed up through the Super Stock and Sportsman ranks. Currently Batista Jr., drives a Late Model. Through it, all Batista Jr. has enjoyed his father's guidance.
"I've been involved since 1960," Batista Sr., said. "I was sort of a traveling man racing anytime, anywhere I could race. I had several good moments in this sport. Going into this hall of fame feels so great. Having my son (Frank) and my family here tonight with me makes this so special."
Hehr retired as a driver this past August after suffering the second vicious Modified accident of his career at Lancaster. The first serious accident occurred at this same track in 2006. Hehr recovered from his injuries suffered in the 2006 incident to race again beginning in 2008.
What should be more remembered is that Hehr won big races and championships during a career that began as a teenager by cleaning up the Hoddick family race shop in the late 1970s.
Hehr began driving a few years later winning the Super Stock title at Lancaster in 1991. Hehr later moved to the Sportsman, winning Lancaster season championships in 1993 and 1995. Hehr later moved to the Modifieds where career highlights included wins capped by a victory in Lancaster's U.S. Open in 2002. Hehr also authored U.S. Open wins during his career in the Super Stocks in 1989 and the Sportsman in 1995.
Throughout his long career, Hehr has also served on crews in the pits and currently is the crew chief for the Hoddick's Sprint Car team. This team enjoyed a huge moment this past September when team drivers Scott Kreutter and Matt Farnham finished in the top two finishing spots respectively in the Canadian Sprint Car Nationals at Ohsweken Speedway.
"I'm real happy and excited that I'm in the hall of fame," Hehr said. "I thank FOAR Score for this. I'm not done with racing but I am done driving. I still have a lot more to do. After my first accident I had a lot of support from my family but now it's time to step away from driving. Aside from those accidents, everything has been good during my career and it's been good times out there and pretty much all the friends I have I've gotten from racing. It's been good."
Renshaw hails from Ridgeway Ont., and has been involved since age 15 when he worked in the pits for the late Jerry Winger at Merrittville Speedway in 1955. Renshaw began driving in the Jalopy division in 1958. In 1961 he began driving for the late Ray Stevens winning six holiday feature events throughout Southern Ontario along with the final NARA Jalopy championship. He next moved up to Sportsman driving for Jimmy Binks. Continuing to also drive for Stevens, Renshaw captured the 1964 Humberstone Speedway title.
Renshaw switched to asphalt in 1967, racing and winning races at Cayuga, Lancaster, Holland and Perry. Renshaw went back to dirt track competition in 1975 and raced both surfaces throughout the 1980s. He decided to race dirt exclusively in 1989 in Sportsman and eventually Modifieds before retiring in 1994. Today he serves on the crew of current Super DIRT.car Modified Series champion Mat Williamson.
"Being in the hall of fame is something that I never really thought about but when they called me and told me I was being inducted it was just unbelievable," Renshaw said. "I was so happy. I really couldn't say what was one of my biggest moments of my career because there were so many. I drove for 40 years."
This past season, Renshaw had the honor of pacing the field during the pace laps of a NASCAR Pinty's Series race at Jukasa Speedway in Ontario. with one of his old race cars.
Other award winners honored Saturday were: Chuck Hossfeld, Driver of the Year-Asphalt; Brad Rouse, Driver of the Year- Dirt; Loretta Troester, Dick Hammond Memorial Dedication To Auto Racing Award; Terry Weldy, Achievement Award; Scott and Jake Wylie, Perseverance Award; John Lyon, Sportsmanship Award; Ashley Blech, Woman In Racing Award.
Also: Joe Mancuso, Mechanical Achievement Award; Craig Duve, Media Award; Zach Skotnicki, Unsung Hero Award; Alan Bookmiller, Most Improved Driver Award; Matt Farnham, Rookie of The Year Award; Leaty and Kluth families, Family Racing Award. The top ten in New York International Raceway Park 2019 Street Stock and 4-Cylinder points were also recognized.