BAKER: It’s Classic Time At The Steel Palace, Part II

Tom Baker ISMA, Northeast, Oswego, Staff Columns, Tom Baker Blog 0 Comments

Oswego Speedway’s grandstands will be packed to the brim yet again for this year’s International Classic. (Bill Taylor photo)

Classic Weekend is a yearly social event, with campers spread all over the grounds (many of whom have parked in the same spot for years) and former drivers and fans making the trek from across the nation and Canada to watch, reminisce and see the latest high speed heroes.

It is in the campgrounds where traditions have been born and groups reconnect once a year. The “Mow For Dough” was a lawn mower race that became part of classic weekend folklore for many years, and the bowling alley built on speedway grounds now hosts a big classic week bowling event.

I grew up six blocks from the speedway, and I went to the races for the first time in 1973. I was five years old. I went to my first Classic in 1974 and my hero Jimmy Shampine won it in a four-way battle with Swift, Coniam and Bobby Stelter that still plays in my mind like it happened last night.

As I write this, I sit and think about all the blinkered memories I have of Classic Weekend through the years.

Freddie Graves setting a track record two years in a row with his 4-wheel-drive car before the track banned it … Warren Coniam’s legendary comeback from a lap down to lead in 1979 in Shampine’s rear engine, before the speedway banned rear engines for 1980 … USAC legend George “Ziggy” Snider driving the Bowley backup car as Bentley Warren’s teammate one year … the campers being so numerous in the 70s and 80s that some had to park in the shopping centers across the street because there was no room left on speedway grounds … the smell and taste of the Hoffman hot dogs, the nasty crashes, the last lap dashes and, oh yes, the 50 and 60 car fields of the 70s and 80s.

The track record was 18.7 seconds when I started going in 1973 and you could see sprint cars, upright style cars, former Indy roadsters and front, side, and rear-engine designs. Now it’s 15.8 seconds and the cars are much like smaller Indy cars, with nose wings and multi-plane tail wings that are very aero-dependent.

But no matter what divisions are racing on Classic Weekend, the atmosphere is the same … electric. It is one of short-track racing’s grand events, and for those of us who were addicted at an early age, there is nothing else like it.

I am forever thankful that I grew up in Oswego and got my start in the sport at the Home of the Supermodifieds. The track’s history is rich, family runs deep and legends are born, reborn and never forgotten.

As we prepare for the weekend at hand, I’m joined for our site’s weekend coverage by Jacob Seelman, whose grandfather Bob ran several classics in the 70’s, and was part of a Classic weekend radio preview Thursday night with both Jacob and new speedway PR manager Camden Proud, whose father Tim competed in both the supers and the small block super division in his career.

Because even for us at Race Chaser Online, Budweiser Classic Weekend is all in the family.

The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.

 

About the Writer

Tom Baker HeadshotTom Baker is the owner and senior editor of Race Chaser Online, as well as creator of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show — airing Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Performance Motorsports Network.

With 27 years of motorsports media, marketing and managerial experience, Baker serves as the coach and mentor for several next generation racers, as well as Race Chaser Online’s passionate lineup of rising motorsports journalists.

Email Tom at: [email protected]

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