NORTHEAST: George Caruso Jr.’s Program Excellence Honored With Fusco Award

RaceChaser Staff Dirt Modifieds, Dirt Track Racing, Northeast, Supermodifieds 0 Comments

WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – The decision to both publish and print a weekly track program for his uncle Harry’s Oswego Speedway propelled George Caruso Jr. into a business that revolutionized the way race track programs were produced and the quality they represented.

For his vision and dedication, Caruso will receive the Andrew S. Fusco Award for Media Excellence at the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Aug. 8 in Weedsport, N.Y.

Caruso’s inspiration to succeed came at an early age.

“I was working at the track during summer vacation, cleaning up, when Uncle Harry decided I needed a helper. At lunch one afternoon, we compared paychecks and I was shocked to see the helper was getting paid twice what I was.

“We both got a big laugh out of that, but it made a hell of an impression on me. I vowed right then that no one was ever again going to determine my wealth.”

Caruso kept his solemn vow: Though Oswego Speedway became a fundamental part of his life, when it came to printing programs, they were his customer.

“Our family also owned a company called Northern Steel. My father and uncle needed some printing done and decided to buy an addressograph/multigraph printer. The salesman promised Harry he could train anyone in a day.”

“The trainee couldn’t grasp it but my younger brother Doug and I became interested and we learned how to print. I convinced Uncle Harry to let us use the printer he bought and wound up doing the job for Northern Steel, to whom I presented an invoice. That was the start of it all.”

Oswego, after several years of operation, began to publish a rudimentary program. They were static — they didn’t change from week to week. A few years into the process, a cost-based decision to go to a newsprint program was made which allowed for its front cover and inside pages to be changed weekly.

“But the trade-off with newsprint,” as Caruso recalled, “was a reduction in quality. The fans hated it.”

The Carusos then borrowed from both prior Oswego program incarnations, envisioning books printed on good quality paper with a weekly change of content.

To institute the plan, Uncle Harry had to be convinced that this could be desirable and potentially profitable for Oswego Speedway.

George decided to create a mock-up program and presented it to his uncle.

“We’ll publish the program and sell it, you sell the ads, keep that money,” was the sales pitch. Harry Caruso agreed, and Speedway Press was on its way.

The first programs, sold in 1964, retailed for 25 cents a copy.

“We printed 500 copies and sold them all at a quarter apiece. We were off and running,” Caruso said.

The success created a dilemma. Caruso had been studying to become an orthodontist; program printing was not initially intended for anything more than a summer sideline.

“Doug and I looked at what we had been doing and realized that we liked printing,” Caruso recalls. “So I took a year off from dental school and decided to look into developing a printing business.”

There were three pressing needs: a press capable of higher volume, a cutter, and a saddle stitcher. And they needed a bigger building, having operated out of a small Northern Steel annex.

When a building in Oswego became available, Harry Caruso bought it. It is the same building from which Mitchell’s Speedway Press operates today.

When new equipment was purchased, George Caruso made the decision to leave dental school.

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