Stock car racing: Savoie heads list of NYSSCA inductees
Bob Savoie of Broadalbin, whose career turned around because of a rule change, will headline the newest class of inductees into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame.
Joining Savoie in the Class of 2013 are drivers Mike Colsten, Joe Messina and Jimmy Winks and veteran announcer Jim King.
King and the drivers will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame during the annual “Saturday at the Museum” ceremonies at the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, Jan 25. The ceremonies, which begin at 11 a.m., also feature an opportunity for racing fans to meet and talk with the new Hall of Famers. They will also be recognized at the annual NYSSCA Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet that night at the Polish American Community Center in Albany.
Savoie began his racing modified racing career in 1978 and won his first track championship at Utica-Rome Speedway in 1979, the first season that the historic track switched to a dirt surface.
But Savoie’s career didn’t take off until 1985, when Champlain Valley Racing Association founder C.J. Richards decided to do away with big blocks and mandated 358 cubic inch motors for the CVRA.
In the ensuing seasons, running at Albany-Saratoga, Plattsburgh and Devil’s Bowl, Savoie piled up over 60 victories and numerous track championships, driving for a number of owners. Some of his best seasons came when he was driving for Mike Richards in the potent Richardsdale Farms car.
Ironically, Savoie was also involved in a boycott of Albany-Saratoga Speedway in 1983.
Drivers at the Malta track weren’t happy with the reduced modified purse that Richards had instituted early in the 1983 season, and voted to boycott. But the boycott never took place. Rain washed out racing on the night the drivers were going to boycott the track, and Richards met with a group of drivers, including Savoie, the following Monday to come up with a purse structure that everyone was satisfied with.
Savoie, who was also a regular competitor at Fonda Speedway, accumulated over 150 career victories during his career, and his win at Glen Ridge Morotsports Park this season gave him victories in five consecutive decades.
Colsten recently completed his 45th season of racing and did it in style, winning his fourth track championship at Five Mile Point Speedway. What makes Colsten’s season even more amazing is that he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, in September 2012 and endured countless chemotherapy treatments and surgeries during the winter to eradicate the disease.
When spring arrived, Colsten felt well enough to race, and after a discussion with his wife, Lea, returned to Five Mile Point. After three wins, two seconds and never finishing out of the top 10, Colsten walked away with the track championship.
Messina ran primarily on the asphalt tracks of Pine Bowl and Empire Speedway in the Albany area during the late 1950s and early 1960s, campaigning his famous Hudsons, which usually carried the No. 13.
One of his most infamous victories came at the Vermont State Fair in 1961, when organizers and drivers met before the event and agreed to run a “scripted” race, when all drivers sharing equally in the purse, because of unsafe conditions at the track.
When he switched to dirt, Messina replaced Ken Goodermote in the Ken Tremont-owned 115 and ran at both Lebanon Valley and Devil’s Bowl. He and Tremont teamed up to win the Devil’s Bowl track championship in 1970, and Messina later became one of the first drivers for owner Joe Leto.
Winks, who died in November at the age of 65, was one of the most versatile drivers to ever sit behind the wheel of race car. He ran modifieds as well as supermodifieds while living outside of Syracuse, and also had two sprint car victories. A two-time track champion at Rolling Wheels, Winks also had five career wins at Oswego Speedway and picked up over 60 wins when he moved to Florida in the early 1980s.
His impressive resume included 37 victories at Volusia County Speedway and over 20 at New Smyrna.
King has been around racing for most of his life, as his father Bill, build race cars and always had a car at Fonda Speedway. King’s announcing career began in 1972, when the announcer at Fonda Speedway abruptly moved out of town to take another job, leaving Fonda promoter Jim Gage without an announcer. King, the track photographer at the time, went up in the booth and a career as born.
Since that time, King has been “The Voice of ...” numerous speedways throughout the Northeast, and will come back for a 42nd season in the spring when he returns to the booth at Fonda Speedway, which will be under the management of new promoter Matt DeLorenzo.
King, who has also been involved in ice racing and snowmobile racing in the winters, also spent a half-season as general manager at Utica-Rome Speedway in 1998 after a dispute closed the track for one week during June.