Oswego, N.Y. – The Al Gerber Memorial Trophy represents 7 decades of championship Modified racing dating back to 1951 when Hully Bunn of Bristol, Conn., won the first Langhorne National Open for Modified Sportsman Stock Cars at the legendary 1-mile “The Big Left Turn” Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway which ultimately developed into the Race of Champions. The Race of Champions has stood the test of time and remains the most historic race in all of Modified racing, this season featuring the 66th edition of the classic taking place at the historic Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway. The Race of Champions remains as the second longest consecutive running event in the United States, second only to the Indianapolis 500. Once again the winner will proudly lift the Al Gerber Memorial Trophy at races end.
Throughout the history of the event, which has visited 7 different tracks in 3 different states, the race itself has held the historical value and rich tradition that Modified racing has developed throughout time highlighting the careers of some of the most talented drivers in the history of motorsports. Besides Langhorne, the race has taken place at Trenton (N.J.) Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on the 2-1/2 mile superspeedway and the 3/4-mile oval, Flemington (N.J.) Fair Speedway, Chemung (N.Y) Speedrome and the current site of the event, the Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway. Throughout each edition the tradition of the winning driver holding the Al Gerber Memorial Trophy with the silver bowl on top has been presented to the winner. The trophy itself is one of the most recognizable perpetual trophies in motorsports.
Each winners name is etched into a plate and placed on the trophy to preserve the history that was created during their drive to victory lane. Some of those memorable driver’s names include the late Dutch Hoag of Bath, N.Y., who won the race five different times at Langhorne on both dirt (3) and asphalt (2). “Wild” Bill Slater of Manchester, Conn., claimed the biggest victory of his career in 1965 at Langhorne, the first year the race was run on an asphalt surface. The Treichler brothers (Merv and Roger) of Sanborn, N.Y., placed their name on the distinguished list of winners when they closed out the last two years at Langhorne, first with Merv winning in 1970 and Roger capturing the final Race of Champions event at Langhorne in 1971.
Five different winners added to the memories of the nation’s longest running Modified race when the race moved to the Trenton (N.J.) International Speedway. Trenton was the site of many historic racing events in addition to the Race of Champions where Geoff Bodine of Chemung, N.Y., laid claim to his first victory in 1972. Richie Evans of Rome, N.Y., scored his first of three victories at Trenton in 1973, while Fred DeSarro of Hope Valley, R.I., put the legendary Lenny Boehler Vega in victory lane by a scant margin over Carl ‘Bugsy’ Stevens in 1974. Southern Gentleman racer, “Mr. Modified” Ray Hendrick, who also won at Langhorne in 1969 captured the 1975 edition at Trenton. In 1976 Modified racing legend Maynard Troyer of Rochester, N.Y., visited victory lane for the first time to close out the five-year Trenton run for the event.
The race then moved to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway where it received several years of notoriety on the 2.5 mile triangular superspeedway and the 3/4-mile inner oval. Many historic events took place at Pocono. Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., scored his only win in the event during the 1990 season, while Donald “Satch” Worley of Rocky Mount, Virginia laid claim to the biggest win of his career when he put Bob Garbarino’s machine in victory lane and became the last winner on the 3/4-mile oval in 1991.
The event moved back to New Jersey at the famed Flemington Fair Speedway for four event span, which included one of legendary car owner Mario Fiore’s most dramatic victories. In 1993 at the very last minute Fiore hired Billy Pauch of Frenchtown, N.J., who came from the 43rd starting spot to take the lead with just two-laps remaining to earn the victory in thrilling fashion.
1996 saw the race move to the ‘Steel Palace’ Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway where it will return this season after just a one-year absence. Oswego, next to Langhorne has hosted the most Race of Champions events since its inception. Drivers like Jan Leaty of Williamson, N.Y.; George Kent of Horseheads, N.Y.; Tony Hirschman of Northampton, Pa., and Sege Fidanza of Middleport, N.Y., have all reached victory lane on multiple occasions at Oswego in the Race of Champions. Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa.; Chuck Hossfeld of Ransomville, N.Y., T.J. Potrzebowski of Elmira, N.Y., Eric Beers of Northampton, Pa., and Zane Zeiner of Bath, Pa., are drivers who have claimed victories in the Race of Champions and remain as active participants in Modified racing today. All but Zeiner have competed on the 2016 Ferris Mowers Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series fueled by Sunoco campaign.
Another page in the history of the prestigious Race of Champions will be written during Race of Champions weekend, Thursday, September 15 through Saturday, September 17 at the Oswego Speedway. The winner will surely be a proud recipient and a worthy representative with their name etched next to all of the others on the Al Gerber Memorial Trophy.
Where: Oswego Speedway, Oswego, N.Y.
When: Thursday, September 15; Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17 (Sunday, September 18 if necessary)
Directions: The track is located at 300 E. Albany Street in Oswego, N.Y., just off of NY Route 104. 35 minutes North of Syracuse near the shores of Lake Ontario.
What: The 66th Annual Race of Champions Weekend. The Ferris Mowers Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series fueled by Sunoco 66th Annual Race of Champions 250, Sportsman Modified 75, Race of Champions Big 10 Super Stocks and the Super Stock “All-Star”; Limited Supermodifieds.
-RoC Modified Series Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51 TV Photo