2020 will be remembered as a year we said goodbye to many things. Some of our tracks said goodbye for now and some had to make the tough call to close up for good. Regardless, to me, 2020 is the year we said goodbye to many old friends.
First, it was Florida Legend David Rogers, who left us before the pandemic hit. That led a string of people within the Super Late Model world, from car builders Robert Hamke and Frankie Grill to former crew chief Ray Stonkus. Two-time Snowball winner Freddie Fryar also left us in 2020 and even after the Snowball this year we learned of the passing of Stanley Smith who was a former Snowflake winner.
New England was hit hard by the loss of Bob Bahre. The reach of Speed51.com is global, but Bahre put New England on the map by bringing NASCAR there, first with Oxford Plains Speedway, then later the New Hampshire Motor Speedway which hosted its first Cup race in 1993. I was there that day and it was an impossible dream made true by Mr. Bahre.
It was also a tragic year when racer Shawn Balluzzo died in a crash at Langley Speedway (VA) in July. The 11-time Modified champion was a regional favorite and was still in his prime after having 16 of 17 races in 2019.
Some tracks like Bowman Gray Stadium sat idle all year. Waiting, hoping, and praying that they would get a go. They didn’t. South Boston was another that never saw a competitive lap in 2020. Other tracks closed for good, most notably Myrtle Beach Speedway, hosting its final event in August.
We saw races like the Summer Showdown, the Kalamazoo Klash, the Kings Royal and the World 100 all take years off. It was painful to not have those historic races this year, but years from now we’ll just look back in the record brooks and see the word Covid. Hopefully by then we will remember the year as just a page in our past.
Note: We understand that not all tracks, events, series and personnel were mentioned in this article. We honor all of those that we lost in 2020.
-Story by: Elgin Traylor, Speed51 “Stat Boy”
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo