I don't actually recall where I got the original thoughts from – some older guys venting on a Facebook page, no doubt. But I happened upon a file in one of my folders which I had entitled “What the Hell !?” I would have to venture a guess that the main guy making the comments was from either central or western New York and had been around stock car racing much of his life.

        The “discourse” started like this : “Still here, but have been thrashing to get the racecar ready for opening night. But we ended up missing it- just not enough time to get the shocks/springs etc all set before I had to leave and I won't go to the track if its not ready.
So on a side note, we all wonder about participation in short track racing- I think numbers are down just because of how hard it is to even get the car ready, much less compete. I have a horrible time getting any kind of help. I can't pay, but I 'll keep your favorite beer in stock and I pay the way into the pits and food drink for the night. But I can't find help. So everything takes 3x longer than it should. Just gets frustrating. 20 yrs ago I could get help all the time, and now- nothing... ”

Courtesy of Annette Achzet

Johnstown, NY's good ol' Red Knoblauch [with glasses 3rd from right]
apparently didn't have to search around for help at his garage
back in the late 50's. Besides Red, this photo inlcudes some of
the Achzet family and Frank Simek, Sr. Below – Famed NY modified driver
Wes Moody [elft] had steady help like Fran Kane [right].
Andy Kane [center] would grow up in the sport, as well.

Moody Family Photo

         In case someone reading this doesn't quite get it, you often wander through the pits of your local race track and see a legion of helpers around any given race car. These are usually what I call “trackees” because they show up at the track on race night and want to be in on the victory photo, but you never see them at the race garage during the week, doing the unglorious drudge work. Apparently the poor guy above wasn't even getting trackees.

         The next old guy chimes in : “You hit the nail right on the head!! Its sure is sad..The last,this and future generations dont want too work or get dirty. Everything it seems has to be given to them,or they would rather sit inside playing computer games. Have to wonder who is going to do the "bull" work, if this country ever wakes up and realizes our infastructure is on deaths door. :-(

Source Unknown Probably Russ Bergh Photo
Fly Creek, NY engineer and speed sh\op owner Frank
Trinkhaus [2
nd from Rt] could depend on steady help
from the likes of Joe Ciganenko [ctr] and Willie
Seamon [rt.] Below – Northeastern driver Harold Hanaford
[rt] in Victory Lane at Thunder Road with some of his
crew, the notorious Havelock boys. No matter how
much work they did at the shop – them made great body guards.


Courtesy of Cho Lee

         To be fair, there are a lot of young motorheads out there getting dirty every day on theirs or someone else's race but; but, the percentage of them as compared to the number of young people out there IS much lower than before. If you notice he right younger crewmen around a car, you probably will see them years later, still working hard on someone's car while juggling enough work of their own to make the house [or trailer] payment and get little Cindy her braces.

         The original guy comes back with : “This is so true. Last year a friend brought his grand son to my shop . He told me that the 16 year old was interested in learning about stock car racing. I was then asked by the kid how much money do you pay for help. After laughing for a minute or so I then informed both of them that wyotech was the place for him to be. Shit ! when I was 16 to be on a race team was a status thing.”

Source Unknown
Big Bill France was one of the first to promote racing by
leaving a stock car outside a gas station. Below – New York's
Lee Bliss has one of his cars parked outside of a sponsor's


Courtesy of Tim Swain

         One of them did come with at least one of the several plausible expalanations for this problem [if it is actually one]: “I think we're facing a generational thing, these days, as cars don't have the same attraction to the younger folks as much as it did to ourselves and our parents. My "blanket excuse" is this....when we were kids, every neighborhood had several gas stations, where you got not only gasoline, but oil changes, tires, tune-ups, etc. Many of those stations also housed a race car. It was part of the American fabric.”

         What he says is true. There are very few “gas stations” left in out part of he country. I'd almost go as far as to say there are none. You do get the occasional repair garage which still has gas pumps outside; but, the old Cities Service station with a sign bragging about the cleanest rest rooms in town is gone. The quick stop and self – service killed it. [And now, poetically, the Cosco sales of gas may kill the quick stop]. The point is you cannot walk, bike ride, or drive past Joe Vittagliano's Shell station anymore and see his sportsman coupe sitting outside. That used to excite a lot of interest.

Courtesy of Chas Hertica

Bernie Darling's #70 Lebanon Valley car sits beside
his Texaco station in Port Ewen, NY. Below – Beaver
Dragon, Johnny Bourgeois, and Ernie Preiss stand
in front of the John's Texaco with the car Dragon
drove to a huge upset win at Catamount in 1966.


Dragon Family Photo

         Complainer #1 apparently never had an actual stock car, but he says this : ”I've had either a go-kart, Legends Car, or Vintage Mod (not to mention Street Rods) in my garage at one time or another since 1992. If it's warm out, the garage doors are always open. I'm trying to remember the # of teenagers or young adults who've stopped by to see what was going on over the years, and as near as I can remember the total is between 0 and 2 (and if there were 1 or 2, I honestly don't remember them). Certainly nobody ever offered to help out."...

         "I do remember when I got my license at 16, I was always borrowing my Dad's car to go hang out at the Turner Bros. shop, Mike Loescher's, or Lee Osborn's shop. When we visited relatives in Penn Yan, I always tried to sneak in a visit to Bath to see what Dutch Hoag's guys were working on. I couldn't get enough of that stuff. I guess it goes without saying that a LOT has changed since those days.”

Courtesy of Austin Gregory
Two of his three heroes all at once. Lee Osborne [rt] and Mike
Loescher [ctr] with Jim Frost. Below – Dutch Hoag with the
other Turner Bros. 18.

Courtesy of Austin Gregory

         Personally, I am sort of infamous for not knowing one damn thing about car mechanics. I also sought to visit race car garages, but ended up taking up sign painting as my way to participate in the sport. Guys will be standing around a car now and talking about [sometimes] kinds of private setup information or something in the motor. I will show up at the car and some of them will fall resentfully silent.

         “Don't worry,” one of them will finally say, “it's just Bill. He don't even know what the hell we're talkin' about.”

         Complainer #2 hit #1's point right on the head: “I think we're facing a generational thing, these days, as cars don't have the same attraction to the younger folks as much as it did to ourselves and our parents. My "blanket excuse" is this....when we were kids, every neighborhood had several gas stations, where you got not only gasoline, but oil changes, tires, tune-ups, etc. Many of those stations also housed a race car. It was part of the American fabric.

Most people today prefer this [and pump yer own !
Below – I miss THIS.


         What do you have today? Convenience stores dispensing gas, hot dogs, and pop/beer. Nothing "car related" going on, and because many people lease their cars, they take it to the dealer for any maintenance, which by itself, has been greatly reduced on modern cars. In other words, life has changed.....a LOT.”

         This part is nothing new. I can just imagine my great grandfather Ladabouche [a farmer through and through who once had his hat blown off his head when one of the work horses farted] complaining to another old man how them damn kids today don't even how to take care of a horse no more. What the hell is the work coming to ? The same holds true today when somebody standing around in the pits at Devil's Bowl complains of how the driver has to send his wrecked car back to the shop that built it. Don't nobody go to a junk yard no more, get what they need and put the car back together.


Gawd – dang kids don't know nuthin' no more ! Giddyeeup Sparkie !
Below – Hey Pa, when she goin' back to the fabricator shop ?

Bob Trombley Collection

         But racing is like a microcosm of the larger world. Few of us work on our own cars any more either because they have made them so complicated, few understand them anymore. Then, there's the danger of screwing up a computer system or violating the warranty agreement. The modern race car looks endlessly easier to work on than the old coupes and sedans with a big V-8 stuffed in where it didn't originally belong. But you have to know what you're doing.

         There was one more philosophical jewel from one of the two: “Furthermore, racing has changed. It's difficult to point at any one thing that was the "tipping point", but with a competitive race engine, for a modified, up around $20-22K, and a chassis another $12-14K, or so, how many people can afford to race. And with fewer cars on the track, there's less of an attraction to go to the track.

Bob Trombley Collection

Kid with his race car- 1956 edition. Below – Kid with his
race car 2022 edition.

         "Sat night I got to watch some children drive their daddys late model dirt cars. I thought "Its come to this" One child wrecked several cars and his daddys car. He threw a fit on the track throwing his helmet and hans device. He then went to the hauler and started to cry. I thought some time in the very new future these un developed frontal area of the brain children will cause their death or deaths of others. I guess every daddy thinks his son is the next Jeff Gordon. ”

         While maybe lost for exact terms, he was pretty much right. Racers being their own worst enemies, they have spent themselves into oblivion with double stacker haulers, special engines, and – of course – a great deal more safety devices. Some of that was a long time coming and necessary; some was not. I still get a disgusted kick out of the Saturday racing team that will run at one or maybe two tracks near home and have to have a big half million hauler they maybe bought off somebody in the Cup Series down South.

Steve McKnight Photo
A place of much knowledge passed from one to another.
Me, with racing legend Jackie Peterson at the Airborne
Speedway picnic area in the pits. Below - Tom Curley
in later years.

Source Unknown

         As far as the “children” go, I have watched a lot of young and often second or third generation drivers, yes driving their father's equipment. Some of really great young people and many are great until the first thing goes wrong. Then everybody's an asshole and they quit, etc. The fathers, instead of giving them a good swift kick, let them go into the air conditioned living room in the hauler and chill out with the latest girl friend while dad and the paid crew work on the damage.

         I was sitting, one Saturday, at one of the picnic tables at Airborne Speedway when a group including legendary promoterTom Curley sat down. I was kind of surprised when Curley actually began talking to me [because I don't think he liked me all that much]. When got onto the subject of struggling race tracks and dwindling participants and spectators, he offered up what he thought were reasons for this. First, he pointed out that stock car racing is no longer a fresh new sport being presented to a population who wanted excitement and entertainment after the drab restricted life during WWII.

Steve McKnight Photo

There will always be old guys around to trade lies on how
it usedto be at the races. Me and Danny Perez, in this case.

         Second, Curley thought the proliferation of video games had a lot to do with the decline. Anyone, he pointed out, can get some of the kicks of racing without the personal risk, the expense, or the possibility of getting one's new Old Navy clothing dirty. Thirdly, Tom reinforced the concept that the sheer expense of racing today is a definite deterrent. And all of this was from a man who thought of very little else other than the health and well – being of his beloved racing.

         Life will always be full of oldsters [like I am now] complaining about the younger generation's music, race driving, or whatevcr else. But some of the carping from the stock car world is legitimate. But also remember, much of what it wrong with the sport today also has to do with pandemics, unstable economies, and changes in legistation. It's not all bad [or all good].


Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.


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