BILL'S SOMEWHAT WEEKLY BLOG                      

Since I seem to have lost my forum, Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper", I will apparently enter the 21st Century and start doing my column as a
blog. In certain times of the year, this may not be weekly; but I promise to keep it regular. Many of the site regulars have only been able to
get my columns via this site, anyway, and representing the very newspaper that was given out at Thunder Road gave me no press courtesies.
So, I might as well do it this way and reach some different readers. Let me know what you think. -Bill

Week of September 17, 2012


                                                 BILL'S BACK IN TIME                                  




          [ I apologize if I have covered this topic before. I can’t find any record of it; but I have this haunting feeling it may have been written. I have no record of my first few columns in this paper. ]
         This past summer, after the 700th time of telling my granddaughters’ idiot playmate to stop riding her rusty piece – of – crap bike near our cars, she brushed against my brand new pickup and, not only left a scratch all the way through the primer, but actually managed to dent the metal. After attempting to kill her before she escaped across the road [where she was almost killed by her mother who had been yelling the same thing to the kids repeatedly], I got to thinking, jeez what a tough, rugged way they make our trucks now !


Can you imagine what kind of an impact it took to twist this old tank like that ? Try that with one today.
[Courtesy of Mike Watts, Sr.]


Contrast this with those old bodies they put on almost all of my favorite stock cars in the 1950’s, 60’s, and even into the next decade. Guys literally drove these cars through walls and managed to return – maybe weeks later – but often with the same body. Wits and wags often refer to these early stock cars as “throwaway cars” because, in those days, many teams had anywhere from one to three cars they went through in a year. That’s not a fair name because a strong percentage of teams [many some of the best in the sport] used the same body for years and years.

Some of my favorite examples of this include Art Cody’s 1932 Ford coupe, out of Keene, NH; Dexter Dorr’s original sportsman, the Super 29, which went through three or four owners and a Devil’s Bowl championship; George Janoski’s copper – colored 40 CT; the hurricane division 1957 Chevy built by Larry Warren which went through six owners including future NASCAR Busch Grand National North Champion Jamie Aube; Buddy Bardwell’s Hudson; and the scores of others at whose I probably never got to attend.


Art Cody, exhausted, walks away from his ageless, durable 33 coupe as the crew prepares it to be stiff
hitched all the way home from Fairmont Speedway to Keene, NH. [Ladabouche Photo]


Well, this one’s more about the body than the entire car [although, the original entire package lasted a really long time intact]. When I first got to go to races at the legendary Fonda Speedway, of which I had heard glowing stories for years, I had already seen a few of their cars at the old Otter Creek Speedway, way up near Vergennes, Vermont. So, I had distinct impressions and expectations of what would unfold before my eyes when we would see out first program. Well, as I have mentioned before, the sheer speeds they reached, and the full broadslides into the turns were nothing I had seen before.


Jim Luke leads a snarling group of NASCAR sportsman coupes into One and Two at Fonda during the Glory Years.
That’s the legend, Steve Danish, in 3rd.
[Courtesy of D. Dykes Site]


When the first cars were to enter the racing surface that night for fast warmups, I didn’t get to see any of the cars I knew; I got to see Dick Bennett’s Bernie’s Liquor Shop #71, with Lee Millington aboard, come chugging out first. Out cars at home didn’t chug – they had neither the cam or the gear to do that. The other big surprise was with the favorite I chose: not Danish, Herbert, or any other the others we had seen before. But, rather, it was A tall farmer out of Gloversville named Skip Roots. This is not about Skip – it about the car.

Roots’ H2, a three – window Chevy coupe – was painted up to the look like a skunk, with strategically – placed stripes and the black and white color scheme. According to Bill Kollar, Skip [apparently Herbert Roots, Jr] had numbered the car in deference to his father’s number. I always assumed it stood for Herb II. The odd thing about Skip and his father, a former roadster driver and one of Fonda’s original drivers, is that the father used no “s” on the end of his last name.


Skip Roots, with his “skunk car” around 1964. It appears to me as if he may have lowered the
car after the previous season. [Courtesy of Jo Towns, via Otto Graham]


Anyway, Skip ran that car for what I believe to be about two or three seasons. He began in 1963;, and he managed to often remain in the top ten in Fonda points through enough speed and sheer consistency. I recall him running in mid – pack, with sparks flying off the car as the big wheels elbowed their way past in the features.

            “Get outta the way Roots”, I remember one leather – lunged fan yelling at Skip’s skunky car one night. I recall thinking, at that young age, Roots was running fast enough to deserve to be where he was. But that was typical Fonda thinking, lie down and let the Shoemakers and Coreys go right by you. Roots didn’t have the budget to compete with the high – powered top echelon of Fonda sportsman cars – many of which were regularly in the top twenty nationally in NASCAR points.


Dale “Rebel Ross” Horton with the Roots – constructed car in 1965. [Courtesy of Steve Judd]


The H2 car was more suited for a track like Whites Beach Speedway, near Saratoga, and that is where it ended up. Many Whites Beach drivers were , on and off – peripheral drivers at Fonda; others never went near The Track Of Champions. One who did was a Broadalbin driver named Dale Horton, who went by the racing pseudonym of Rebel Ross. Ross appears in the Fonda program in 1965, with enough points to show he could qualify for features; he probably couldn’t afford a whole season there.

Someone in Gloversville had bought the Roots H2 for Horton to drive at Whites Beach. Ross may have even run it at Fonda once; but he was surely no regular. The car was re-numbered as H1, the way I was when Ross appeared in the Fonda points. The Ross version of the car did appear infrequently at Fonda, and probably made it to Victoria Speedway, as well. According to an email I received from a guy who simply identified himself as Mike, the Ross car went to a guy from Fort Johnson named George Bassett in at least parto f the 1968 season.


Russ Bergh Photo Ladabouche Collection
This faint image in the background of a Ray Sitterly photo shows the car as George Bassett's 309.


After Ross was out of the car, it ended up in the hands of an ESSO gas station operator named Jim Niznik, in Gloversville. Now with a fixed – up body and painted red, Niznik had the number 57B on it. There is evidence in a Fonda program for a 107 – lap NASCAR National Championship race that Niznik was running the car as a sportsman at the track where the modified was beginning to take over. It would, from the choice of numbers, appear as though Johnstown's Bruce Dostal, who was in the process of building a speed shop business, was instrumental in the car's preparation for Niznik.


Bob Emsminger, who would serve the car more effectively as car owner to Bruce Dostal in his exceptional
1968 season, sits in the car at Malta. [Courtesy of John Grady]


The car was always around a strong community of stock car people in Gloversville, most of whom never achieved much notoriety outside the Gloversville / Johnstown / Amsterdam region. Besides Niznik, there was the established circle around Dick Bennett and his Bernie’s Liquor Shop 71. Then, the son of a Bennett crewman, Bill Kollar, was fielding his K71, an obvious tribute to the Bennett car number. Add to this the likes of Johnstown’s young technician Bruce Dostal, old car owner Bill King [90A NY], and others – and you had quite an underdog support system in the shadow of the showier area teams like the Romanos. Only Gloversville’s Doc Blanchard had managed much of appoints total for the lower – buck area sportsman teams. The Romanos were into the modifieds, full tilt.

Niznik does not appear to have the car for long. It is then sold to another man from that area named Bob Emsminger. The cigar – chomping Emsminger tried the car at Fonda and also on the pavement at Albany _ Saratoga Speedway. Dostal, fielding his own #69, was already showing strong promise at Albany – Saratoga. For whatever reason, Emsminger soon had Dostal in the car. The 1968 Fonda points totals show Dostal scoring an amazing ninth place finish in the modified points. Although some of the Fonda legends were gone by then to retirement or to Lebanon Valley, this was still a great accomplishment.

In 1968, Dostal and owner, Emsminger would faced the likes of track champion and future national champion Jerry Cook; Ron Narducci; Ed Pieniazek, driving Corey equipment for Pete Corey [who had departed to the Valley]; Lou Lazzaro, who was in his absolute prime; Fonda’s faithful Amsterdam native Ray Sitterly, who had improved by leaps and bounds; Romano; Munnsville’s Dick Clark, and Rene Charland, in Russ Betz’s potent 59CT. Bill Kollar managed a few points, as did the up and coming nephew, Johnny Kollar. Blanchard, perhaps in his Valiant by then, was in the top twenty.


Although Kollar doesn’t mention it, the Dick Bennett team was closely associated with other teams in the area.
This version of the 71, with then -  driver Lew Boyd, sure looks like the Roots rig. [Courtesy of Gerry Lavallee]


After this year of 1968 – perhaps the high water mark for the old car -  things become a little blurrier. Someone named Frank Bird appeared once in a 57B in 1969. Bill Kollar, Jr. says Emsminger sold the car to Bob Weaver, who put Kollar in the car which was now numbered as 7R after driving it himself for a while. Kollar drove Bob's 7R at a few different tracks, including  Albany – Saratoga, in Malta; Devils Bowl, in Vermont; Lebanon Valley; and Mid State Speedway, at the fairgrounds in Morris, NY.

Kollar says that Bob Weaver eventually stripped out the running gear and built a Valiant bodied car.  It is very possible that this might have turned out to be the Valiant that Blanchard drove and which appeared on the comver of Stock Car Racing magazine, racing with Don Diffendorf. He sold the Chevy body to Larry Orcutt in Gloversville and he has no idea what happened to it after that. Kollar does make a vague reference to the three – window coupe body being used as a number 100. About this time, a #100 appears at Airborne Speedway with local star Harry Provost . It was a three –window and it looked pretty well used. You never know – it could be.


Harry “The Head” Provost, a gigantic Airborne Speedway regular, came out with this car 100 about the time the three window was disappearing from the Fonda region. However, I doubt it is the same body. Plattsburg had plenty of its own junkyards. [Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock]


At any rate, that was stock car racing’s version of reusing one’s resources and conservation. It is too bad more of that was not down. Many teams built a new car ever year and crushed perfectly good bodies an frames in the process. Now we are reduced to scanning the countrysides and the salvage yards for the few surviving pre – WWII stock car bodies still left. What a shame.


This incredibly – long – lived speedway Pontiac went through the Grand Nationals, Permatex, Catamount, Otter Creek dirt, and the pre – NHIS Bryar road course [above] before being unceremoniously crushed before anyone could prevent it. [Topaz Photo]

                                      Please email me at 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. For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.




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