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Dirt History

 

1976

On February 3, 1976 Glenn Donnelly and the Petrocci brothers met to form Driver's Independent Races Tracks (DIRT) of Central New York. The original DIRT circuit consisted of Rolling Wheels Raceway, Weedsport Speedway and the New York State Fairgrounds mile oval.

In April Will Cagle won the first ever DIRT-sanctioned feature event staged at Rolling Wheels Raceway in Elbridge, N.Y.

In November the first DIRT Banquet was held at the Arts and Home Center on the New York State Fairgrounds. Will Cagle received $3,000 in overall point fund money for the inaugural Mr. DIRT title. Bobby Watson was introduced as DIRT's new head starter.

1977

In January Gilmore Photo announced the creation of the DIRT Fan of the Year award.

Canandaigua Speedway joined the DIRT circuit and hosted the first of three DIRT-sanctioned events in July.

Dave Lape earned the second Mr. DIRT title as 600 fans attended the 2nd Annual DIRT Banquet in November.

1978

Canandaigua Speedway officially joined DIRT and prepared to run a complete weekly schedule.

Mr. DIRT title won by Will Cagle for the second year, this time worth $4,000 to the native Floridian.

1979

Andy Fusco named corporate council and first vice-president of DIRT of Central New York. Dundee Raceway joined DIRT at the late model level.

Will Cagle secured his third Mr. DIRT title in four years.

Five Mile Point Speedway joined the DIRT circuit.

1980

In January the organization became officially known as DIRT of New York with Ransomville Speedway and Merrittville Speedway gaining membership. In February Fonda Speedway and Lebanon Valley Speedway joined the DIRT fold and the 320-Modified division was informally sanctioned.

Schaefer 200 at the NYS Fairgrounds received it's first national television coverage by ESPN.

DIRT restructured the rulebook to better define what a modified race car was meant to be after Gary Balough's victory at Syracuse in his controversial "Batmobile" machine.

750 guests attended the 5th Annual DIRT banquet held at the Center of Progress Building on the N.Y.S. Fairgrounds.

Jack Johnson won his first Mr. DIRT title and received $4,000 in point fund money.

1981

DIRT and NODA (Northeast Owners and Drivers Association) convened and negotiated over rule changes in February.

In March 1000 DIRT members met at Weedsport Speedway to discuss similar rule changes.

DIRT grievance board established. Dundee dropped it's DIRT-sanction for late models and Utica Rome Speedway joined the organization.

In May DIRT imposed a 13-inch wide tire rule.

The DIRT banquet moved to the Hotel Syracuse and Alan Johnson was recognized for winning his first Mr. DIRT title.

1982

DIRT sanctioned it's first-ever Florida Winter Tour with Jeff Kappesser and Billy Pauch tying for the Speed Week title.

It was announced that the Late Model and 320-Modified divisions would be combined for one season, with the LM class dropped at season's end.

DIRT computerized all points and handicapping systems. DIRT of New York name officially shortened to DIRT.

Jack Johnson received $10,000 in point fund money for the Mr. DIRT title at the annual DIRT awards banquet.

Orange County Fair Speedway and Accord Speedway joined DIRT while Five Mile Point Speedway made a short-term exit.

1983

Rich Rubenstein named as DIRT vice-president of marketing and public relations. Woodhull, Dundee, Can Am, Brockville and Cornwall speedways join DIRT under 320-modified sanctions.

In February Alan Johnson wins the Florida Winter Tour point title. Robin Manus named general manager of Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown.

Alan Johnson became first driver ever to win the DIRT triple crown; Super DIRT Series point title, the Schaefer 200 race at Syracuse and the overall Mr. DIRT point title in the same season.

Tony Corcoran crowned inaugural Mr. DIRT in 320-Modified division.

Alan Johnson received $21,000 in point fund money at the annual DIRT banquet for his triple crown wins. Airborne, Devil's Bowl and Albany-Saratoga joined DIRT as Five Mile Point rejoined.

1984

Brewerton and Humberstone Int'l speedways acquired DIRT sanction.

Miller Brewing announced major sponsorship of DIRT circuit.

Special promotions brought Bobby Allison to selected DIRT sanctioned events throughout the year.

Jack Johnson became the second driver to win the DIRT triple crown; also becoming the first driver since Ralph DePalma to win all feature races run on the Syracuse mile in the same season.

Jumpin' Jack earned $20,000 and a trip to Hawaii for his overall Miller Beer Mr. DIRT title and triple crown efforts at the annual DIRT banquet.

In December Airborne, Albany-Saratoga and Devil's Bowl withdraw from DIRT to form their own group known as CVRA.

1985

New DIRT logo unveiled as DIRT prepares to celebrate it's 10th year of sanctioning racing in the northeast. DIRT released it's first-ever record book called "10 Years on DIRT", with member-track statistics compiled by Brian and Gary Spaid.

In March New Venture Int'l Speedway joined DIRT.

A new era begins as the formation of a DIRT television network is announced with continued broadcasts of the weekly summer show, "This Week on DIRT" moving to the forefront.

Jack Johnson received $10,200 in point fund money as the overall Miller Beer Mr. DIRT titlist. Point fund money also handed out to top 320-Modified teams from the $3,482,000 total paid out under DIRT sanction that year.

1986

Autodrome Edelweiss joined the DIRT organization. Dan Harpell replaced Rich Rubenstein as head of marketing and public relations and Robin Manus was promoted to vice-president of DIRT operations in the Weedsport-based office.

DIRT sanctioned it's third Florida Winter Tour and Jimmy Horton earned the series point title. Sun Country Cooler picks up sponsorship of the Super DIRT Series.

Charlie Rudolph received $12,000 for his first Miller Beer Mr. DIRT point title at the annual DIRT banquet held at the Hotel Syracuse.

Announcement made of the formation of DIRT South in Texas.

DIRT introduced the "New Style" Modified body rule as an experiment for 1987-88 and also called for the formation of a new DIRT sportsman division.

1987

Danny Johnson won the Florida DIRT Winter Tour point title.

while Doug Hoffman won the first DIRT-DIRT South tour race as rain cancelled all but one event on the first Texas Tour.

A+ Mini Markets and Skoal Bandit Racing are announced as primary sponsors of the 15 year-old Super DIRT Series.

Flemington Speedway in New Jersey joined DIRT. Steve Behrent's victory at Orange County Fair Speedway in June was the first ever aboard a "New Style" modified, a Ford Thunderbird Gary Spaid replaced Dan Harpell in charge of DIRT public relations on a temporary basis and is named the new editor for the DIRT Trackin' Magazine replacing Larry Costa.

Jack Johnson received $12,000 in overall Miller High Life Mr. DIRT point money at the annual banquet held at the Sheraton Hotel in Syracuse.

DIRT paid out over $4,395,000 for events run in 1987.

1988

Special tire testing sessions staged at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida in preparation for DIRT's upcoming expansion into the asphalt racing arena.

Alan Johnson won the Texas Tour point title as DIRT and DIRT South offered a series of five Texas races. Edelweiss and Frogtown joined DIRT.

DIRT television network expanded to produce 26 weekly shows and be seen across the entire east coast, Texas and Florida.

Bob Vanderborgh named to DIRT marketing post. Accord Speedway (Fastland) remained closed.

DIRT promoted first-ever asphalt show on August 27th at Cayuga Int'l Speedway in Nelles Corners, ONT; part of the 1988 Skoal Racing Super DIRT Series won by New Yorker Jack Cottrell.

In September Mike Bohannon was named to DIRT marketing post. Alan Johnson won his 200th career DIRT Modified feature race at Canandaigua Speedway on September 3rd. Alan and Chuck Akulis became the first ever co-track champions declared by DIRT after their tie in points at Canandaigua.

Jack Johnson received $25,000 for his Miller High Life Mr. DIRT Championship at the annual DIRT banquet held at the Hotel Syracuse.

In December Stan Friesen (Western), Paul Kuhl (Southern) and Howard Commander (Eastern) were all promoted to DIRT vice-presidents of competition in each specified region.

1989

DIRT announced the formation of three major Modified Series, each with complete point system changes; Skoal Racing DIRT-Asphalt Challenge and Sunoco Championship Trail.

Alan Johnson earned the Florida Winter Tour title and Jack Johnson won the Texas Tour title.

Frenchman Gaston Salvas announced as new DIRT vice-president of competition for the Northern Region and Robin Manus elevated to post of Executive VP at DIRT Headquarters.

DIRT retitled it's small-block division "358-Modified" as the 320 cubic-inch engine was being eliminated from the official rule book prior to 1990.

Five Mile Point dismissed it's DIRT sanction under new track promoter Dan Harpell.

NASCAR drivers Geoff Bodine and Kenny Schrader won two of the three DIRT-Asphalt Challenge '89 races while Danny Johnson captured the third.

Brett Hearn won the championship title in both the Skoal Racing Super DIRT Series and the inaugural DIRT-Asphalt Challenge. Danny Johnson received $25,000 at the annual DIRT Banquet for the overall Miller High Life Mr. DIRT Championship title after recording 34 modified feature wins.

Airborne Speedway officials announced the track would be leaving DIRT in 1990 following complete pavement of the facility.

1990

The unique DIRT-Asphalt Challenge series was expanded to include Roger Penske's Pennsylvania Int'l Raceway, with Brett Hearn winning the headline feature event. Hearn continued on to win most of the major dollar events during the season, including Ransomville Speedway's "Summer Nationals", Lebanon Valley Speedway's "Mr. DIRT USA", the "Miller High Life 300" at Syracuse, and seven Skoal Racing Super DIRT Series mains.

The New Jersey star collected over $196,000 on the Skoal Racing Super DIRT Series alone, along with both the series title and the DIRT/Asphalt Challenge title. His earnings exceeded $210,000, including the $25,000 for the 1990 Miller High Life Mr. DIRT title.

Mike Button captured top honors in the inaugural Mr. DIRT Sportsman Championship. Frogtown switched nights and became an associate member track. The winter tours were cancelled for the first time due to operational problems at the southern tracks.

Both Brett Hearn and Bob McCreadie passed the century mark on the DIRT big-block feature win chart.

1991

Frogtown regained full membership while Ransomville Speedway was forced to take on associate status. Gasport and Genesee also joined DIRT as associate member tracks. After Ransomville's move to associate membership, Genesee was given the title of Semi-Full member in order to issue track bonus points for western New York drivers at a Friday night facility.

Associate member tracks began to be listed in the DIRT Media Guide with an asterisk(*) denoting a feature event not counted in the overall DIRT win list.

Budweiser joined DIRT Motorsports as the major sponsor replacing Miller. Bud also became the major sponsor of the DIRT-Asphalt Challenge '91 Tour.

Although Flemington was paved due to EPA pressures, the speedway retained it's DIRT sanction as DIRT's only asphalt member. The Garden State oval became a major stop on the Budweiser DIRT Asphalt Challenge Tour.

1992

This may go down as the "Summer of Weekend Rains". Only two weekends all summer long were rain-free. Many speedways suffered their worse year ever due to both weather and the economy. Paradise Speedway became a full member track.

Budweiser returned to sponsor the overall Mr. DIRT program and the individual track champions program, but not the DIRT-Asphalt Challenge; a contributing factor that helped spell the demise of the fledgling series.

It was also announced that the Skoal Racing Super DIRT Series would experience a number of major changes in 1993, including creation of a 358?Modified Super DIRT Series. The A+ Winner's Classic would be dropped from the Super DIRT Week program, with guaranteed spots earned at Modified series races going only towards the big race.

1993

DIRT Motorsports proposed the use of unleaded fuels, through Sunoco Race Fuels. In February a Florida Tour 'invitational' resulted in experiments using unleaded fuel and hard track tires.

Kenny Tremont won the first ever 358?Modified Super DIRT Series race run at Frogtown in June. This new series proved to be popular at most speedways, but a bit too rich for many of the tracks to handle. A shortened big-block series saw fifteen regular runners emerge. Many teams began a silly season of driver changes as the economy was still down, causing many teams to end their year prematurely.

Brett Hearn stormed to his fourth Super DIRT Week Modified victory, with a $100,000-plus victory in the nationally publicized Wheels 300. Hearn and Bob McCreadie once again dominated the modified action throughout the season.

Doug Young joined the DIRT Marketing Staff replacing Mike Bohannon.

Parts Plus joined DIRT Motorsports as a major sponsor of the DIRT License program, boosting individual insurance coverage to a high of $100,000 per claim.

1994

DIRT Motorsports accepted a track tire bid from McCreary Tire to supply member tracks in the modified and 358?modified divisions. The addition of McCreary boosted the overall point funds to record highs; modified($50,000 for first) and 358?modified($20,000 for first). In addition, each modified track champion received $3,000 and each 358?modified track champion collected $1,500.

Driver after driver were "disqualified" (declared illegal and fined points and earnings) after winning Skoal Racing 358-Modified Series events making it the most controversial tour ever sanctioned by DIRT. The majority of penalties were for motor infractions, this prompting circulation of a post-season questionnaire to obtain driver input into rules in this division. Susquehanna, Bridgeport, Accord and Brewerton speedways signed on with DIRT as full member tracks. Cornwall, Brewerton and Cayuga County ran a mixed modified/358?modified division, with points awarded toward both overall Mr. DIRT Championships. Cornwall also instituted a "Specials Only" format to celebrate it's 25th anniversary season.

The television show "Raceday" broadcasted live from Super DIRT Week XXIII, with the winning driver interview from Jimmy Horton seen nationally.

1995

DIRT Motorsports added Five Mile Point to the list of member speedways, also adding the sportsman divisions at both Five Mile and Bridgeport.

Roger Lalonde purchased Autodrome Edelweiss at mid-season and ran the speedway with a combination of big-blocks and 358?modifieds, but awarding points only to 358's.

Doug Young resigned his Marketing post in June and was temporarily replaced by PR Director Gary Spaid for the duration of the summer months. Both Cory Reed (intern) and Becky Marion shared this responsibility beginning in September.

Bids were received from both tire and fuel companies.

Six live broadcasts from Cayuga County Fair Speedway on the Empire Sports Network highlighted the expanding DIRT Television Network.

The STARS late models debuted at Super DIRT Week and it was announced that the World of Outlaws would not return to Syracuse in 1996. The new Saturday format would list STARS in place of WoO.

1996

DIRT re-organized under the new corporate title of DIRT Motorsports, Inc., leaving the title Drivers Independent Race Tracks in the archives. This corporate move came after a major lawsuit involving an Orange County Fair Speedway sportsman driver.

Ten live Thursday night television broadcasts called "Rush Hour on DIRT" highlighted a number of Skoal Racing Super DIRT Series events. The results of these shows were quickly heralded in auto racing circles across the country.

The addition of Delaware Int'l Speedway extended the DIRT regime further south. A very successful SDS race was held at that track in Mid-August.

Cory Reed was named to the post of DIRT Marketing and Operations. The DIRT banquet returned to Alexandria Bay, NY.

Track promoter Alex Friesen was killed in a snowmobile accident in early December to end the year on a somber note.

1997

Ohsweken (Ont.) Speedway joined as a full member and the "New" Fonda Speedway maintained it's full membership under the leadership of first-year promoter Ric Lucia. In April DIRT hosted it's first "Auto Expo" at the Dome in Henrietta, NY, where the first Ms. DIRT Motorsports, Kimberly Whitehead, was crowned.

The racing community suffered numerous losses as Kevin Flemming, a sportsman driver is killed at Syracuse in July and track official Fred Taney is struck and killed at Canandaigua Speedway in late August.

The "Rush Hour on DIRT" television show expanded to an hour and a half as it's popularity grew internationally. Seventeen shows were broadcast, including all three major days at Syracuse in October. "This Week on DIRT", the weekly television magazine of DIRT Motorsports, was scheduled to end in June to make way for the live telecasts.

The first-ever Mr. DIRT co-champions were honored after Brett Hearn and Danny Johnson tied in overall modified points. Bob McCreadie caught and ultimately tied Alan Johnson's career record of 265 DIRT big-block modified feature wins. Brett Hearn and Pat O'Brien also ended the season knotted with 110 358?Modified victories each.

For the first time ever the annual DIRT banquet in November was held on foreign soil with Montreal neighbor St-Hyacinthe, Quebec attracting American drivers to Canada. Ransomville Speedway announced they were leaving DIRT Motorsports prior to the start of the 1998 season.

1998

DIRT Motorsports, Inc. sanctioned 615 open-wheel feature events at 21 full-member speedways; Modified 208, 358-Modified 148 and Sportsman 259. An additional 107 open-wheel stock races were recorded at six DIRT associate member tracks. The season began with a return to Volusia Speedway Park for the Florida Winter Tour.

Billy Decker captured DIRT's elusive 'triple crown' winning the modified division's Super DIRT Series, Super DIRT Week Eckerd 300 and overall Mr. DIRT title. He collected $74,000 at the DIRT Banquet held in Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

Bob McCreadie scored nine wins to emerge as DIRT's all-time winningest modified driver with 274 big-block feature triumphs; a record Alan Johnson(271) had held since 1983.

Brett Hearn beat out Johnson for top honors in the Super DIRT 358-Modified Series while A.J. Slideways out-distanced himself from Canadian Pat O'Brien and Hearn to capture his second straight overall Mr. DIRT 358 Championship. Hearn became the all-time DIRT division leader with 116 small-block victories.

'Rush Hour' broadcasts continued late in the season with eight events carried "live" into more than 25 million homes and two more offered on a tape-delayed basis. The Fink family purchased Fulton Speedway in June and by season's end Bridgeport officials announced Bob VanSciver would be the new promoter; both groups would gain DIRT sanction the following year.

The season was marred by tragedies both on and off the track. In June, Orange County Sportsman driver Barbara Luce lost her life in a motorcycle accident, just three weeks after winning her first career feature race. Two weeks later at the same Middletown oval on the same night fans paid tribute to Luce, Paul Jones pulled pit side during the sportsman main and soon after succumbed to a heart attack. Lebanon Valley track official Charlie Perkins was struck by a vehicle as he carried out backstretch flagger duties during a street stock race while track promoters Betty Graham (Genesee) and Bonnie Colwell (Sportsman's) lost their battles with cancer during the summer.

1999

DIRT Motorsports' final season of the century actually came to its conclusion in April of 2000 when Steve Paine and Danny Johnson were officially declared co-champions in the Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT 358-Modified Championship.

Five months earlier Johnson (Modified), Chris Shultz (Sportsman) and Tom Kuck (Pro Stock) earned the title of Mr. DIRT in their respective divisions.

The 358-Modified dispute stemmed from a November '99 decision of DIRT's Appellate Board in which members were asked to determine a protested race held at the Utica-Rome Speedway in September. After hearing three hours of testimony, the board declared the title a tie. Two months later that same decision was vacated by a New York State Supreme Court Judge but before a new court-ordered hearing was had, the Johnson team, the Paine team and DIRT President Glenn Donnelly met in private and agreed to settle the matter by abiding by the initial November '99 ruling.

This episode marked the first time a Mr. DIRT Championship was decided off the track and thus allowed Johnson to emerge as the first driver to capture both overall big-block and small-block titles in the same season.

Opening with the Florida Tour in February, DIRT Motorsports, Inc. sanctioned 750 open-wheel feature events in 1999 with all but five staged at 25 full-member speedways; Modified 227, 358-Modified 206 and Sportsman 317. An additional 154 open-wheel stock races were recorded at seven DIRT associate member tracks. Tri-City and Fulton speedways attained their first-ever memberships while Bridgeport and Utica-Rome returned to the DIRT-fold.

DIRT Motorsports continued with its "Rush Hour" live program broadcasts for the fourth consecutive year with ten events offered; 16 events were carried live on the internet in DIRT's CyberSeries '99 debut. A half-million web surfers logged into www.dirtmotorsports.com during Super DIRT Week XXVIII to stay in touch with all the activities around the famed 'Moody Mile.'

After headlining the premier Super DIRT Series since 1987, Advance Auto Parts replaced Skoal Racing/U.S. Tobacco as the primary tour sponsor in a major March announcement. Five Advance SDS feature races were then televised along with three straight days of Super DIRT Week XXVIII action in Syracuse (NY) and both CARQUEST Eastern States Championships for Modifieds and 358-Modifieds at Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown (NY).

Capturing the modified division's Advance Auto Parts SDS was Kenny Tremont, also winner of his first Eckerd 300 during Super DIRT Week XXVIII at the New York State Fairgrounds, and recognized as the Prolong Super Lubricants Driver of the Year. Steve Paine earned top honors in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT 358-Modified Series following his best year ever.

 

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