RPW Column By: LAURIE FALLIS / RPW – SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – With cold weather settling in at the Saratoga Spa Park in Saratoga Springs, NY not much is happening as far as outside activities. However, for racing fans and enthusiasts, it sure was pretty warm and exciting being in one of the buildings that resides in the park and that is the Saratoga Automobile Museum.
The Museum has played host for this yearly event of the Lost Speedway Presentation for many years. With a good crowd on hand that was eger to hear and see what the presenters would have in store for them, the event commenced with the rise and fall of the Altamont Fairground Speedway presented by Paul Malecki.
The Speedway was located in Altamont, NY and was open from 1926 til 1954. The track was configured as an 1/2 mile and it was the site of big car races featuring regional drivers AAA event and NASCAR’s top division over its years.
Big names drove at the Speedway. How about 1951 Indianapolis winner Lee Wallard. Also stars like Tony Hinnershitz and Bob Sail, Walt Alder and Chet Gerdener to name a few. It was noted that the racing and the track was pretty wild and there was some pretty dangerous accidents that took place.
In 1935 a major rule was implimented that all drivers must wear a crash helmet in all forms of racing. It was said that, with the bad accidents at the Speedway, this rule ended up saving many of lives. The Speedway certainly sounded like a track that had plenty of thrills and chills.
Next up was the “Motorcycle Madness” segment. This was a presentation by Mark Supley who would show pictures of the different innovations and unique designs of the motorcycles in the early 1900’s.
After those two great presentations it was time to put the two drivers that made their way to the Museum to be center stage. First up would be Lebanon Valley standout and Track Champion Dickie Larkin.
When Larkin started his racing the two big guns he stated were Tommy Corellis and Butch Jelley. Dickie’s first career win in the Modified ranks was when he started on the outside pole and would beat out Dave Leckonby.
Something that Larkin really misses still today is running at the “Moody Mile” Syracuse Fairgrounds.
“I miss that place a lot! We had a lot of success there. I had the world record for a Small Block at 31 seconds until Brett Hearn beat it. I have also had my share of wrecks there as well, I have crashed in every turn”. Larkin stated
After dusting off his firesuit Larkin made his way back behind the the wheel for the Vintage race that was held at his home track…the “Legends Of Lebanon” in 2019 of course representing himself.
I asked the legend if 2020 would see Dickie Larkin back in a Vintage car?
“I would like to, I need to get into shape over the winter.” He stated. It did sound like it could be a good possibility.
Last but certainly not least came up two time Lebanon Valley Modified Track Champion and 2019 Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series Track Champion John Flach.
The second-generation driver admits that when his father stepped away from racing John was younger. However, when he really knew he wanted to be a racecar driver is when he would see the Stock Car Racing Magazine that his mom would get. That’s when he was sure racing is what he wanted to do.
“I would hang over to Stanley Wetmore’s garage,” Flach said. “Stanley was a close family friend and had raced with my dad. His place was not too far from where we had lived and I realized it was time to get a car.
John would get hooked up with Dextor Door in 1982 and a lifelong relationship was bonded.
“He was very inspirational to me in my career,” he said “I still miss him a lot.”
Flach would win his first Modified feature in his rookie year of 1983. After his first win it would take the driver five years to capture the title in 1988. He backed that up again in 1989.
John would cut his racing career short to spend time with his boys as they we interested in racing as well, starting in go-karts.
As faith had it, after a long hiatus, John would return to racing in the Mohawk Valley Vintage Dirt Modified Series and made his debut triumphant. He won this past season at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, which just so happened to be on his birthday.
“I’m having so much fun,” he said. “Laurie Fallis (Vintage promoter) runs a great series. All of the drivers I race against are great! It’s not the weekly grind. It’s less pressure and it’s just a relaxing good time. It was a great feeling to be welcomed at all the tracks by the fans and the promoters. I’m having a blast and can not wait for next year” An excited Flach stated.
Once again, Ron Hedger did a phenomenal job putting this Lost Speedways event together. Also on hand were collectors displaying their sacred memorabilia of racing.Represent atives of the North East Stock Car Old Timers Club were on hand as well, promoting their valid club with membership and Raffles.
The Saratoga Automobile Museum…if you’ve never been, put it on your bucket list. It’s a great place to go. We can not wait to see what will be on the line-up for the 2020 edition of “Lost Speedways.”