Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – To those of us that are involved in short track racing, we have often heard the term, ‘The Racing Family’. Many times, those outside of the sport don’t understand what we are talking about.
However, the drivers, owners, crew members, track workers, media people and fans certainly know all about the racing family. We are concerned together when there is injury or sickness in the racing family. We mourn when a treasured member of the racing family passes away. We celebrate together with the successes of those who we are close to in the family. And we come together as a family when there is a good cause.
This week, the Orange County Fair Speedway racing family has really come together to support the racers in a division that many of the competitors may have gotten their start in racing with.
And they are supporting a race run in memory of a young fan who only had earthly life for a short period of time. A child who had the type of smile that could light up a room. A child who worked his way into many hearts during his relatively short life. A child who the great folks at OCFS paid an awesome tribute to by naming a section of the grandstands after him.
That young fan’s name was Marky Traverse and he was my son.
Marky was born with a debilitating form of leukodystropy called Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease which caused him to have multiple disabilities. Fortunately, Marky was born into a very loving family that gave him the best care that we could until he suddenly passed away a month after his 9th birthday.
During the last 3 years of his life, Marky made many trips to OCFS. I was reluctant to bring him any earlier, I thought the noise would be disturbing to him. But that first night at the races, the louder the cars were, the more he smiled. When he heard how loud the Big Blocks were, he started to laugh. It was awesome to see, he was a fan of the Big Blocks, just like his dad. Having all three of my sons at a racing event was a great source of pride for me.
One of the people that Marky had a chance to meet is former OCFS racer and the owner of many tribute cars, Jerry Wildrick. Jerry was very saddened when Marky died and he wanted to something in his memory.
“I was heartbroken when I heard Marky had passed away,” Jerry said in a 2020 interview I did with him about his tribute cars. “I just wanted to do something for the family.”
Jerry called the then OCFS General Manager, Ken Sands, and suggested a memorial race for Marky in the Street Stocks. Along with OCFS owner Michael Gurda’s approval, Ken put the memorial race on the 2015 schedule.
Jerry and his business, Fredon Development Industries in Newton, NJ, along with his wife’s business, Salon Bleu of Augusta, NJ, sponsored the memorial race for many years. My family and I will always be very grateful to Jerry for what he did in Marky’s memory.
And we will always be grateful to Ken and Michael at OCFS for allowing that first race to happen.
Whenever someone wins the memorial race, they have always received an outstanding trophy. And it was an awesome thing when our friend, Tom Dembek, sent me a photo one day. Tom was at the business of 3 time memorial race winner, Jimmy Maher. Jimmy had his 3 trophies right in front of his counter, proudly displayed. It was a very nice thing to see.
Since the race’s inception, the race trophy has been supplied by two of our great friends, Mike Otis and Todd Lewis. And we can’t properly express in words how much that means to us.
“Although Marky was only here 9 years, he was an avid race fan who along with his brothers and father enjoyed coming to the races. His infectious smile lit up a room and melted everyone’s heart. I loved to see his smile and hear his laugh,” Mike said. “I am so proud of our racing family and the growth of the Marky Traverse Memorial Race. It’s special to see the camaraderie of the fans and drivers. Marky is a great example of how precious life is, and he showed us to make the most of it while we are here. And on Saturday night, he will have the best seat in the house to watch the races.”
“It’s our honor to sponsor the trophy each year to honor the memory of such a sweet little guy,” Todd said. “He always had a smile anytime I saw him at the speedway.”
And from the feedback I’ve gotten over the years, the race is a very special event every season for those in the OCFS Street Stock division. It’s one that they look forward to and want to win.
Bob Sleight Jr is the defending winner of the Marky Traverse Memorial Race. He went to great lengths to make it to the 2019 edition.
“When I returned to race regularly at OCFS, I heard about this big race for Street Stocks, a memorial race for Marky. It’s such a great honor to run this race it’s a great tribute to Marky,” Bob said. “And when I won this race in 2019, I drove 3 hours from Watkins Glen to get here for it. We were all camping for the NASCAR race and we’re going to be doing it again this weekend. It’s important for me to be here for that race.”
Since early on Monday this week, over $3,000 has been added to the memorial race from the people we consider as part of our Racing Family. It’s a great thing for the competitors in the Street Stock division to race for some extra cash. And it’s an awesome tribute to my son that so many care.
As of this writing, the total added to the race purse has increased by $3,044. And it is spread out all throughout the field. I am quite speechless and shocked by this response. But the racing family has always been very good to the boys and I.
What follows is how it breaks down.
- Kevin Jones (Comfort Experts): $250 ($125 for the 1st place finisher, $75 for the 2nd place finisher and $50 for 3rd for the 3rd place finisher)
- Sedita 1 Motorsports (Rob and Jenny Sedita) : $300 (finishing positions 5 thru 10 $50 each)
- Jason Traverse & Matthew Stephens: $73 ($43 for 4th place finisher in memory of Bob Shoenberger and $30 for the 5th place finisher in memory of Ron Goodrich
- Suzanne Shortway-DeAugustines: $20 to the 9th place finisher
- Ryan Modiano: $50 to the Hard Charger
- Mia Branham: $50 to the Hard Charger
- Jimmy Devitt: $50 ($25 for the 3rd place finisher and $25 for the 4th place finisher)
- Frank Frasco (Frank Frasco Home Inspections: $100 ($50 for the 1st place finisher and $25 each for positions 2 and 3)
- Mary Meier and Tommy Meier Racing: $200 ($100 for the 3rd place finisher and $100 for the Hard Charger)
- Nicole Inzeo-Rose and Lou Inzeo: $50 for the 1st place finisher
- Grant Hilfiger: $200 ($100 for the 7th place finisher and $100 for the 8th place finisher)
- Ryan Walther: $100 for the 10th place finisher
- Dave Allen and Josh Allen Racing: $100 to the 1st place finisher
- Ric Ryder: $88 to the 8th place finisher in memory of his wife, Patty
- Stephen Keeler (Rock Fantasy in Middletown): $50 to the 1st place finisher
- Janet Cargain: $100 ($20 each for the 1st thru 5th place finishers)
- Pat Giuliano (D & M Home Improvements): $200 ($100 for the 1st place finisher and $25 each for positions 2nd thru 5th)
- David Renaldo (Team 401): $150 for the 11th place finisher
- Craig Mitchell: $100 ($50 for the last place finisher and $50 for the next to last place finisher
- Jack Armstrong: $100 to the driver who starts last in the original lineup
- Joe Judge (Judge Racing): $100 to the Hard Luck driver as decided by Mike Traverse of RPW
- Kevin Berryman: $25 to the last place driver and 10 8X10 photos to the winner
- Amanda Hedglin and Brett Ryder:$50 to the 9th place finisher
- Debbie and Ken Boniface: $138 ($69 each for the 6th and 9th place finishers)
- Marie Lieto: $100 to the last place finisher
- Jordan Sheehan and Travis Perrone (Vernon Outdoors): $100 ($50 for 6th place and $50 for the driver who makes the farthest tow to the track)
- Mike Casey: $200 ($50 each for the 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th place finishers)
My sons and I would like to thank the people in charge at OCFS, Chris Larsen, Doug Dulgarian and Brett Hearn, for continuing the tradition of the Marky Traverse Memorial Race. We would surely like to have my son and the boys brother back with us. But the race is a very special night for us.
In addition to the memorial race, it will be the 2nd OCFS Full Fender Nostalgia Night where tribute is paid to those who raced in the full fender divisions. The Atlantic Coast Old Timers (ACOT) will be there with their cars and there will be an enduro.
Simple written words do not seem adequate to express our thanks to those who in the past and present have contributed to the memorial race. All we can say is that the Traverse Family gives you all our thanks. We hope that it’s a good competitive and safe race. Good luck to all the competitors.