By Brian Liskai
FREMONT, Ohio – Fremont Speedway will once again pay tribute to those who helped create the history of “The Track That Action Built” with the third annual Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame Induction on Saturday, June 4. The list of inductees in the 2011 class ranges from the man who won the first track championship 60 years ago, to late model, sprint and super modified drivers to championship team owners to the founder of a speed shop over 40 years ago.
And, to make the 2011 hall of fame inductions even more special, they will take place in the newly constructed hall of fame building at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds prior to the night’s racing activities.
Being inducted into the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame are: Leo “The Gobbler” Caldwell, Jim Fleming, Bud Gill, Dale Hasselbach, Shirley Kear, Harry Kresser, Tom Leaser, Wayne Maffett Sr., George Miller and Leroy Youster.
Caldwell, who hailed from Perrysburg, Ohio, won the very first feature event at Fremont Speedway in 1951. He would go on to record five feature wins and the track championships in 1951 and 52. Known as “The Gobbler” because he “gobbled up the competition,” Caldwell won the Motor City Speedway championships in 1949 and 1950; the Fort Miami Championship in 1951 and 1953; the Michigan State Championship (sportsman division of NASCAR) in 1952; the Raceway Park Championship in 1954 and 1955; the Sandusky Speedway title in 1957; and was winner of the Atlanta Peach State 200 in 1964.
Caldwell also campaigned the first cage and roll bar on a modified to run as a sprint car in 1957. He ran championship cars from 1960-68. Throughout his career, Caldwell scored 400 feature wins
Jim Fleming, of Bellevue, Ohio, was always a force to be reckoned with in the hobby stocks/late models at Fremont Speedway. He recorded 23 career feature wins to sit 19th on the track’s all-time win list. Fleming claimed the track’s 1968 championship, ending a two-year title run for hall-of-famer Roy Sheets. Fleming won many races at Mansfield, Millstream and other tracks throughout Ohio during his career.
Bud Gill hailed from Clyde Ohio and fielded some of the most successful and beautiful super modifieds/sprint cars to ever hit the track. The black and orange CR Gill Construction machines carried hall-of-famer Darl Harrison to Fremont Speedway championships in 1960, 1961 and 1962. Hall-of-Famer Gug Keegan wheeled the Gill machine to the 1967 track championship, and teammate Jim Linder would claim a Fremont Speedway title in 1969 aboard a Gill sprinter. Rollie Beale would pilot a Gill sprint car to many feature wins as well.
The late Dale Hasselbach of Fremont was known as a fun-loving gentleman off the track, but once strapped in behind the wheel of a hobby stocker/late model, he was a fierce competitor. Hasselbach recorded 16 career wins at Fremont Speedway to sit 32nd on the track’s all-time win list. Hasselbach drove to the track’s 1970 late model championship, beating out his brother-in-law, hall-of-famer De Genzman.
A Kear’s Speed Shop parts truck has been coming to Fremont Speedway for over 40 years. It was 1969 when Shirley and her late husband Chuck would pack up a truck and head to “The Track That Action Built” to sell parts to the racers who would all become like family to the Tiffin couple. In fact, many, many racers would have quit or not been able to race if it wasn’t for the Kears. Often times, after a crash, a team didn’t have the resources to put their car back together. Shirley would simply tell them to get what they needed and arrangements would be made for payment later. Shirley was one of the first – if not THE first female – to grace the pits at Fremont Speedway and other tracks across the country. Shirley continues to operate Kear’s Speed Shop with the help of her family.
Harry Kresser of Sandusky, Ohio, raced during one of the most competitive times in the history of Fremont Speedway. Kresser always was a contender for a win, and he claimed six checkered flags during his career. In the 1970s, hall-of-famer Jim Linder was winning most of the features at Fremont Speedway, promoting promoter Gary Kern, a hall-of-fame inductee, to put a cash bounty up for someone to beat Linder. It was Kresser, in that powder-blue #31, who would claim the bounty!
Tom Leaser of Fremont, has been a fixture at Fremont Speedway for many, many years and continues to trade racing stories in the track’s pit tower each week. When Leaser hired hall-of-famer Harold McGilton to drive his Chevy powered #55 sprinter, it was magic. McGilton would drive to the 1965 Fremont Speedway super-modified championship and would follow with another title in 1970. Many of McGilton’s 40 career Fremont victories came aboard the Tom Leaser owned machines.
The late Wayne Maffett Sr., of Mansfield, Ohio, was the “king of the street stocks” at Fremont Speedway. Maffett would record 44 victories at “The Track That Action Built” and sits seventh on the track’s all-time win list. He recorded street stock track championships in 1986, 1990 and 1993. He also sits second on the all-time win list for street stocks/limited late models at Attica Raceway Park with 30 wins and recorded two track titles.
George Miller of Gibsonburg, Ohio, began his racing career in 1960 and earned the Fremont Speedway Rookie of the Year title. Miller drove his own machines until 1965 when he began driving for Bob Wireman in the 1 Jr. car. In 1967 Miller teamed up with hall-of-fame car owner Earl Lowe to drive the familiar purple and white #66. Miller produced several top 10 finishes and heat and pursuit race wins before scoring his big feature victory on Memorial Day in 1970 at Fremont. The following night at Millstream Speedway, Miller had a nasty crash, literally breaking the #66 into two pieces. He would retire the following year. Last year, the old #66 was found and restored and Miller again returned to the track during the vintage races.
Leroy Youster of Oak Harbor, Ohio, was one of the pioneers of racing at Fremont Speedway. He would take the track’s strictly stock championship in 1956 and add a hobby stock/late model title in 1965. Youster claimed 9 career feature wins at Fremont Speedway.