Brian Ross Inducted
into New England Auto Racers' Hall of Fame
When one thinks of Brian Ross, they
think of a smart racer. Smart in both the sense that he could drive but
that he also had the talent to build race cars. Ross of Ballston Spa,
N.Y. was a thinking man’s racer.
Ross is now a New England Auto
Racing Hall of Famer as the soft spoken driver was inducted into the
NEAR annual banquet Sunday, November 10 at the Manelley’s Banquet Hall
in South Windsor, CT.
Ross was one of eight inductees in the prestigious
Hall of Fame and when Ross was clearly humbled when asked about being in
the Class of 2013.
“I really don’t know what I am doing here.” Brian told me as we renewed
a longtime friendship.
Brian Ross accepts his induction into the Hall of Fame
from Racing Journalist Pete Vander Veer.
Steve Kennedy Photo
“This is hard for me to think about. I
look at the names in this HOF and I wonder why I am here.”
Ross, who had seven modified tour wins
in his career and also won the 1984 Race of Champions and the 1986 Spring
Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway, Ross began to follow the tour when
it started in 1985 and left the tour after the 1990 season.
Brian did run some Busch north events
and won a Busch race at the Holland Speedway in upstate New York and ran his
last race in 2000.
It was then that he was able to help
his son, Chris, who was so instrumental in Brian’s career get his racing
Brian was one of the drivers that the
media would seek out when a problem would arise or unfortunately deaths that
occurred in modified racing in the dark period of 1988 to 1990. It was Ross,
the thinker and the builder that drivers would seek out as well as NASCAR.
Brian Ross was the Jeff Burton of the Sprint Cup series, a good driver who
was thoughtful in his evaluation of what is wrong.
When asked about his time in racing,
Brian said it was the evolution of racing that amazed him. “I saw so much of
the evolution of racing to what it has become today. I saw cars that could
run both asphalt and dirt together to where now each has their own built
cars. It is amazing to see were racing has gone.”
But Ross, like many, is concerned to
where racing is headed.
“I talked with Julie (Stefanik) and
asked if NASCAR did a lot to promote what Mike has done and she said no.
That is so sad. I was lucky that I got to race both Mike and Richie Evans
and its real sad when today people don’t know who Richie Evans was.”
Brian said when he was racing that he
didn’t just want to be on the same track as Evans but race him and he did
and many times came out on top against his friend and rival.
“You know it’s like a kick in my gut
when people don’t know who Richie was.” Brian said shaking his head.
When asked about the state of the
racing today, Brian isn’t too optimistic. “All the fans seem to be TV fans.
Tracks are struggling to get people to go to their local short track.”
I asked Brian if he still follows the
modified tour and Brian said he doesn’t.
“No, I really don’t. I do hear bits and
pieces of people who will come in and talk but I don’t follow it anymore.”
That is a shame but for one afternoon, Brian Ross was
back in modified racing, meeting with old friends and rivals as they
welcomed him into the 2013 Class of the New England Auto Racers Hall of
Fame. A place that he rightfully belongs.
Eight Inducted into
the New England Auto Racers' Hall of Fame
(top row left to right) Mike Stefanik for brother Bob,
Brian Ross, Bill Eldridge, Bob Sharp.
(sitting) Ron Berndt, Drew Fornoro, Stan Meserve and Ralph Nason.
Steve Kennedy Photo
The New England Auto Racers Hall of
Fame added eight new members into the elite Hall when Ron Berndt, Bill
Eldridge, Drew Fornoro, Stan Meserve, Ralph Nason, Brian Ross, road racer
Bob Sharp and Bob Stefanik.
The gala was held on Sunday, November
10th at the Manelley’s Banquet hall in South Windsor, CT.
New England racing personality and
track announcer, Matt Buckler served as the MC for the event and kept
everything moving along quickly.
Peter Vander Veer, a longtime writer
for several newspapers and magazines was the winner of the Jack Ratta/
Charlie Mitchell Media Award for someone who has done a lot to promote auto
racing, especially in an era when if it didn’t involve a ball, it wasn’t a
sport. Pete is a deserving winner and continues to cover the sport today,
some 42 years later.
Two Maine legends were inducted into
the NEAR HOF as Racin Ralph Nason and Stan Meserve were inducted and had
many friends and fans with them in the crowd of more than 250 who attended
the dinner and banquet.
Nason was a three time winner of the
Oxford 250 and at one time owned and promoted three race tracks. He still
runs one speedway today.
Stan Meserve was another favorite and
ran as an independent on the Grand National circuit. He would later serve as
an official for the NASCAR North and ACT series, a chassis Builder and team
manager and crew chief for Ricky Craven and Andy Santerre.
Both Santerre and Craven were on hand
to see their friend inducted.
Car owner, Ronnie Berndt of Meriden, Ct
was another inductee as he was presented by longtime motorsports journalist
and writer of several auto racing books, Mark ‘Bones’ Bourcier.
Ronnie started building cars at the
Plainville Stadium and today, some six decades later still is winning as his
grandson, Eric Berndt is a top runner on the modified tour and weekly SK
But Berndt said his days are done as
the escalating costs have put him out of business. When he was building and
winning with drivers such as Tony ‘Jap’ Membrino, Sparky Belmont to Teddy
Christopher he built it from parts in his North End Auto parts junkyard.
Midget racer Bill Eldridge and
roadracer,Bob Sharp were also included in the all encompassing group of
Eldridge won for NEMA (New England
Midget Association) titles including the first one in 1953. He won at 17
different tracks in his 25 year career.
Bob Sharp is one of the most successful
road racers in American Sports Car racing. He later become car owner and
helped turn actor Paul Newman into a great road racer and worked with Tom
Cruise as he tried his hand in racing.
Another midget racer and legend, Drew
Fornoro, who with 85 wins and nine championships later was an emotional
inductee. He joins his dad, Nick into the HOF. Drew won at least one race in
21 different seasons.
Bob Stefanik was a three time Riverside
Park Speedway champion and still ranks among the top winners at the now
defunct speedway with 31 wins in the novice, sportsman and modified
He was a three time winner of the
Riverside 500 teaming with Billy Greco to win one and Geoff Bodine to win
another two. Sadly Bob passed away in 1984 and was presented by his son and
accepted by future NEAR Hall of Famer as well as NASCAR Hall of Famer, Mike
Brian Ross was the eighth member of the
class and he said how grateful he was to his many car owners including NEAR
HOF member Bob Garbarino, who was in the crowd. Brian and Bob raced together
for seven years winning many events.
Many past inductees were present for
the annual dinner/induction ceremony including car owner, Mario Fiore as
well as his driver, Reggie Ruggiero. Dave Dion, Denny Zimmerman, Val
LeSieur, Dan Meservey, Garbarino, Dick Berggren, Pete Zanardi, Bob Potter
and Sonny Koszela.
The annual banquet is set for next
November 16th when another class will join the legends of New
England Auto Racing.