At the annual New York State Stock Car Association awards banquet in January, Marty and Hertha Beberwyk were inducted into the Hall of Fame for their accomplishments in racing. Both are still involved in the sport, and consider the award to be very special.
“The award means a lot to both of us,” Marty Beberwyk said. “It has been awhile since we have been to the NYSSCA banquet, as we are usually in Florida during the winter months, but it was great to spend time with Ron Narducci, who used to race at Weedsport when I used to be a flagger there, and others who we haven’t seen in a while, as well.”
When Beberwyk was in his midteens, a friend of his, Paul Hacker, ran a gas station down the road from his Beberwyk’s. Hacker also owned a race car, and one day, he asked Beberwyk to go to the races with him. That began a career in racing that has spanned over 50-some years, and still continues to this day, as Beberwyk is the race director/general manager at Fonda Speedway.
“When I went to my first race at Statewide with Paul, I said to myself, ‘I have to have one of those,’ ” Beberwyk said of the cars he was watching. “When I was 16, I built my first race car and went racing, even though you were supposed to be 18 years old to race back then. But they didn’t check your age too much at that time like they do now, so I was able to do it.”
Beberwyk raced at Empire Speedway, a little bullring in Menands, for a year before switching to Lebanon Valley, where he competed with a 1936 Ford coupe with a flathead motor under the hood.
“There was only one class of cars that raced back then, and I was having handling problems with my car, so I let a friend of mine take it out and try it so that I could get some advice on how to make it better,” Beberwyk said. “Unfortunately, he wrecked the car, and the next one that was built was a sedan which I ran on Wednesday nights at Lebanon Valley with George Proctor, old man Flach and others.”
In 1963 and 1964, Beberwyk got a ride at Pine Bowl, an asphalt track just outside of Troy, where he raced on Sunday nights with the likes of Tommy Corellis, Dick Hansen and others. At the same time, Beberwyk was working at Lebanon Valley on Saturday nights, lining up racecars.
“I started lining up racecars at Lebanon and then proceeded to flag on the backstretch and then on the frontstretch after that,” he said. “In all, I have flagged at over 20 different race tracks.”
When Pine Bowl closed in 1968, Beberwyk gave up driving and concentrated on his official duties at different race tracks.
Between working at Albany Mack selling trucks and flagging nearly seven days a week, Beberwyk put over 100,000 miles on his car in 1968, when he would flag at Rolling Wheels on Friday, Lebanon Valley on Saturday and either Devil’s Bowl, Weedsport or Waterloo on Sunday. He also flagged at Super DIRT Week in Syracuse for many years.
“Back then, there were also Miller qualifiers for Syracuse on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so I would flag at those races and then it was back to the regular weekend schedule,” he said. “When I was flagging, I was only in my mid-20s which was tough because it was hard to get the respect of the drivers at such a young age.”
When C.J. Richards opened up Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Beberwyk wanted to become the flagger there, as well, but Richards put a stop to that.
“C.J. said to me, ‘No way. You’ve been around too long for that,’ ” Beberwyk said. “So he made me the pit steward.”
Beberwyk became the pit steward at Lebanon Valley after that, and also served as pit steward at Syracuse for many years. In all, he spent 25 years at Syracuse for Super DIRT Week as either a flagger or pit steward.
“Back then, there were 150 cars at Syracuse in October,” he said. “It was a long week there, with everyone looking for an edge on the other drivers, and by the time the race was over on Sunday, I was physically and mentally worn out.”
Beberwyk learned a lot by working with different promoters through the years, listing Rolling Wheels as one of his favorite places to work.
“The Petroccis were very easy to work for and they had probably the best surface and the best racing when they first opened the place,” he said. “I also learned a lot from Glenn Donnelly, and we still keep in touch to this day.”
Beberwyk’s racing carer took another turn after a call from his current boss, Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia, between Christmas and New Year’s Day in 1996.
“Ric and I had put in a proposal to run Fonda Speedway, and we got it over six other proposals,” Beberwyk said. “It was fun putting the proposal together and working with the Montgomery County Fair Board.”
At that point, Beberwyk quit his position at Lebanon Valley while Hertha, who also worked at Lebanon Valley, stayed on for a few more years.
“Hertha was ready to quit Lebanon, as well, but I stopped her from doing it because she wanted to do it in the middle of the racing season,” Beberwyk said. “In hindsight, I should have just let her quit when she wanted to but, she stayed on for another three or four years before coming to Fonda to work the back gate there.”
When Lucia and Beberwyk walked into the Fonda Fairgrounds for the first time after learning that they had won the proposal to run the speedway and looked at what they had to work with, it was less than desirable, according to Beberwyk.
“It was a disaster,” he said. “But Ric, Laura and our staff have done a lot of work, and it has come a long way since then to what it is today. They hired me to work for them because, in the beginning, they knew nothing about running a race track and I had experience in it, so they trusted me to give them input on a lot of decisions that had to be made. They still consult me on a lot of things, and we are on the phone constantly, but basically, they are doing very well at it now.”
Beberwyk first met Lucia when Lucia raced race at Lebanon Valley. After that, they used to see each other when Lucia would go to Albany Mack to pick up parts for his truck.
“Ric was constantly at the parts counter at Albany Mack to pick up parts for a rickety old Mack truck that he used to own, and we would talk racing while he was there,” Beberwyk said. “He said to me that I would never be able to get him credit approved to buy a new truck, but I did and sold him a new Mack, which he was thrilled with because he was spending more time fixing the old truck than he was doing work with it, and with the new truck, he could actually work five or six days a week.”
Although Beberwyk thought that he would be done at Fonda at the end of the 2010 season, the Fair Board has extended Lucia’s contract for three more years, with the option of two more after that, and Beberwyk plans to stay with the Lucias until the end.
“I still enjoy the kids in the pit area. All my drivers are kids, even Dave Lape, and I enjoy being with them and working with them week after week,” Beberwyk said. “I have been involved in racing since 1956 and on the officiating end of it for 47 years, so three more with Ric will get me to 50 and then I can retire, maybe.”
Hertha Beberwyk has a long list of accomplishments in racing and worked for Howie Commander at Lebanon Valley for 30 years, doing press releases answering phones and whatever else needed to be done.
Prior to accepting her NYSSCA Hall of Fame induction award, Hertha Beberwyk was described by presentor Ron Hedger as a devoted employee who was always behind “her drivers” at Lebanon Valley. In 2002, she was also honored with the inaugural Gater Racing Photo News Outstanding Woman in Racing Award during the 2002 DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.
On Saturday, driver A.J. Filbeck will be on hand at the grand opening of the new Tower Shop & Pharmacy on the corner Route 107 and Route 30 in Perth. There will be many giveaways, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., gas will be discounted by 20 cents per gallon. Filbeck will begin his fourth season of racing in the sportsman division at Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday, May 8.
Tonight at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, a regular show in all divisions, plus a 50-lap enduro, are on the racing card starting at 7.
Also tonight, Glen Ridge Motorsports Park will hold a regular show in all divisions starting at 7:30. I also want to apologize for the mistake in last week’s column stating that the Empire Lightning Sprints were to appear at the track last Friday. The ELS Sprints will be making appearances at Glen Ridge on May 27 and June 24, with two other tentative dates of Aug. 5 and Aug. 19.
On Saturday, Fonda Speedway will hold its 2011 regular-season opener for points in all divisions, along with the CRSA sprints. Starting time is 7 p.m.