By Brian Liskai
FREMONT, Ohio – Fremont Speedway will roar back to life Saturday, June 6, and not only will the racing action be exciting, but the emotional and fun induction ceremonies for the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame will make the day truly special.
Eleven individuals will be inducted into the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame during the 7th annual ceremonies. Gates will open at 2 p.m. with the induction ceremonies taking place at 3 You’re your paid admission to the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame ceremonies also includes the racing on Vision Quest Night. The racing action not only features the Kistler Racing Products Fremont Attica Sprint Title (FAST) Championship Series Presented by KS Sales and Service, but the 2nd Annual Race of Legends which pits former drivers ages 50 and up who have not competed in regular competition for at least two years. Also in competition will be the AAA Ohio Auto Club Dirt Trucks and the McCullough Industries 602 Late Models.
The following inductees were nominated and voted on by the members of the Fremont Speedway Historical Club and membership is open yearly for a minimal donation. The inductees’ plaques will adorn the walls of the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame building which is not only open for race fans during the racing season to browse and look at the thousands of pictures and other memorabilia but is open during the Sandusky County Fair and for many special events throughout the year.
Following is brief information on each of the Class of 2015:
Robert (Bob) Berkley . Bob was a car owner for many years from the 1950s through the 1970s. He gave many drivers the opportunity to race and the familiar “skunk” as well as the 4JR were well known at the track.
Some of Bob’s drivers include hall-of-famer Harold McGilton (his first ride); Ron Van Delear; Bud Merkel; John Fernbaugh; Ken Stuckey; Bob Van Allen; Otie Clymer; Frankie (Kaye) Kwiakowski; Rich Root; Chuck Ritter; Wayne Meyers; Dick Domanski; Dick Nitschke; and Bill Hammond.
Bob also owned a Cadillac motor in Chuck Stroup’s Flying S. He raced at Fremont , Tiffin , Sandusky , Findlay , Lorain County , New Bremen, Attica, Toledo Raceway Park and Columbus Fairgrounds. Hall-of-famer Donnie Linton called Bob “The Carburetor Man” as he worked on many to help racers.
Bob passed away before he could see his grandson, Dan Hammond, race a 305 sprint car.
Bill Cicanese. Bill was not only a skilled sprint car driver – piloting cars for the hall-of-fame Van Ness Family and hall-of-famer Jim Ford, he was a master craftsman, designing and building sprint car chassis. Bill built and raced cars over a span of 56 years – from 1959-2015.
After a near fatal crash at Limaland in the early 1970s, Bill would spend countless hours in his shop, designing cars and other race car parts. Bill came back to racing in 1976 with the famous red, white and blue #200, his own creation.
Bill built and repaired championship sprint car chassis for Jim Linder, Rick Ferkel, Harold McGilton, Alvin Roepke, Robert Smith and Johnny Beaber to name a few. Besides designing innovative sprint car parts – he built one of the first all aluminum sprint car radiators which speed shops sold from coast to coast. Bill was also active in manufacturing parts for the aircraft industry.
Tom Drusbeck. Tom’s racing involvement began at Fremont Speedway in 1952 as a crew member of the Johnny Red Caldwell and Foos Boys racing teams. He was an integral part of the famous Four Mile Racing Team with the #8 ball and #6 ball cars driven by hall of fame drivers Johnny Cook and Gene Notestine along with Merlin Eversole.
After serving his country Tom came back home and became part of the X-15 team with driver Jim Linder. Tom and Jim had a racing relationship for nearly 50 years. In the early 1980s Tom would own the #3 that Jim Linder would drive to three Fremont Speedway sprint car championships.
Jack Gordon. Jack started racing at Fremont in 1963. He would claim the track’s 1976 Six-Cylinder Sportsman Lightning Rod championship.
Always a fan favorite because of his smile and willingness to always greet everyone in the pits, Jack also drove sprint cars and late models – including for hall-of-famer Joe Sabo - and recorded 9 career Fremont feature wins.
Mike Holman. Mike was a long-time flagman at Fremont Speedway and was respected by every driver. He and his wife Chris also were part of the track maintenance crew at one time and spent countless Friday nights behind the wheel of a water truck. Mike also volunteered to help and flag at many area go-kart events. Mike lost his life while flagging at Fremont Speedway
Chris Kiser. Chris joins his dad, Ken, as an inductee into the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame. Kiser Sound has provided the sound system at the track since its inception and Chris can be found in the “little white hut” in the infield manning the sound system every Saturday.
Besides his tireless work around the track and fairgrounds, Chris also was an exceptional race car driver. He claimed the Fremont Speedway Enduro Championship in 1989 and 1992 and drove 305 sprint cars at one time. Chris recorded 16 career wins at Fremont Speedway.
Fritz Meyer. For many race fans Fritz Meyer was “the wrecker guy” at Fremont Speedway. But he was so much more. Fritz helped when the track was built. Meyer’s Garage also sponsored the #100 race car driven by hall-of-famer Johnny Auxter, Dick Willey, Red Root and Floyd Slater.
Fritz’ family was also deeply involved in Fremont Speedway. His uncle Carl was a former track flagman and his son, Freddie drove a hobby stock at the track while his daughter Sharon ran the ambulance the track.
John Naida. John started his career in 1968 at a midget race at the Hart Fairgrounds. He moved into sprint cars in 1970 and was voted the “Rookie of the Year” at Fremont Speedway. The next year he received the track’s most improved award. He went on to drive a sprint car he built, to the track championship at Fremont in 1978.
John joined his dad, Bill, as a member of the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. He began the sanctioning organization Sprints On Dirt (SOD) in 1980 and not only ran the series but won the SOD championship in 1980 and 1981. He still owns SOD and his daughter, Adrianna Irwin is the series director while his son, Dain, continues to drive sprint cars. He was also the 1991 Butler Motor Speedway track champion.
John began Naida Racing Organization (NRO) in 1978 and built cars and racing water pumps and power steering units which he designed, through 2000. John’s cars won championships in Ohio , Michigan , Illinois , Missouri and Colorado .
Lee Potter. Lee started racing in 1966 in the Fremont Speedway Hobby Stock Division. He would move to the super modifieds/sprint division and eventually the 305 sprint division where he earned the track championship in 1990.
During his driving career Lee racked up 5 career wins at Fremont Speedway. His son Jared would also drive a sprint car and his son Mikey was a fixture in the front stretch bleachers every week.
Fran Steinmetz. The Hobby Stock Division was created at Fremont Speedway in 1963 and Fran became the division’s first champion. He recorded 3 feature wins in his career at Fremont . Besides owning his own car, Fran drove for Charlie Huber and Bobby Albright and a Kear’s Speed Shop backed machine.
After his driving days were over, Fran owned cars driven by his son Mark in the Enduro Division and Street Stock Division. Jeff Miller also drove a street stock owned by Fran.
Howard “Moe” Thompson. Moe has been around Fremont Speedway for over 40 years. Moe has been one of the track’s “handymen,” doing all sorts of jobs around the facility including clean-up, maintenance and most recently as the pit gate steward and still helps with the clean-up following each night’s races.
For more information on Fremont Speedway go to www.fremontohspeedway.com and to check out information about the Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame go to www.fremontspeedwayhof.com