The dirt-track Modified, an upright stock car with open wheels and ideally, a thumping big-block V-8, is a compelling, ultra-serious race car and by far, the most class on ovals that include the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, and now with tentacles reaching into the South. For countless fans, it’s the very definition of real motorsport and as such, the class has its own hall of fame, appropriately located in the very heart of today’s dirt Modified universe. The Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame’s home is the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, New York, west of Syracuse, where the Mods do battle at Weedsport Speedway. Its 2022 class of inductees, from various spots in the Modified galaxy, includes two top-level current drivers whose stellar careers have spanned decades.
If a photo ever said it all, this is it. This J. Fish image shows 2022 inductee Billy Decker at his best, cranking a big-block beast all the way sideways for maximum bite. The Franklin Flyer, so named for his hometown in east-central New York, is The Man when it comes to extra-distance races, which are a staple of the Modified world. The second-generation driver, mentored early on by the great Jack Johnson, owns 308 feature victories, of which more than a third came in races of 50 laps or longer, a total that includes four triumphs in the Super DIRT Week classic on the now-razed Syracuse mile. Decker also owns an amazing 18 season point titles at a selection of New York tracks.
The other active driver being inducted is the elder statesman of dirt Modified racing in Pennsylvania, Craig Von Dohren, shown pensively here in this Bob Yurko photo. A native of Oley, Pennsylvania, Von Dohren has won Modified features across five decades, starting in 1980 at Pennsylvania’s Big Diamond Speedway. That’s an incredible run of 43 consecutive winning seasons, a record surpassed only by past HoF inductee Alan Johnson. Von Dohren is most often association with the rock ’em, sock ’em action at his home track, Grandview Speedway, where he leads all drivers in both feature wins and championships – 12 – plus five wins in the track’s most prestigious race, the Freedom 76, and another nine in its other big event, the Forrest Rogers Memorial. For a fuller look at his career, you can check out his profile in Speed Sport, penned by yours truly. The 2022 class also includes pioneering Adirondack stock car star Don June, plus car owner Guy Madsen, who bootstrapped the early careers of both Brett Hearn and Stewart Friesen, capturing a stunning 281 wins with Hearn alone. Perth, New York, mechanic Eric Mack, who went from stooging for the ageless Maynard Forette at Fonda Speedway to co-founding DKM Motorsports, which builds complete race cars, is also going in. So is my good friend Ace Lane Jr., the second-generation photo professional, along with C.J. Richards, the promoter who first recognized the viability of the 358 Modified formula that’s now standard at many Northeast tracks. Melissa Lazzaro, who goes by Mimi, and whose father Lou Lazzaro was a Fonda legend and HoF inductee, is also going in for her work as a journalist, much of it fittingly at Fonda. The induction takes place at the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, July 20th.