Area race community gathers again for Lou
HARTFORD — Dale Blaney looked around Sharon Speedway Saturday, the day of the Lou Blaney Memorial. He talked to some people in the pit area and prepared for another race around the 3/8-mile dirt oval track as the fans watched from the stands on the west end of the property.
He can’t help remembering his father Lou, a local legend who won more than 600 races in modifieds and sprints. Lou passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in January of 2009. Both the modifieds and sprint cars raced Saturday, featuring Tony Stewart’s Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars and The Mod Tour for the Hovis Auto & Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds.
Thoughts about Lou Blaney didn’t just belong to Dale Blaney on Saturday. The grassy lots on both sides of Custer Orangeville Road filled up quickly, as fans flowed into the track to watch the 10th annual Lou Blaney Memorial.
Dale and his brother, Dave, couldn’t recall many times when Lou would provide advice as the two were growing up. He was in the garage from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., ate dinner, and would be back in the garage until 11 p.m., maybe later.
“His work ethic was what we learned,” said Dale, one of the nation’s better sprint car drivers.
Dave, who raced on the NASCAR Cup circuit, has heard stories about his father, and knows most of them.
“I’ve heard them all,” he said. “I don’t think any of them surprise me. I guess if they would, they wouldn’t tell me.”
Kate Blaney, Lou’s wife, said the 2017 event raised $10,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, one of the main reasons this event is held. She’s hoping for similar, if not better, results this year.
Auctions and shirt sales promoting the event are visible as soon as you leave the back of the grandstand area, going toward the charitable goal.
Kate was making her way around some picnic tables covered in an area on the west property. Everyone was there enjoying a meal a couple of hours prior to the races.
Friendly sorts not only from Trumbull County, but also western Pennsylvania and other parts congregate around the Sharon Speedway grounds. It’s almost like a family reunion.
“A lot of people see each other once a year and it’s here, other drivers who raced with Lou or were at the race track,” Kate said. “They enjoy seeing everybody. They enjoy the racing because it was sprint cars and modifieds. They know it’s a good cause.”
Dave Murdick of Butler, Pa., started racing in 1979, and had raced modifieds against Lou, who was hard to beat.
Murdick won at this event a couple of years ago, one of the special victories of his career, knowing it was on a track where the legend Lou Blaney dominated.
“He was the king around here,” Murdick said. “There’s nobody better. We always called him god. There was nobody better.”
Jim Rasey from Southington is well aware of Lou’s success, he saw it firsthand racing modifieds.
No lead was ever safe as Lou was always digging on the final lap, coming into turn four.
“That was one thing you could count on Lou, he was always hunting, trying to get faster,” Rasey said. “He always found the fast line around.”
According to those who knew him, Lou would never revel in the fact it was a night dedicated to him, although he’d appreciate the sentiment.
“He really never wanted people to look at him like at god,” Rasey said.
Will Thomas of Sharpsville, Pa., knew Lou for about three decades. His father Bill, who passed away four years ago, spent plenty of time at Colonial Metal Products in Hermitage, Pa.
Modest. Humble. Great work ethic. Will remembers those traits in Lou.
He sees those qualities in Dale and Dave, who he has known for years.
“That part, it’s kind of neat to see that,” Will said.
It would be better if Lou was present for this annual event.
There are new sprint drivers, many of whom have only heard of Lou’s legacy, but some modified drivers still remember.
“Everybody says I’d rather have a Lou Blaney Classic with him still here watching instead of the memorial,” Dale said.
Like the previous 10 years, there hasn’t been rain. This is the first race for modifieds at Sharon Speedway as many races have succumbed to Mother Nature.
“No rainouts yet, which is amazing,” Dave said.
Maybe Lou had a hand in that winning result, one of many in his racing career.