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Area loses legend; another star rises

We lost another local racing legend with the passing last weekend of Bill Forney at the age of 92.

Today’s racers may or may not know about the former racing champion who was from Boardman. However, many wish they could have had such an illustrious racing career.

Forney raced in the 1950s and ’60s before he hung up his helmet in 1971. As with many racers of that time records were not kept, but this I do know. He won 14 different race titles and was Canfield Speedway’s only seven-time champion winning the crown in 1959-61, 1963, 1965-66, and 1968.

In 1964 he was the top qualifier there each and every week, but lost the title to Jim Bickerstaff by just 30 points. Back then it was highly promoted as the famous Forney-Bickerstaff rivalry every week, this when the grandstands were packed with upward of 10,000 fans.

He also won track championships at Sharon Speedway in 1964 and two at Cloverleaf Speedway near Cleveland. In 1959 he won 35 races in a row and the track championship at Painsville Speedway in a 1956 Chevy. In 1968 he was the Hickory Speedway Champion. In 1963 he won three 100-lap races at three different race tracks in three weeks.

Forney has been inducted into the Twin State Auto racing club hall of fame along with the Cloverleaf and Painesville halls of fame. The red 1957 Chevy number 199 was well recognized by fans and racers alike whenever he pulled onto a tri-state area track.

Perhaps his most recognized car was the “Peppermint Stick” 1967 Chevy Chevelle. The red and white striped race car had probably the most recognized saying on it, “You can’t lick the peppermint stick.”

Forney retired from his day job as a foreman for BFI in Youngstown. Rest in peace Mr. Forney, you had no idea of the memories you left with so many people.

A rising local star in racing is Farmdale’s Darren Fraley, a Badger High School graduate. No, not a noted driver.

After working in the NASCAR Truck Series in various positions since 2015, he was called recently by GMS Racing to be crew chief for three races on the truck driven by Sheldon Creed who currently sits eighth in series points.

NASCAR penalized the GMS team for loss or separation of added ballast from the vehicle the previous week at Eldora, and suspended crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz along with the truck chief and team engineer.

Fraley responded by guiding the truck to a second-place finish on the superspeedway at Michigan International Speedway. Next up was Bristol Motor Speedway Thursday night on the high banked half-mile in Tennessee. Then he goes on to Bowmanville Canada for a road course.

This is baptism under fire. There is no bigger difference on NASCAR race tracks than a superspeedway, a high banked half-mile and a road course. A major challenge would be a understatement.

Fraley is the son of Sharon Speedway 2007 E-Mod Champion Howard Fraley and has been working on race cars and mounting bodies since he was 11 years old. He has been wrenching on race cars on just about any track with in a four-hour drive.

He graduated from Penn State with a mechanical engineering degree and has since worked with several race teams as a consultant, engineer and fabricator, among other things. His resume includes experience in NASCAR Xfinity, Modifieds and the Truck Series.

His name has become known in the NASCAR ranks and that led to the surprise phone call to become a crew chief. Not surprisingly, he was only a lap from a victory the first time out.

Tonight he will be back at Sharon Speedway wrenching on his dad’s car, as Howard just returned to racing after a three-year absence.

What’s next for Darren Fraley? I don’t know but I do know whereever he’s at he will be making someone’s race car go faster.

Darren Fraley lives by his favorite saying, “Good things don’t come to those who wait, it comes to those who work their tail off.”

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