Sycamore Not Your Usual Track
Sycamore Speedway has been operating quietly on the Chicago-area racing scene for more than 40 years, with 2009 marking its 46th year of operation.
Located some 60 miles west of downtown Chicago, the dirt track is run by the Fabrizius family with Friday and Saturday nights being the usual schedule for summer stock-car action. The original name of the track was Bob-Jo Speedway when the gates opened for its first stock-car program May 30, 1963, with the facility originally being a go-kart raceway, dating back to around 1960.
The Bob-Jo name was taken from owners Bob Oksas and his brother-in-law, Joe Fabrizius. The name was changed in 1970 to Sycamore Speedway due to its proximity to the town of Sycamore. The speedway actually is located in Maple Park and has two dirt layouts — a three-eighths-mile track and a shorter quarter-mile oval with both tracks sharing common turns one and two.
Over the years, Fabrizius became the head of the operation, being recognized as the track promoter with Oksas and Joe’s brother, Nick, also being involved in the ownership. A farmer by trade, Joe Fabrizius had racing in his blood and raced motorcycles in his younger days. Sadly, Fabrizius died April 25, 2001, after being struck by an errant tire off of a stock car during a practice session four days earlier. Fabrizius was 69 years old.
Racing at Sycamore seems to be suspended in time. The super-late-model division, the track’s headlining class, features cars with Camaro front stubs for the most part with today’s popular dirt-track winning chassis nowhere to be found. Aluminum dry-sump engines and wheels with wide racing tires are not seen at Sycamore. The rules are restricted with the cars pretty much being built for Sycamore Speedway only. Only one or two enclosed trailers dot the pit-area landscape.
The super-late-model racing is pretty competitive. Greg Cantrell, Jr. and Bill Perkins raced side by side for a bunch of laps during a recent 25 lapper on the “small track” with Cantrell finally prevailing. T.J. Markham of nearby Kirkland was the track’s super-late-model champion this season, repeating his 2006 championship effort when he was a division rookie. Markham defeated veteran Nick Kuipers by only two points.
It’s difficult to believe that all drivers in any division, at any track, don’t wear a fire-retardant driving suit while in competition. The speedway’s late-model (sportsman) division features 1980-vintage Camaros and mid-1980s Monte Carlos. Division racer Joe Rasmussen and his ’69 Chevelle bring back memories of early track champions like Arnie Gardner, Mel Dorland and Bob Kelly as he wears nothing more than a helmet and a short-sleeve shirt. Memories, yes, but safety, is another story.
On a recent Saturday evening, the stands were pretty full with the fans in attendance cheering and jeering for their favorites. A 23-car, six-lap spectator heat was won by Larry Goto. In victory lane after the race, Goto jumped out of his car onto the roof in a full gorilla suit. That’s something you don’t see a lot of at your local speedway! The number of cars in the spectator and compact-car divisions seemed endless. A 1973-vintage Ford Mustang pace car is used to help line up the races.
Sycamore Speedway definitely provides a low-cost, entertaining evening. Admission and concession prices are definitely in line, having not been influenced by the mighty Chicago market. On Oct. 10, the speedway will be the scene of the inaugural Illinois Vintage Stock Car Dirt Track Nationals. Art “Fireball” Fehrman’s Illinois Vintage Racing group will host the event. A $1,000-to-win, 50-lap, 30-car feature will highlight the event.