NEAR Names Next Hall Of Fame Class
Drivers Stan Meserve, Brian Ross, Drew Fornoro, Ralph Nason, the late Bob Stefanik, Bill Eldridge and Bob Sharp along with car owner Ron Berndt will be inducted at the 16th annual NEAR Hall of Fame Banquet Nov. 10 at the Lodge at Manelley’s in South Windsor, Conn.
Seven drivers and one car owner representing hundreds of victories and dozens of championships comprise the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013. It is the 16th class and brings the membership to well over 115.
Tickets are priced at $45.00 each. Doors open at 11:00 a.m. with dinner served at Noon.
Merserve, a Maine product, has been a driver, car owner/mechanic and race official for four decades plus including a season (1968) as an independent on the NASCAR Grand National circuit. As a driver, he won throughout Maine, including a pair of Oxford Opens and captured championships at Unity, Speedway 95, Wiscasset and Oxford Plains.
Berndt, a Meriden, Conn., native, has won in six different decades, most recently in 2012. Grandson Eric Berndt is on the end of a long list of drivers that include Sparky Belmont, Tony Mordino, Jap Membrino, Jimmy Cash, Danny Galullo, Ted Christopher and Timmy, Tommy Berndt and present day his grandson Eric Berndt. His win total is estimated to be well into triple figures and his championships were won at Plainville Stadium, Waterford Speebowl and Thompson Speedway.
Originally from Chelmsford, Mass., Eldridge was the Northeastern Midget Association’s first champion (1953) and, some 40 years after retiring, is sixth on the club’s all-time win list with 32. Driving for the likes of Gibby Parmenter, Mike Scrivani, Bob Bahre and Rollie Lindblad, Eldridge, who began in the post World War II days, captured four NEMA championships.
A Bay State native, Stefanik competed throughout New England, but found his greatest success at the former Riverside Park in Massachsettes. Over a 20 year run, he was successful in Novice and Sportsman (titles in ’66, ’67 and ’68) cars before bursting unto the Modified scene with car owner Joe Czarnecki in 1968, winning three championships (1970-71, ’73). His 21 Riverside Modified wins include the 1972 Riverside 500 with Billy Greco. Stefanik passed away in 1984.
Fornoro, who joins his father Nick in the Hall, holds Northeastern Midget Association records with 85 victories and nine championships, most of the former and all of the latter with owner Gene Angelillo. Born in Danbury, Fornoro won at least one NEMA feature in 21 different seasons, grabbing checkers at over 20 different tracks.
Readily identified with Datsun, Connecticut’s Sharp is one of New England’s most accomplished road racers. His list of SCCA and IMSA championships stretches well into double figures, winning three different titles alone in 1975. He achieved even more success as an owner, putting wheels under the likes of actor Paul Newman, Jim Fitzgerald and son Scott, all of whom added championships to the Sharp name.
A NASCAR Modified mainstay in three decades, the 1984 Stafford championship and the 1986 Spring Sizzler, both coming in his own cars, are included in Brian Ross’ impressive resume. The Ballston Spa, N.Y., product started in 1961 at Saranac Lake, N.Y., and before it was over in 2000 scored from Maine to Florida in both Modifieds and Late Models driving for others (Bob Garbarino, Ed Cloce) and himself. He was the 1984 Race of Champions winner at Pocono and a multi-time champion at Oswego.
Maine’s Ralph Nason has truly done it all over six decades – race driver, owner/builder, track owner/promoter. Starting in the early 1960s, “Racin’ Ralph” has won just about everywhere in Maine including Getty Open and Oxford 250 wins (three of them) at Oxford Plains. A two-time NEPSA champ, he has promoted just about everywhere as well. He continues to own Unity Raceway.
Also on the slate, Peter Vander Veer, a standout auto racing writer for over 30 years, will receive the 2013 Jack Ratta/Charlie Mitchell Award. The award memorializes two outstanding motor sports journalists – Ratta who wrote for the Manchester Union Leader and Mitchell, a sportswriter/editor for many years at the Norwalk (Conn.) Hour.