The man credited for building the first Microd was Bob Robinson from Lake Street in Skaneateles, NY. Initially he build the car for a fresh-air kid that would be visiting from NY city that summer in 1954. When a neighbor kid asked Bob to help him build a car, the word spread quickly in the neighborhood. Bob ended up building six cars that summer.
By the spring of 1955, Robinson had 26 cars in his backyard. He realize that there was a need for standard plans that any 9 - 13 year old could build in the garage using everyday tools. Robinson named the cars "Microd" (micro hot rod) and the kids would drive them in parking lots or open areas in town. When the sport of racing Microds exceeded 25 in the Village of Skaneateles; officals approached Robinson about building a safe place for the kids to drive their cars.
In 1955, Robinson designed the first 1/10 mile oval dirt track for the kids to race on at Austin Park in Skaneasteles. There were races twice a week; 7 pm on wednesdays and 2 pm on saturdays during the summer months. There was no charge for spectators and the sport would attract 1,600 enthusiasts. The drivers wore hard hats for protection and eventually gave way to classes. MR-1 was for kids up to age 13 and MR-2 was for kids 14 - 17 years old.
In the Fall of 1955, Look Magazine would do a photo feature of these events and utimately put Skaneateles on the map. As the summer went on Tom Brogan, assistant director from the NYS fair met with Bob. Tom wanted the kids to race at the fair on Labor Day. The first race would take place on the main straightaway of the stock car track with 20 microd cars competing.
As the 1956 season was soon approaching, 3 new microd clubs were formed; one in Auburn, one in Camillus and the 3rd in Syracuse would race on the NYS fair grounds. Robinson brought these four clubs together to form NYSMA (New York State Microd Association) and the sole purpose would be for the clubs to corrdinate efforts and choose drivers for the "New York State Championship Race" that would take place during the fair. After Bob withdrew himself from the center of Microd racing, NYSMA became the sanctioning body that would oversee the sport. Bob Robinson created the sport of microd racing and left them with the tools they would use for 60 years and counting.
The Syracuse track was built in 1955 as one of the first Microd track in New York State. At the time the land was owned by Solvey Process and started as a dirt track, it was not until the third season that it was turned into asphalt for the 1959 season. In the early 1960's the land that the track was build on was purchased as part of the New York State Fair. The sale was made with a provision that the track would remain there or be provided another track on the state fair land.
Quarter Midgets had been popular in the west coast since the 1930's and were gaining in popularity across the country. Therefore, a small group of race families rallied to run quarter midgets at the then "Syracuse-Geddes" Microds track. In 1976, it was Tom Hevron & Dwayne "The Captain" Jones that headed the move from microds to quarter midgets. Twenty years after the microd club built the track; it would then start sharing it with the Quarter Midgets. The track's new name would be the Syracuse-Geddes Microd & Quarter Midget Club. This syracuse track would eventually become the biggest quarter midget track in the country and be know as the "Beast of the East". For the next 37 years, QMA would be the sanctioning body for the quarter midget club and it would adhere to the rules of QMA. While quarter midgets were still getting their feet off the ground there were a few men that were instrumental in the club's success today. Tom Hevron was the first to take the leap of faith from microds to quarter midgets. Dwayne Jones helped Tom to recruited drivers.
From 1976 to the early 1980's both clubs would share the track but reamin separate clubs. As both clubs gained notoriety, eventually they would have to race on different nights. But at the time, the track would host such events, as the state championships during the fair. The quarter midget club would have upward of 85 cars a night.
It was in the early 1980's, that both clubs joined forces and became the joint club that it is today. Greg Miller was the backbone of the microd club in the 1960's He was a proneer in leading the club and built it to the club it is today. For 20 years, he announced for both clubs twice a week, every week. Before Greg passed, he was asked to annouce for one of the indoor winter races in Niagara Falls. That year he felt so honored to be asked to host such a prestige event. The club held a Greg Miller race for many years; he was loved and respected by so many. People will always remember him to always have a smile on his face.
The club grew and as it did, they made many improvements to the track and the club. Barriers (soft walls) were installed for safety. Concession stand/Tower were built to repalce the old; as the concession would generate alot of revenue for the clubs. It was in 1983, that the old tower/concession building would be torn down and the new one was built. The building was dedicated to Irish Jack and Delores Murphy. Their dedication to the clubs make it possible. From that point on the it was know as teh "Murphy Tower". In 2007, the tower/concession stand was to be upgraded and replaced with the building that is there today.
It was Joe Marotta that built the quarter midget club to what it is today. In the early 1980's, Joe and fellow racer, Jim House bought used quarter midgets from tracks across the country that had closed or went bankrupt. They would have them shipped to Syracuse, and then re-sell them without a profit to make it affordable for a family to race. As the kids would move up, they would take the cars back in trade for the next car. Joe's dedication to the club and his passion for racing put many kids behind the wheel that may never have had that chance otherwise. Joe recalls buying his first quarter midget from Jim House and his son JoJo would race quarter midgets for the next 12 years. When they left in 1992, they moved into Mini Sprints and then Small Block Modifieds. Joe never left trackside, he announced at many of the local tracks for years and even now can still be heard on his radio show "Around the Tracks".
There were no parts trucks in the early years at the track. Jim House may have carried a few extra parts but in those days many parts had to fabricated by hand out of what was available.
Jim Rice and his dad Carl were around all the time and Jim recalls buying his first quarter midget from Joe for $650 race ready and sold that same car years later for the same amount. Jim Rice did some announcing at the track from early to late 1980's. He and his father, Carl were no strangers to racing as they had been involved in racing as car owners all their adult lives and this wasnt any different. Carl and Jim owned many cars over the years and gave a lucky kid the chance to live his dream. Carl served as President and treasurer of the club for some years in the 1990's. He had the track repaved, volunteered for countless hours of track maintainance, club promotional events and supplied parts our of his truck at both tracks for many years.
In was in 2014 that Tim Murphy and his son Tim Jr. took over the parts truck and as they promised they are still at both quarter midget track each week. Carl was inducted into the Syracuse Microd and Quarter Midget Club Hall of Fame in 2008 for his continued support and dedication to the club. SYRQMC still hosts a Carl Rice appreciation day/race every year. Many of the newer memebers at SYRQMC only know Carl from owning the parts truck that was at the track weekly or the guy we have a race day for every year but he has been much more than that.
QMA's big yearly event is "The Grands" or Grand Nationals. Carl Rice was dilegent about getting the Grands to come to Syracuse in 1990 and 1997, not once but twice. Drivers came with their families from all over the country, amoung them a 6 year old boy with enough heart and determination to race his way from an E main to the A main and WIN!! Jim Rice said he had the pleasure of intervieing this 6 year old after his race. Jim remembered how impressed he was of this boy who was able to transfer all the way from the lower mains and get a win and during the interview the boy never mentioned anything about winning the A main. The best of the best came to the grands so that was no easy feat. That 6 year old was none other tham NASCAR's Joey Lagano. Joey is not the only one to climb the ranks from quarter midgets; A.J. Foyt, Jeff Gordan, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, Bobby and Terry Labonte. Indy driver Davie Jones and indy/NASCAR's Doug Heveron raced every week at the Syracuse track. Brain House a very successful local driver, brought home 7 track championships between 1980-1990.
Times have not always been smooth sailing for the joint clubs but they stand together and some how get the job done. There was a year in the 1980's that the clubs came together once again and raced on the same nights; due to the expenses of the track insurance being $600 a night. in 1987, Joe Marotta, Jim House, Ed Zaminac, Jack and Delores Murphy and Skip Colagiovanni stepped up for the club as the NYS fair tried to kick the club out and eliminate the track. Joe brought it to the attention of the state's governor, Mario Cuomo and state senators the orginial "legal" document stipulating when the state purchased the property that track would remain where it is or be accommodated on another part of the property. There was talk after that of moving the track to the other side of State Fair boulevard by 2005, but it never materialized. If it were not for the time and dedication of these members even after their drivers have moved on, no doubt the club would not be what it is today.
In 2011, after 37 years under QMA, the club voted to race under the sanctioning of USAC (United States Auto Club). Our drivers are able to run regional and national racing series at tracks all across the country. We are able to host a USAC regional event at our own SYRQMC every season, where drivers from other tracks get to come race at our track with our drivers. History was made in 2016 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway "The Brickyard' when 279 of the nation's best USAC drivers were attending the national race and were able to gather for a lap around the track all together. Breaking the record for the most race cars on the track at once. A lifetime of memories were made that day, as the kids followed the tradition and all drivers had the opportunity to meet some of the fastest open wheel drivers in the world. Not all drivers can compete nationally so USAC has a regional series that families can compete closer to home for a regional championship.
Quarter Midget racing is a family sport with all hands on deck and requires the whole family to do their part. This is not a "drop your kids off" sport and it is not only driver handler teamwork, it is the support of family and friends working together as a whole team. Everyone volunteers their time to help the track run smoothly. There needs to be scores in the tower, someone scaling the cars, pit steward checking safety, race director, flagger, tech director and people to run concession in order to have an succeesful race event. Quarter Midgets of America (QMA) and United States Auto Club (USAC) are the two sanctioning bodies for quarter midgets in the country. Many people have different opinions on one from the other but both orgainzations have the driver's best interest in mind. The cars, rules and safety are all structured specifically for the kids. Different classes separate the novice drivers from the faster more experienced. All quarter midgets and drivers must have a full roll cage, 5 point harness safety belts, neck and arm restraints, fire resistant suit and gloves and a full faced helmet. Many of the drivers are equipped with a Hans Device as well. All cars must pass a regular safety inspections before allowed on the track. Car's speed varies from class to class; but generally novice run up to 30 mph and senior, world formula and mod class run up to 60 mph. Each class is required to run with the same engine. With the novice classes they run a restrictor plate that slows the engine down considerably.
I would like to say thank you to a few people that shared with me their treasured memories and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did; Joe Marotta, Tim Murphy, Carl Rice, Jim Rice and Brian House. The please was all mine!! Thank you for helping to piece this history together as I feel it is important for the future racing families to know how much this track means to so many people. It is all about "TEAM WORK". A special thanks to Jeannie Fergason for 20 years of tireless efforts to promote the clubs and endless fundraising that not only keeps the clubs above water but provided for the drivers specials events and a little extra something for the kids at the end of the season. Because of her dedication, the club has made many major upgrades over the years; up to date safe barrier walls, and awning over the hot shute area where the kids sit in thier cars waiting to go out on the track. In 2017 the concession stand was need of some major renovations and she was able to help make it possible. All this and Jeanne still manages to keep what comes in and what goes out balanced to the penny. Jeanne's son has moved on in racing and she still sacrifies her time with him to continue her efforts for the club. Much thanks goes out to the Murphy family for all they do for the club as well. When Tim Sr. took over the parts business from Carl Rice, he said he would be at both tracks every week and he has done that and much more. Tim was not new to the track as in the early 1990's his son Tim jr. raced in quarter midgets in Syracuse and Oswego. They have sponsored cars for kids to drive, donated tires at every banquet and held his own Duel Club Championship with combined points from both tracks every week. If that isnt enough, his wife, Sherry does crafts with the kids inbetween Heats and Features. Now some, heartfelt words of thanks for Tommy Wilcox, president of the joint club for years. He and his wife taking turns over many years doing a job nobody else wants to do and does it with a smile. Tommy has volunteered all his spare time to keeping the clubs running and a good rapport with the fair directors to ensure we will always have a place to race. He is always there to oversee all projects and events to see that all goes smoothly. Tommy's kids have not raced for years but he still dedicates countless hours to improving the club every year. Both clubs are truely fortunate to have families who are so willing to give so much to an organization that their kids are no longer involved in. Cannot express enough thanks to these people for everything they do.
Every week in quarter midget racing; sportsmanship, teamwork, memories and lifetime friendships are made! It is much more than just winning!!
Admission is always free and a full schedules is always post on our website and facebook. You may just find the next big name in racing from our SYRQMC. After 60 plus years we are still RACING!!!
~Janice Davis (2017)