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Auto Racing History

Stock Car Race Announcers and Photographers

 

Allegany County NY & Area


PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ANNOUNCERS

 

By William A. Greene - 2010

 

Back in 1950 stockcar racing was being introduced to Allegany County.  The first track to open was the Wellsville Raceway.  It opened on the old Wellsville Fair Grounds on East Dyke St.  Cars and drivers from all over the western part of New York came here to try their skills on the ½ mile dirt track. Along came the fans to see the thrills and chills of this new sport to the area.

A few pictures of the great cars and drivers have been saved over the years and have been passed on for all of us to see.  They sure look different than what is being run today. But, thank goodness some one took and saved those pictures.  They are all that we have left to see of an era gone by.  Who took those pictures is unknown.

There also had to be some who announced the program during the race.  I have been told that a man by the name of Al Basson did the announcing for that track during its opening years.  That is all that I have. He was the person that introduced the cars and drivers.  He was the person that gave the lap by lap update to the fans.  He made the race a lot more exciting.

When Cuba Raceway opened it gates in 1954 we had Tren Young from Belfast taking the action shots from the track over looking Cuba Lake. Many of Tren’s pictures have dick_neva_wittiebeen long lost to time.  There are a few circulating around to remind us of the great excitement that thrilled the local race fans.  I talked to Tren and he stated he had boxes of slides of Cuba and no one ever asked about them, so after many years they were thrown away.  Who was to know that years later people would be asking for them.

As other tracks opened throughout the western part of New York, Dick Wittie of Andover became the official photographer of many tracks:  Angelica, Holland and Perry to name a few where Dick could be seen recording racing history.  By his side was Neva, his wife.  Dick would take the pictures and Neva would sell their product.  There are about 1,000 racing pictures that I know of out there, that are the work of Dick Wittie.

Also from Andover was Ralph “Red” Allen.  Ralph became the photographer of the Woodhull Raceway in our neighboring Steuben County. He also helped “Dick” Wittie at Angelica and Perry Raceways.  Not only did “Red” take the pictures, but every week in the Andover News there was a racing article about the local stockcar tracks.  It was called “Red’s” Racetrack Rambles.  It would tell the stories of what had happened the week before and who had won.  Along with “Red” at the track was Jeanie his wife.  She also sold the labors of “Red’s” work.

As time went on more tracks were built in this area.  Some were:  Bath Speedway, Cuba Lake Raceway, Angelica Raceway, Hornell Raceway, Naples Speedway, Olean Speedway, Perry Raceway, Hunt Raceway, Drum Raceway and Circle K.

When Cuba Raceway opened in 1954 a guy by the name of Larry Dye from Cuba thought he would give driving a chance and raced the first season there.  He never told larrydye_2005_clr_lunch_rgtme if he won anything during his first year.  Then in 1955 at Wellsville Raceway he drove a car for another guy and took the ride of his life which put him in the hospital for the evening.  He looked like he had  been in  a good fight and lost.  He decided that race car driving wasn’t the thing for him and he became the announcer for Cuba Raceway.  Larry had met his calling and became the announcer for Angelica, Holland, Hornell, Perry and Hunt raceways as well.  He announced at these tracks every week for years.  Later he started writing articles of happenings at the tracks and had them put into a locally owned racing newspaper and sold them at the local tracks for 25 cents.

  His golden voice greeted race fans for years to come. I know many people that don’t have a clue to what Larry looks like, but as soon as he talks, they know him instantly.

After years of leaving home on Friday nights and not returning until late Sunday night, at the end of 1979 Larry hung up the microphone, but he didn’t give up racing as it runs heavy in his blood. From 1980 to 2000 Larry worked for CBS, NBC and TNN as a camera spotter at the NASCAR events.  Then from 2001 on he worked for NBC, FOX and ESPN also working as a camera spotter.

At the end of the 2010 racing season, Larry is calling his 56 year affair with racing quits.  Besides doing this he has owned and operated Dye Insurance in Cuba, N.Y.  Though many will miss him and his wonderful personality, Larry will tell you “that it’s time.”

So from all of us “race fans” to you that have taken the pictures and talked us through the racing events and made them more enjoyable, we “THANK YOU” for a job well done.

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