WEEDSPORT, N.Y. – Steve Paine has been selected as a 2017 inductee into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame.
Like a lot of today’s stars, Paine was introduced to the sport as a child. His parents, Don and Nancy, owned a race car in the 1960s so Steve got his first look at the sport at age six at his hometown Waterloo Speedway and Weedsport Speedway. The Paines eventually sold out and thought they were done with racing for good. A decade later, they found themselves with a young son who had been bitten by the racing bug.
“It took quite a bit of talk to get them back into the sport,” said Paine. “Dennis Taney, a family friend for years, was instrumental in helping to convince them to put me in a car.”
Paine’s persuasion worked. By the time the 1979 season rolled around, the family garage was once again home to a dirt track racing machine.
“We bought an old Camaro from Jeff Kappesser,” Paine said. “We ran that car for a year at Canandaigua. Back then, the Street Stocks were broken down into Rookie, Novice and Expert divisions. I raced in the Rookie class one week and won the feature, moved up to the Novice class the next week and won, then went right into the Expert class against some veteran drivers. By the end of the season, we had won 13 races in the Street Stocks and were ready to move up to the Late Models.”
From 1980-82, Paine raced the late model class at Canandaigua and Weedsport. Meanwhile, he got his feet wet in Modified racing, making some starts aboard Gary Farnsworth’s No. 22x — starts that were pretty much forgettable.
But by 1983, Paine was ready to make the move into modifieds. The team purchased a used Troyer car formerly driven by Johnny Podolak. That proved to be a learning year for Paine, with a couple of runner-up finishes to fellow Hall of Fame driver Merv Treichler at Canandaigua the high points.
Making the switch to a Birosh chassis in 1984, Paine quickly landed in the winner’s circle. A year later, Paine served notice that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with — not only in weekly competition but on the Super DIRT Series as well. Paine defeated all of the touring series stars to win the 1985 Fingerlakes 100 at Canandaigua, his first of 27 Super DIRT Series victories.
In 1987, Paine was in a Kneisel car.
“Bob McCreadie had one of the few Kneisel cars in this area and he was going really well with it,” said Paine. “We got a big-block motor from Jeff Brownell and got going good. We had some great seasons with those Kneisel cars.”
Paine drove to the track championship at Canandaigua in 1990 and a pair of modified titles at Cayuga County in 1991 and 1993. He also picked up one of his signature wins, the 1991 Summer Nationals at Ransomville Speedway.
“We might have won the Mr. DIRT title that year,” said Paine. “Back then, the asphalt races were part of the Super DIRT Series, and we didn’t have the equipment to compete on asphalt. We didn’t have a big small-block like a lot of the other teams did and we ran the same car we raced on the dirt. We wound up third to Doug Hoffman in the points that year.”
Still, Paine was named the 1991 DIRT Driver of the Year.
Paine also found a great deal of success racing north of the border. For three years, Paine made the weekly trip to Canada to race the Serge Desjardins No. 1x, bringing home the Autodrome Drummond track championship all three years, from 1995-97, and picking up a pair of titles at Autodrome Granby. Paine also became a two-time champion of the Canadian-American Challenge Series.