SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – On Sunday the New England Antique Racers (NEAR) presented the 16th annual New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Conducted at Manelley’s Banquet Hall in South Windsor, Conn., the Hall of Fame celebrates literally hundreds of feature victories, championships, and untold contributions to the sport of auto racing within the New England region. Instituted in 1998, the HOF now boasts membership of more than 100 deserving individuals.
Opening comments by NEAR President Al Feeney along with a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner & God Bless America performed by past NEAR President Bob Seller and his wife began the day. Award-winning sportswriter Matt Buckler served as Master of Ceremonies.
Inducted this year were drivers Ralph Nason, Stan Meserve, Drew Fornoro, Bill Eldridge, Bob Sharp, Brian Ross, the late Bob Stefanik, and longtime car owner Ron Berndt.
Presented honors by Steve Pellerin of the Maine Vintage Race Car Ass’n, three-straight Oxford 250 victories (1998-2000) top the racing resume of Newburgh, Maine driver Ralph Nason. His six decade career includes successes on the ACT, NASCAR North/Busch North, IPSC, PASS and NEPSA circuits. Starting in the early 1960s in Central Maine, he grabbed national attention when he won 23 races in a “Petty Kit Car’’ in 1973.
He was a steady winner at Speedway 95, Unity, Wiscasset, and Oxford, including Getty Opens. The key force in the formation of NEPSA, he was the champion in 1996 and ’97. Also a track owner/promoter, Nason has run several raceways including Unity, Spud Speedway (Caribou) and Montamagny Speedway.
A native of Sidney, Maine, Stan Meserve excelled on a number of levels not the least of which is driver/owner. His 1968 effort as an independent on NASCAR’s Grand National circuit is now legendary. Starting at Unity Raceway in 1965, he has a host of victories including a pair of Getty Opens and championships at four different Pine Tree State Ovals – Unity, Speedway 95, Wiscasset and Oxford. He has been an official for NASCAR North and ACT, a successful chassis builder, a team manager/crew chief (Ricky Craven, Andy Santerre, Dale Earnhardt, Inc), even a magazine publisher in his long service to the sport. Fittingly, it was fellow Maine racing personality Bruce Elder handling Meserve’s induction.
Making the journey from his North Carolina home, it was celebrated racing journalist Chris Romano welcoming his friend Drew Forono into the Hall of Fame. A Danbury, Connecticut product, Fornoro holds a host of Northeastern Midget Association records including 85 career victories and nine championships, all of the latter with owner Gene Angelillo. A second generation race driver who joins his dad Nick in the Hall of Fame, he was an established ARDC and TQ winner when he teamed up with Angelillo, getting his first NEMA win in 1981 at Hudson Speedway. He went on to win at least one feature in 21 different seasons, including races co-sanctioned by USAC and ARDC, at 19 different tracks. His last six checkers came with the Campanale team.