Ruggiero, Fiore Atop NEAR Hall of Fame List

Driver Reggie Ruggiero and car owner Mario Fiore, at one time a powerful force on the modified scene, head up the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame class of 2012. Driver Joey Kourafas, car owner/mechanic Jim Jorgensen and track owners Irene Venditti and Donald Hoenig are also members of the class.

The group, along with three choices from the Veterans Committee, will be inducted at the NEAR’s 15th annual banquet Sunday Jan. 29 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. The Veterans Committee will meet in October.

Ticket information will be forthcoming.

Starting at Plainville Stadium, Ruggiero went on to score well over 200 feature wins, including 44 on the Modified Tour and a record 93 at Riverside Park. Between The Park, Stafford, New Smyrna and Monadnock Speedways he claimed 10 championships. In addition to Fiore, “The Reg” drove for the likes of Mike Greci, Ed Close, Bill Pelley and Tony Moffo compiling a resume that included a Race of Champions triumph and wins at some 20 different tracks including New Hampshire International, Martinsville and Oswego Speedways.

The 200 NASCAR Modified crown with Jerry Marquis aboard tops Fiore’s statistics. The list of drivers, in addition to Ruggiero, includes Greg Sacks, Rick Fuller, Mike Stefanik, Mike Ewantitsko and Doug Heveron and among the 200 plus victories are two Race of Champions, two Spring Sizzlers, and a Thompson 300. In addition to wins at Oswego, and NHIS, the Riverside Park product claimed nine track titles.

Tabbed “The Kid” after winning the prestigious Oxford 250 at age 21, Bay Stater Kourafas went on to an outstanding career. Coming out of Norwood Arena, he became a NASCAR North stalwart with championships at Airborne and Thunder Road Speedways. The 1974 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman North championship and the 1987 Busch Grand National title and some 50 victories up and down the Atlantic Coast top his list of accomplishments.

Hoenig joins his father John, part of a group that built Thompson Speedway in 1939, in the Hall of Fame. Under Donald’s watchful eye since 1960, the facility has maintained its status as one of the region’s premier short tracks. He has brought several outstanding events to the region and was instrumental in the foundation of such established events as the Icebreaker and World Series. A former championship golfer, Hoenig also has a Gold Key from the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance.

Irene Venditti, one of New England’s grand ladies, joins her late husband D. Anthony in the Hall. “Mrs. V” was, in fact, at her late husband’s side since the track beginning in 1946, handling duties like publicity and handicapping in the pre-computer days. Laboring in the interests of the “cement place” into the mid 1990s, she has an incredible rapport with generations of competitors.

A near-miss at the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 capped Jorgensen’s career. “Jorgy” took an impressive list of achievements to the Indy car circuit including success with the Flying Zero Modified at Riverside Park in the late 1950s and early 1960s with drivers Buddy Krebs and Gene Bergin. He moved on to the URC sprints winning with driver Bill Brown before teaming with Buzz Harvey to form the Bulldog Stables in 1968. The team was first alternate at Indy in 1969.

Sources: Dave Dykes/NEAR PR

September 2011
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