The New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame has named Phil Whipple of the Lewiston (ME) Sun Journal and Richard “Big” Bigelow of St. Johnsbury VT’s Caldonian Record to share its annual Mitchell-Ratta Media Award for 2016. The honor will be presented at the NEAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday, November 13.
Bigelow was born into a racing family and cheered on his father, driver Jerry Bigelow, Northeastern Speedway’s final track champion in 1966. Bigelow and his brother, Bob, began driving in the early 1980s; “Biggy” won a half-dozen races at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., and in his final season, 1992, won the first feature ever run in the American-Canadian Tour’s present-day Late Model class at Thunder Road in Barre, Vermont.
Bigelow’s foray into media began with guest appearances on local racing radio programs in 1996. He started writing his popular “Strap In!” column for his hometown daily Caledonian Record in April 1998, running 52 weeks a year. Since his writing debut 18 years ago, Bigelow estimates that over some 900-plus weeks since his hire date he has only missed “maybe five or six” columns.