Drivers recall Lou Blaney's influence


By BOB ETTINGER

sports@vindy.com

HARTFORD

Lou Blaney’s racing legacy isn’t hard to find at Sharon Speedway on a normal night. It was everywhere on Saturday night with the Lou Blaney Memorial taking center stage.

“The positive influence [Lou Blaney] created in the racing community and the community, in general, is impressive,” driver Skip Moore said. “Lou set the standard for what everybody else wanted to be, not only on the track, but off the track, too.”

The 10th annual event presented by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet featured Tony Stewart’s Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Cars and the Hovis Auto and Truck Supply Big-Block Modifieds.

Friends of Blaney attended to help celebrate the life and accomplishments of the Hall of Fame driver, who won more than 600 feature victories during a five-decade career. The legend has at least 121 modified wins and another 11 documented in a sprint Car at Sharon Speedway alone.

Blaney passed away in 2009 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

“It’s pretty awesome [to compete here],” Moore said. “He’s a legend. To win this race would be one of the biggest things I could think of in this area. I don’t know how to explain what it would mean to anybody.”

Blaney’s sons, Dave and Dale Blaney, competed in the sprint car event as did former NASCAR star Tony Stewart.

“It’s a little bit hard to focus on racing,” Dave Blaney said. “It’s cool to see all the support and the people he used to race against. It’s fun seeing them.”

Others who crossed paths with Lou Blaney were able to compete, as well.

“I bought my first car from Lou,” driver Jim Weller of Liberty said. “It’s a big deal to race tonight. It’s a big deal to win it.

“This is a tribute to Lou, who was the king around here. He was the guy. He was also the guy to beat, which we never did.”

Younger drivers who never had the privilege of running against Lou Blaney understood the importance of the night, as well. Some even have ties to the younger generations of the Blaney family.

“My dad raced back in the day,” 24-year-old driver Haley Lapcevich of Fowler said. “It’s an honor to race in my dad’s footsteps.

“The 77L is my dad’s number. He’s my main role model. He raced Blaney back in the day, too. To be honest, this is only my second time in this car. The Blaneys are truly the nicest people you can meet. A lot of the setups we run, they’ve given me advice for. It’s a great event and to honor Lou Blaney is a great cause.”

Another younger driver tried to put the night into perspective.

“It’s pretty prestigious to run in a race with his name on it,” driver Brandon Matus said. “Then again, you have to run as if it’s a regular race, treat it like it’s a regular night.

“I hear stories about Lou. My grandfather ran with Lou all his life. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Dave, Dale and Ryan, which is great because I’m a fourth-generation driver, also. I know all about having racing in my blood.”

Drivers are often concerned with legacies. Most have long family histories in the sport and must live up to those roots. Considering what legacy they, themselves, might leave, as Lou Blaney was being honored for, is beyond their scopes.

“It’s hard to think about at this age [24],” Matus said. “I’m hope I’m lucky enough to do that.”

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