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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When You Die Doing What You Really Love.....

  Leigh sends this in:

I knew this man.
I parked next to him, in the pits, for several years back in my racing days.
He was a fast, smooth, and clean driver - one of the few I truly respected.

   If you like, go read these articles:


Leigh adds:
Leon's trademark was that his right hand was always resting on the cockpit sheet-metal of his Modified. When he first started, one of the old timers said he was too jerky with the wheel and that he should drive with just one hand.
I can still see his two tone blue Modified blasting into turn one at Devil's Bowl. The unique sound of a lone Ford engine in a sea of Chevrolets.

The best story that I can remember about Leon, came from a guy I knew back in the 90's. George was heading down to the track at Malta, when he sees a two tone blue school bus hauling ass in the fast lane. Being Ford engine light-blue and dark-blue, he knew it was Gonyo's hauler. It was almost time for the heat races, and Leon was running late.  As it was running him down, he could hear a strange noise that kept getting louder and louder. As the bus went roaring by him, he could tell what it was - Gonyo had the Modified running inside the bus as it was heading to the track. George said the alcohol fumes from the race car's exhaust was burning his eyes so bad he had to roll up his windows. If I remember correctly, the team had hurt the engine the week before and finally got the remainder of the parts just as they had to leave. On the trip from Chazy to Malta, they finished putting the engine back together. By the time they passed George in Saratoga, they were breaking the cam in and warming up the engine. They just barely made it for qualifying.

God speed, Leon.


  1. I love modified stock cars. I grew up one block away from a quarter mile dirt track where they ran in addition to late model stock cars. You're from near Boston, MA, right? If you are interested in racing, are you familiar with a guy from Massachusetts named Don MacTavish? If not, go to YouTube and type in Don McTavish crash. You will never forget it.

  2. I have heard of MacTavish, but he was killed a couple months before I was born. Fortunately for everyone involved, racers and spectators alike, the safety of the sport has made quantum leaps since then. Though the unthinkable still happens on occasion - JD McDuffy still crosses my mind.
    Our family friend, Wally Campbell was killed in an Indy car back in the 50's, when they were still open cockpit roadsters. From all accounts; Wally was a crazy SOB, of the highest magnitude. He also was an incredible talent behind the wheel. The car that was the ultimate cause of his demise had the spokes of a rear wheel fail at full speed.

    I spent a large portion of my early years, and much money, at Devil's Bowl Speedway in central Vermont. Four years in Pro Stock and two years in Late Model. I have done a few pick up races in 358 Mods and Street Stocks, filling in for guys that were either hurt, sick, or on vacation. I learned a lot of valuable skills building and maintaining a race team. The confidence in your driving abilities, and being able to adapt to rapidly changing situations has been a life saver at time out on the highways as well. Then you throw in some really great people that you meet along the way.....
    Some of the best years of my life.

    Whitehall, NY

  3. I lost a buddy also, he was one heck of a driver and dirt biker. Shit, he couldn't open his truck door without some part from some project falling out. His yard in Memorial (High in Houston neighborhood) was littered with old RX-& bodies. They think heart attack or stroke on one of the fast straights and he just never turned. : http://autoweek.com/article/other-motorsports/scca-driver-dies-saturday-after-single-car-incident-road-america


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