From the President
For the next few months we will be posting a few short stories about the history of our club from long time board members and past presidents. I thought that it would be great to hear some of the stories about our club from years gone by. This first installment was written by one of the club founding fathers Willis Flokstra hope you enjoy this new segment.
As Always, Keep Racing!
OUR FIRST MEETING
by: Willis Flokstra
The first-ever meeting of the Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club was held on September 25, 1965 in Grand Rapids. In attendance that Saturday afternoon were 6 people – Bob and Norma Lewis (at whose home the meeting took place), Willis and Marian Flokstra from Grand Rapids, and Vito and Barbara LoPiccolo from Detroit.
How did the six of us get together, you might ask. The Flokstra’s and Lewis’s met a few years earlier at a car show in Grand Rapids and became close friends. Bob was a columnist for a couple of racing newspapers. In one of his columns in the National Speed Sport News he mentioned the possibility of forming a racing fan club in the state of Michigan, and asked any interested parties to contact him. Vito replied to his request and a meeting was set up to discuss the matter. Before long it became obvious that Vito and Barb were very energetic and enthusiastic people who seemed destined to become the leaders of this small but eager group. Among the many topics discussed and decided that afternoon were a name for the club, its’ purpose and motto, and the part that each of us would play in the future development of the club.
Vito was selected to be president and Barbara to be secretary-treasurer. Other offices such as vice-president and board of directors were to be filled at a later date as membership increased. From these humble beginnings, and through the fine leadership of Vito and Barb the club grew rapidly and soon had over 1000 members. Meetings were held monthly from September through April, including a Christmas party for the kids in December and an awards banquet in January each year. This year marks the 41st consecutive year for our banquet, with several hundred people again attending. We as founders of the MARFC could not be more proud of the legacy that has been established and maintained by you, our members, who have supported this club so faithfully for all these years. We had no conception of where this thing was going that Saturday afternoon. I recall well the words spoken by Vito as we were preparing to adjourn our first meeting. “As of today, there is a Michigan Auto Racing Fan Club. If it is never more than the six of us as members we do exist, and will have an impact on the future of auto racing in Michigan for years to come.”
With nearly 400 folks in attendance we had an outstanding 41st Annual Awards Banquet. All the awards were handed out in record time and then the DJ was on the job with great entertainment.
Before the night’s festivities got underway we paid a special tribute to Benny Parsons. Ron Drager President of ARCA and myself gave a short tribute to Benny as photos of him were shown on the big screen. Then our MC for the night Larry Henry went to work introducing all the champions who attend and Larry did a fantastic job and we thank him for agreeing to MC our banquet.
The first special award handed out was a very special appreciation award present to the late Greg Yost. Greg’s wife Lynn and son’s were on hand to accept the award. Next the MARFC Motorsports Publication of the Year Award was presented to Allen & Nancy Brown and the National Speedway Directory. Gary Lindahl received the Motorsports Writer of the Year and said he was greatly honored to receive this from MARFC. Both Brian Nelson & Tim O’Leary were more that grateful for receiving the Michigan Electronic Media Award for their radio show out of the Berlin area called ” The Track Side Show”.
The Dean of Motorsports Mr. Chris Economaki was presented the MARFC/Eddie Sachs Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award by myself and Eddie Sachs Jr. Mr. Economaki gave MARFC a great compliment in how well attended our banquet was and that we gave each champion from the go-kart kid’s to each of the track champions a chance to says thanks to everyone. The MARFC President’s Award would go to Doug Kalitta who unfortunately could not attend due to sponsorship and NHRA practice in Las Vegas. Doug did send a special video thanks for all to see.
Special awards presented that evening were the Promoter of the Year which was given to the Kalamazoo Speedway’s promoters Gary & Donna Howe who also received the MSPA Promoter of the Year from MSPA Board member Joe DeWitte. MARFC Mechanic of the Year went to Larry Wallace who won 3 championships in 2006 maintaining his car by himself. Tony Russo received an appreciation award for all his assistance for the year. Fan of the Year was presented to a father & son who have done a great job supporting our club whenever and where ever they can Chuck & Jeff Horan. Thanks to Jim’s Industrial Catering for sponsoring this award. Terry Fitzwater from the Michigan Racing Scene then awarded the Tom Carnegie Announcer of the Year to Berlin Raceway’s Norm Jelsma who was surprised at this great honor. The Driver of the Year was Merritt Speedways own Late Model driver David Hilliker. What a great group of champions and congratulations to them all.