Dostal a true icon of racing
There is a tradition where the pit area is left empty following the death of a driver.
It would be appropriate to honor local racing icon Bruce Dostal in the same manner, leaving a spot open for his parts truck when the racing season gets underway.
Dostal, who was a integral part of the local racing history whether it was as a fan, a driver or as the owner of A&B Speed Equipment, passed away in late March at the age of 72.
When I started covering the local racing scene over 20 years ago, I quickly learned, as did the drivers, that it was best to “don’t get hostile, go see Dostal.”
A walk through the pits before the races would not have been complete without a stop at his parts truck and hearing the great stories or even just a quick hello if he was busy making sure that the drivers had what they needed to be competitive on the night. That was not always a part, gas or tear-offs, but often just some advice.
I had the opportunity to visit his shop on occasion and he showed me a wall full of jigs he used to fabricate parts. They didn’t make sense to me, but he knew.
He explained that when he started out driving and building cars he had to learn how to make a lot of the parts because of a tight budget and there weren’t the bolt on items that are available to the drivers today. You had to straighten things or build them or you didn’t race.
And he could build safe and competitive cars.
Drivers like Lou Lazzaro, Dave Lape, Bob Savoie, John Kollar and Ken Hanson can attest to that. Dostal also was involved in the launching of Lape’s popular Champ Car chassis as the two laid out the initial plans for the chassis in chalk on the floor at Dostal’s Johnstown speed shop.
He and Lape also chalked out the design for Lape’s initial Champ Car on the floor of A&B Speed.
Although he was part numerous victories at Fonda Speedway as a sponsor on the several cars, Dostal himself did not find his way to Victory Lane as a driver.
However, his contributions to the sport of auto racing was recognized with his induction into the New York State Stock Car Association (NYSSCA) Hall of Fame, the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame, plus Dostal was awarded the Lifetime Contribution to Racing Award in Memory of Kenny Shoemaker by NYSSCA as well as the Northeast Stock Car Old Timers (NESCOT) Superior Achievement in Motorsports Award.
Whether it be getting advice, listening to stories or seeing him smile as he gave rides to kids in his restored orange and white No. 69 coupe on Kiddie Ride night, I will miss the friendship offered by Bruce over the years.
Thanks to Mother Nature deciding April was a good time for a snowstorm, practices scheduled for Glen Ridge Motorsports Park on Friday and Fonda Speedway on Saturday have been canceled.
Glen Ridge is scheduled to kick off its points battle on April 15, while the Track of Champions is slated to host a practice session on April 16 before dropping the green flag on the racing season on April 23.