Thursday, December 13, 2018

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04

By CAMDEN PROUD

 

Longtime Oswego Speedway fan and former Gioia Racing crewman Larry Trenca, now of Russellville, T.N., has added an additional car to what is now becoming his own ‘team’ of restored Supermodifieds.

Several years ago, Trenca purchased the 1990-1992 Gioia Racing No. 9 Supermodified from Craig Rayvals, who acquired the car from Brian Sweeney many years earlier.

It was right around that time that the Trenca family moved south to Tennessee, but by the 2014 Oswego Speedway Old Timer’s Reunion at Lighthouse Lanes, a beautiful restore of the white Baby Ruth No. 9 was completed and on display for race fans alike to enjoy.

Trenca crewed for Gioia in his early days and of course has quite the racing background, being the son of legendary speedway hall of famer ‘Program’ Pete Trenca. Despite moving quite a ways away from the ‘Steel Palace,’ Larry is still heavily involved in the track he loves, especially it’s history.

“They don’t know what Supers are down here in Tennessee so it makes me miss being home a lot,” Trenca said. “My love for Oswego came from my Dad. I could talk about Supermodified history all day, but I really have to go back home to do it. There’s really not that many people that have any knowledge of it at all where I’m at now.”

Maybe not a lot of people know what the Oswego Supermodifieds are in the midwest, but there was one guy down Larry’s way who certainly does.

Tom York, who raced at Oswego Speedway from 1965 to 1968, heard of Trenca’s recent purchase and its whereabouts from his son. It turned out York was just ten miles away, and he decided to pay Larry a visit. They’ve been friends ever since.

“Tom came to look at the 90’s car when i was in the middle of the restore several years ago and we have pretty much been friends ever since. I couldn’t believe it was the same Tom York that raced at Oswego in the 60’s,” Trenca said.

With the 90’s car complete in its entirety, there’s been another Gioia racer that Trenca has been eyeballing since 1980; the 1975 Steve Gioia roadster, which was raced from 1975 to 1980 at Oswego Speedway. It also happens to be the 1976 International Classic winning car, which marked the only Classic victory for someone who many consider one of the greatest Supermodified drivers of all-time.

“This car has been bouncing around for thirty years after it last raced,” Trenca noted. “I have been looking at doing this forever, so to finally make the purchase means a lot to me. I’m just glad it’s saved and I know I will get it done. I just got it all in the garage today. It is so heavy, things are definitely a lot lighter on the cars of today that’s for sure. I can’t wait to get to work on it and hopefully we can pretty soon.”

The No. 9 roadster was piloted by Gioia in 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978. It won back to back on August 9 and August 16 of 1975 in its first season on the track, and Gioia followed that up with two more wins in 1976, including in the International Classic. The iconic red No. 9 has well over thirty top fives at Oswego, including one by Jim Cheney in the ‘79 Classic before it was given one last go at the ‘Big O’ in the 1980 Classic in which Steve’s younger brother Don Gioia drove to a twelfth place finish just ahead of ‘80 rookie Joe Gosek.

After its last International Classic, the roadster changed hands several times. First, it went to Scott Lyons who never raced it, and then to Brian Morrison in Ontario who also never raced it.

Following that chunk of time, the No. 9 has been all over place, including in the shops of two of Supermodified racing’s most decorated restore masterminds; Jimmy Paternoster and Steve Miller.

“The car went from Lyons, to Morrison in Ontario, and then to Jimmy Paternoster,” Trenca recalled. “I went out to look at it one day out at Jimmy’s and he had the car there so I had always thought maybe I could scrape the money up to get this car, but I couldn’t swing it at the time. I’ve been talking to Jimmy about where the car has been and he can’t remember the guy it was sold to after him, so that’s the one piece of the puzzle I’m missing.”

So the story goes, Paternoster sold the car, but he does not know to whom, and after all those ownership changes, it ironically wound up just a short drive away from Oswego in Miller’s Mexico, N.Y. body shop after the longtime owner of the ‘Sweet 16’ purchased the roadster at a Syracuse motorsports auction.

“When I was home this past October I went out to Steve Miller’s shop to look at the car again and he told me that he bought it at an auction in Syracuse,” Trenca stated. “The guy gave all the stuff back to Steve and it’s sat in Steve’s shop for I don’t even know how many years.”

Miller was busy racing, and winning in the 2011 edition of King of Wings with Dave Gruel in the Sweet 16, so he never had the chance to restore the No. 9. That’s when another many year Supermodified crewman and current owner of the Aric Iosue driven No. 11, Dave Iosue, came into the equation. After Iosue couldn’t restore the roadster either, the car was purchased by Mike Tynan, who has now sold the car to Trenca.

“Dave Iosue was in the process of restoring Gary Allbritain Gibson car from ‘72, ‘73 and ‘74, and kept telling Steve he needed to restore the Gioia car, but Steve got back into racing again and never did,” Trenca explained. “That’s when Dave got his hands on the car, built a rear axle for it and did some other updates. When he thought he was going to move to Florida he ended up putting the cars for sale so he sold the Gibson car and the Gioia car to a guy in Oswego named Mike Tynan and that’s who I got it from.”

When Trenca received word from Tynan that the 9 was finally for sale again, Larry jumped at the chance to make his purchase, and this time it was one he just could not pass up after being so close to buying this piece of Oswego history on several occasions.

“I’ve been wanting this thing for so many years, so when Mike let me know that he wanted to sell, I just couldn’t hold off,” Trenca said. “It kind of stinks that I have to bring it all the way down here to Tennessee to do everything, but I can’t wait until the car is back home at Oswego where it belongs. I’m hoping that the entire restore will take me, realistically, about two years to complete. I look forward to bringing it home and hopefully driving it through the gate at the track once again. I got to do that in 2014 with the 1990’s car and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I think it’s so cool to keep these old cars alive and I truly enjoy the process”

All in all, the No. 9 roadster has four Oswego wins, two ISMA wins, and two ISMA championships including the first ever ISMA championship in 1976, impressively in the same season that Gioia won the International Classic.

Oswego Speedway wishes Trenca the best in his restore of this historic piece of Supermodified history. Track management is looking forward to seeing the car in attendance at a speedway Old Timer’s Reunion in the near future.

For more information on Oswego Speedway, including the track’s 68th season schedule, be sure to visit online at OswegoSpeedway.com. You can also FOLLOW on Twitter @OswegoSpeedway or LIKE on Facebook at Facebook.com/OswegoSpeedway. To purchase tickets for the 2018 season, please call the speedway box office at (315)-342-0646.

About Oswego Speedway: Oswego Speedway, a sports entertainment company, is a 5/8 mille semi-banked pavement racing oval located off the shores of Lake Ontario in scenic Oswego, NY. Oswego Speedway has been a continuously run weekly racing venue since August, 1951. The premier open-wheel pavement short track cars in the world, Supermodifieds, run weekly at Oswego Speedway making Oswego the only weekly Supermodified racing venue in the world. The Small Block Supermodifieds accompany the full blown Supers on a weekly Saturday night schedule which runs from May through September. Oswego Speedway is mentioned in racing circles as the “Indy of the East,” as no fewer than a dozen past and present competitors have competed at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway including Mario Andretti, arguably the greatest driver of all time, two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock, along with former International Classic Champions Bentley Warren, Joe Gosek, and Davey Hamilton.

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