" LAZY 8 "
One of the Original U.S. competitors who loved to race at Merrittville Cam Gagliardi started very young in this sport. After school back in 1948 he started first as a car builder and mechanic and raced a dirt midget sponsored by Gagliardi Brothers Texaco in Lockport New York, and raced a coupe at Civic Stadium in Buffalo. He was one of the original competitors from Lockport New York to come to Canada to race, first at Stamford Park, then to Guelph, Brantford and Ancaster. By 1952 no longer a rookie, he competed at Merrittville Speedway's 1/4 mile. In 1954 to 1955, he and long time friend Gil Cramer competed at tracks all over western New York and Ontario, but liked Merrittville best.
In 1956 a young Jerry Cook of NASCAR fame, then only fourteen years old, constructed a Chevrolet coupe #10 for Cam to compete in, however, in 1957 Cam Gagliardi along with Gil Cramer engineered the first coupe #8A and sponsored by Gagliardi Brothers Texaco in Lockport, New York towed regularly to Merrittville and was one of the first of many New York State drivers to compete on Merrittville's oval. He learned his trade well and was one of the most consistent drivers to compete against the many local drivers.
Drivers of the time such as Jeno Begolo and George Winger had to contend with the ever growing field of N.Y. State regulars such as Cam Gagliardi, Ken Meahl, Bill Rafter and Ed Ortiz. George Winger stated that his friend Cam Gagliardi was always pulling pranks in the pits on other drivers, but particularly remembers the episodes involving exploding cigars. During 1958, 1959 and 1960, the Cam Gagliardi and Gil Cramer combination was super competitive only finishing behind points champion George Winger in 1959 and 1960, marginally.
The car #Lazy 8 was now one of the most popular cars at Merrittville Speedway. Even CKTB radio, sportscaster Rex Stimers, on his Spice of Sports show, would have Cam Gag-li-ar-di as one of his favourites, after Murray Stricker retired. During this period Lancaster opened also as a dirt oval and Gil, Cam and Jack Dowling built a dirt super Lazy 8 and raced at Lancaster until it crashed into the fence. His buddy Gil Cramer always traveled track to track and toured all over the country instead of concentrating on one track.
In 1959 he raced in the winter, during Speedweeks in the modified race at the new Daytona Speedway and had to be a member of NASCAR to do so. To do this he teamed up with Pete Hurtubise, brother of Jim, since he had the engine, while Cam and Gil had the coupe. The Ford coupe ran well until the engine blew. The Lazy 8 continued to run Merrittville's dirt in 1960 and they also returned to Daytona during the winter of 1960 to campaign a #Lazy 1 1950 Chevrolet fast back, however it crashed badly in warm ups. Undaunted, they would return with a ‘53 Studebaker in 1961 with Cam driving the car with an engine supplied by Gil Bruss, Bill Rafter's car owner, however they were black flagged for a carbon monoxide problem, since they raced with the windows up in those days.
In 1962 again the Lazy 8 would spend it's summers at Merrittville Speedway and now the new Speedway Park and again returned to Daytona with the #20 Studebaker, with Larry Frank driving only to run out of fuel, but still finished fourth. In 1963 the Studebaker #70, now Pontiac powered returned to Daytona, this time with Lee Roy Yarbrough driving and won the race. Two local competitors from Lockport, N.Y. with a North Carolina driver had won the Sportsman race at Daytona on their fifth try.
All through the 1960's Cam ran dirt and asphalt races all through western New York and Ontario and even had to use alias's such as Glen Reece, so he could run non-NASCAR sanctioned races. In those days if a driver who belonged to NASCAR competed in a non NASCAR event and was caught, he would be heavily penalized by NASCAR.
In the winters, drivers such as Lou Lazzaro, Rene Charland, Jerry Cook and Bill Wimble raced sportsman at Daytona, for Cramer/Gagliardi Engineering. However, Cam Gagliardi loved the local racing and continued to compete at Merrittville Speedway, Speedway Park, Ransomville and also on Lancaster's pavement as well. His cars would mostly be yellow and carry the familiar Lazy 8 or Lazy 1 logo.
One of Cams most enjoyable times was when he had the pleasure of racing with his son Kim, in a limited Sportsman at age 55. He had a great outlook on life and conveyed that to others. In 1988 Cam's son Kim started racing Empire Super Sprints, winning one such event at Merrittville Speedway, until 1995.
Today, Kim runs the family business, a tire and repair shop called the Wobble Shop in Lockport, New York. Today Cam and his wife Paula are semi retired but continue to follow dirt track stock car racing and sprint car racing. The Gagliardi family are still involved in the sport, helping support Robby Krull's modified with the Wobble Shop sponsorship. One thing that Cam Gagliardi made apparent to me, is his love of "dirt track racing" and he always stated that the Canadian fans treated him great and Merrittville Speedway continues to be his favourite local dirt oval. He has many fond memories of this track, now in its 47th year.