Bob Slack brought in the best
Cayuga race track owner connected with top drivers. He didn’t live to see reopening of his track
Late in 2015, we drove through the back gate of “his” speedway, around the construction taking place, and parked facing the front straight and grandstands.
As he looked out the windshield of his Cadillac, he said more to himself than me, “one more show. I would sure like to do one more show.”
Bob Slack never got the chance to do one more show. He died recently at age 88. But I am sure if given the opportunity he would have filled the stands at Cayuga Speedway (now Jukasa) as he did so many times.
The first thing Bob Slack did when he bought the big oval on Indian Line outside of Hagersville was lay down asphalt over its original clay surface for the 1968 season.
He reasoned he could bring in bigger and better shows for the fans.
Through his guidance and promotion, Cayuga became the track to host the biggest and best shows of its kind in Canada, and the speedplant was the envy on many tracks stateside as well. He would go south to take in NASCAR Cup shows at Daytona and Charlotte and such and foster relationships, inviting the sport’s top drivers to compete in the Goodyear 200 or the Motion 250 or the Molson 300, and over the years many big NASCAR names would fly up and race in these weekend-long events. Where else could fans get up close and talk with the likes of Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, and Buddy Baker?
After starting with weekly Friday shows, Slack switched to holding five or six major weekend events per year.
And it wasn’t just car racing during those years. There were the GATE semitruck racers, the tractor pulls, even races in the road circuitoriented Players GM and Honda Michelin series. One of the best events in my mind was a 11-division weekend featuring everything from Late Models to USAC Midgets to Super Modifieds.
Slack had a great relationship with most of the short-track major race series, including the popular Midwest U.S.-based American Speed Association (ASA), which competed to full stands at Cayuga in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I first met him at an RPM (auto racing workshop) meeting in probably 1974 or 1975,” noted Steve Stubbs, who worked with ASA boss Rex Robbins. “In the ASA heyday I usually got to the point where heading off to another race seemed about as appealing as being keelhauled beneath a long, skinny schooner, but I always looked forward to and enjoyed Cayuga. Bob and Leone were wonderful folks, the place was properly run and the racing was always first-rate. We’ll certainly see few if any again cut from the same bolt of cloth as Bob.”
The son of a country veterinarian, Slack started hauling lumber from the forests of Northern Ontario and Pennsylvania in the late 1940s. His business was successful, as he opened up a series of lumber yards in Haldimand and had a fleet of trucks to haul the lumber and other materials. He used this business acumen with the speedway, and built strong relationships with racing groups and local businesses and governments.
He also worked with other local racing venues to help boost the sport in general, as noted by Bruce Mehlenbacher, who ran the family drag racing business just a few kilometres from the speedway.
“The Slacks and the Mehlenbachers have been allies all my life,” said Mehlenbacher. “During the 1970s and 1980s, Dragway Park and Cayuga Speedway ran events head-to-head only a few miles apart highlighting the best in Canadian motorsport. Bob Slack was a loyal man and highly respected by everyone. I worked with him at Cayuga Speedway starting in 1984. When my Father passed away in 1989, Bob Slack was the first person at my door. From that day on I could always count on him. He supported many things in our area, most noticeably Community Living Haldimand.”
When the speedway reopens next month after years of rebuilding, there will be one spirit sitting on the start/finish line ready for the race cars to speed by him and to listen to the excitement of the crowd.
Weekend winners ... Flamboro Speedway ran a card of regular racing last Saturday night. Winning both features in the Pro Four Modifieds was Ohsweken’s Dan Nanticoke, while Courtney Scott of Dundas and Clinton Kerkhof of Carlisle each won a Pure Stock main. Super Stock wins went to Hamilton’s Nick Troback and Brandon McFerran of Acton. The Grisdale Late Model features were shared by Andy Kamrath and Shawn Chenoweth of Plattsville ... Dylan Westbrook of Scotland won his fourth feature in Ohsweken Speedway’s 360 Sprint Car division last Friday, and Holly Porter from Delhi took the Crate Sprint Car main. Caledonia’s Ryan Dinning won the Thunder Stock feature, Jon Janssens of Woodstock took the Mini Stock feature, and Dustin Longboat of Ohsweken won the Bomber feature.
The author of several books on auto racing, Tim Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
Longtime Cayuga Speedway owner Bob Slack, left, and NASCAR great Bobby Allison pose for the camera at Cayuga Speedway.