Bob Slack brought in the best

Cayuga race track owner con­nected with top driv­ers. He didn’t live to see re­open­ing of his track

The Hamilton Spectator - - RACING 2017 - TIM MILLER

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 tim­millerthe­car­guy@gmail.com.

COUR­TESY THE SLACK FAM­ILY,

Long­time Cayuga Speed­way owner Bob Slack, left, and NASCAR great Bobby Al­li­son pose for the cam­era at Cayuga Speed­way.

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