Pro Stock drivers far and wide will be pulling their belts tight when they compete for the $1,000 to win and $100 to start 30-lap pro stock race at Utica-Rome Speedway July 1 that will commemorate the life of legendary driver Gene Kotary.
Gene Kotary drove an immaculate red No. 21 street stock back in the asphalt days at Utica-Rome Speedway amassing 10 feature wins and the 1978 Track Championship. He was the last feature winner on asphalt in the division.
“Gene raced all over the state for 30 years,” pointed out Gene’s wife Marcia Kotary. “Gene loved racing.”
On Oct. 23, 2016 Kotary lost his five-year battle to colon cancer.
It didn’t take long for Marcia, their daughter, Brandy, and family and friends to decide that there should be a memorial race in honor of her husband at “The Fast Track of the East.” The first Gene Kotary Memorial Pro Stock feature race was run July 30, 2017.
Shane Henderson won the inaugural 30-lap race over eventual 2017 Utica-Rome Speedway Pro Stock track champion Mike Welch.
This season the memorial race will be bigger and better.
Marcia Kotary has secured sponsorship from KDK Sports, Bravo Machine Shop, B-N-P, Romano Subaru, Fenton Ford, Sleepy Hollow Golf Club, Schoff Polaris, Villa Verona Winery, Marcellus Overhead Door, Victory Chrysler and Square One.
Sponsors will cover the $4,565 purse making it one of the richest Pro-Stock races in the northeast.
Also — as an added bonus — fans going to the race will be treated to a free hotdog “on Gene.”
“Gene loved having a hotdog at the track,” stated Marcia with a smile.
After Kotary stopped racing in the mid 90’s he still kept involved in the sport.
One beneficiary of Gene Kotary’s help was Aaron Page driver of the No. 5 pro stock who started racing in the division in 2016.
“I was in my garage with my father, Bob Page Sr., and Jeff Gifford Sr. We had been working on the race car,” state Page “A man walked in. Not a word was spoke. The man placed his right hand on the front right fender of the race car, sliding it to the passenger window as he walked. He looked up at me and asked, ’So you think you can race?’ I looked back at him and simply stated,’ I have no freaking idea and we both laughed.”
That was Aaron Page’s introduction to racing legend Gene Kotary.
Kotary would continue to show up at the garage and help the Page team put their race car together. Finally the car was ready to “hit the clay.”
With Page’s mentor Gene Kotary in the stands Aaron Page took his pro stock out to race.
“I completed my heat race,” reminisced Page,”I hurried up to the stands to see my new friend and get my grade. In front of many many fans, his wife Marcia and daughter Brandy, he stated,’So, how do you think you did?’ I replied, ‘Pretty good.’ He just nodded his head up and down. A few seconds of silence went by and he said,’Do you want to know the truth?’ I smiled ear to ear almost laughing knowing I was going to get an answer from a salty dog who had raced forever, ‘Yes,’ I said. He looked at me with a straight face and stated,’That sucked!’
Page got some tough love but he appreciated the fact that Kotary didn’t “sugarcoat” his critique.
Marcia Kotary is hopeful that 30 cars from around the state will show up for the lucrative race. She knows that her family friends will fill the stands.
“We had to rent a bus to get all of our family to the race last year- we filled up an entire section of the grandstands,” said Marcia Kotary.
So circle your calendar- Sunday, July 1 the Gene Kotary Memorial Pro Stock Challenge.
See you at the races.