ACT
CABANA INDUCTED INTO NEAR HALL OF FAME
Legendary Canadian stock car driver, Jean-Paul Cabana was inducted in to the tenth New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Sunday at a ceremony in East Windsor, CT. The Quebec racer was one of 11 honored in a group that included five drivers (Cabana, Dave Dion, Bob Potter, John Rosati, Bentley Warren), a car owner/crew chief (Bob Johnson), a speedway promoter (John Falconi Sr), a car owner and Northeastern Midget Association president (John McCarthy) as well as Veterans Committee selections Dick Garrett and Dick Egan (drivers) and George Barber (car owner/track builder). The Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award was given to Walter Renner of National Speed Sport News. A special recognition award was bestowed on Danny Pardi.

Cabana was inducted by American-Canadian Tour (ACT) president Tom Curley. During his remarks Curley revealed many highlights from the ¬72 year-old racer’s lengthy career. “Although he was the 13th child born in a large farm family, Cabana was a first timer in many ways,” the 2004 Auto Racing Promoter of the Year (ARPY) stated. “He was the first Canadian to cross the border and race, mostly at Vermont’s Catamount Stadium and Thunder Road. His career began at 15 years of age when he went to the races as a mechanic. At 16, the driver he was working for gave him the opportunity to get behind the wheel and he won the first race he ever entered. The next week he won eight of the nine races he was in!”

“He began in dirt jalopies in Quebec, has raced flatheads and modifieds among many of the greats including the late Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Rene Charland, among others throughout New York and New England. He joined with the original Northern NASCAR circuit in 1972, a three, then five track circuit. He won a title with that group when it included events at Deux Montagnes (now the Autodrome St-Eustache), and Sanair in Quebec plus Catamount, Thunder Road and Devils Bowl in Vermont. He then ran a Late Model with NASCAR North, then ACT until 1995 before retiring in 1998 after competing on his home turf.”

“He was the first Canadian to race at Daytona. He won the Permatex Sportsman event and was ninth overall back when they used to combine the Sportsmen and Modifieds on the track together. Speaking no English, he and his young crew had towed their car on an open-wheeled trailer to Florida for car owner Richard Foley. He went back two more times.”

“In 1965, Cabana won the first race ever held at Catamount. In 1987, he won the 1/3 mile track’s final event – perfect bookends. His was among the group of names – McCabe, Crouch, Dion, Fadden, and Dragon - that made Late Model racing work for two decades. They have built it to what it is today. With tonight’s ceremonies all are now in the Hall of Fame - with Cabana the first Canadian to receive the honor.”

“He is a skilled promoter and salesman for the sport on both sides of the border, the ultimate ambassador. This was his greatest legacy with limited English at the time. He was hugely respected by all – he was tough as nails on the track and a great prankster in the pits. Without question he is the greatest driver from Quebec and quite possibly from Canada. As a kid he raced on at least a dozen dirt tracks including Albany/Saratoga and Fonda in New York. By my count he has competed on some 51 asphalt tracks in the U.S. and Canada including such formidable speedplants as Martinsville, Daytona, Dover, Milwaukee and Nashville to name a few.”

In accepting his award, Cabana mentioned the huge respect he had for his fellow competitors – Crouch, Dion, the Dragons, Fadden, McCabe and John Rosati as well as how much he appreciated the Americans accepting him in spite of his broken English.”

The crowd of nearly 450 at Sunday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies included three-dozen who were previously honored. In addition to Curley, other presenters included Dick Monahan (for John McCarthy), Jack Arute Jr (Bob Johnson), Bones Bourcier (John Rosati), Lew Boyd (John Falconi Sr), Dave Moody (Dave Dion), Pete Zanardi (Bob Potter), and Russ Conway (Bentley Warren).

(PHOTOS: Top - Hall of Fame iniductee Jean-Paul Cabana (right) with ACT president Tom Curley. Bottom - the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Class of 2007)