The King of the Late Models, Art Clark By Dan Hall
If any one driver is synonymous with winning at Perry, it is Art Clark. In his fifty plus years of racing, Art stands at the top of all competitors. Art’s racing resume includes 19 track championships, over three hundred career wins, forty nine feature wins in 1966 at Perry, Holland, and North Collins Speedways, several NASCAR titles, induction into the FOAR Score Hall of Fame, and the 2002 Wall of Fame induction at Wyoming County International Speedway. The Bimini Blue #7 is no stranger to victory lane.
Art’s racing career began at the old Civic Stadium in Buffalo. He raced through out the fifties at various western New York tracks. Art started racing at Perry in the early sixties. In 1963, Art won his first Perry championship. He had 11 feature wins which captured the 1963 Modern Stock title. This began an era of winning that will never be eclipsed. Art captured another 18 features at Perry in 1964. The #7 competed in both the Modern Stock and Super Sport (B Mod) classes. The end of the 1964 season brought his first Perry Super Stock title. In 1965, Art won another Perry B Mod title and was second in Late Model points. The 1966 racing season was a banner year for Art. He won an incredible forty nine features that year. This was accomplished at the Perry, Holland, and North Collins Speedways. The ERCA circuit was dominated by the #7 Chevy Impala and Super Sport B Bomb. At the end of the 1966 season, Art was the Late Model champion at Perry, Holland, and North Collins. He was also crowned 1966 ERCA (total points from the three tracks) Champion. Art continued winning everywhere he raced. In 1968, he won the first Late Model (New Car) asphalt feature at both Perry and Holland. He added another Perry Late Model title in 1974. His total Perry feature wins are ninety five (59 on dirt, 36 on asphalt).
Art has always raced out of his garage in West Seneca. His home is a museum of race memories. I asked Art about what races stood out in his career. Art said, “One of the most exciting races took place at Perry in 1972. I had just wrecked my car and was not going to put it back together. Dick Flaig called me and offered his back up car. I drove it the next week and Dick said I could finish the season with the car. He told me to go ahead and make any changes I want. I worked on the car and won the feature at Holland the next week. Towards the end of the season, Perry had the Twin 50’s. I won both of the races. The second race was side by side racing for the last twenty five laps. Flaig and I battled for the win. I finally got a nose in front for the second win of the day. That was a very gratifying race.” Dick Flaig (Numerous Late Model track champion) remembers that race very well. Dick said, “Art had just wrecked his car at Cayuga and I let him borrow my back up car. Art took it and set it up to his liking. The second race of the Perry Twin 50’s, Art started on the pole. I led three quarters of each lap but a bump in turn four caused me to lift and Art would take the led. There was only a few laps left and it dawned on me that there was nothing I could do about it. Art won and I finished a few inches back. I remember the size of the trophy he won, the smile on his face, and the lipstick on his face.” The 250 lap races at Cayuga Speedway always had national competitors. Art won three of these events in a row. Art remembers, “Guys like Ed Howe, Tiny Lund, and Bobby Allison would come every year to Cayuga. There was a lot of good competition in those races.” A recent race win will be with many a race fan for a very long time. The event was in August 3, 2002 at Wyoming County International Speedway. This evening during the intermission, the track had a surprise for Art. The surprise was the celebration of fifty years of racing. The stands were packed with Arts many fans. He was not suppose to know anything about the event. Art remembers, “The week before I had the crank break in the motor. Once I discovered the problem, I decided not to race the next week. One of my crew, Ray Greenan Jr, kept after me about racing. I told him on Thursday, we would not be racing. He said, Art, you got to race, the track is honoring you at the intermission. I called a parts guy and he got me a crank. The next two days, I worked on that motor continuously. I just got the motor together and we loaded it into the trailer. The motor wasn’t right but I ran out of time. The car made it through the first heat but I didn’t push it. The celebration was very nice. I enjoyed seeing all the fans. In the feature, I started at the tail end of the field. The car actually performed very well.” The car and driver came through once again. Art took the led about half way through the race. The fans in the stands stood and cheered Art on. When the #7 took the checkers, the place went wild. People were jumping, shooting, and taking pictures. Art got out of the car with the crew there to congratulate him. The crowd gave him a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. Art remembers, “This was a very special win. My sister came down and said your mother would be very proud of you. My mother use to come to everyone of my races. She saved every news clipping, photos, and programs that I was in.” The surprise turned out to be a very special evening for everyone. Kenny Hangauer Jr, track announcer, remembers, “I have been fortunate to be part of some memorable events. The one that stands out is the fifty years of racing celebration for Art Clark. When Art came out, I said West Seneca has proclaimed this Art Clark day and you are relieved of all your speeding tickets. He is a great driver and it was a special night.”
In the fifty plus years of racing, Art has achieved a lot of success. He has a loyal following of race fans. He has the respect of all who have competed against him. Art has been known to win races on tires that were seven years old. His ability to build winning cars is a key factor to the many championships. The incredible skills he demonstrated on the track for years has thrilled many a fan and disappointed many competitors. A self sufficient owner/driver, Art has rarely accepted sponsors. The driver of the Bimini blue #7 is a true legend in racing. His Late Model dynasty will endure the test of time. Perry Speedway/WCIS has been the track for many racing memories for Art. Wyoming County International Speedway is proud to have inducted Art to the Wall of Fame (2002).