" LAZY 8 "
One of the Original U.S. competitors who loved to
race at Merrittville Cam Gagliardi started very young in this sport.
After school back in 1948 he started first as a car builder and
mechanic and raced a dirt midget sponsored by Gagliardi Brothers
Texaco in Lockport New York, and raced a coupe at Civic Stadium in
Buffalo. He was one of the original competitors from Lockport New
York to come to Canada to race, first at Stamford Park, then to
Guelph, Brantford and Ancaster. By 1952 no longer a rookie, he
competed at Merrittville Speedway's 1/4 mile. In 1954 to 1955, he
and long time friend Gil Cramer competed at tracks all over western
New York and Ontario, but liked Merrittville best.
In 1956 a young Jerry Cook of NASCAR fame, then
only fourteen years old, constructed a Chevrolet coupe #10 for Cam
to compete in, however, in 1957 Cam Gagliardi along with Gil Cramer
engineered the first coupe #8A and sponsored by Gagliardi Brothers
Texaco in Lockport, New York towed regularly to Merrittville and was
one of the first of many New York State drivers to compete on
Merrittville's oval. He learned his trade well and was one of the
most consistent drivers to compete against the many local drivers.
Drivers of the time such as Jeno Begolo and
George Winger had to contend with the ever growing field of N.Y.
State regulars such as Cam Gagliardi, Ken Meahl, Bill Rafter and Ed
Ortiz. George Winger stated that his friend Cam Gagliardi was always
pulling pranks in the pits on other drivers, but particularly
remembers the episodes involving exploding cigars. During 1958, 1959
and 1960, the Cam Gagliardi and Gil Cramer combination was super
competitive only finishing behind points champion George Winger in
1959 and 1960, marginally.
The car #Lazy 8 was now one of the most popular
cars at Merrittville Speedway. Even CKTB radio, sportscaster Rex
Stimers, on his Spice of Sports show, would have Cam Gag-li-ar-di as
one of his favourites, after Murray Stricker retired. During this
period Lancaster opened also as a dirt oval and Gil, Cam and Jack
Dowling built a dirt super Lazy 8 and raced at Lancaster until it
crashed into the fence. His buddy Gil Cramer always traveled track
to track and toured all over the country instead of concentrating on
In 1959 he raced in the winter, during Speedweeks
in the modified race at the new Daytona Speedway and had to be a
member of NASCAR to do so. To do this he teamed up with Pete
Hurtubise, brother of Jim, since he had the engine, while Cam and
Gil had the coupe. The Ford coupe ran well until the engine blew.
The Lazy 8 continued to run Merrittville's dirt in 1960 and they
also returned to Daytona during the winter of 1960 to campaign a
#Lazy 1 1950 Chevrolet fast back, however it crashed badly in warm
ups. Undaunted, they would return with a ‘53 Studebaker in 1961 with
Cam driving the car with an engine supplied by Gil Bruss, Bill
Rafter's car owner, however they were black flagged for a carbon
monoxide problem, since they raced with the windows up in those
In 1962 again the Lazy 8 would spend it's summers
at Merrittville Speedway and now the new Speedway Park and again
returned to Daytona with the #20 Studebaker, with Larry Frank
driving only to run out of fuel, but still finished fourth. In 1963
the Studebaker #70, now Pontiac powered returned to Daytona, this
time with Lee Roy Yarbrough driving and won the race. Two local
competitors from Lockport, N.Y. with a North Carolina driver had won
the Sportsman race at Daytona on their fifth try.
All through the 1960's Cam ran dirt and asphalt
races all through western New York and Ontario and even had to use
alias's such as Glen Reece, so he could run non-NASCAR sanctioned
races. In those days if a driver who belonged to NASCAR competed in
a non NASCAR event and was caught, he would be heavily penalized by
In the winters, drivers such as Lou Lazzaro, Rene
Charland, Jerry Cook and Bill Wimble raced sportsman at Daytona, for
Cramer/Gagliardi Engineering. However, Cam Gagliardi loved the local
racing and continued to compete at Merrittville Speedway, Speedway
Park, Ransomville and also on Lancaster's pavement as well. His cars
would mostly be yellow and carry the familiar Lazy 8 or Lazy 1 logo.
One of Cams most enjoyable times was when he had
the pleasure of racing with his son Kim, in a limited Sportsman at
age 55. He had a great outlook on life and conveyed that to others.
In 1988 Cam's son Kim started racing Empire Super Sprints, winning
one such event at Merrittville Speedway, until 1995.
Today, Kim runs the family business, a tire and
repair shop called the Wobble Shop in Lockport, New York. Today Cam
and his wife Paula are semi retired but continue to follow dirt
track stock car racing and sprint car racing. The Gagliardi family
are still involved in the sport, helping support Robby Krull's
modified with the Wobble Shop sponsorship. One thing that Cam
Gagliardi made apparent to me, is his love of "dirt track racing"
and he always stated that the Canadian fans treated him great and
Merrittville Speedway continues to be his favourite local dirt oval.
He has many fond memories of this track, now in its 47th year.