WATKINS GLEN — A Naples native will take the green flag for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen in spirit as one team will honor his life with a special paint scheme.
Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Chevrolet, driven by Cato, NY native Regan Smith, will pay homage to statewide racing legend Donald “Dutch” Hoag by sporting the look many of Hoag’s vehicles had throughout his career.
Hoag passed away May 11 at the age of 89 after a brief illness.
“Dutch” won what was then the country’s biggest modified race, the Langhorne National Open, on dirt in 1956, 1960 and 1963 at the now-defunct Langhorne Speedway mile. When the track was changed to asphalt in 1965, Hoag won the event again in 1967 and 1968.
“If you’re not familiar with Langhorne, Langhorne was the mecca where all the drivers from across the whole country came together and raced modifieds back in the day once a year in October,” Ford Easton, author of “Stock Car Racing in the ‘50s” said Wednesday at the Hornell Public Library. “If you won the race at Langhorne, you were ‘Mr. Modified.’ That was a big deal.”
The driver was also a king of local weekly racing as well. Hoag scored three stock titles at Bath Speedway, six championships at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, two titles at Canandaigua Speedway, three modified titles at Shangri-La Speedway in Owego and three straight championships at Spencer Speedway in Williamson.
In addition to all of this, Hoag made four starts in what’s currently the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a best finish of eighth in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Feb. 6, 1955.
Hoag also made one start at Daytona International Speedway in the 1969 Permatex 300 on Feb. 22 of that year, one day before the Daytona 500. In a field which featured legends such as Tiny Lund, Bobby and Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Hoag outran them all for a second-place finish behind LeeRoy Yarborough.
“Dutch” had a major influence on the northeast racing scene, an influence team owner Tommy Baldwin heard from father and modified great Tom Baldwin growing up.
“We wanted to recognize Dutch for a few reasons,” Baldwin said in a team press release earlier this week. “He was one of the drivers that my dad looked up to when he started his modified career. I remember when I was a kid, he’d always talk about how Dutch was always going to be the guy to beat, no matter what track we raced.
“For me, this is not about just running a special paint scheme. It’s a true remembrance of a driver who impacted my family and the entire Northeast modified community. My dad would be proud that we’re doing this.”