This Saturday, May 27th we will be having the Pete Gardner Memorial Race. The Dirt Sportsman race will be 56 Laps in length which is the number Pete used for their family race team. The race will pay $1,000 to Win. Being that it is Memorial Day Weekend, the race will be run in honor of Pete who we lost at way too young of an age as he battled illness. For those of you who did not know him, he was a true racer and was very well respected in our local racing communities. He raced the most at Bethel Motor Speedway and Moc A Tek Speedway.
It all started at a very young age as he was born into a racing family. His father Pete Sr, was a successful drag racer and was a national record holder in the 1960’s. In the Early 70’s, Pete Sr. became interested in oval track stock car racing centering on the cool design of dirt late models. Pete Sr. paired up with driver Jim Bush and they raced competitively at Accord, Harmony, Moc A Tek, Nazareth, and OCFS speedways. Young Pete loved to go to as many races as possible as a kid and it was all he thought about.
Young Pete Jr. loved to work on dad’s late model as a kid along with working on customers cars at his father’s auto repair shop. Sometimes the customers would be so surprised to see their car being repaired by such a young kid that they would question it with Pete’s father. Pete Sr, always defending his son’s work and always proved that young Pete was great at fixing anything car related. Over the years, the late models that Pete Sr liked phased out and he got out of the class and began go kart racing at Oakland Valley Speedway with Pete Jr. as his young driver.
In the late 80’s, Pete Jr, persuaded his father that his was ready for full size and full fender racing action at Moc A Tek Speedway. They built a street stock and lettered like dad’s late models as an orange # 56. Pete Gardner became an expert over the seasons running his street stock at Moc A Tek winning numerous features and contending for track championships.
In 1993, Pete was ready for a new challenge and he set his sights to conquer street stocks on the asphalt at then named Sullivan County Speedway (Bethel) . He was strong right out of the box on the asphalt track and went on a torrid pace picking up multiple feature wins and two consecutive track championships. Pete had become a top gun on the asphalt at Sullivan County Speedway and conquered the street stock class there.
Pete’s next goal was in open wheel racing. He went into the Sportsman class and found himself again racing at Bethel and Moc A Tek along with competing at Accord Speedway too. He again picked up some feature wins, along with winning an elusive Run What Ya Brung race at Bethel. 22 cars started the race and he came home the winner on a very hot July afternoon. Pete then picked up the ride in the Tom Station # 38 and traveled to many tracks running the Dirt Sportsman Series.
Pete Gardner then became involved running vintage modified and again found success as he picked up victories in their races too. Pete was also quite knowledgeable in the local history of the sport he loved and had a vivid memory of many races along with the cars that competed.
Pete was also a true sportsman off the track as well. He was always willing to listen to fellow racers and give them advise along with helping them out with getting their cars fixed so they could race. In fact, one of Pete’s closest racing friends was Jeff Richardson, who will be competing in Pete’s memorial race this Saturday. They were both running in a street stock race, then Jeff got into Pete’s car under caution and blew out his tire, to make matters worse was that Pete was winning the race! That uneasy turn of events ended up the beginning of a long lasting friendship between Jeff and Pete which proves how good of a guy Pete was.
Pete Gardner also became well known for helping race teams pick up frames, engines, transmissions, etc. over the years with his famous high mileage chevy astro van. He would travel up and down the east coast as a courier to deliver these valuable items to race teams, who are always in a rush to assemble and race. Pete saved the day for many racers over the years with his dependable Astro Van.
Whether you called Pete Gardner Jr. “Pete”, “Jess”, or “Astro Man” we all know that you are speaking of a man who dedicated himself to local short track racing. His love for racing and it’s fellow racers created a strong form of Sportsmanship on and off the track. He was well liked at every track and with every race team. Let us honor Pete, this Saturday, May 27th with a grande race so he can be smiling ear to ear from above in Racing Heaven. God Bless You Pete ! We miss you !