Fulton Speedway was founded by Bub Benway and his wife Victoria in 1961. Benway, after visiting the nearby Oswego Speedway, and seeing their success, had a vision of building a bigger and better Speedway. So in 1960, Bub, and brother Ray decided to use their construction business, Benway Bros. Construction, to build what would later become known as the Fulton Speedway. Built into a hilly area on the banks of the Oswego River, Benway created a speedway for the future, with the track in a natural bowl, and seating high above the track, on a hill.
The track opened in 1961, under the name of Mil-Ray Raceway. The first event was held on the 3/8 mile black top surface early in the summer of 1961. Johnny Michaels, Jack Murphy, and Dutt Yanni were some of the early stars of the new speedway.
Over the next few years, the Benway brothers broadened their racing interests by becoming the promoters of the Canandaigua Speedway, which lasted through the 1973 season.
During the 1970’s, Benway featured the asphalt modifieds as their main division, with special appearances by the Supermodifieds. Top drivers included, Maynard Troyer, Dutch Hoag, Richie Evans, Jim Shampine, Geoff Bodine, and George Kent, to name a few. Benway joined the NEARA circuit in conjunction with several other speedways to help promote the Modified racing.
In the late 70’s asphalt racing in Central New York seem to cool off, with shorter fields, and a decreasing fan base. Benway stuck it out at Fulton, until closing the track in the summer of 1978 to decide what to do. Before long, a decision was made to cover the asphalt track with clay, and the racing continued the following season. Benway ran Late Model cars, Strictly Stocks, and several special shows for the Modifieds.
Opening Day the following year at the “New” clay track came on April 21st with Walt Mitchell becoming the first winner on the new clay surface in the Late Model division. Even though ca counts were low, the Benway family stuck with it over the remainder of the season hoping that the numbers would improve. A very young Alan Johnson won the first Modified event at the track in early May of 1979.
In 1980, Benway changed up the format, by running the modified class weekly at the high banked speedway. The small block modifieds would be joined by the Late Models, Street Stocks, and mini sprints and ran on Saturday nights.
In 1986, Bub’s wife Victoria passed away. The first event that season was held with many tearful eyes. As tough as it was, the racing went on, as Victoria would have wanted. Bub wanted to preserve her memory, and in her honor, not only renamed the new VIP Tower the Victoria M. Benway Tower, but he also began what would become the richest and most popular Small Block Modified event in the country, the Victoria 200.
The crowds and fans continued to stream into Fulton. Late in April of 1986, the Benway family decided it was time for a major league show at Fulton for the Small Block Modifieds, to be named in Victoria’s memory. No one could think of a better way to honor Victoria, than with the biggest and richest Small Block Modified show in the world. It would be a great tribute for the “First Lady of Fulton Speedway”, and for someone who truly cared and poured her heart and soul into making Fulton a success. Thus, the inaugural “VICTORIA 200″ was set for October of that year.
Bitter cold temperatures and rain could not stop the inaugural tribute at the track known as the “Outlaw track”. Eighty-Eight small block modifieds registered for the event, even with the threatening weather. The race was finally held late Monday night, and the first winner of the Victoria 200 was Billy Pauch, from Stockton, New Jersey. Pauch would go in to win the next 4 Victoria 200 events.
In 1988, Benway became even more involved in racing, as he and Eric Kingsley (husband of Benway’s niece Gisele), took over the operation of the New Venture Int’l Speedway in Vernon and renamed it as the New Utica-Rome Speedway. Holding their first event in 1989, the acquisition of New Utica-Rome began what was known to be the Outlaw Circuit, arguably one of the most popular periods in racing in Central New York.
Benway and Kingsley featured the Outlaw Small Block Modifieds as their main division at both Fulton and Utica-Rome, with weekly racing also for Street Stocks and Pure Stocks. The circuit was so successful, that in 1991, Brewerton Speedway, under the direction of Harvey and David Fink, joined the group, to become a tri-track circuit for the racers, offering an overall point fund, increasing the monetary awards for the drivers. The Outlaw Circuit provided the drivers an alternative to the rival DIRT Motorsports organization. Some of the top drivers that raced on the circuit included Dale Planck, Tom Kinsella, Roger Phelps, and of course, Donnie Wetmore, Fulton’s all-time feature winner. Sanctioning the races was the NASCAR Winston Racing Series, a popular move for the racers.
The first winner, other than Pauch was Frank Cozze in 1991. Tommy Kinsella was the first Fulton regular to win the prestigious event. The event continued to grow over the years, with car counts reaching up over 100 cars for the event.
Following the 1995 season, the track changed ownership for the first time in its 34 year history. Bub Benway sold the track, as well as the Utica Rome Speedway. It was time to get out of the sport that they helped build.
In 1998, they found the track back in their hands due to foreclosure proceedings. Benway and Kinsley reopened the Utica Rome Speedway for the second half of the season.
Fulton Speedway’s future was in doubt. Months of rumours and speculation ended in July of 1998, when Harvey, Joan, and David Fink purchased the track. The Fink family also owned the Brewerton Speedway at the time. The track opened in August, and the crowds came back in full force, happy to see the historic track back in action. The Fink family ran Small Block Modifieds, Sportsman, Street Stocks, and Pure Stocks as their weekly classes.
The day after Bub Benway died in 2003, he was memorialized at his beloved Fulton Speedway in a touching tribute. The entire pit area full of over 120 race cars came down onto the frontstretch, four wide from turn one to turn four, to pay tribute to the fallen founder of their playground. With the flags at half-staff, Announcer Shane Andrews spoke about Bub’s history at Fulton and in racing, with Brother Kevin providing the moment of silence and prayers. Owner and Promoter Harvey Fink, who became a dear friend through Benway’s guidance, also spoke. The eyes of many were filled with tears.
The Kingsley family, in a touching tribute at last year’s Victoria 200, sponsored lap 100 as the “Benway Halfway Challenge”, giving $1,000 in cash to the halfway leader. Ashley, Vickie, and A.J. Kingsley, the grand nieces and nephew presented the award to Tim Fuller, and will be sponsoring this year’s halfway lap in memory of Bub and Victoria.
Bub Benway, his wife Victoria, and entire family, touched thousands of lives in motorsports over the last 45 years and they are a huge part of the reason racing flourishes in this area today. They have seen the winds of change in racing, from the days of the overheads, flatheads, sportsman, asphalt modifieds, Small Block Dirt Modifieds, and to now the days of the DIRT Modifieds. They have been involved in the promotions and operations of three speedways, and have participated in multiple sanctioning bodies in racing. Most of all, they were one of the few select group of promoters in the country who were successful in the promotion of a track with two different surfaces over a time span of many years. They did so much, for so many people. Most of all, they were private yet family oriented, and a damn good people to anyone who knew them well.
In 2009, after Harvey Fink sold the track there were a couple of lean years for Fulton Speedway, the future didn’t look bright. After the 2008 season the speedway was put up for sale and things really looked bleak for the facility to continue as a race track. The only ones who were interested in the property were people who were ready to sign the dotted line and turn the grounds into housing for Senior Citizens.
Once word got back to John Wight, who is a successful business man with Gypsum Express Trucking and Gypsum/ L J L Racing, he stepped up to the plate in a big way and purchased the track.
The first order of business was to bring back Harvey Fink and put him in the promoter’s role. Also brought back was Bob Connelly in the General Manger position.
Before the ink was even dry on the sale of the track Wight and his crew went right to work with improvements.
With Fulton Speedway’s future secure look for things to keep improving at one of the best tracks in the Northeast.