History of the Saranac Lake Speedway

Wes “Slugger” Moody

The Saranac Lake Speedway was created, owned and operated by Aaron and Pearl Hoyt in a field on their farm on the Trudeau in a picturesque setting in the Adirondacks.

Patricia Neff sent me a massive file of pictures, rules of the track, statistics and Enterprise clippings complied by her late husband Tom.

Patricia sent me a note telling about arriving at the Hoyt farm to look at an apartment that was for rent. Tom had just been discharged from the Vietnam-era U.S. Army.

Tom ended up the go-to guy if one wanted to know anything about the track … he, with Pat, keeping score, mowed the grass, acted as steward and handyman and wrote press releases to the Enterprise.

Mrs. Hoyt was trying to soft-pedal (no pun intended) that fact that there was a stock car racing track a few hundred feet behind the house. So right in the middle of her pitch to rent the apartment, Tom, when he saw the track, who happened to be a racing buff, said, ‘we’ll take it.’

Jim Hoyt, not visible, in his No. 55 car

The track existed for about 10 years, approximately 1959 until 1969. The races drew huge crowds; one race card on a Friday night drew 1,500 paid admissions with probably another 500 gathered outside the fence with no room in the bleachers.

Jim Hoyt, a noted stock car driver, was always in the races, along with Wes “Slugger” Moody. Moody is now the owner and operator of the Moody Tree Farm and Landscaping business near Gabriels. Jim still lives on the farm and was a well-known member of the ski patrol at Whiteface Mountain. Most of the cars and drivers back then were from the Tri-Lakes.

‘Girl’ drivers were featured

“In the wake of last week’s first lap crash, Joan Patterson of Lake Placid drove 10 circuits in the women’s Powder Puff Derby. The car, number 43, was owned by her husband, Pat, the speedway’s hottest driver the past couple of weeks.” [The only other driver mentioned in the road class division was Mary Tuthill.]

Track demons draw chords

“Perennial crowd pleasers Gaston Desmarias and Dick Nephew were given a standing ovation Friday evening at the Saranac Lake Speedway as they battled to a near photo finish with Gaston the winner, taking the inside track and the checkered flag. Both were driving Ford-powered coupes.

“Desmarias, the ‘Flying Frenchman’ of Tupper Lake, captured the Sportsman’s Class event in this thrilling manner, and John Rushlaw won the road car feature with Al Patterson narrowly edging out Larry Muzzy for second. Donna ‘Leadfoot’ Hoyt was champion in the Powder Puff Derby.”

Hoyt wins feature race

This was the lead story on the Enterprise Sports Page on September 8, 1959 by none-other than Howard Riley:

“The red and white racer, No. 6-12, landed on its top, wheels spinning uselessly and Wilfred Leroux of Faust, N.Y., crawled out a bit shaken but otherwise unscathed after leading the pack through 11 laps of the 15-lap feature race at the Saranac Lake Speedway Sunday afternoon. Bob Bruno, driving a Triple 0, tagged Leroux from the rear causing the upset as he and Jim Hoyt fought for Leroux’s lead.

“Hoyt apparently had won but Bruno protested that he understood that starter Art Prarie had stopped the race because of the cluttered track and consequently never bothered to finish.

“No formal protest will be made to the NASCAR as an agreement was reached on the spot when Hoyt consented to split the points and prize money with Bruno.

“Porter, Bob Bushey of Burlington and Ormsby and Bridges of Plattsburgh took firsts in other events. Ray Bordeau’s smooth tires gave him all the trouble he could handle in the first race as he careened wildly from rail to infield, fighting to keep his B-9 on the track.

“A Demolition Race will be held, in addition to other events next Sunday. If you have an old car you have no further use for, but will still operate, bring it on. You need only a safety belt, crash helmet and guts. The car that remains running when this ram-jam race is over takes home the prize money.”

The end of the speedway

The Speedway was great local entertainment but apparently was not a money-making business….here is the track’s obituary, so eloquently stated by Mr. Neff:

“When spring 1959 arrived at Aaron Hoyt’s farm along Saranac Lake’s Trudeau Road, equipment was out on the old potato field working the soil. [Mr. Hoyt did own the Chrysler Dealership on River Street at that time.] However, spuds would not bring Aaron an insured income – he was hoping his new one-half mile clay-topped speedway behind the barn would become a successful enterprise. About 10 years later when the last checkered flag was unfurled over the Saranac Lake Speedway many people were left with fond memories, while Aaron nursed a financial licking. Yes, the old racing adage is true: ‘You can make a million dollars in auto racing  – if you spend 10 million dollars pursuing your dream.'”