Classic Drivers Countdown: Billy Blum Captured 1958 Classic When Bliss, Bellinger and Swift Tangled
OSWEGO, NY (August 11, 2015) – As the countdown continues toward the 59th running of the Budweiser International Classic 200 at Oswego Speedway on Sunday, September 6, we look back at the next historic Classic driver on our list, 1950’s Modified ace Billy Blum.
Blum is the first driver on our countdown that graced Oswego’s victory lane in Classic competition, and he did so all the way back in 1958.
From Syracuse, Blum was driving the Virgo Brothers owned No. 23 out of Oswego, and was sitting tight in the ’58 Classic behind Lee Bliss, Nolan Swift, and Eddie Bellinger Sr. in the early going of the now 150-lap Classic event.
On lap 37, Bliss failed to see the Buck Holliday No. 72jr which was stalled on the track. Bliss slammed into the stopped machine with Bellinger unable to miss the collision. Bellinger would then clip Swift, taking all three drivers out of the race.
Several others were also involved, including Indy 500 veteran Jim Hurtubise.
Blum was the first racer to come through unscathed, and would go on to cash in on the biggest win of his and car owner Nick Virgo’s career in the International Classic.
“Winning the Classic was my most memorable moment at Oswego,” said Blum.
Blum also contended in the very first International Classic in 1957, won by Jack Murphy, with a 17th place effort.
After Blum’s triumphant ’58 victory, he returned in 1959 driving for George Adams and Joe Magari in the day-glo orange No. 90.
Blum went on to capture the first heat race of the day to start the International Classic on pole position, setting himself up as the early favorite to be the first repeat winner of Oswego’s crown jewel.
The battle for the ’59 Classic would go back and forth between Blum and Bliss.
Blum led the first 43-laps from pole, with Bliss snagging the top spot for just three circuits, before Blum again inherited the lead for another 64-laps as the leader.
Eventually, Bliss made the winning move on lap 110 and held off the field for the final 40-laps.
Blum would go on to a runner-up finish in the Adams/Magari No. 90, capturing his second and final top five run in the International Classic.
Other than Blum’s victory in 1958, most may recall his name as a result of the spectacular 1960 Classic fire which consumed the Adams/Magari No. 90.
After suffering steering failure on the No. 90, Blum parked the car racer in turns one and two, and exited the machine. The car was stuck on the track for 10-laps when Bill Greco came along and tagged the rear end of the No. 90, rupturing the fuel tank.
Eventually the race was red flagged so the massive flames could be extinguished. Blum was fine, but the car was destroyed, and never raced again.
The 1961 Classic would mark the end of an era for Oswego’s famed Modified competitors, as the supermodifieds came onto the scene.
Blum contended in his final Classic in ’61, scoring a 9th pace run.
For years, Blum was one of the most fierce competitors on the Oswego oval, and will go down as one of the greatest Oswego A-Modified drivers of all-time, especially in the International Classic.
To purchase tickets for Budweiser International Classic Weekend and the 59th annual Budweiser International Classic 200, call the Oswego Speedway box office today at (315) 342-0646.
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About Oswego Speedway: Oswego Speedway, a sports entertainment company, is a 5/8 mile semi-banked pavement racing oval located off the shores of Lake Ontario in scenic Oswego, NY. Oswego Speedway has been a continuously run weekly racing venue since August, 1951. The premier open-wheel pavement short track cars in the world, Supermodifieds, run weekly at Oswego Speedway making Oswego the only weekly Supermodified racing venue in the world. The Small Block Supermodifieds accompany the full-blown Supers on a weekly Saturday night schedule which runs from May through September. Oswego Speedway is mentioned in racing circles as the “Indy of the East,” as no fewer than a dozen past and present competitors have competed at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway including Mario Andretti, arguably the greatest driver of all time, two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock, along with former International Classic Champions Bentley Warren, Joe Gosek, and Davey Hamilton.