The first panel discussion of the Canadian Motorsport Expo's weekend took place Friday night.
Led by veteran track owner and Race Time Radio host Joe Chisholm, a group including legendary Canadian stock car racer Junior Hanley and featuring photographer Dave Franks and three gentlemen closely associated with the late Don Biederman - Bob Sumak, Peter Andeloro and Ross May - discussed the life and career of 'Daytona Don.'
Biederman raced late-model stock cars primarily in Ontario but was enough of a gunslinger that American and Maritime promoters would pay him appearance money to race at their speedways in order to boost their gates.
His most famous victory of many chalked up over the years came in 1977 when he won the Oxford 250 in Oxford, Me., defeating upwards of a half-dozen Winston Cup regulars in the process. As well, he raced in more than 40 NASCAR Grand National events and finished in the top ten on a number of occasions.
A good friend away from the speedway, Biederman was all business at the track because he raced for a living. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 59.
Of the many stories his friends related, two stuck out as illustrations of the type of man and racer Don Biederman was.
Hanley reminisced about a time when he and Biederman were invited Down East to participate in races in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Said Hanley: "Just as I came out of the tunnel in Montreal, my crankshaft let go. Don hooked everything up and towed us all the way to the New Brunswick speedway so we could go racing."
Another time, Biederman was invited to race at a track in Rockville, Ill. After the feature there, he drove all night to get to Cayuga Speedway, south of Hamilton, for a race the next day. Said his friend Andeloro, "Don looked at me and said, 'You know, if I could just get 10 minutes' sleep, I could be tough.' So we told him to go have a sleep and we'd look after things."
It was that kind of dedication that made Biederman great, his friends agreed.
And the difference between then (when Biederman and Hanley raced) and now is that there are more people on a race team today.
Everyone agreed that, these days, there are specialists for tires and specialists for transmissions and specialists for just about everything having to do with the race car. Back then, two or three guys - led by the driver - did it all.
Talking about doing it all, host Chisholm said that when he purchased Sauble Speedway in 1994, one of the first to drop by was Biederman, who told Chisholm that he was going to teach him something.
Whereupon, Biederman went to the back of his truck and took out a broom. He then suggested the best way to prepare a track for racing was to sweep it clean - from the bottom of the track up to the top and from there into a garbage can, rather than the other way around, from top to bottom.
Chisholm said that he and Biederman talked for a couple of hours and by the time their conversation ended, Biederman had swept the track clean all the way from Turn 3 through Turn 4 and he'd done it his way.
One surprise: Hanley suggested that drivers looking to improve their performance on oval tracks might consider attending road-racing school. "I know the ones who've done that have been better afterward," he said.
Dario Franchitti, Ron Fellows and Max Papis will headline Saturday's Expo.