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Friday, December 19, 2014
Milestone year for Wegmann
Tony Bellissimo/Herald
William Wegmann, center, with from left, grandson Andrew, stepson Ray Shannon, son William, and grandson Derek, is still racing strong at nearly 70 years old.

William Wegmann’s car, color and number hasn’t changed in the two and a half decades he’s been competing at Riverhead Raceway, but this year called for some special artwork to be added to his 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Wegmann, nicknamed the “Racing Grandpa,” will celebrate his 70th birthday on Sept. 19, the day before the season finale at Riverhead. To honor the milestone, the North Bellmore resident had “Turning 70 Tour” and “Just Racin’ On My Social Security” logos painted on the trunk.

“I still do it because it’s fun,” said Wegmann, who ranks tied for third place (out of 35 drivers) in the Blunderbust division standings with six race dates remaining. “I can still drive pretty competitively, but I won’t take big risks anymore. A damaged car costs time and money,” he added.

Wegmann, a 1962 graduate of Sewanhaka High School, started racing at Freeport Speedway as a teenager and would also be found at Islip Speedway and Riverhead in the same week when all three Long Island tracks were operating. Freeport and Islip closed in 1983 and ’84, respectively. “I raced three nights a week for many years,” he noted. “I don’t take it as seriously now as I did back then.”

His son, also named William, remembers growing up around the race scene and competing at Islip when he turned 16. He also drives in the Blunderbust division and has a handful of feature wins at Riverhead, including last year’s finale. “I was at the track as an infant, and some of my best childhood memories are being around racing,” he said.

“I knew my father would always be involved in it,” he added. “It’s in his blood deep. The thing that’s most impressive all these years is he’s done most of the work himself.”

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