"Ironman" is one way to describe the indestructible career of Lou Lazzaro, who has survived spills, bad luck, and mechanical and physical breakdowns on the speedway for more than four decades. Lady luck managed to find her way to Lazzaro's garage as well, as he piled up close to 300 career victories.
Born in Utica in 1935, Lazzaro began racing hobby cars at the age of 17 in 1952 with the help of Maugeri's Garage, an East Utica landmark. He started small, winning his first race at Columbia Speedway in Richfield Springs. He was hardly a professional driver. He was employed as a construction worker for many years and raced only one night a week in the 1950's. In 1960, he began devoting himself to serious racing on Friday nights and weekends. His crew consisted of Vinny Maugeri, George Frattasio and Peter "Junior" Bianco, and together they chose No.4 as Lazzaro's racing insignia.
In 1969, he launched the most successful stage of his career with 27 modified wins, although the winner's purse averaged $1,000 or less per race. He worked his way into the limelight in 1970 at Daytona Speedway in Florida, where his '66 Bonneville finished seventh in the Daytona 300 against the best drivers in the U.S. He earned $3,000 for that one incredible race.
Lazzaro made his "home" every Saturday night at Fonda Speedway, where he captured four New York State Modified Championships, in 1964, 1969, 1977 and 1978. His I 12 victories there landed him in the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame. On Sundays, Lazzaro took to the Utica-Rome Speedway, where he again garnered the admiration of local fans, plus two track championships. On top of that, he has more than 100 big-block victories~ at 20 tracks, dirt and asphalt, from Florida to Canada.
Lazzarro finished in the top 10 in points in both NASCAR Grand National and in NASCAR Modified Points Championships three different years. He is a member of the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame in Weedsport, and the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in Amsterdam.
A father of six children, Lazzaro operated a garage and gas station in north Utica. His son, Pete, and daughter, Melissa, later became part of his pit crew. He was sidelined during the 1984-racing season with a blocked intestine. In 1996, at the age of 60, he underwent a heart bypass operation, but slowly returned (0 the racing wars in 1997. His most recent win occurred at the age of 64 on May 16, 1999, at Fonda Speedway. He was back in action, as expected, on opening night at Fonda, the following year. Unfortunately, he died unexpectedly just a few days later, on May 1, 2000.