Tommy Cuzzilla Sr. 2020 YSHOF Inductee:



Tommy Cuzzilla Sr. Wasaga Beach Speedway '66 & '67 Championship Car in B Modifieds for YSHOF Profile Page

Tommy Cuzzilla Sr. Wasaga Beach  ’66 & ’67 Championship Car in B Modifieds

Tommy Cuzzilla Sr. 1969 Sunset Diamond Championship Car YSHOF Profile Page

Tommy Cuzzilla Sr. 1969 Sunset Diamond Championship Car

Tom Cuzzilla-Chevy II Pinecrest 1972 Championship Car - YSHOF Profile Page

Tom Cuzzilla-Chevy II Pinecrest 1972 Championship Car



Tom Cuzzilla Sr.

Born February 27 1935 – Windsor Ontario

Passed away January 15 2020  – Port Perry Ontario

 

Born to Canadian immigrants

Natale Cuzzilla – Father – Italy

Mary Anderson Watts – Mother – Scotland

 

1 older sibling that is predeceased

Colin Cuzzilla

 

Married to Audrey August 19 1968 until his death

 

Children

Terry Cuzzilla, Kim Cuzzilla & Tom Cuzzilla Jr.

 

Grandchildren

Kristy Reichl, Heather Popowich, Alex Cuzzilla & Cameron Cuzzilla

 

Great Grandchildren

Jayda Swinerd & Katrina Reichl

 

Summary of career stats;

121 Feature Wins –  Supermodified, TQ Midget, Late Model, Diamond Division, B Modified

1966 Wasaga Beach Speedway B Modified Champion

1967 Wasaga Beach Speedway B Modified Champion

1969 Sunset Speedway Diamond Late Model Champion

1972 Pinecrest Speedway Late Model Champion

1972 Italian-Canadian Driver of the Year

 

His story(The short version)

Tom and his brother Colin could not afford admission into the racetrack so they would watch through holes in the fence where they became enamoured with the #50 of Len Hurley the number both of them would carry on almost every race car they built and competed in .

Started racing in Jalopy class 1952 at Pinecrest – was found to be a minor after 1 race and had to wait a year to race full time

Ran Jalopies at CNE and Pinecrest before quickly moving up to Super Modified to compete against the Canadian greats of the era including Jimmy Howard, Ted Hogan, Ivan Moore, Billy Cromb, Norm Mackereth, Harvey Lennox, Jack Greedy. He was fortunate enough to have some of the greatest minds of the time Jimmy Howard and Doug Duncan guide him on building a better car, Clayton Worth on how to build better engines, Ivan Moore and Billy Krum on being a better race car driver as well as a dedicated crew that included lifelong friends Tom”Lanky” Allen and Mike “Barney” Barnes. The most memorable car Tom built in this time was “The Vampire” that was a Aluminum unibody design that utilized the underbelly of a Vampire Jet as a hood and repurposed missile ports for forced air intake ducts, it was with this car Tom declared not to shave until he won a Feature which he would accomplish but not before growing a beard for most of the season. Also in the same era ran TQ midgets with great success with guidance from Barney Robinson went on a winning streak of 8 consecutive feature wins.

In the early 60’s moved to the late model division with moderate success with feature wins around the province often battling the likes of Jack Cook, Nick Rampling, Vic parson, Doug Warnes and John Shirtliff. The most notable win of this era at Wasaga Beach Speedway being earned by spiraling upside down after catching the guard rail on the last exit out of turn 4 taking the checkered flag airborne and upside down

With a move back to open wheel cars and with the lesson’s taught from Howard and Duncan the reacquired and redesigned “Vampire” chassis as well as some one off engine components from Johnny of Canadian Chrome and Crankshaft Tom hit his stride winning on a regular bases and earning the 1966 and 1967 Wasaga Beach Speedway B modified titles where he battled with Burt Smith, George Pringle , Bob Beamish, Ab Leach and Rick Batters as well as visits and success at South Shore speedway. The championships were hard fought with one win earned by hastily welding rocker tappet to broken stud mere minutes before last call for feature – charging through the field with the patched engine for another win to secure points for the coveted championship.

A return back to Late model stock cars in the late 60’s and the beginning of New York Auto Wrecker’s of Toronto as a main sponsor would see a dominate 1969 season culminating in the 1969 Diamond division championship at Sunset Speedway. A long awaited return to Pinecrest for 1970 and 1971 seasons with the underdog Diamond car would see sporadic feature wins and a rise as a force to be reckoned with at the only remaining speedway located in Toronto that drew the best of the best Ontario competitors. Tom’s underdog success at Pinecrest started gaining the hearts of the lower middle working class race fans of Toronto.

The 1972 season would be the first full season for the 1967 Chevy II which as all cars before it were homebuilt from the ground up with very little of the shelf go fast parts. This car utilized a torsion bar suspension that was set up more like midget race cars of the era where the left front would rise of the track almost a foot in the middle of the corner. Determined to beat the best of Ontario including Don Biederman, Earl Ross, Norm Lelliott, Jack Cook, Howie Scannell, Phil Zampino, George Rueffer, Vic parson, Doug Warnes, Howard “Tiny” Degeer and Bill Burrows 1972 would see Tom and his dedicated crew of John Roy and Larry Baker outwork the competition relentlessly combined with Tom’s “devil may care” driving style capture the most feature wins for the season and the Pinecrest Speedway championship forever forging Tom into the hearts of many of his fan base that after his death have had a huge outpouring of his influence on their own lives and success as one of their own had defeated all challengers through pure hard work and determination inspiring them to do the same for themselves.

With growing family responsibility and the related expenses Tom had an opportunity to sell the championship car that had been banned from competition with a one year allowance. He sold the car and combined with his race earnings from his crowning achievement year paid a large part of his mortgage.

1973 would see Tom come out of retirement at Pinecrest Speedway for one race only driving for lifelong friend Vaughn Marshall in a car they built together. Using every lesson and trick Tom had learned over the years he scored a final feature victory against all odds. Not being able to stay away from the sport he loved there would be on again off again returns to late model racing through the late 70’s and early 80’s but the escalating cost of racing and the new generation of drivers who were emerging such as Jr. Hanley, Tom Milligan, Wayne Keeling, Herb Erb and Bill Zardo dominating the Ontario racing landscape Tom hung up his helmet for good or so he thought as there would be 2 more starts, one in 1990 at Flamboro Speedway Octoberfest where he climbed back behind the wheel to make sure the car was prepped properly for his then 18 year old son Tom Jr. who was starting his own racing career and his final start in 2006 at Peterborough Speedway with family friend and long time crew member Ron Moulds by his side again in his son’s car as a fill in driver therefore competing at least once in 6 decades since the 1950’s.

Tom continued in the sport often lending a helping hand to those he thought needed it, always pulling for the underdog. He would help his son Tom Jr. throughout his career and his grandsons launch their racing endeavours as well. Tom’s grandson Alex continues to compete proudly carrying the #50 his grandfather made a staple in Ontario racing and at only 17 has shown signs that there maybe another chapter to be written in this story.

Courtesy of Tom Cuzzilla Jr.