Bobby Schnars

By Thom Randolph

Bobby Schnars grew up on a farm in the small western New York of Busti and while that meant lots of hard work, it also offered a real bonus for the youngster and his friends. That benefit came included a field car and a homemade track which would play a big role in Bobby's future.

Despite the concern of Bobby's mother, the teen would spend a lot of time honing his skills. A roll-over accident near the family home involving Bobby's cousin, David Anderson and friend Ralph Botka threatened to shut down the teenager's fun, until a new option came along.

The future racer also honed his on the streets of his hometown and according to his brother, Gary, "Bobby was one of the fastest guys in Busti."

In 1956, Stateline Speedway opened on the New York and Pennsylvania state line and Bobby Schnars was one of the original drivers at the track located in his hometown. Over the next 21 years, Schnars was one of the most dominant drivers at the Jamestown area oval. He was also a fierce competitor at Eriez Speedway, which opened in 1961.

Schnars, who was just a year removed from high school when the track opened just up the road from his home, was the "King of the Late Model division" at the Chautauqua County oval setting a record for wins that still stands today.

The Late Model ace had 79 features wins at Stateline, and no one is even close to that mark even though the has been retired for over 35 years. In addition, he captured eight Late Model point championships at Stateline.

Schnars was also a regular at Eriez Speedway, where he posted 57 feature wins and captured seven track championships, in a career that spanned from 1956 to 1977

He battled legendary drivers like Dean Layfield, Squirt Johns, Skip Furlow, Lars Huling and Dick Barton in the track's premier division en route to six additional titles as Stateline-Eriez series champ.

"Dean liked to throw the car into a slide at the flag stand and I tried to do the same thing. He was kind of a showman and he would look into the standing when he was leading." Schnars remembered.

Squirt had an ability to miss the wrecks for the first year or two. He would back off heading into the corners, I learned later. Emory Mahan was always a threat if his car held up."

In addition to his stellar Late Model career, Schnars spent many years doing double duty. He teamed up with his friend, the late Gary "Frosty" Fosberg to build a car to compete in the Sportsman division at both tracks. He was just as successful in the Sportsman ranks where he battled drivers like Ron Blackmer.

Schnars won four track titles in the Sportsman division, two each at Stateline and Eriez. It is estimated that he accumulated more than 200 feature wins in the Sportsman class.

Between 1971 and 1976, Schnars picked up the checkered flag 45 times, 25 at Stateline and 20 at Eriez. Blackmer is the only driver in the track's history with more Sportsman feature wins than Schnars.

During a portion of his career he was teamed up with Jug Pierce, who he remembers as being a great guy. Pierce gave Schnars the nickname "Cannonball".

Today, the former driver lives in Busti with his wife, JoAnn and he says he rarely attends races.

"I don't really miss it, except maybe the guys," Bobby explained. "I always watch it on tv, but you get strange ideas, if you go up there too much."

In 2001, Bobby Schnars was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.


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