WEST HAVEN–Devil’s Bowl Speedway management and staff confirmed the passing of long-time stock car racing competitor Leon Gonyo, age 63 of Chazy, N.Y., Saturday, Sep. 19, 2015. Gonyo won the speedway’s final asphalt NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified race of the season on Saturday evening but succumbed soon after.
According to witnesses, Gonyo appeared to suffer a medical event while driving his racecar around the speedway during a ceremonial victory lap, causing his vehicle to accelerate and strike the front-stretch retaining wall, injuring a staff member, before approaching the victory lane area. Gonyo was transported to Rutland Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 10:54 p.m.
Gonyo was using proper safety equipment, including an approved helmet, seat, and restraining belts. The car was inspected following the incident and was deemed to be mechanically and structurally sound.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway official Dick Therrien sustained minor injuries when the car struck a ladder that he was standing on, but is recovering at home with minor injury to his leg after being evaluated at Rutland Regional Medical Center, police reported.
Gonyo was a true gentleman of the sport and enjoyed a racing career with more than 40 years of success at many race tracks in the northeastern United States and Canada, according to Devil’s Bowl Speedway officials. His talents seemed to only improve with age, they said, which was proven by his final victory on Saturday night–his fifth win of the season at Devil’s Bowl Speedway and his seventh overall in 2015.
Much more than just a winner, Leon Gonyo was a very well-respected and highly regarded member of the local stock car racing community, and was presented with Devil’s Bowl Speedway’s highest honor for 2013, the John Bruno Award, which is given annually to someone who has made a significant contribution to short track racing during their lifetime while maintaining high standards of conduct and respect on and off the track. Gonyo met and far surpassed the award’s criteria and was a leader in the community.
The effort and care shown in assisting Mr. Gonyo on Saturday night was nothing short of incredible, and Devil’s Bowl Speedway thanks the Fair Haven Rescue medical staff on site, the Devil’s Bowl Speedway Safety Team, and the many people who volunteered to help, for their personal care and professionalism.
“Our thoughts and very best wishes are with Leon Gonyo’s family and race team, his wide-reaching fan base, and the community of Chazy, New York. Devil’s Bowl Speedway thanks its legion of racing fans, competitors, officials, staff and volunteers, sponsors, and media members for their outpouring of support and asks that the same continues to be extended to the Gonyo family,” the Speedway said in a statement.