Local Raceway General Manager Named Hall of Fame Inductee
Lex Dudas first arrived at Maple Grove Raceway as a fan, then a racer and eventually becoming part of management. He has witnessed the track evolve over the years to the world renowned facility it is today.
Dudas’s first encounter with Maple Grove Raceway was as a spectator in September 1962. He was amazed at the facility and the family environment that resonated at the track. He first raced at the Grove in 1963 when he ran a 1963 B/S Plymouth. That pretty much sealed the deal for his love of the dragstrip located 25 minutes south of the city of Reading.
Dudas has had two tours working at Maple Grove and is currently the Vice President/ General Manager. What many fail to realize is that perhaps Dudas’s finest contribution for the Berks County dragstrip happened when he was an employee of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). In the early 1980s he lobbied for a National event to be held at Maple Grove. Which many now know as the Dodge NHRA Nationals that happens in early Fall.
In 1969, racer turned track lessee, Bob Eveland was in search of help at the track and contacted Dudas. His first job at Maple Grove Raceway was working in the base of the timing tower organizing handicaps for eliminators. He floated around the track filling other positions until 1971 when he officially became a full time employee at the facility. It was then that he started working closely with the Stauffer/Lewis Family, since they took over the track. Little was Dudas aware but that closeness would spark a lifelong friendship with Mike Lewis, who at the time was one of the managers at the track. Dudas joined Mike in 1972 as the other track manager and together they made magic happen by winning NHRA Northeast Division Track of the Year multiple times, bringing back NHRA divisional races and expanding the Money Trail Series. Which back then the Money Trail Series began with running NHRA classes on a weekly basis, where racers would earn points based on how they finished. The Money Trail Series still exists to this day but has evolved into an ET bracket series and attracts racers with all level of racing experience to compete for a championship.
However in 1978 Dudas parted ways with Maple Grove Raceway to become the NHRA Southeast Division Director. He returned a few years later to accept the position he currently holds which is Vice President/ General Manager.
This past Saturday, January 14, Lex Dudas attended the NHRA Northeast Division banquet at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa. where he was under the assumption he was there to represent Maple Grove along with his other staff members. He quickly realized something was off when Mike Lewis sat down in the last seat at Dudas’s table. Lewis currently resides in Indianapolis, IN, as Senior Vice-President of Don Schumacher Racing. Dudas found Lewis’s presence odd but given his involvement with NHRA and since he is President of Maple Grove Raceway, that maybe he was there to help represent the track.
What stopped Dudas in his tracks as the night progressed was turning around to see his family sitting directly behind him. A few feet away from the puzzled Dudas was his sister, brother, sister-in-law, daughter and grandsons. Once he spotted his family, they quickly tried to find a reason for their presence as to not give away the surprise and the real reason for their attendance. After that the night continued and not more was mentioned about the odd coincidences, they just sat back and enjoyed the occasion.
Once all of the special awards were presented, it was time to recognize the five 2016 inductees into the NHRA Northeast Division Hall of Fame. The master of ceremonies, Bob Frey, who also happens to be a Hall of Fame member, began reading off the accomplishments of the second recipient who still remained anonymous at that point. He noted this inductee as a “die hard supporter of drag racing.” He also briefly touched on all of the endeavors this person tackled over the last 40 plus years including being President of Super Chevy Shows, General Manager of Indianapolis Raceway Park, Track Manager, NHRA Division Two Director and Vice President/ General Manager of Maple Grove Raceway. Dudas put the pieces together and realized that what he thought were odd coincidences turned out to be a well thought out plan.
Dudas stood behind the podium to receive his award and gave a completely impromptu acceptance speech. “It has been a hell of a ride,” said Dudas. He reminisced about watching great racers clinch championships over the years. And how he witnessed racers who were just youngsters grow up and now have children of their own who race. Dudas was truly touched to have his whole family in attendance and he states his only regret in his career was time away from his kids. Which he says he plans to make up for as the end of his professional career draws near. As a 2016 NHRA Northeast Division Hall of Fame Inductee, Dudas is now part of a prestigious group of individuals such as “Jungle Jim”, Bill Jenkins and Bruce Larson.