The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 6, 2013

Motorsports: Cozze returns to modified roots


A two-sport athlete in high school (wrestling and football), Cozze started running the big block modifieds full-time in 1976.

"I was the rookie champion at the Flemington Fair Speedway (N.J.) in 1974 in a car that my dad gave to me that Budd Olsen had driven and destroyed when the throttle stuck," he said. "My dad said that if I could fix the car I could race it. It was a 1936 Chevy Coupe."

In 1975, Cozze went to Brewerton Speedway in Western, N.Y., a track he had never heard of and won the 100-lap sportsman feature.

"I made $1,428 for that win. I had the cash in my hand and I thought that no man can have more money in the world than this," he said.

The men who drove for Cozze's father read like a Who's Who in modified racing with Olsen, Stan Ploski, Bobby Pickel and the legendary Al Tasnady.

"Those guys were my heroes, and can you imagine sitting at the dinner table and having Al Tasnady sitting across from you? They all helped me out with advice and I always thanked them for that."

Jumpin' Jack Johnson, the all-time winningest driver at the Fonda Speedway (N.Y.) and a fellow DIRT motorsports Hall of Famer, mentored Cozze in his early days on the Super DIRT Series tour.

"I always liked Jack and he helped me out when I got started with the series," Cozze said. "We had a lot of 'car-wash talks,' as we always seemed to end up at the same car wash after a race."

With more than 300 wins to his credit, it took Cozze nearly 30 years to win the 200-lap feature at Syracuse, the crown jewels for modifieds.

"It's just luck to win there," he said of Syracuse. "I didn't make the show my first year in 1976. The next year, we timed 10th quick out of 206 cars. I ran second in 1978 and was battling Gary Balough in his famed 'Batmobile' in 1980 when Budd (Olsen) passed me for second."

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