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Lex Dudas remembered, by Mike Lewis

08 May 2018
Posted by NHRA.com staff
News

lewis-dudas.jpgI was just 21 when my dad and I took over management of Maple Grove Raceway. It was January, 1971 and we had two months to put together our schedule, our budgets and, most of all, our staff. My first phone call was to Lex Dudas. I had watched Lex work for Bob Eveland during Bob’s lease of Maple Grove. Lex and Dave Grubb previously raced a C/Dragster and the Northeast Comp racers asked Lex to run their Competition Racers Association. I knew Lex as a “take charge” guy with both the CRA and as Maple Grove’s Event Director and that’s exactly what we needed. He said yes and then went to work assembling our event staff. Within a year we offered Lex a full time Co-Manager position. 

Two years later we became brothers-in-law and our relationship soon included nieces and nephews. His daughter Traci and son Todd still call me Uncle Mike and my daughters, Jen and Aly, called him Uncle Lex. 

We worked in a former USPS trailer parked at the track until permanent offices became available. We shared an 8’ by 8’ office with two phones and thought we were kings. We didn’t always see eye to eye and that little office could be icy or hot but we always broke through the tension and made the best decisions for Maple Grove. We both excelled at major events with big crowds and staging lanes filled with race cars. Our strongest bond came away from the track at family events but we never seemed to last more than 10 minutes without turning our conversations back to racing.

When Wally offered Lex the Southeast Division Director position at the end of 1978, I knew he’d do a great job filling Buster’s boots. It wasn’t long before he earned the respect of the Division 2 Rebels in spite of his Yankee status. He maintained his office in Pennsylvania to avoid uprooting his family and made countless drives to and from the South, often on a weekly basis. His relationship with D2 track owners was tested quickly but he was soon pals with the Art Malones , Carl Weisingers and Dick Morosos who set the trends in the Southeast.

Although Lex was gone from Maple Grove, he remained a major ally inside the NHRA hierarchy through the 1980s and lobbied for a National Event that would become the NHRA Keystone Nationals in 1985. 

Our career paths zigged and zagged across the country for the next 15 years but we remained in touch throughout our respective journeys until fate brought us separately to lunch at Union Jack in Indy in 2003. I was working at DSR by then but remained on the Maple Grove board. He was looking for something closer to his family in Pennsylvania and we had a Sales and Marketing position available at Maple Grove. Lex took it and quickly morphed into a Sales pro after a career in motorsports operations. 

His gift of gab, background knowledge and ability to see marketing, signage and sponsorship opportunities made him an overnight success. Within four years we promoted Lex to Vice President and General Manager. He would finish his motorsports career where he started, at Maple Grove Raceway. He was named to both the Southeast Division and the Northeast Division Halls of Fame. He was named to the Maple Grove Walk of Fame and saluted with the Alfred S. Stauffer Memorial Award, Maple Grove’s highest honor, named for the Founder, at the 2018 Awards Banquet. 

Perhaps Lex’s greatest honors have come posthumously in hundreds of glowing comments throughout Social Media. I’ve read posts from family members, fans, co-workers and local racers but also from pro racers from NHRA, NASCAR, ARCA, USAC and ASA. I’ve read posts from across the globe. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing on the phone with many mutual friends like Steve Johnson and Darrell Gwynn. 

Lex fought liver cancer for a year but remained a consultant, friend and advisor until undergoing transplant surgery two months ago. Ultimately, the transplant failed and Lex passed away on Tuesday, May 8.