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Apr 29, 2019 3:29 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Silas Hiscock Sr. Of Bridgehampton Dies Following Injuries Suffered In Riverhead Raceway Crash

Silas Hiscock, left, and his son
Apr 30, 2019 11:24 AM

Silas Hiscock Sr. of Bridgehampton, a veteran INEX Legend driver, died from injuries following a crash that occurred Saturday at Riverhead Raceway, according to raceway officials.

Mr. Hiscock crashed into the wall during a practice run and had to be extricated from the car, officials said. He was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center and then moved to Stony Brook University Hospital.

In a statement Monday morning, Riverhead Raceway announced that Mr. Hiscock had died. He was 78.

“All of us at Riverhead Raceway send our condolences and prayers to the Hiscock family on the loss of this wonderful man,” the raceway said in a Facebook post.

Raceway co-owner Tom Gatz said the raceway owners received word Monday that Mr. Hiscock had died.

“We’re definitely very shaken up by it,” said Mr. Gatz, who owns the raceway along with Ed Partridge and his wife, Connie. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

It’s the first in-car fatality at the raceway since 1994, when NASCAR Modified driver Bill Quilligan, 45, died while racing in a non-contact incident after suffering what was determined to be heart failure, according to the raceway. Mr. Hiscock’s death is the fourth at the track in the past 25 years.

Bob Finan, the longtime voice of Riverhead Raceway, also called Mr. Hiscock, who raced in the No. 07 car, a “wonderful man and racer” in a Facebook post.

Mr. Hiscock’s long racing career spanned two different eras. In the 1950s and 1960s he raced both Sportsman and Modifieds, and he earned his lone Modified win on July 8, 1961.

He stepped away from racing before ultimately making a comeback with the introduction of a new class at Riverhead Raceway called the INEX Legend. In 2018, he made nine starts in his No. 07 car and placed 24th in the final point standings. The class features body styles of coupes and sedans from his racing heyday, Mr. Finan wrote in a press release on Mr. Hiscock’s passing.

“What made returning to racing more attractive to Silas this time around was the fact his sons, Silas Jr. and Will, joined him on the track, often racing side by side,” Mr. Finan wrote.

Mr. Hiscock’s son Will was making a return to Legend racing and also was practicing Saturday but was not on the track at the time of the crash.

Mr. Hiscock owned and operated Hampton Gas Tank Services in Bridgehampton.

It was in his hometown where he was well-known for driving around, with his sons, in a 1913 Mercer Raceabout, considered by some to be America’s original sports car. The Raceabout was originally purchased by his father, Fred, sometime in the 1920s and was a prized family possession.

Mr. Hiscock and his brothers considered it a privilege to spend time polishing the car until it shone in the Bridgehampton sun. And the kids would hang onto the back while their dad drove it about town, and watch their dad race it during the short revival of road racing in Bridgehampton in the 1940s. It was a staple in local parades.

When the elder Mr. Hiscock died in 1969, the car passed to his son, John, who had to sell the car as part of a divorce settlement in 1981. It was purchased by Bill Ruger—of Ruger gun manufacturing fame—who was an avid car collector from Connecticut. His nationally renowned collection of about 30 cars, including the 1913 Mercer, went up for auction when he died in 2002.

Looking for information about the pedigree, Christie’s auction house found the Hiscocks through title papers and contacted Silas Hiscock, who wound up attending the auction in Pebble Beach, California. Now fully restored, the Mercer was not going to come cheap, but Mr. Hiscock and his son Skip headed west, determined to bring the car back home and in family possession, despite there being a large presence of car collectors from around the world in the room, with their eyes on the once-in-a-lifetime haul.

“My son was on the edge of his chair” when the bidding jumped by $100,000 at a time, Mr. Hiscock told The Press in September 2014. Reps for Jay Leno, known for his extensive car collection, were there. But in the final rounds of bidding, it was Mr. Hiscock who topped the comedian’s best bid.

Declining to say at the time how much the winning bid was—it was $865,000—Mr. Hiscock said he “would have borrowed a million bucks down at the bank” if needed. “I wanted it back, because it was my father’s,” he added.

Charlie Corwith, 70, the former owner of Corwith's Auto Body in Water Mill before retiring last July and leaving the business to his son Cliff, entered a business agreement with Mr. Hiscock in 1990 where he provided gas for the shop and the Corwiths would do some work on his various cars. For the following three decades, the Corwiths and Hiscocks were friends and Mr. Hiscock would enter three or four cars into the annual Water Mill Classic Car Show that Mr. Corwith helps run.

"Bringing the Mercer," Mr. Corwith recalled of Mr. Hiscock always saying in regards to the car show. "He loved talking about his cars. He would talk all afternoon and he would talk to anybody. He loved coming down there.

"Always a man of his word, a guy guy," he added. "Very personable. Always friendly, always outgoing. If you ever needed a helping hand he would come and help you."

Danny McNamara, 68, of Water Mill, was one of the most successful Legends drivers not only at Riverhead Raceway but at one point the country and was very fond of Mr. Hiscock, whom he raced against plenty of times. Mr. McNamara was "disheartened" to hear of Mr. Hiscock's death.

"He may not have been a member of my family, but he was a member of my racing family," he said. "That means a lot, and over the years I've lost a lot of dear friends who have died doing what they loved, and he was doing what he loved."

Unfortunately, Mr. McNamara said, it's not the first time he's had to field phone calls and hear about a friend succumbing to injuries on the track. He recalled, among others, when Charlie Jarzombek, a Baiting Hollow native who was a fixture at Riverhead Raceway, died in a fatal crash in Martinsville, Virginia.

But Mr. McNamara furthered Mr. Corwith's point, that Mr. Hiscock was always there to lend a helping hand.

"That’s what really made him such a wonderful friend and a wonderful racer," he said.

"Silas was one of the hardest guys to pass. He was a very, very clean racer. He'd race you clean but he'd race you hard. He was not just going to move over for you.

"I loved and respected the guy, not only in his racing but his business. He was just one of those guys you could kick back with and just have a lot of fun to talk to. There were a thousand stories you could talk about with Silas."

While the raceway season hasn’t officially started yet, Saturday was a “sneak preview,” with free public practice. The first practice day scheduled for April 20 was rained out. The season is scheduled to officially begin this Saturday, May 4, with a 50-lap NASCAR Modified main event and Mr. Finan said there will be a moment of silence prior to the racing.

"Over the years on opening night I pay homage to those in our racing family who have passed away during the off season. Silas will be included and of course prominent in that moment of silence," he said.

Another crash occurred during Saturday’s practice but did not result in serious injury.

The circumstances that led the impact involving Mr. Hiscock’s crash are not fully known, the raceway said. The crash occurred “just feet away” from the turn four entrance gate to the track. It happened in close proximity to the ambulance EMT and other safety personnel, who “were on scene immediately,” the raceway said.

He was transported to PBMC and, once he was stabilized, doctors determined he needed to be transferred to a Level 1 trauma center at Stony Brook University Hospital. He died sometime late Sunday night or Monday morning, the raceway said.

Visiting hours are Thursday, May 2, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor. Burial is Friday, May 3, at 11 a.m. at Edgewood Cemetery in Bridgehampton.

In 1999, Walt Edsall, the NASCAR chief steward at the track, was struck by a wheel that came off a Modified car during a heat race. He died a few weeks later. In 2002, Larry Costa, a Blunderbust/Charger driver, was fatally injured after falling from a golf cart at the track.

Story by Joe Werkmeister, editor of the Times Review Media Group, with reporting from staff writer Tim Gannon, and Press News Group Sports Editor Drew Budd.

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What a great guy! 78 and racing, bad ass!
By Say What (14), southampton on Apr 29, 19 5:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
He went to Southside trauma not SB.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Apr 29, 19 9:26 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Apr 29, 19 9:32 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Apr 29, 19 9:36 PM
visiting at Yardley and Pino in Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon and burial Edgewood cemetery 11 AM Friday
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Apr 29, 19 9:43 PM
Deepest condolences, and regrets that we couldn’t visit yesterday. xo m & j
By bh nematode (10), bridgehampton on May 3, 19 8:57 PM