We can thank the US Air Force for Rudolph family racing legacy. Joining the Air Force straight out of high school, Grandpa Jim found himself transferred to the Niagara Falls Air Base around 1960. With a little dirt track in Ransomville close by, the racing bug bit. Jim competed in the hobby division, winning two championships until another transfer took the family to Long Island, NY. With no dirt tracks in the area, Jim started racing on the asphalt. This is where he befriended a local driver by the name of Charlie Jarzombek. The two would run the bullrings up and down Long Island until one last transfer brought the Rudolphs back to what would be home.
In 1967 the family landed in Ransomville. With Jim’s experience now primarily on the asphalt and Ransomville Speedway’s hard times, Lancaster Speedway became home. Jim always ran #12 but with Bill Sandman’s modified running Lancaster, the easy transformation to #72 was made. For the next 15 years Jim’s #72 would compete in what most would say were the glory years of asphalt modified racing. Lancaster and Spencer Speedway were the weekly venues. Trips to Oswego, Fulton, Shangri La, Holland, Perry, Hamilton, Ont among others were frequent. The season ending treks to Langhorne, Trenton and Pocono were also made. Jim’s most successful year was 1974 with multiple wins at Spencer and Lancaster with a Spencer Speedway Championship. Grandpa would hang up the helmet for good around 1981. In 1996 Jim was inducted to the FOAR SCORE Hall of Fame.
Needless to say, Papa Charlie grew up with racing in his blood. The funny thing is, driving wasn’t an end all be all in his youth. He enjoyed competing in the “stick & ball” sports with football and basketball being favorites. Another strength he exhibited during this time was academic excellence. After high school graduation, Charlie headed to Rochester Institute of Technology for engineering. It was during his sophomore year at RIT that the decision was made to try his hand at driving. In 1978 the “BB&S” team using the original Rudolph #12 was formed. BB&S jokingly stood for “beg, borrow & steal”.
After a quick learning curve that involved a few confrontations with the concrete, Charlie was on his way. In three years, a mechanical engineering degree from RIT and a Lancaster track championship were in his possession. Not only running at Lancaster but Spencer, Oswego, Shangri La, Martinsville were destinations. And of course the season ending Race of Champions at Pocono. 1980 saw Charlie to venture into the world of dirt racing. With Ransomville Speedway thriving, it was only natural. In only seven full seasons on the DIRT circuit he amassed 49 wins, four track championships and the overall Mr. DIRT driving title in 1986. The unique part of this success was the fact that in the days of the Troyers, Showcars, Tobias cars, Charlie’s engineering and Grandpa’s ideas kept the homemade Rudolph chassis in championship form.
In 1987 Charlie felt it was time to try the next step, Winston Cup. He made his debut at Dover in June and finished 22nd. Four more races were entered with a 13th at Pocono being the best showing. Big plans were made for 1988 only to have a sponsorship deal fall through and a major practice crash at Daytona put the team way behind. A series of mechanical woes put the Cup effort in a hole that couldn’t be dug out of. He finished out his career returning to the modified scene on both the dirt and asphalt, finally exiting the driver’s seat in 1995. All told, after only 17 years behind the wheel, 85 wins, 7 track championships and a Mr. DIRT title. Charlie has been since been inducted into the FOAR SCORE and New York State Stock Car Association Halls of Fame.