Nick Fornoro 1920 - 2007 Nick Fornoro passed away early this morning from a hemorrhagic stroke (a massive bleed to the brain). He’d been comatose for just over a week.
Nicky was known to many of you through his duties as a starter (flagman)—either in grassroots open wheel racing or as the CART Indy Car Series first official chief starter. Others knew him through sons Drew (my husband) or Nick, Jr. “Nokie” who race midgets in the northeast and Midwest. The old timers remembered Nicky from his own racing exploits (midgets, sprints and the occasional stock car) back in the 40’s and 50’s.
The official info on Nicky follows, but my own personal experience dates back to my childhood when he flagged the ARDC midget races that my dad Russ Klar competed in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s (Nicky had raced against him in the 40’s and 50’s too). Nicky was always a very sweet and kind man, and as a starter, he worried about the drivers, all of whom he considered personal friends. In later years, the race car engine noise took its toll on his hearing which made for some interesting conversations at our holiday dinner table.
When I first started working for US Tobacco (Copenhagen/Skoal) and traveled the Indy car circuit in 1984, it was comforting to know that Nicky was at all the same races. We’d compare notes on travel delays flying out of the Newark airport (he had more horror stories than I ever did). I always appreciated all who asked about him in the later years after his retirement. He was always glad to hear about it and would usually recall a little story about the person mentioned. He might not remember what he had for breakfast (or even if he had breakfast) but he always remembered his friends in racing.
On behalf of the Fornoro family, I’d like to thank all for the kindness you’ve shown our family over the years. It is a difficult time but we are comforted by the fact that Nicky had a wonderful life and his racing family was a large part of the reason why.
Best, Anne Fornoro
Born in Madison, N.J., Nicky raced cars from 1946 to 1956, earning the ARDC Midget Racing championship title in 1950 and becoming the first NASCAR Midget champion in 1953. He retired from driving in 1956 at the request of his wife Bette and started flagging the next day at Victory Speedway in Middletown, NY as a way to stay involved in racing.
He became the official flagman (starter) for numerous professional racing organizations including ARDC, ATQMRA, USAC (east coast events) and on occasion URC as well as individual tracks such as Pocono Int’l Raceway. He eventually became the first Chief Starter for the international Championship Auto Racing Teams Indy Car Series, serving in that position from 1979-1992. In 1993, he was the honorary starter for the Indianapolis 500, which marked his last Indy car race in an official capacity. In the ensuing years, he often traveled to races where Drew and Nokie competed as well as to the NASCAR races at Pocono which is owned by his good friends Doc and Rose Mattioli, and to Nazareth Raceway when it hosted the Indy cars.
Fornoro was retired from the Ironworkers Local 11, Newark, NJ.
He is survived by Elizabeth (Bette), his wife of nearly 59 years, two sons Drew and Nofri “Nokie” Jr., daughter Cindee Bertling, sisters Celeste Weisgerber and Constance Abdalla, brother Billy Fornaro, owner of Billy’s Red Room, seven grandchildren: Jessica Fornoro, Nofri, Lanson and Jarett Fornoro, Tara and J.J. Bertling and Marie Fornoro, and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Checkered Flag Fan Club Injured Drivers’ Fund; P.O. Box 79; Kutztown, PA 19530 or the Joey Bella Memorial Fund, Inc. (15 Myers Ave., Denville, NJ 07834) which provides direct assistance to families in need during catastrophic illness.