Track Owner Linda Cosco To Receive Hall of Fame Honors
By Buffy Swanson
For her commitment and perseverance in the face of adversity, Canadian track owner Linda Cosco of St. Catharines, Ontario, will be recognized as the recipient of the annual Outstanding Woman in Racing Award during the 2018 Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The Thursday, July 26 event will be held at the Hall of Fame Museum located on the Weedsport Speedway complex in New York. Cosco and several others will be honored before family and friends for the many contributions they have made to the sport of dirt racing.
From the first time they met, at a construction company in 1979, Pete Cosco and Linda Saltarelli were inseparable. Pete enjoyed drag racing, and Linda gladly followed along into the sport of fast times and fierce competition. From the straight-line stuff, Pete made the segue to the local dirt ovals, first as a sponsor, then car owner, and driver of Go-Karts, Sportsman and, finally, Modified race cars, with buddies like Don McGinnis, Bob St. Amand, Harry Sittler and Trevor Wilkins.
"Whatever Pete wanted to do, I followed him," said Linda. "I was with him, whatever we did."
Linda didn’t sit on the sidelines: For years, she handled scoring for the Karts at Merrittville Speedway, and also for the big cars. Not to mention her involvement in Pete’s trucking business, Cosco Haulage. They had two kids, 13 dump trucks and race cars for Pete and their son-in-law, Bob Davidson. A busy life. Probably the last thing they needed was — a race track.
But in 2004, after a controversial race call at Humberstone Speedway infuriated Pete, he and Linda up and bought the track.
"It just happened," Linda said of the outright purchase. "It was Pete’s decision and I went with him 100%."
Never one to do anything half-measure, Pete and his family threw themselves into major renovations at the Port Colborne facility. A thousand loads of clay, new septic system, erected billboards, constructed a bar, redid the track kitchen with new equipment, repaired and painted everything. . . The list was long.
"We rebuilt the place from the bottom up," Linda stated. "Pete put his whole heart and soul into it. That was his dream. He was going to retire and run that race track."
It wasn’t easy. Humberstone runs on Sundays, the toughest night to pull cars and a crowd. For two years, they tinkered with the schedule, finally dropping the Modifieds as the weekly headlining class.
Their hard work was beginning to show steady promise when the unthinkable happened. On August 27, 2014, Pete Cosco died of a brain aneurysm.
"It was out of the clear blue," Linda remembered. "He had just turned 60. I never even had the chance to say good-bye."
Devastated but not undone, Linda Cosco wasn’t about to call it quits.
"Pete always told me — 'If anything happens to me, you’ve got to keep the trucks and the track going.' So that’s what I’m going to do. This is what Pete wanted: To carry on the legacy."
Aided by her son-in-law Bob Davidson, Dave Bitner and an entire staff dedicated to keeping Pete’s dream alive, Linda has not only managed to keep the gates open at Humberstone, but has introduced special promotions, sanctioned series events (DIRTcar Sportsman, RUSH Late Models, ROC, BEI Lightning, Action Sprint Tour, Northeast Late Model Alliance), sponsorships and partnerships. They have brought in thrill shows, started a weekly Kids' Club, and established an annual event in Pete’s memory, paying $4,000 to win for the Modifieds.
She is still hands-on every race night, working the office and phone lines, selling tickets, handling payout and payroll. Bitner has taken on the promoter’s role, as Davidson shifts his focus to running the trucking outfit.
“It's hard, you know?" Linda deliberated on Pete’s sudden passing and the added duties she has had to assume. "We were with each other 24/7. We built both businesses together. You don’t fully understand how much you rely on someone until they’re not there."
Her son-in-law also acknowledges the weight of Pete’s absence.
"Very seldom did anyone see Pete without Linda at his side. For her, his death leaves a huge void," Bob said.
Although the subject of selling the speedway has been considered — there was an actual offer on the table a year ago —that is not an option, according to Davidson.
"It was never a question that Linda would keep the track," he declared. "She won’t give it up. This is what Pete would have wanted."