Harry Macy has stood tall in the world of TQ Midget racing for decades. When Lancaster Raceway Park begins its oval track season Sunday, it will be roughly a year since the veteran car owner made his emotional return to the Gunnville Road speedway.
Macy is a TQ Midget car owner from Buffalo and the race director for Lancaster's TQ Midget division. He returned to the track last April just weeks after having his right leg amputated below the knee. His courage, positive attitude and devotion have been an inspiration to those within the local auto racing fraternity.
"I think that when I showed up at Lancaster for the first time since losing my leg, it was more emotional for the other people who know me than it was for myself," said Macy, who turns 77 in June. "I think it was a little awkward for them at first, especially when I was still in the wheelchair.
"I went into the hospital last year with circulation problems. The result was they had to cut off part of my right leg. I had to begin the rehabilitation, starting with a wheelchair, and then a walker, then a cane as I was fitted with an artificial leg.
"I had a positive attitude through the whole thing. You got to, or you'll just wilt. My leg was removed on March 1, and after some rehabilitation I got back to Lancaster in time to make the first practice session, and I never missed a race all last year. One of my legs is now plastic, but I'm not handicapped. I'm ready to go racing."
Racing was transformed from being just a sport for Macy to a form of therapy.
TQ Midgets are small, open-cockpit, open-wheel cars that sport a motorcycle engine and a full roll cage. Macy's No. 9 car won the Lancaster and Wyoming County International Speedway TQ Midgets championships two seasons ago with Canadian Jared Turnbull driving, and Macy enters the 2005 campaign with young talent D.J. Sossong of Lockport as his driver.
"You know back when the Midgets were racing at Civic Stadium in Buffalo, they were in their heyday," Macy said. "Then the interest in TQ Midgets sort of died off somewhat because of the growing interest in stock cars."
Now, because drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and others started their racing careers in Midgets and are the big stars of NASCAR, interest in the class is rekindling.
Macy, a former driver who retired from active race car driving in 1989, got his start behind the wheel in 1959. He was born in Brooklyn and moved to Buffalo in 1938 when his father got a job with Westinghouse.
He first drove his TQ Midget at Lancaster in the early 1960s before the class gave way to stock cars. With his help, the class returned to Lancaster in 1992, and they have been part of the race program since.
Known as "The Flying Mail Man" because he was employed by the Postal Service, Macy also was president of the Can-Am TQ Midget Racing Club for two decades and promoted the Niagara Indoor TQ Midget Racing Series for several winters before the Niagara Falls Convention Center was converted into a casino three years ago.
"Even as I was going through my rehabilitation, I was still able to sit in our race shop last spring and supervise getting the car ready for the new season," said Macy. "D.J. and some of the other guys -- like Ken Bandelian, Mel Raab, Hal Lawrence, Vinnie Christiano Sr. and others -- paid visits to the shop to help. Stan Friesen is a good friend that gave me great support. These are all the guys I've known through racing all these years."
The biggest support came from Macy's wife of 54 years, Gloria, who has worked in various roles in racing, in addition to raising their two children.
When the green flag flies Sunday at Lancaster, one driver who will be watching from the sidelines will be Late Model star Bobby Weber. Weber was injured in a snowplow accident this winter and will be out of action for at least two more months. Weber's two cars will be driven by Mark "Bushy" Bliss and Matt Alix. Alix will campaign at Lancaster while Bliss will run the first two races at Lancaster plus the Lancaster/Holland Late Model Challenge Series in Weber's other car. Bliss will pilot his own machine at Holland on Saturday nights.
West Seneca's Tom Reese Jr. will be very busy this season. Reese will drive a NASCAR Pro Truck for Team Native Pride and owner J.C. Seneca each Friday at Lake Erie Speedway. Billy Ellison will campaign the team's second truck. Reese will also drive the Thompson Racing Team Late Model on Saturdays at Lancaster and then finish the weekends driving his family-owned Late Model in specials at Wyoming County International Speedway.