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Ransomville gala a hoot for Wagner

Ransomville Speedway celebrated its 50th anniversary season during the track's "Remember When Night" on Friday.

In a marriage of the track's past and present, the days of yesteryear were punctuated by Al Wagner's victory in the Vintage Stock Car feature race. Sportsman driver Don Spatorico also reminded everyone of the present.

The talented Spatorico continued his hot streak at Ransomville, winning his third consecutive feature. He has won the last five races he has entered including Saturday night's feature at Genesee Speedway and July 21 at Merrittville Speedway.

Merrittville also turned back the clock Saturday, hosting its 56th anniversary "Nostalgia Night" with Chad Brachmann scoring a prestigious win in the Lucas Oil 358 Modified Shootout Series Jerry Winger Memorial 56.

Wagner is not only the past owner of Humberstone Speedway, which was known as Gasport Speedway under his reign, but was the 1981 Sportsman champion at Ransomville. Wagner scored a close victory over 1986 Ransomville Sportsman champion Doug Fralick in the vintage car race, which featured older-style coupes, coaches and stock cars. Wagner, of Port Colborne, Ont., drives a 1937 Chevrolet coach.

"I haven't raced here since 1983 and it was a lot of fun," said Wagner. "This car was an old Sportsman, a 1993 and we took the body off and mounted the coach-type body and put a 327 [cubic-inch engine] in it and here we are. Getting to race these old cars after all these years is my third childhood."

In the Sportsman 25-lap affair, Spatorico used a fast car, heady driving and caution periods that bunched the field to his advantage, finally sailing by Mark Potter on lap 10 for the lead. From there he drove away from the field, scoring a dominant win.

"The cautions helped a lot because it gave me a chance [to] pick a different lane and see where everyone else is running," said Spatorico. "We've got a winning streak going and we'd like to keep it that way."

Many retired track champions were on hand to help Ransomville celebrate. Among them was Stan Friesen, the patriarch of the Friesen family, which owns Ransomville. Long before he was the track owner, he raced at the Niagara County dirt oval.

"The first time we ran this track they didn't have any lights on here so it was run as twilight racing," recalled Friesen, a three-time Ransomville champion. "I think this is about the 34th year that my family has been involved here. I love this place."

At Merrittville, Brachmann passed Scott Wood on the front stretch on lap 39 and then held Larry Lampman at bay to score the victory. The win snapped a bridesmaid streak as Brachmann had placed second at Merrittville the last two weeks.

"This is pretty cool," said the Sanborn driver, who started ninth. "Any time you win a long distance race that's dedicated to someone it's always a big win. No more seconds and hopefully we can keep it going."

Saturday's festivities also included the induction of three retired drivers -- Hughie Tripp, Harvey Hainer Jr., and Tammy Willard -- onto Merrittville's Wall of Fame. Willard joins her grandfather, Bill Willard Sr., on the wall. Hainer and his father, Harvey Hainer Sr., are the first father-son duo to be inducted.

e-mail: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com

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