By Larry Ott
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
It is usually routine to see race winners wearing large smiles when entering Victory Lane. On occasion those smiles are sometimes mixed with a degree of relief especially if that victory curtails a long winless streak.
That mix of emotions was certainly prevalent with Tommy Flannigan on Saturday night after he erased a long victory drought in Merrittville Speedway’s DIRT.car 358 Modified 35-lap headliner.
The win for Flannigan at the Thorold, Ont., dirt track came after a hard fought, nearly race-long torrid duel with Mat Williamson that saw Flannigan win by a single car length.
“It’s been a long time coming," said Flannigan. “It’s like a year and a half since I last won. It feels good to get that off my back.
“It seemed like Mat was putting the heat on me and I just stuck to my guns. It feels good to get the win out of the way because I really want to focus on some tour runs and I want to win some 100-lappers. ”
Williamson was very complimentary toward Flannigan in what he felt was a clean and competitive race between the of drivers.
“We made a lot of wholesale changes this week and the car was good but just not good enough,” said Williamson. “That’s what it came down to. He was a little bit better driving off the corner then I was. I just got to make minor changes this week and be a little better.
“Congratulations to Tommy,” Williamson said. “You know you can race him clean and he’s going to race you the same way you race him. That’s the racing you want to have every week. If there was 24 guys like Tommy Flannigan out there we’d all have a lot of fun every week. But it’s too bad it can’t always be like that.”
So far 2014 has been a season of tough luck for DIRT.car Sportsman campaigner Gary Lindberg but Saturday he put it all together from the pole to change his fortunes with a win in Merrittville’s 25-lap affair.
Lindberg successfully fended off the strong challenges of Cody McPherson and Brad Rouse during the later stages of the race.
“I didn’t know what to do,” said Lindberg of the close competition. “I saw they were behind me and I didn’t know if they were going to go to the top and if it was better because I didn’t go there all night. I didn’t see anyone poke their nose up there so I was just shutting her down early and protecting the bottom.”
Humberstone picking up
Clinton Geoffrey is a man who wears many hats in local racing including that of Merrittville co-announcer and also the director of race operations at Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne, Ont..
“Things have been pretty good so far,” said Geoffrey. “We’re quite happy with the car count. We switched our Late Models to RUSH (sanction) and we’ve seen some new faces come over to that division. The Sportsman car counts have always been good. We have a real good crew of racers that are fairly dedicated to Humberstone. We do share some of the teams with other tracks but I would say that 70 to 80 percent are pretty much Humberstone eccentric. They just race only at Humberstone.
“I said in the last two years since I came onboard in my management role that we’ve got to do the basics right. To rebuild our fan base we got start at 6 o’clock like we say, not at 6:15 or 6:20. You’ve got to run a fast-paced show.”
Geoffrey is seeking more fans to help fill Humberstone’s grandstand. He also stressed that in order to be family friendly, they need to get Humberstone’s Sunday night program done at a reasonable time. Usually Humberstone’s final checkered flag each Sunday has been waved no later then about 9:15.
An earlier end to the racing evening on Sunday’s is also very important in Humberstone’s ability to draw people and increase their fan base from Western New York as the track is only 17 miles west of the Peach Bridge on Highway 3.
“I would say this whole motorsports industry everywhere, right up to NASCAR can always use more fans,” remarked Geoffrey. “Are we in danger of going under. No! But could we use a definite influx of more fans, yes!
“I think the pits take care of themselves and the basic fans we get every week take care of the basic cost if you’re lucky. But your gravy, your icing on the cake is when you can pack the house. That’s when the owners are seeing good gains and then you get smiles from the owners.
“I just want fans from everywhere including those in the Buffalo and surrounding Western New York area to come and give Humberstone a try. I think they will enjoy our brand of racing.”