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WNY Auto Racing / By Larry Ott: As season opens, Lancaster on road to recovery

Following seasons of unrest, dissension and upheaval that negatively affected many fans, sponsors and competitors, it appears that Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway is on the path to recovery.

Encouraging signs come as the racing machines and drivers get set to hit the combination drag/stock car racing facility over the next two weeks to begin the 2015 season.

Track owner Gordon Reger and his company, Lancaster Properties LLC., owner of the Gunnville Road race track for the last 15 years, have made a renewed promise to improve the aging facility.

Reger’s newly hired general manager, Melissa McGowan, already has made many strides in improving the marketing, promotion and spirit of the facility. Reger is running the track himself for the first time in his ownership after leasing it to others in years past.

“I think the biggest thing that we have done this offseason is to do the things that show that we’ve earned the people’s trust,” said McGowan, who came to Lancaster in early December. “The capital improvements we have made thus far as well as our community volunteer clean-up, fix-up day and the sponsorships that we’ve gotten all show our commitment here.

“Would people like to see the total improvements needed here done quickly? Yes they would, but it will take time. I like to say that we have unlimited needs with a limited but healthy budget.

“When we prioritized what capital improvements we needed to do first, it was done from the standpoint of the order of what is best for the safety and experience of our competitors and fans. The fans wanted the grandstand fixed up and the competitors want the track redone.”

Lancaster hosts drag racing competition on its one-eighth mile dragstrip as well as stock car racing on both the larger one-half mile oval and one-fifth mile inner oval.

So far, over 50 percent of the bleacher boards in the main spectator grandstand and almost all boards in the pit grandstands have been replaced. A volunteer community day was held on April 18 in which many came forward to fix up, paint, clear brush and put a new shine on the grounds.

“We went through 70 gallons of paint and had about 65 volunteers who came out to help us, “McGowan said. “About 15 to 20 of them asked and came back the next day. It was really great to see.”

This week the track surface, including both the oval and dragstrip, has undergone its most extensive repaving and repair in years. Over 86,000 square feet of asphalt has been laid down this week.

“We have many more improvements planned,” said Reger. “Will all the improvements be done overnight? The answer is absolutely not, but there is a three-year plan here. The fact this track is still racing is the best news of all right now. I’m excited that the new season is here.”

Many sponsors have also been signed up for this season, and last week track management laid out its front gate spectator admission prices and pit fees for the competitors.

New sponsors include the weekly Franco’s Pizza Drag Racing Series, headlining class competition for the Top, Mod, Street and Bike/Sleds divisions. The Seneca Resorts and Casino Stock Car Series comprises the regular Saturday night program of Sportsman, Street Stocks, 4-Cylinders and open competition TQ Midgets.

Many special events dot the track’s stock car and drag racing schedule.

Upstate Automotive Group is providing the pace car, which is mounted with safety lighting provided by 10-75 Emergency Lighting. Thermal Foam is supplying the safer-barrier type foam blocks and most signage on the track property is being done by X-press Sign Systems.

“We strive to provide affordable and quality entertainment for families, and we want fans and competitors to not just come to Lancaster once or twice a season but to be here on a weekly basis,” said McGowan.

Lancaster will open its International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) drag season with competition this Friday and Saturday. The stock car campaign begins May 16.

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Stateline Speedway in Busti is increasing its weekly payouts in 2015. Each week $31,605 dollars will be divided among the weekly classes, of which $11,905 of that will be paid to its top class, the Super Late Models. The 2014 Super Late Model weekly purse was $11,680. Other payouts in other classes have been bumped up as well.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com