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Larry Ott’s WNY Auto Racing: Packman tackling new challenge at Lancaster

Akron native Tim Packman returns to the Daytona 500 – but this time in a different role.

The last few seasons Packman has been at Daytona as the director of corporate communications for Richard Childress Racing. But last October Packman left RCR to become president of Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway.

Packman is at Daytona this week to catch up with old friends on the NASCAR circuit as well as attend a promoter’s workshop as part of his new role at Lancaster.

Packman’s Lancaster opportunity arose when former Lancaster president Melissa McGowan took on a different role in the organization. McGowan, despite being at Lancaster for one season, is credited along with track owner Gordon Reger, as helping the once-struggling facility begin a turnaround that saw growth in both the racing and business aspects as well as capital improvements to the aging physical structure.

“I’ve always kept an eye on what was going on at Lancaster through the years even when I was so busy on the NASCAR circuit,” Packman said. “I returned to Lancaster in 2012 to help out when Ralph Galluzzi ran the track. Then when I left to go to RCR in 2013 I felt there was unfinished business to accomplish at Lancaster, and when the opportunity came along for me last October I did a lot of thinking about it.

“I’ve accomplished a great deal in NASCAR, more than I ever thought I would. I’ve met so many people in the NASCAR world and got to travel to places I never thought I would. I’m 51 now. The travel and extreme busyness of the NASCAR world make it a younger person’s game now. Overall I enjoyed my 15 years in the NASCAR world but I relish the chance to come to Lancaster and be among family and friends I’ve missed.”

The local area racing scene was a big part of Packman’s youth. He is the son of Dick Packman and the stepson of Jim Jividen, both stock-car racers. They raced mostly at Holland and Wyoming County International Speedway. Tim’s uncle, Don Packman, is a flagman at Wyoming County International Speedway and a member of the FOAR Score Hall of Fame.

“I started at Lancaster in the early 1980s as a cook in the concession stand,” Tim said. “My first paycheck was $62. In the mid 1990s I was a race announcer at Lancaster, Ransomville and Wyoming County. Then it was on to the NASCAR world later on. So coming to my new job at Lancaster now is also coming home to my racing youth.”

Packman and his staff have been busy putting the Lancaster business plan and racing programs together for 2016.

“As far as the business side of things, it’s a lot more details then I thought but that is fine,” Packman said. “I’ve learned that this has caused me to be out of my comfort zone but I am learning and enjoying what I’m learning. I’m intrigued by it all.

“As for the racing, the stock car and drag racing programs are somewhat similar because there are both about racing and yet at times they are both very different. I’m more experienced with stock car racing but I love drag racing, too, and am learning a great deal. Also my staff and officials have been a tremendous help and I very much appreciate them.

“My main goal is to improve upon what was already accomplished so well last year by Melissa. The program is now stable and I just want to further in a positive way the direction of our track for the future.”

Packman has also authored two race-oriented books, including a book on the career of NASCAR legend Bobby Allison and a children’s book about racing. Lancaster will open its season with a drag racing test and tune on April 16. The following day will begin the stock car campaign with the “Queen City Clash 75” for the Race of Champions Modifieds.

Pit stops

• Stateline Speedway held its 2015 season awards banquet on Jan. 16. Special awards were given to: Jason Genco, RUSH Crate Late Models, Driver of the Year; Lacki Brothers Racing, Sportsmen of the Year, and Cathie Donaldson, Fan of the Year for her 60 years of attendance.

• This season there is a three-race Northeastern U.S. “Indoor Racing Series Fueled by VP” for TQ Midget cars. Erick Rudolph of Ransomville won the series’ opener in Allentown, Pa., while the next event held in Atlantic City, N.J., was captured by Anthony Sesely of Matawan, N.J. Sesely leads the points by just one over Canadian Mike Lichty with Rudolph in third, seven markers behind Sesely heading to the indoor series’ finale Feb. 27 in Trenton.

• Ransomville Speedway presents its Eastern Hills Mall stock car show March 30-April 3. Holland will host its preseason registration party at 1 p.m. March 6 at the Holland Willows, 177 Savage Road. Holland also presents its Eastern Hills Mall stock car show from April 30-May 5.

• Sprint Car Racer Lee Winger has been named Humberstone Speedway’s new technical director.

• The International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen has named Thomas Weidemann executive director. Weidemann replaces the center’s president of the last eight years, J.C. Argetsinger. He retired at the end of 2015.

• The 23rd Annual Cavalcade of Cars will be presented March 4-6 at the Event Center at the Hamburg Fairgrounds. Hot rods, custom and race-prepared vehicles will be displayed. The famous “Batmobile” will be featured. Also on hand will be auto-related vendors. Discount tickets are available at Advance Auto Parts, CarQuest and K&S Automotive. For information call (716) 656-9734 or visit cavalcadeofcars.com.

• The May 28 racing program at Genesee Speedway will be aired on Time-Warner Cable in a one-hour broadcast package.

email: lawrence_o_14075@verizon.net