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WNY Auto Racing by Larry Ott: How Lancaster National turned the corner

Tim Packman is just days away from concluding his first season as president of Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, and it appears that the Gunnville Road facility has enjoyed a strong uptick in prosperity, artistically and financially.

On the eve of the 28th annual U.S. Open Weekend stock car extravaganza and next week’s IHRA drag racing season finale, Packman spoke about the fortunes of the soon-to-be concluded 2016 campaign.

Lancaster enjoyed a big attendance jump this season, to 150,000, according to Packman.

“That’s quite an impressive number for a smaller local track like ours,” he said.

Packman addressed the stock car program, which saw a rise in average car counts this season from the mid-twenties just two years ago under a previous promoter. On April 30, this year’s stock car opener drew 64 for that day’s four-division show (Sportsman, Street Stocks, 4-Cylinders and Super Stocks) and car counts have steadily increased. A season-high 81 cars were present in the most recent race, Aug. 27, which was comprised of these same four classes.

“We’ve had the best stock car season we’ve had in a long time,” Packman said. “I’m very grateful for the car counts. I think it was the work of our officials, and them putting our rulebook together. People could come and race and they could fit their cars into it. On the stock car side it was also about doing tech that needs to be done and we’ve had more guys come back because we are doing tech. We’re not going crazy but we’re doing what’s in the rulebook and following it. We’re checking different things each week.

“I can’t thank the fans enough for their response this year coming out to support the track and the racers because they support the track and it goes hand-in hand together. What would I have done differently this year? I’ll probably know at the end of the year.”

The weekly IHRA Friday night drag racing program also enjoyed increased car counts from an average of just under 100 total cars per week a couple of years ago to the 130-150 average this season.

“The drag numbers are up as well and we’ve tried to feature our weekly racers plus many special shows like Top Fuel, Buffalo Street Outlaws, Alcohol Funny Cars and other classes,” Packman said.

Overall, the newfound momentum of increased cars and fan attendance at both the stock car, drag racing and other events this season has greatly enhanced Lancaster’s financial picture.

“We have improved on the financial aspect of our track,” Packman said. “When it’s all said and done it is a business. Numbers come in and numbers go out. The good thing in which I’m very proud of is that we have worked with all our vendors and we have been good with them. Both our Coke and Try-It Distributing have said that we are way up and sold more this year then we have in a long time. The food brokers report they have sold more. That means there’s more people coming here and eating and drinking more product. That aspect is proof that we have increased our interest and involvement with the track on all levels.”

Helping Packman is the fact that Lancaster track owner Gordon Reger has made a concentrated effort and spent a great deal of money over the last two years to repair, upgrade and improve the once-aging physical structures at his track.

“There will be even more capital improvements,” Packman said. “I don’t want to identify them right now as I’m still sketching them out but there is a plan to do more things next year. Putting down the new concrete portions of the track was this year’s huge expense, along with some of the paving we did around the track. Improvements will continue. You can’t open up in 1959 like this track did and stop making improvements.”

Packman knows that many played a part in helping the track make strides.

“I’ve learned a lot about people,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about business. I couldn’t think of a better place to do that then right here with the tremendous officials, staff, racers and fans that make this all happen. It’s because of them we did the many good things we did this year.”

Lancaster will host its championship stock car night Thursday and then the 28th annual U.S. Open will take center stage Friday-Sunday. The IHRA drag racing season will conclude Sept. 30.

“The U.S. Open and the drag racing finale will be the icing on the cake for our great season,” Packman said.

More champions

Last Sunday, Humberstone Speedway concluded its 2016 stock car season. Season point champions are: Brad Rouse, DIRT.car Sportsman; Dennis Lunger Jr., RUSH Crate Late Models; Dave Bailey, Street Stocks; Kyle Haynes, Mini Stocks and Dylan Llord, Pro 4 Trucks.

During Humberstone’s race program last Sunday, track general manager Bobby Davidson put rumors to rest. He said that the long-running Port Colborne, Ont., dirt track has not been sold and will continue to operate in 2017.

Reis testing waters

Freedom Motorsports Park owner/promoter Bob Reis is considering axing the RUSH Crate Late Models from his weekly dirt track stock car program at the Delevan facility next season and replacing them with the 358 Modifieds. If Reis makes this change then local 358 drivers will have a choice of competing on Fridays at Freedom or Ransomville Speedway, which has hosted weekly DIRT.car 358 Modified competition for many years. Reis, is not happy with the low car counts in the RUSH Crate Late Model ranks this season.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com

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