For someone who did not grow up in a racing family, Jennifer Martin has certainly gained one over the years. As the month of May dawns, Martin is in the midst of working through her maiden season as the newly appointed general manager of Ransomville Speedway.
Ransomville, the long-running dirt track located in the Niagara County town that bears its name, begins its 60th season this Friday night. Martin, who was appointed general manager in December following the departure of long-time Ransomville official Tana Robinson, has been busy preparing for this season.
Martin herself has become a fixture at Ransomville and has developed ties with many in the sport.
"I just started coming with my friends to Ransomville when I was in high school," Martin said. "My family wasn't into racing but I got very interested in it. I then met my now husband Mike Martin. He and his family were very involved with racing, so about 19 years ago I started attending Ransomville Speedway and I was told that they were looking for volunteers to work the 50/50 raffles. At that time the raffles were run by FOAR Score (Friends of Auto Racing Fan Club). I started working with the FOAR Score and started selling 50/50 tickets at the track and at that time I also did it at Lancaster, doing double 50/50 duty at both speedways.
"After four years or so FOAR Score left Ransomville and that's when they created their own 50/50 and I headed that up. I've worked doing 50/50 here like I said, about 19 years. I've also sold them at Genesee, Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, Canandaigua, Oswego and the New York State Faigrounds in Syracuse. I took one year off after back surgery. I missed everyone so I came back."
Mike Martin is a race driving veteran who has competed in various divisions and is best known for his days in the now-defunct Ransomville Pro Stock class. He still races today in Novice Sportsman. He is not the only member of Jennifer's racing family.
"There's also my son Brett Martin, who has raced Sportsman for many years," Jennifer said. "New to the Street Stock class this season is my nephew and godson Jordan Moden. I also have three other nephews who race Go-Karts on and off. I've gotten quite a racing family in a short period of time."
Being a speedway general manager is a multi-faceted position.
"I have quite a bit more responsibilities now," Martin said. "Kudos to anybody that has ever been or is a general manager at any speedway today because it is a definite full-time job. There are so many behind the scene things that have to get done that people just don't realize. I have learned a lot. I thought I knew quite a bit about racing and the behind-the-scenes stuff but you really don't have a clue of how much you don't know until you are put in this position. I'm excited for it and I hope I'm doing a good job."
Martin cited Ransomville race director Jeff Anstett and office assistant Patty Washburn as being strong allies. Capital improvements and new policies are among important items on the bucket list.
"I actually once headed up the Kid's Club here at Ransomville many years ago," Martin said. "For some reason that went by the wayside a few years ago and I'm bringing that back this year with the help of the Buzzard family. It's exciting to see the kids that I had in the club many years ago now grown up and being involved in racing in a much bigger way. So now new kids will have the club experience.
"We have new concession stands this year with six windows and fans will no longer have to use just one dollar bills to purchase concession items like they've had to do for many years. They'll just be able to go right into the concession line without having to go to the dollar bill exchange booth first. It will speed things up. We have additional food items this season. We have new bathrooms that have been completely gutted and redone."
Martin is confident that the racing on the track will be up to par as well.
"We have 19 total 358 Modifieds signed up so far along with 26 Sportsman, 14 Novice Sportsman, 21 Street Stocks and 12 of the 4-Banger cars with more to come. So the driver rosters are strong."
Ransomville, after a 20-year absence, is also bringing in the prestigious nationally ranked World Of Outlaws Sprint Cars on July 23 and the ticket-sale response has been strong. Martin says that only 30 of the 1,200 reserved section seats (top three rows) for the WOO show remain, with the remainder of the 2,500-seat grandstand being utilized for general admission seating.
"I'm really learning as I go," Martin said. "I think I'm acclimating well considering some of the information I was given but everyone has been so welcoming. If I get a little behind on something, people help me and remind me of things and that helps. Sometimes something might slip by that I didn't mean not to do, I just didn't know I had to do it. Boy, the season has come fast."