Bob and Suzanne Palmer stood in Victory Lane at Holland Motorsports Complex Saturday night each wearing both smiles of deep pleasure as well as tear filled eyes of bittersweet emotion as they celebrated Bob's first career Hornet division feature race checkered flag that occurred during the track's 58th season opener.
While all career first checkered flags for any driver are always special, for the Palmer's this one meant far more than that. Bob and Suzanne are the son and wife respectively of the late Donald "Butch" Palmer who died last November 22 of diabetes complications at age 49. Donald, known at "The Butcher" raced in the Hornet class for several seasons and he along with Suzanne also devoted much time over the last few years helping to launch their son's racing career.
Donald drove his last race last September at Holland and won a qualifying race in his No 32 car. Bob has parked his car for this season and is driving his dad's No. 32 entry in honor of his late father.
Palmer held off the strong challenges of both Bob Bogner as well as Palmer's Dice Racing teammate Ben Russo to score the very emotional triumph. There was a most special atmosphere in Victory Lane.
"It was just amazing to sit there and see all his fans and all his friends that came again and see his son come down here and do us all proud and win this race," said Suzanne. "I was sitting in the grandstand during the race with everyone and my brother and they were all holding my hand. If "The Butcher" were here he'd say to Bob, wonderful job boy."
Bob was equally overcome by emotion, sometimes not sure if he thought he should laugh or cry.
"I can't believe I'm here," said Palmer in Victory Lane. "This car is a rocketship this year. My crew did a wonderful job to set the car up. I'm not even sure what dad would say if he were here right now. He'd probably say great job and it was a heck of a run."
In other racing at Holland, Kirk Totten held off Patrick Emerling by five car lengths to win the headlining NASCAR Pro Modified 30-lapper. Saturday's event, which marked the return of this class as a weekly fixture at Holland after a one year absence, drew a small field of nine cars. Emerling was not in his own car but was driving the No. 44 entry owned by Paul Graff.
There is both optimism and evidence that the NASCAR Pro Modified class will grow over the coming weeks. Driver Mike Fiebelkorn Jr., was serving as crew chief Saturday for George Skora III. Fiebelkorn is just waiting for an engine and will have his car ready for Holland in a few weeks. Jake Vernon also is awaiting an engine.
In addition to Totten, Skora III and Emerling, other NASCAR Pro Modified drivers on hand at Holland Saturday were Eldon King III, Dean Kroll, Amy, Tommy and Timmy Catalano and Neal Dietz.
Holland operations manager Dan Sellon says he expects an additional four cars to be at Holland in the weeks head. The reality is also that currently there are three asphalt tracks within an hour of Buffalo that all run the NASCAR Pro Modified/Sportsman type cars as their premier weekly classes at the same time on select Saturday nights during this season. Holland, Lancaster and Wyoming County are all in competition to draw cars.
This past Saturday in feature races, Holland had nine cars, Lancaster, 15 and WCIS, 11.
During Holland practice Saturday, TQ Midget driver Jamie Pew suffered a violent accident flipping his car end-over end five times at an estimated 110 mph. While much of the car was heavily damaged, a metal crucifix that was given to Pew by his late grandmother and was mounted to the roll cage was not damaged and remained attached to the cage. Pew believes divine intervention played a role in the outcome as he was not injured.
"I came down the back straightaway side-by-side with the No. 14," said Pew. "I got into Turn Three and got loose and I overcorrected and it flipped over about five or six times."
RAPP MAKES HISTORY
Brad Rapp made history Friday night when he became the first driver to win with a big-block engine powered Modified car at Freedom Motorsport Park when he captured the inaugural Outlaw Modified 30-lapper. Freedom promoter Bob Reis has introduced the Outlaw Modifieds this season as the new premier weekly division at the Delevan based dirt track. Freedom also has a new track surface for 2017.
Teams are allowed to use either big-block or small-block engines as well as either American Racer of Hoosier brand tires. Rear body sail panels are also optional. A field of 16 Outlaw Modified cars were on hand for Freedom's season opener Friday. A few Ransomville Speedway drivers traveled to Freedom after Ransomville had rained out.
Rapp utilized a 468 cubic inch big-block engine as well as sail panels and American Racer tires. Only Rick Hoctor, Scott Wood, Ricky Richner, Cody McPherson and Tom Flannigan did not utilize sail panels.
Rapp, of Meadville, Pa. came to Freedom at the urging of Reis.
"I guess some guys told Bob that we travel around a little bit," said Rapp. "He contacted me back in the fall and I've never been one to travel weekly anywhere for points. I thought Freedom is not too much father than we run on a regular night from home. So we just wanted to come and try something different. Here we are."
"In my book this whole night was successful," said Reis. "We ended up with a really great crowd. The racing was really good. As for the surface, Howard Schram from Merrittville Speedway has been helping us get this put together and I'm super happy with this track out of the box. There are a couple of little ripples in it but all in all it's got good bite and stayed soft."