Although the scheduled 2017 Lancaster Speedway and Dragway IHRA weekly drag racing season points finale fell victim to cancellation due to soggy weather this past Friday evening, Street ET competitor Mason Fix was among the four drivers whose spirits could not be damped as they emerged as the track's drag racing champions for 2017.
Joining Fix on Lancaster's championship list this season are: Dale Eckert, Top ET; Reid Ricketson, Mod ET and Mike Peters, Bike/Sleds.
For Fix, 23 of Amherst, a three-time Lancaster race winner this year, it was his second straight Lancaster Street ET title in just his sixth year of driving. Fix claimed this same championship a year ago also built on the strength of a trio of wins in 2016. Fix is the son of noted drag racer Jim Fix who won two Heavy class titles of his own in the mid-1990s when he raced with his teammate at the time, D.J. Raiser.
For the second consecutive season Mason drove the championship winning 1966 Plymouth Fury owned by former Street ET titlist Jim Bruckman.
Mason came into this past Friday's event holding a 20 point advantage over Ed Semlitsch. The pair had arraigned to meet in the first round to look to decide the title Friday but when afternoon thunderstorms washed away the evening drag race program Fix earned his title again.
"It's a pretty good feeling to be the champion again," Fix said. "I wanted to give Eddie a shot but the rain came. I was thinking about the first round all week but we never got to run it."
Had Lancaster ran this past Friday, Fix would have arrived there, seeking his third consecutive Lancaster Street ET win of the season. He wrestled the point lead away from Semlitsch in the most recent Lancaster drag racing event, Sept. 21.
"I didn't race the first couple races this season for Jim (Bruckman)," Fix said. "I was actually the backup point driver and another kid Anthony Woodward was supposed to run the car but he ended up going to college or something so I took over the main driving spot and it took me a couple weeks to get going but I finished the season off strong."
Fix also campaigned this season at Lancaster in his own 1969 Dodge Dart in Mod ET where he finished sixth in points.
There is no doubt that when Eckert retires from competition he will at some point be placed on Lancaster's drag racing "Wall of Fame". Eckert edged Jan Winkowski by a scant 10 markers to win the season Top ET title. It was Eckert's 11th Lancaster drag racing title in the last 12 years. The first ten championships were earned in Mod ET and this year's title was his first in Top ET. He did compete in Mod ET this season as well placing seventh in points.
When Eckert races in Mod ET, racers utilize a footbrake/tranny brake combination to launch the car off the starting line. In Top ET electronic timing boxes are allowed but Eckert still replies on the footbrake/tranny brake set up.
"This was actually a pretty slow year for me as far as Top ET wins goes," Eckert said. "I only had one win and nothing in the Mod ET class. I'm so happy I got this Top ET title. All day today I was nervous about the weather and whether we were going to race or not. I get support from my wife Rachael and kids Nolan (age 13) and Andrew (24). It pretty much gets me through the season.
"The difference between Mod ET and Top ET is that I'm racing against the box guys and they have a little advantage with the electronic box in their cars. I'm actually a foot braking and tranny brake racer so I don't have the box. I start the race with the tranny brake button. I just race my race and get into my groove. I'd like to thank my sponsors Saia Communications, First Gear, O&L Performance and Lancaster Discount Liquor. "
Ricketson, of Bennington, drove his 1974 Plymouth Duster to the Mod ET season championship title. Friday's rainout had no bearing on the title chase as he had the championship clinched before Friday having built a 90-point cushion over his brother Ryan Ricketson. It is Reid's first career Lancaster championship in ninth season of driving.
At Lancaster drivers can sign-up for the class points races as teammates but only one driver can be the designated point earner for each night of competition. Reid's teammate is Ray Thurston IV. Reid ran for the points each race night this season except one but Thurston was ready when called upon to run for the points during a mid-season event. The only occasion that Thurston ran for the points this season he won to help the team's cause.
"It was definitely a relief having the championship clinched before the final night," Reid said. "I only had one win this season at Lancaster. Actually my points partner Ray Thurston got me the points lead back in June and I maintained it after that. Ray ran for the points only once this season but he was 7-0 that night winning all seven rounds. I followed that with one win a couple weeks later and that pretty much sealed the deal. I want to also thank my brothers Ryan and Clay for all their support."
For the third time in the last four years including the last two years running Angola's Mike Peters, who began racing in 2005, earned the Bikes/Sleds championship, this year by 50 markers over Lucas Salemi. Peters rides a 1980 Kawasaki motorcycle.
"I was in the points lead all season long," Peters said. "I had four wins including three of the first four races of this season and then I had another one in the race last week. I also won the Summit Super Series points at Lancaster so I will race in the Summit Super Series World Finals at Memphis later this month (Oct. 20-22) to try to win that.
"My bike has been very consistent and I haven't made many changes to it over the last couple years. I just keep riding it the same and catching a good light on the starting line and that's what I strive to do. I'm definitely going to return to Lancaster next season to defend my championship."
ROC weekend winners
Victors at the 67th annual Race of Champions Weekend at Lake Erie Speedway were: Matt Hirschman, ROC Modifieds; Patrick Emerling, ROC Sportsman; Sam Fullone, ROC Late Models; Joe Mancuso, ROC Super Stocks; T.J. Cochrane, ROC Street Stocks; Kenny Hejna, 4-Cylinders. Additional news and reports from the ROC weekend will appear in this Thursday's Buffalo News Speedweek column.