On a day when the local auto racing community responded in a positive way at Wyoming County International Speedway to honor the memory of the late Jim Pierce Sr., standout driver Patrick Emerling scored still another large win Saturday, this time in the Jim Pierce Memorial SST Modified 100.
Also, WCIS promoter/owner Jim Majchrzak enjoyed what he termed his family's most successful day in their 20-year ownership reign at the track located in Perry.
Saturday featured a large crowd of around 2,000 and a packed pit area of 115 race cars for the five-division program. Saturday's WCIS race activity was the first of the two-day annual "Fall Shootout at The Bullring Weekend" event. Sunday's program, which was to feature the American Modified 100, INEX Legends and the WCIS Super Stocks, was weather postponed until next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Emerling scooted by Zane Zeiner on lap 37 and then held off the ferocious challenges of Jimmy Zacharias on multiple restarts to capture the Pierce Memorial, run in honor of Pierce Sr., 47, who died suddenly Aug. 5 from health complications. The late Pierce Sr. was a veteran area stock car racer and the 2007 WCIS SST Modified champion.
Zacharias finished second Saturday while Andy Jankowiak, who started the race mired in the 18th starting spot finished third.
Emerling, who has won many big SST Modified/Sportsman races in his career has been on a late season roll also grabbing the checkered flag Sept. 29 in the Sportsman class at the Race of Champions Weekend at Lake Erie Speedway.
"A lot of guys had pretty good cars tonight," Emerling said. "So it's all about how you play the restarts. I wasn't doing any funny business. He (Zacharias) was doing what he had to do and I was doing what I had to do — nothing dirty between the both of us. There was quite a bit of respect out there. This car was clipped (rebuilt in the shop) a while back and since then it has been really good. This car has probably won 80 percent of the races it's been entered in over the last two years. There's more times it's won then it hasn't."
Sporting an equally satisfying and happy face was Majchrzak. His family bought WCIS 20 years ago and has been working to find prosperity at the track ever since. Majchrzak says that this past Saturday, his family enjoyed the finest hour yet of their two-decade reign at WCIS.
"There is no doubt that this was and with the help of so many people, the biggest show here for us to date," Majchrzak said. "It took awhile to sink in today but we sold out of food, drink and just about everything else. Everything was just great, all the way right down to the end. I think we did real well."
When Pierce Sr., died, Pierce family friend Lori Overdorf, Majchrzak, Pierce's family and a host of others made it their passionate mission to plan a memorial day that they felt Pierce Sr. would be proud of. They succeeded with flying colors.
In the pre-race ceremony, with Pierce family members standing on the front stretch, Overdorf made a brief testimonial remembering the life of their fallen friend and family member. Then when the command to start engines was given, fans released sea of colorful balloons into the night high above the speedway. Moments later 28 SST Modified machines pulled away to begin the 100-lap contest.
"I couldn't be happier with the results," Overdorf said after the race. "This was exactly what we hoped for. We had a great field of cars and a great grandstand crowd. We really all came together to get it working. I talked to Jim Majchrzak earlier and it's been decided that the Pierce Memorial will be an annual event so every year for this Fall Shootout event it will be the Jim Pierce Memorial 100."
One of Pierce Sr.'s passions, in addition to his own driving career, was mentoring the racing endeavors of his young sons, Jim Pierce Jr., 17 and Joey Pierce, 14. Jim Pierce Jr., raced in Saturday's 25-lap, 4-Cylinder event at WCIS and placed a close second to Jody London in the 31-car affair.
"The car was really good tonight," Pierce Jr. said. "We put a lot of work into it. It paid off tonight. I think my dad would have enjoyed today. It was a great day all around. I couldn't pull off a win in my race but to me this whole day was a win in our books."
Understandably no one has had a more difficult last few months then Pierce Sr.'s wife, Pam. Saturday proved to be a very emotional day but the outpouring of support from the racing community gathered at WCIS brought a much-needed smile to her face along with tears to her eyes.
"This is incredible," Pam said. "I can't believe how many people are here and it's just awesome. I don't think I missed any of Jim's (Sr.) races when he raced. I can't thank everybody enough who made this day happen. Lori has been awesome. Everybody's been great. Jim would have been proud today. He would have hated all the attention but at the same time he would have loved this."
Along with Emerling and London, other winners Saturday at WCIS were: Scott Adams, NYSS; Brian Hallett, 6-Cylinders; and Terry Wilson, Vintage Late Models.
Saturday's WCIS race activity drew 32 SST Modifieds; 39 NYSS Super Stocks; 32 4-Cylinders; six 6-Cylinders; and six Vintage Late Models.
The IHRA weekly point battles at Empire Dragway in Leicester concluded this past week and drag racers crowned 2017 Empire class champions are: Ron Dean, Bikes/Sleds; Paige Montgomery, Junior A; Matthew Vogler, Junior B; Sam Capizzi Jr., Street; John Cira Jr., Pro; and Don Kiekel, Super Pro. Dean also emerged as Empire's Grand Champion.
WOO AT RANSOMVILLE
The July 23 rain postponed appearance of the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars at Ransomville Speedway will finally get the green flag Monday at 7 p.m. at Ransomville. The Sportsman will round out the card. Tickets are still available at the speedway.