AS DRIVERS, CREWS and promoters enter another auto racing season, here are some of the people and stories that will shape 1994.
Gary Schwab of Delevan has two NASCAR Late Model Pro-Stocks built by 69 Auto/Hanley Enterprises, including last year's entry, ready to go for the Holland Speedway season. He returns with longtime sponsor Perry's Ice Cream and would like to claim the Holland season Late Model championship like he did when he won the NASCAR Charger crown in 1985 and '86.
The championship chase in Holland's NASCAR Late Models should be wide open as defending titlist Eldon King is taking the year off to pursue other interests. Dale Buck, also a top-five finisher last season, has moved to the DIRT Sportsman at Genesee Speedway.
A strong group of rookies will help the Late Model field numbers remain strong. Former Lancaster Speedway Super Stock and Modified standout Rich Littlefield will race a Late Model. Pete Sisti, who spent 1993 in Holland's Pro-Modified class, moves to Late Models as well.
Larry Havens, the NASCAR Pro-Modified high-point man the last two years, moves to the 358 Modifieds at Lancaster. Vern Bliss, Holland's NASCAR Charger champion, will open the season looking for his fifth victory in a row after winning the last four races of 1993.
Holland promoter Tim Bennett returns for his second year. Lancaster Speedway/Dragway promoter Alex Friesen, busy with his family's management of Lancaster and Ransomville Speedways, also will promote the Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton, Pa.
Ransomville also will have what Friesen is calling "Ransomville's coming out party" when the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars visit there Aug 9. Demand for tickets has been the heaviest in the track's history, Friesen says.
Charlie Rudolph will defend his Lancaster 358 Modified championship in a new Troyer-built car. Sege Fidanza, a 358 Modified driver who had a falling out with Lancaster management last year and left toward the end of the season, has reached an agreement and will return in a car owned by Paul and Debbie Graff. Fidanza will miss the May 1 opener due to a suspension and will return May 7.
Ron Nurmi returns to defend his Lancaster Super Stock title as does Karl Hehr in 350 Sportsman. Jim Stone, the 1993 Street Stock champion, moves up to the 358 Modifieds.
Two women looking to make an impact in their rookie seasons are Eileen Campbell, who will campaign a 350 Sportsman at Lancaster, and Sherri Hogan, who gets behind the wheel of a NASCAR Pro-Modified at Holland.
Lancaster Dragway has dropped the Quick 8 division because of high expenses. The Super Pro becomes the top class with Tommy Allen set to defend his crown.
Until April 15, Allen thought his racing season was ruined because of an off-season eye injury. But his eye is healing ahead of schedule and he now has medical clearance to race, starting with Sunday's points opener.
Don Raiser returns to the Lancaster drags in his Pro-class car co-sponsored by Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley and KISS-FM. (Talley is not the only Bill involved in racing. Lineman Glenn Parker will serve on the George Skora NASCAR Late Model pit crew at Holland.)
Drag racer George Pease and wife Marveen have started their own monthly newsletter, "The Drag Connection."
Alan Johnson will return to defend his Ransomville DIRT 358 Modified title. Danny Johnson will make a strong effort to unseat his brother.
Ray Bliss Jr., Genesee's 1993 DIRT Sportsman champion, will leave to join the DIRT big-block Modified ranks at Canandaigua Speedway.
Defending his SCCA Western New York Region Solo II championship will be Mike Roberts. Solo II 1993 Driver of the Year, Jim Del Russo will also compete.
Sports car racer Ed McMahon of Lakeview finished second in his Pantera in a race earlier this spring in Sebring, Fla. His brother Mark, of Niagara Falls, serves as crew chief.
Perry Speedway promoter and car builder Doug Chapman will race in that track's Dwarf Car class.
Drag racer Paul Gast of Grand Island is in the top 10 in National Hot Rod Association national Pro-Stock Bike racing. Fred Hahn of West Seneca, in the Jim Oddy prepared ZR-1 Corvette, won a Super Chevy Pro-Modified race in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this year. Gary Grahner of Elma, driving the Persico Brothers Pro-Modified entry, was low qualifier two weeks ago at a Pro-Motorsports circuit show in Huntsville, Ala.
In national stock car racing, the THADCO-III racing team of Todd Wier, with driver Steve Hoddick of Cheektowaga, are attacking the Busch Grand National North Late Model Series this year. Tony Hirschman drove the car last weekend to 31st in New Hampshire after suffering a two-lap penalty during the race. Hoddick, who recently suffered a fractured ankle, is expected back for the next event, May 1 at White Mountain (NH) Speedway.
Local racing radio shows this year include "This Week in Drag Racing" with co-host Don Raider and Dan DeLaney on Radio 1520 Thursdays at 7 p.m.; The Lancaster Speedway Show at 5 p.m. Saturdays on the same station with co-hosts Alex Friesen and Howie Markel and "This Week in Motorsports," with John Bisci Jr., Sundays on Radio 107.7 FM at 8:30 a.m.