As the leaves continue to fall from the trees, so have the final checkered flags of the 1997 fallen on the local auto racing season. Here is a review of those who earned championships.
After placing second in Modified points the last two years, Bill Putney finally captured his first Lancaster title. Putney had two Lancaster race wins this season. Chuck Hossfeld won the New York State Modified Championship Series title.
Sege Fidanza claimed Lancaster's biggest Modified race of 1997, the NYSMCS 75 on June 14. Todd Burley was best in the Modified Summer 50, Aug. 23.
Veteran John Julicher emerged as the Lancaster Late Model champion for the sixth time in his long career. He had five wins. Brett Scherrer won the Late Model 75, this division's top race, during the Carquest U.S. Open on Sept 28.
Kirk Rutherford, on the strength of four regular-season victories, captured the Sportsman crown. For added measure, he won the Sportsman race during the U.S Open.
John Durso was the only repeat champion of 1997, successfully defending his Street Stock title. Durso compiled four wins. Dan Bastedo parlayed two wins into the Strictly Stock championship. Seven wins helped Joe Torrisi gain the Truck title.
Lancaster's drag racing champions are Ken Staschak, Super Pro; Marc Volker, Super Gas; John Hayek, Pro; Greg Kerl, Heavy; Dave Weller, Street; Joe Morock, Bikes; and Rob Schooping, Snowmobiles.
Lancaster will honor its stock car champions at its awards banquet, Nov. 15 at the Pendleton House, 6886 S. Transit Road in Lockport, and its drag racing champions, Nov. 14 at the same location.
For the third consecutive year, Rick Wylie has emerged as the Holland NASCAR Late Model Pro-Stock champion. Only Art Clark has won three consecutive Late Model titles at Holland, having pulled off the feat twice.
Wylie placed seventh in NASCAR Northeast Region points. Clark won Holland's biggest NASCAR Late Model race, the Bud 100 on Labor Day weekend.
Mike Cartwright became the NASCAR Pro-Modified champion. He is the first Canadian since 1969 to win any Holland divisional championship. Marty Kling emerged as the NASCAR Pro-Truck winner. He is expected to move to the NASCAR Late Models in 1998.
Bill Adamczyk was the NASCAR Charger champion and Jon Wilmore repeated as Figure-Eight titlist. Roy Dailey is Enduro king.
Dave Dion won the NASCAR Busch Grand National North Chevy 150 on Memorial Day weekend and Tim Connolly claimed the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Sunoco 150 in late July.
Holland will honor Wylie, Cartwright and Kling at an awards banquet Nov. 14 at the Radisson Hotel on Genesee Street. Other champions will receive their championship laurels Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Knight's of Columbus hall on Route 16 in Yorkshire.
Alan Johnson narrowly beat out his brother, Danny, for the 1997 DIRT 358 Modified crown. Danny Johnson won the biggest DIRT Modified race, the Fay's 300 in Syracuse Sunday.
Alan Johnson had a banner year at Ransomville, winning $15,100 for taking the Alex Friesen Summer Nationals for DIRT 358 Modifieds on Aug. 5. He then won the Hoosier Tire/Sunoco Race Fuels/Champion Spark Plug-Prolong Mr. DIRT 358 Modified Championship Trail race on Sept. 5.
Andy Hillenburg won the Pennzoil World of Outlaws visit on July 28.
Wayne McKie is Ransomville's DIRT Sportsman champion. Dave Schulz claimed the Pro-Stock honors along with this division's biggest race of the year, The King of The Hills 100 on Sept. 20. Mark Loveland is the Street Stock high point scorer.
Once again, Pete Bicknell was the story here, winning multiple features in DIRT 358 Modified competition on his way to his 12th Merrittville championship.
Merrittville's DIRT Sportsman champion is Larry Lampman Jr., who managed a fourth-place finish in the Savon DIRT Sportsman Championship last Saturday in Syracuse.
Other Merrittville champions are Tony Royston, Mod-Stock; Ken Sargent, Late Model Pro-Stock; and Jeff Dayman, Street Stock. Alan Johnson won the DIRT 358 Modified Trevor Wilkens Memorial, Aug. 4.
Hamburg's Tim Jones won his first Genesee DIRT Sportsman title. Steve Siraguse won the Genesee Super Series 50-lap special in September.
Other Genesee champions are Matt Murray, Super Stock; Mike Cooper, DIRT Street Stock; Matt Streiff, Mini-Stock; and Bobby Lippa Jr., Pure Stock.
This season will be known as the year of the dual surfaces at Perry. The track, which has been dirt since 1986, ran this season as dirt until three weeks ago, and then the dirt was scrapped off the asphalt surface. It will run as an asphalt oval for 1998. Perry still has a $1,000-to-win Enduro slated for Oct. 25.
Perry's champions are Paul Weber, Super Stock; Chad Nugent, DIRT Street Stock; Ernie Crawford, IMCA Modified; and Mike Walker, Mini-Stock.
Gasport champions are Fred Carleton, DIRT Sportsman; Ken Sargent, Late Model Pro-Stock; Jeff Leggett, Mod-Stock; Daryl Havill, Street Stock; Jim Hetherton, Pure Stock, and Jackie Walker, Women Are Racing (WAR) division.
Jim Gabriel won the All-Canadian DIRT Sportsman Hoosier Tire/Sunoco Race Fuels/Pennzoil/Brodix/Savon Mr. DIRT Sportsman trail race Aug. 3. Rob Pietz won the DIRT Sportsman Al "Pops" Wagner Memorial, Aug. 31.
Co-promoters Dan Hoffmann and Larry Watson have just completed expansion of their facility to a large one-third mile oval for 1998. Champions are Ed Carley, both Super Stock and IMCA Modified; Lance Davey, Street Stock; Wayne Adamczak, Pure Stock; and Dean Long, Mini-Stock.
Keith Dempster won the outdoor championship of the Castrol Can-Am TQ Midget Racing Club. Blake Long defended his title in the Solo II ranks of the Western New York Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).
Hamburg's Mike Woodring won the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) championship for the second year in a row and third time in his career.
The Erie County Fairgrounds hosted two race cards in 1997 with Tim Dietz winning the American Racing Driver's Club (ARDC) Midget race Aug. 16 and Dan Kaszubinski, the ESS Sprint Car special on Sept. 13.
The Friends of Auto Racing (FOAR Score) Fan Club will host its annual road rally and steak roast Saturday. Registration is at 1 p.m. at the Beau Geste Restaurant, 5246 Transit Road in Depew.
The group will also host its 50th anniversary awards banquet, featuring retired NASCAR Winston Cup star Harry Gant, Jan. 31 at the Hearthstone Manor on Dick Road in Depew.
The Niagara TQ Midget Indoor Racing Championship Series will run three races this winter at the Niagara Falls Convention Center, Dec. 6, Jan. 10 and Feb. 28.
Lancaster Motorsports will present "The Speed Zone" 1998 Niagara Racing Expo, March 13-15 at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. Call 831-0281 for details.
This is the final WNY Auto Racing column of the season.