In the 20-year history of the prestigious US Open, Jan Leaty has graced victory lane twice in the Modified race. Now his son Mike Leaty desires to match his dad's accomplishments with a triumph of his own in this area's biggest annual asphalt racing weekend.
If the younger Leaty can emerge victorious in the Modified 100 on Sunday at Dunn Tire Raceway Park, it will mark the first time that a father and son tandem has won this event.
Jan Leaty won the very first US Open in 1989 and took the checkered flag again last year.
"I know it will be extra-special if I can win the US Open," said Mike Leaty, 29. "I've actually never won a Modified race at Lancaster [now DTRP] and to do that and also add my name to the same US Open trophy as my father would be great.
"We both won a Modified race at Oswego Speedway in 2006 and we both have won Spencer Speedway Modified championships but this would be special if we could become the first father/son duo to have wins in the US Open."
Jan Leaty has been a top Modified driver for many years, and he gave Mike his introduction to the sport.
"I grew up around racing and my first time at a track was when I was 10 days old," Mike said. "When I got older, I worked on my dad's race team when he was traveling and racing on the NASCAR Modified tour."
While the young Leaty saw many of the high points of racing during his formative years in the sport, he also quickly got a taste of the dark side of the sport.
"We were at New Hampshire in 1998 and my dad had a tire blow out and the car spun around and slammed into the first turn wall driver-side first," said Leaty, who was 18 at the time. "He got a fractured skull and a lot of other injuries and was recovering for a long time. I was the only immediate member of the family at the track that day.
"I learned very quickly that there are big lows in this sport and it seems that in racing the lows far outweigh the highs. I've never been real good at handling the lows. We've crashed in three of four Race of Champion Modified Tour races I ran earlier this year, so you see what I mean?"
While Jan Leaty's accident brought his career screeching to a temporary halt, it accelerated Mike's emergence behind the wheel of his own race car.
"Because my dad was recovering he was not traveling to races and was home more," recalled Mike. "I bought a Street Stock from a local guy and we tore it all down and put it all back together. My dad was a big help.
"I was working my way through college at the time by working at Tops. I raced Street Stocks for two years at Spencer and won two races my first year and three the second year."
Leaty, a Williamson native, also graduated from Finger Lakes Community College with a degree in mechanical technology. He is employed at the Rochester Institute of Technology as an engineering technician.
After his second year in Street Stocks, Leaty purchased a Modified and an older engine from retired driver Tim Mangus and posted a victory at Spencer in his rookie season. In the years that have followed he has won 13 career Modified feature races of which the biggest was the 2006 Richie Evans Memorial 100 at Oswego. Leaty is the 2006 and 2007 Spencer Modified champion.
Sunday's events, including The ROC Modified 100, Late Model 75, Street Stock 40 and TQ Midget 25, go green starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday's features -- the SST Sportsman 75, Super Stock 25 and 4-Cylinder 20 -- begin at 4 p.m.
> Putney scores big
East Aurora's Bill Putney enjoyed the biggest moment of his racing career last Sunday when he won the 59th Sunoco Race of Champions Modified 200 at Oswego Speedway.
"This is unbelievable and amazing," said Putney. "I feel that bad Oswego luck deprived us earlier this season. We led 72 of 75 laps of a race there in the spring when the brake caliper broke with three laps to go.
"Two weeks ago there we came from the back to get up to try to pass for second in another race with 20 laps to go when the right front hub broke. This past Sunday, I got the lead on lap 125 and finally nothing fell off the car or broke and we won the Race of Champions.
"When you look at the list of the many legendary drivers who have won the race, it is special to now be on that list. I'm especially happy for my dad Bruce because he has owned cars that have raced in the Race of Champions for years and this is the first time he's been able to win it," he added.
Putney is a past SST Sportsman and three-time Modified champion at DTRP. He will race in the US Open this weekend.