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Lyon's learned to circle the wagon

Last season, Jake Lyon enjoyed a solid rookie season in Dunn Tire Raceway Park's Street Stock division. He just wishes that track's D-shaped oval had a few esses, chicanes, bus stops and the left-right turns that are associated with road course racing.

Lyon joined the Street Stock oval track competition at the Lancaster track last season after racing for eight seasons in Go-Kart road course racing at Batavia International Motorsports Park and other regional Go-Kart settings.

The 20-year-old Elma driver adapted quite well to racing in circles in 2011, capturing three Dunn Tire Park wins and placing second in Street Stock points standings behind veteran Mike Nash. Lyon will be seeking more success in the Street Stock division when Dunn Tire Park opens its stock car racing season Saturday night.

"I was really happy and very surprised how well I did last year," said Lyon, a mechanical engineering student at RIT. "I thought I was going to finish last or the middle of the pack at best. It was my first ever experience in oval track racing."

Unlike so many younger drivers who grew up in a racing family, Lyon is the first race car driver in his family.

"When I was little, my family took me to Lancaster (now DTRP) a lot and I watched a lot of NASCAR races on TV," Lyon said. "One day my dad and my Uncle Burt (Lyon) took me to a car show and Dale Earnhardt Sr. was signing autographs there. Because the line was so long I never got to actually meet Dale but he was my favorite driver.

"While we were there my uncle showed me a racing Go-Kart that was on display and I was hooked on getting a Kart after that and somehow I convinced my dad to get one for me. He did and I started Go-Kart racing on road courses."

Lyon won many races and championships in various Go-Kart classes over the years. Through it all a bigger transformation was taking place for the younger Lyon. His focus switched from a love affair with oval track racing to one centered on being an enthusiast of road course competition.

"It's great driving on road courses and I would rather be racing on road courses right now, probably in sports cars, but there are no road courses around here to race at. So for now, and I mean this as a compliment, I'd rather race on ovals than not to race at all.

"Driving on a road course has a totally different rhythm to it than ovals. While both are competitive you are a lot closer to other cars that are racing all around you on ovals.

"While I enjoy the oval track racing and I know that I expect to be much more comfortable this year on ovals, I take a lot of pride in my road course racing and I miss it and I hope to go back to it one day. I am good friends with Eric Lux (of Willamsville) who is a top national road racer in various types of sports cars and I hope to follow him in my career."

For this season, Lyon and his TDH Refrigeration Racing Team face the same problem many other Street Stock teams are facing around the country. Street Stocks use older style car bodies and parts, and the availability of those items is becoming in shorter supply as the years roll by.

"There are only a limited certain amount of suppliers around that you can get a body from as well as other things such as suspension parts for these older cars," said Lyon. "We had trouble finding them as all the stock they generally carry is for newer model cars.

"In order to get the quality and proper parts we needed for our Street Stock, we had to order them from Florida. This drives the cost up."

With the new season just hours away, Lyon acknowledges that he knows where he must improve.

"I did well last season but I kind of fell off in the late season. Hopefully I can find more higher finishing consistency through the whole season this year."

The Late Models will highlight Saturday's opening card at Dunn Tire Raceway Park, running the annual John Freundschuh Memorial 50. The Street Stocks, Sportsman, Four-Cylinders and Casey's TQ Midget Racing Series will complete the 6:30 p.m. event.

*PITSTOPS: Each season for the last few years, the George Decker Memorial for the NASCAR Pro Modified division has become the marquee event of the stock car season at Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex.

Currently event organizers Barry and Phyllis Decker are seeking lap sponsors for this race. Various levels of sponsorship are available for the July 14 event. Call Holland at 537-2272 for more information.

There is much happening for racing enthusiasts this year at the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen. The center's Conversation Speaker Series this year will focus on "America's Great Tracks."

Speaker Series events are free of charge and begin on designated Saturday's at 1 p.m. at the center, located at 610 South Decatur St. in Watkins Glen. Light refreshments are served at each event. No reservation is required.

On May 19, noted motor racing author J.J. O'Malley will speak on the history of Daytona International Speedway. Racing historian Will Edgar will make a presentation on the defunct Riverside International Raceway on June 23.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson will showcase the history of the Brickyard on Aug. 25. On Oct. 13, Road America historian Thomas Schultz will present the story of the fabled Elkhart Lake, Wis., road course. Call the center at 607-535-9044 for more information.