There was a time when Donald "Butcher" Palmer's world was comprised of the sounds of a crack of the bat, the shuffling in and out of baseball players from the dugout.
Over the last many years, Palmer's life has also included the roar of racing engines and wheel-to-wheel stock car competition. The only thing missing after 20 years of racing was a victorious checkered flag.
That all changed Saturday evening at Holland NASCAR Motorsports Complex, as Palmer, also known as "The Butcher" as the former popular bat boy for the Buffalo Bisons, reigned supreme following the track's Figure-8 main event.
The win was not only emotional, it was also a long time in coming. It came after battling serious health complications due to diabetes that have kept him off the track the last two years. Tears of joy and triumph freely flowed at Holland on Saturday.
"This is totally awesome," said Palmer, 45, who served as the Bisons' bat boy from 1979-88. "I've been coming to the races here since I was 7 years old and I've been driving for 20 years. This is my first-ever win.
"I've had all five toes on my right foot and seven centimeters of my right foot removed due to diabetes and circulation issues. I can still stand on these pedals with my stump and I guess I don't need the whole foot to drive."
Palmer recalls the days of his bat boy duties.
"Duke McGuire [Bisons broadcaster] gave me the name 'The Butcher.' This year the Bisons are having their 25th anniversary of being at the downtown stadium and there will be a celebration. I can't wait for that."
Also at Holland on Saturday, Andy Jankowiak had a reversal of fortunes, as did Dean McConnaughy. Jankowiak completed his night by winning his second straight NASCAR Pro Modified main event, after also taking the season opener May 20.
Earlier in the evening, Jankowiak was involved in controversy when he caused McConnaughy to suffer a violent series of barrel rolls down the front straightaway.
With just three laps remaining in the Casey's TQ Midget Racing Series feature, Jankowiak attempted to try to pass McConnaughy on the front stretch but hit the back of McConnaughy's car. The contact ignited the accident, which was so violent in left scraps in the track surface.
McConnaughy, who had won the Casey's TQ race during Holland's opener on May 20 was not injured. He and Jankowiak exchanged heated words in the pits afterward.
"I was running a different car and the nose actually sticks out a little bit farther and I misjudged things and I feel awful," said Jankowiak. "I was trying a crossover move there and we were racing hard. I know those guys are upset. I hope they find a way to forgive me. I didn't mean to do it. I know it looked bad. There was no excuse for it. I wish I could have that one back."
McConnaughy knows he has to move on as well and now estimates it will take up to two weeks to repair his car.
Last season, Amy Catalano made history by becoming the first woman in Holland history to win a season point championship in the track's premier division. She captured the NASCAR Pro Modified title at Holland and also emerged as NASCAR's New York State champion.
This past Saturday night, she sat in the pits watching her husband, Dave, and son Tommy race. She is temporarily out of competition because she is pregnant.
"The plan is I will be back in four weeks or so racing," Amy said. "I've got to deliver the baby and hope I'll be back that same week.
"I told the other drivers that I'm giving them a head start this year and they better brush up on their driving because I will be back to try to beat them," laughed Catalano.
> Pit stops
Brandon Sherwood has won the last two Street Stock features held at Ransomville. When Danny Johnson took the checkered flag in the 358 Modified headliner Friday at Ransomville, it marked the fourth different winner in as many weeks since the season opened earlier this month. Val Stephens, a regular Mini Stock competitor at the dirt-surfaced Raceway 5 won a special Dirt vs. Asphalt Challenge Series event Friday on the blacktop at Wyoming County International Speedway. The NASCAR Late Model 100 was rained out Saturday night at Lake Erie Speedway and has been rescheduled for this coming Saturday.