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WNY Auto Racing: Lancaster win fills Vitez with emotions

Following his well-earned victory in the traveling Joe’s Transmission Service TNT Super Series on Friday night during the drag racing competition at Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster, Elma’s Jason Vitez got very emotional when speaking about two father figures.

Vitez, a winning veteran driver and car builder, thanked fellow racer Joe Passero, who he said is like a father to him. He then took time to remember his real father, Jim Vitez, who died last September at age 70.

If this was not enough emotion, the younger Vitez also talked about how glad he was to race his friend J.J. Jablonski in Friday’s TNT final. Vitez is also the car builder and sponsor of Jablonski’s car.

“This is the first time I raced all year,” Vitez said. “I borrowed the car of my good buddy Joe Passero. He’s like a father to me and he’s a great guy. He told me I could use his car whenever I like. … I ended up winning.”

In the six-round elimination Friday, Vitez beat Chris Van Baalen, Ted Barnes, Dave Gunn, Mark Glomb and Larry Pulver before besting Jablonski in the final. There were 35 TNT entries, a record field for the facility.

While wearing a big victory grin Friday, Vitez’s eyes soon turned misty when he thought about his late father.

“My dad passed away almost a year ago and this is my first time out and it was nice to get a win for him,” Vitez said. “He was a big fan of mine and a supporter. He gave me money and other support.”

Vitez also spoke about his race with Jablonski, who is also a winning veteran of the sport.

“J. J. and I have been best friends for 25 years or so and we always have good races together when we do race each other,” Vitez said. “We’ve been to a lot of finals against each other and I think we were tied so it was pretty cool to get tonight’s win and go one up on him.”

Jablonski was equally gracious toward Vitez .

“I guess there’s nothing better if you’re going to lose than to lose to your best friend who also happens to have built my car,” said Jablonski, who is from West Seneca. “He did his job tonight. I didn’t.”

On Saturday, the TNT series tried to conclude its doubleheader weekend with an event at Empire Dragway in Leicester. It was rained out after the second round of qualifying and will be rescheduled.

The TNT Super Series has races scheduled at the Lancaster strip on Aug. 23 and Sept. 13.

Also at EBRP Friday, Brian Hitchcock scored a win in the weekly Quick 16 class in his dragster owned by veteran owner-driver Carl Ettipio. Hitchcock dispatched Billy Leber Jr. in the Quick 16 final.

“This is the first win for us this year but we have two other final appearances this year so it’s been a good solid year for us,” Hitchcock said.

Ettipio has been around the Lancaster drag racing scene since he was a young spectator in the 1970s and over the last several years has been both a car owner and driver, although he has rarely driven in the last few years, trusting that to Hitchcock.

“I can’t get this out of my blood after all these years,” Ettipio said Friday after the Hitchcock’s win.

Mason Fix has been on a roll as he won the Street class at EBRP. Last week he also made it to the final before rain ended the event. In the Motorcycle class final, Mike Nearhoof beat Mike Campagna.

Pit stops

• Multi-time Ransomville Speedway Street Stock champion Alex Morris decided to try his hand on asphalt on Saturday at Holland Motorsports Complex and posted a seventh-place finish in the 12-car NASCAR Charger feature race.

• Both of Saturday’s NASCAR Pro Modified and NASCAR Late Model features at Holland were postponed by rain to Aug. 10.

• It seems that lately either one of the two Mogavero brothers, Ron or Richie, are the big winners in the Street Stock class at Raceway 5. Including Saturday’s victory, Ron has won the last two race events, with Richie winning three races ago at the Batavia-based dirt oval track.