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Cleveland prevails in the heat of Lancaster’s opener

On an afternoon when unseasonably hot weather poised challenges during Saturday’s Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway IHRA drag racing season opener, Wayne Cleveland kept a cool head under pressure and persevered to win the Top ET class despite mechanical cooling issues with his car.

Temperatures at Lancaster Saturday reached nearly 90 degrees during the day time program.

Cleveland beat Ken Babiak Jr., in the Top class final. Cleveland suffered gremlins during the time trial sessions earlier but made quick repairs to rebound and score the win. Babiak Jr., had a great day as he is racing in his first full season in the Top class after running in Lancaster’s Bike/Sled class the last several years.

“It’s pretty hot today when you have to put all this heavy clothes on,” said Cleveland. “My fan broke on the car and it blew a fuse in the second time trial and the car wouldn’t run. I had to tow back to the trailer and take it all apart and try to figure out what happened. We figured out that the fan was shorting my whole system out so we pulled the fan out of there and now it’s running very hot because there’s no fan in there and to boot it’s a very hot day but it all worked out. When it’s your day, it’s your day.”

Following his fast repair, Cleveland was able to make a time trial run before eliminations began.

Also Saturday, Canadian Steve Ferstl beat defending Lancaster Quick 16 champion Vic Puglia. Ferstl found that the hardest part of the racing Saturday for his high speed dragster was not going fast but trying to slow down after crossing the finish line.

Earlier this week portions of the drag strip and the stock car oval at Lancaster were repaved and the new asphalt presented some challenges mainly due to the hot weather.

“The new asphalt is a little bit slippery in the top end when you cross the finish line,” said Ferstl. “You had to go easy on the brakes or it can get a little scary. It was easy going fast but harder slowing up. I had a good race with Vic. I’ve raced those guys many times and it’s always close. They’re good competition.”

Veteran D.J. Raiser won the Street final over Chris Kujawski. “I’m just happy that an old guy like me can still come out and compete with these young guys,” laughed Raiser. “I’ve been coming here every week for 39 years and it’s nice this track is still going.”

In other class finals at Lancaster Saturday, Don Becker bested Dave Althen in the Bike/Sled competition, Chris Eashak beat Doug Snow in Mod ET and Kevin Parker defeated Ron Szewczyk in the Buffalo Superchargers.

In the Southern Tier, the newly renamed Freedom Motorsports Park in Delevan opened its dirt track season Friday night, the first event for Bob Reis. The new owner gave an overall assessment of Friday’s event.

“It was successful and I slept well after it was over,” said Reis. “We had double the crowd that I thought we might have. We had almost 900 people in the main grandstand and another 300 in the pits. I mean, 1,200 people is quite a few people for this little place. We had 60 cars in the pits and I know a few teams that were not ready yet that will be here in the weeks ahead.

“Track prep was hard due to the extremely warm weather but in the end the track turned out to be fine and racy with a lot of bite. After sundown, a lot of moisture came up to the top track surface to help. There was plenty of tackiness and no dust. I checked the rear tires of many of the cars at the end of the night and there was hardly any bad tire wear which shows that we’ve cured the abrasiveness problem that’s been in the track surface in prior years.”

Reis also recognized the fact that the crowd was larger and the day very unseasonable warm by taking a look at the concession stands.

“According to our beer vendor we sold more beer Friday then has been sold here on a race night in the last six years,” he said. “He ordered even more then what he thought he needed and at the end of the night, there were only five beers left!”

Pit stops

• Williamsville’s Paul Fix, won the pole Friday at Road Atlanta for the Foametex Trans Am 100 and placed second in Saturday’s race.

• For the 31st consecutive year, Kenny Hangauer Jr., hosts “Motorsports Journal” Wednesday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. on Radio 1300 AM.

• Orchard Park’s Patrick Emerling finished second to Rochester area driver Mike Leaty in the Sunoco Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour Richie Evans Memorial Saturday at Oswego Speedway.