Lockport’s Bobby Holmes was hooked up and on the move toward the front. The title of last fall’s Sunoco Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial 125 at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway seemed within reach.
Then, just when Holmes appeared a good bet to score the big win during Lancaster’s annual prestigious U.S. Open Weekend, he met up with the first-turn wall.
“I was running fourth with about 15 laps to go at the U.S. Open last year and I just got around Andy Jankowiak for third,” Holmes said. “I had the freshest tires of any of the front-running cars and I was going good. Then I got a flat left rear tire and it separated from the rim and I lost control and went into the first-turn wall. That was it and it was over. The car had heavy damage but I was OK.”
The strong outing in last fall’s U.S. Open has given Holmes and his camp the confidence they can do well at Lancaster. Holmes and his Booker Motorports/Holmes Family Racing team return to Lancaster on June 25 to try to capture the checkered flag, this time in the Race of Champions tour’s Ol’ Boy Cup 60. The race will honor the memory of the late race supporter Bill Colton Sr., who was known in racing circles as the “Ol’ Boy.”
Holmes and the traveling tour will conclude their two-race, early-summer, Western New York swing July 11 when the Holland 100 gets the green flag at Holland Motorsports Complex.
After sporting the traditional Booker Motorsports No. 22 on the door panels of his car the last few seasons, Holmes’ machine has been recast “Lazy 8” in honor of his family’s long racing identity and heritage that has revolved around that number for generations.
There is a new twist since the Race of Champions contingent last visited Lancaster. The track underwent a major repave this spring on large portions of the stock car oval.
“I know the new pavement is smooth but I’ve talked to some of the Sportsman drivers who have raced at Lancaster already this season,” Holmes said. “They tell me you can’t drive it the same as in the past. They say it’s a whole new ballgame. We’ll see.”
Holmes also is hoping to win at Lancaster in the event that honors Colton Sr.
“We spoke a few times and he was always giving me advice back when I raced in the TQ Midgets and Sportsman,” Holmes said. “Bill gave me good support.
“I remember him pulling into the track property several times with that old classic street car he had. He had Troyer suspension parts in it and the Troyer stuff is something that is used in Modifieds on the track but I never saw it on a classic street car until I saw his car.”
Holmes first joined the Booker Motorsports team in the Sportsman class competition in 2011 and enjoyed 14 wins during the group’s first full season together in 2012. The win list that year included the Sportsman portion of the annual Race of Champions Weekend at Oswego Speedway.
The team upgraded to the Modified ranks in 2013. Last year, due mostly to Holmes’ work schedule outside of racing, the team entered just two races, those being the Race of Champions Modified 200 at Oswego and the U.S. Open.
This season, after missing the opening Race of Champions event of the 2015 season at Chemung Speedway May 3, the team has recorded finishes of ninth and sixth at Oswego and Shangri-La II.
“We’ve been fast and even been near the front and had top fives and top 10s so far during our time in the Modifieds and have led a bunch of times but we need more luck,” Holmes said.
Holmes raced his Race of Champions asphalt Modified at Holland in 2013 but without much luck.
Holmes has competed in the Sportsman (NASCAR Pro Modified) ranks at Holland on three or four occasions, but has competed in many TQ Midget and Cup Lite Series races there, winning in both divisions multiple times. He now hopes for the best in the Modifieds.
“Lancaster and Holland are both very different tracks in so many ways and to do well at one of them is great but to do well at both is really special,” said Holmes. “I’m looking forward to racing at both tracks over the next couple weeks.”
• The New York/Pennsylvania Midget Association made news on and off the track. For the first time in the group’s long history it competed at the Chapel Hill Raceway in Humphrey on Saturday. Kyle Hutchinson scored the victory over 10 other cars in the 30-lap A-Main.
Also, the organization picked up a new title sponsor Monday. It will now be known as the Jerry Gradl Motors New York/Pennsylvania Midgets Association. It was also announced that the first annual Jerry Gradl Sr. Memorial Mini Indy 50 will be held on July 25 at Holland. The race will contain a mid-race 25-lap break to allow teams to refuel their cars. Lap sponsorship is available for the Gradl Sr. race by calling 353-1139.
• Ransomville Speedway management has raised the purse for its upcoming sixth annual “Battle of The Border” Modified 75-lapper. The July 1 race’s purse structure was originally set to pay $4,000 each to the first DIRT.car Big-Block Modified and DIRT.car 358 Modified drivers.
Now the race winner will receive $5,200 with second- through fifth-place finishers awarded $4,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $1,500 respectively. Tenth place is paid $1,000.
• Fans presenting a valid 2014 hunting or fishing license at the Gander Mountain store in Tonawanda can receive a $5 admission ticket to the racing program this Saturday at Holland Motorsports Complex.
• Rain postponed the Bellinger Electric Sportsman Shootout 40 that was to be held last Friday at Freedom Motorsports Park. It has been rescheduled for Aug. 7.