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Larry Ott: Hutchinson wants to go the distance at Holland

The local TQ Midget racing fraternity will gather Saturday at Holland Motorsports Complex to honor the memory of racing veteran Jerry Gradl Sr.

At the same time, Kyle Hutchinson is hoping to go the distance – and preferably winning fashion – in the New York/Pennsylvania Midget Association-sanctioned special.

Hutchinson, the 2013 NYPAMA champion, drives for veteran TQ Midget racing participant John Casey in Casey’s familiar No. 88 machine. Hutchinson was victorious two weeks ago at Holland and had a strong runner-up finish to Dave Wollaber this past Saturday.

The TQ Midgets are open-cockpit, open-wheel machines that normally run feature A-Main races of 20 to 25 laps in distance. This Saturday, NYPAMA will be showcased for 50 circuits on the Holland high banks in the inaugural Jerry Gradl Sr., Mini Indy Memorial 50. Gradl Sr. was a noted professional race car driver, owner and sponsor who died Jan. 20 at age 79.

The 50-lapper will be run in two 25-lap segments with a 10-minute mid-race refueling break.

“It will be both physically demanding for me and the car to do 50-laps at Holland,” said Hutchinson, 22. “We don’t plan on changing the car set-up too much just because of the added distance.

“At Holland this will be the longest race we have ever run. We have run longer distance races at smaller tracks. The last two years we went down to Borger’s Speedway near Allentown. But that track is smaller, around one-sixth of a mile, while Holland is three-eighths and much faster. We ran a 100-lapper at Borger’s in 2013 and a 75-lapper there last year. I had mechanical issues in both races and didn’t finish.”

Hutchinson, of East Aurora, has been one of the up-and -comers in local racing since beginning his Go-Kart career at age 9. He earned the 2009 Bliss International Speedway Spec Pro championship.

In 2010, Hutchinson began his TQ Midget career driving the family-owned red No. 7 entry fielded by his father, Ken Hutchinson.

“We ran only a partial season with our TQ in 2010 because we blew two motors that year and had a lot of other things happen that made it too difficult to keep going financially that season,” Hutchinson said. “We did run the full season in 2011 and in 2012 we finished second in NYPAMA points.”

In 2012, a horrible accident at Holland involving Casey’s machine with veteran Wayne Turnbull behind the wheel eventually led to the retirement of Turnbull as a driver.

Casey returned to racing looking for a replacement driver and he offered the ride to Hutchinson in 2013. Turnbull has continued his involvement with the Casey camp as a pit crew member along with Bill Davies. The results have been solid.

Since 2013, Hutchinson has won six career NYPAMA events – two apiece at Holland and Lake Erie Speedway as well as single triumphs at Spencer Speedway near Rochester and Chapel Hill Raceway in Humphrey.

Hutchinson finished second in NYPAMA points last year to Jonathan Reid. He also had two career wins at Lancaster in the No. 7 car in the now-defunct Empire TQ Midget Racing Series.

“To drive for somebody like John Casey, who has been here in the sport for so long, is great and it’s an honor to help carry on the Casey tradition,” Hutchinson said. “Between myself, John, Wayne and Bill we can really adapt to different tracks and make the right changes. These guys have so many years of combined experience. It’s a well put together team.”

Earlier success has Hutchinson eager to tackle the challenge.

“Holland has been the track that I have raced on the most in the TQ Midgets but it’s the track I struggle at the most so to start off with that win earlier this month is a real confidence booster for me,” he said. “I hope that means good things for the Gradl Memorial. It’s nice to see Holland setting aside this special evening for the TQ Midgets seeing as I feel we all put on such a good show for the fans.”

Pit Stops

• Empire Dragway in Leicester will present a smorgasbord of drag racing machinery during its Fifth Annual Empire Nostalgia Gold Cup this Friday through Sunday. The Gold Cup is billed as the largest assembly of nostalgia gasser -type cars in the country.

Classes in competition will be AA Gasser, Nostalgia Gas, Mod Gas, Street & Strip, Pro Tree, Open Comp-Altereds-Front Engine Dragsters, Quick Nostalgia (electronics) and Quick Nostalgia (no electronics). Gates open at 3:30 Friday followed by test & tune sessions.

Time trials at Empire commence at 10:30 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday with eliminations at 1 p.m. each afternoon.

• After crashing in a RUSH Late Model Series event July 15 at Expo Speedway in Cortland, Ohio, John Waters emerged with a new car and won the RUSH weekly race last Friday at Freedom Motorsports Park in Delevan. He followed that up with a second straight triumph in the RUSH Late Model Series Northern Tour annual Canadian Late Model Nationals this past Sunday at Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne, Ont.

The five-division show ended at 9:55 p.m., which is an important factor for a Sunday night track.

Humberstone is now gearing up for its biggest event of the season, the long-running annual All-Canadian Championships Aug. 2, featuring the RUSH Late Models, Sportsman, Street Stocks, Pro 4 Trucks, Mini Stocks and Vintage Cars. Fireworks will cap the program.

• Local race announcer/promoter Gary Montgomery will be the master of ceremonies Wednesday at the sold-out annual Cuba Lake Raceway Reunion Luncheon held at Moonwinks Restaurant in Cuba. The event is organized each year by local auto racing author Ford Easton, who recently published a book “Stock Car Racing in the 50s.”

• Lancaster Speedway and Dragway officials announced that the second stage of the facility’s pavement repair project will commence with the repair of the dragstrip shut down lanes, pit return road and staging lanes, as well as portions of the main spectator concourse. The repairs are part of the track’s three-year capital-improvement plan launched this past spring.