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WNY Auto Racing / By Larry Ott Wills family has night to remember

Based on the fantastic night the Wills family enjoyed on Friday at Ransomville Speedway, one could say that where there are the Wills, there is a way.

Kevin Wills claimed the Sportsman headliner Friday by a mere inch, and less than an hour later his nephew Kenny Wills authored his first career 358 Modified win in equally dramatic fashion.

“I know that we will be having a big party tonight,” said Kevin in the pits after the racing had ended. Interestingly enough the Wills family owns the dairy farm directly behind Ransomville’s main grandstand. On Friday night, they owned the speedway as well.

With seven circuits to go in the Sportsman 25 lap feature race, Kevin found himself riding in third – about three seconds behind the leading pair of Greg Martin and Chris Burek.

Then the caution flag waved and Kevin got the break he needed. On the restart he moved past Burek into second and eventually began a side-by-side joust with Martin that saw Kevin prevail at the checkered flag by an inch. Officially the margin of victory was .008 of a second.

“The top side of the track has always worked for me for years,” said Kevin. “There was that yellow during the race and I hate to take it away from Greg but you’ve got to get them when you can. The last lap I made some moves and either they were going to work or they weren’t. Fortunately they worked.”

After watching Kevin’s victory from the pit lane, Kenny took to the track for the 358 Modified 35-lapper and took off from the drop of the green flag jumping into the lead ahead of his cousin and Kevin’s son Alan Wills. Eventually Alan faded with a mechanical issue but Kenny would continue up front.

In the waning laps Kenny found himself still leading but receiving heavy pressure from multi-time Ransomville champion Pete Bicknell as well as Erick Rudolph. Despite the intense challenges, Kenny was able to hold off Bicknell and Rudolph for a one car-length victory.

“I got to watch the show when my Uncle Kevin was moving forward and won the Sportsman race and it’s awesome when you can put two Wills in Victory Lane on the same night,” said Kenny. “I didn’t know it was Pete who was alongside me. It happened so quick. I just knew that it was a red car (Bicknell) and I knew I needed to get on it. I basically backed off at the end of the race just to hit my marks and when I saw that I just hammered down because I didn’t want it to get stolen away from me at the end.”

Kenny is currently in his second year of the top-tier 358 Modified competition.

“Last year was my first full season but I didn’t get a whole season,” said Kenny. “I actually led a race once with five laps to go and we lost an engine so I lost about six weeks last year. I raced Micro Sprints before that for eight years.”

Kenny spoke about the close-knit bunch that the Wills family are.

“If you look at our shop we have 56 years of racing experience in that building,” he said. “We all bounce ideas off of each other. The others are in a different class so they’re a little bit different on set-ups. It was nice to see how Kevin ran on the outside tonight. The top was the way to go and that’s where I stuck it tonight.

“We all work on that dairy farm over there and we all work in the same race shop together. We all help each other.”

Kevin offered up his summation of Friday’s good family fortune. “It was exciting to watch. My boy Alan was also up there until he got a right rear tire full of mud and he had to come in to get it cleaned out. That was a good race, too.”

Double winners

There were two big winners Saturday at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway. The first was Patrick Emerling, who captured the Joe Reilly Sportsman Summer Slam 75. The second was Lancaster’s stock car program management team that have brought back the prominence of this track’s stock car program after it was failing badly just three years ago under a previous promoter.

Emerling is on a Lancaster stock car winning frenzy this season, having captured the last four Sportsman races there. He also wonn the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour event at Lancaster on May 21.

“It’s awesome to come here and be undefeated this year at Lancaster,” said Emerling. “It’s like a dream come true. I’m just very hopeful we can keep this up and continue these fine runs.”

Just three years ago, due to various circumstances Lancaster was lucky to draw between 20 to 30 cars total on average for a weekly four division show.

Since new management has taken over these last two years, the cars have started steadily returning in higher numbers and on Saturday nearly 90 cars were in the pits. The counts were: Sportsman 27, TQ Midgets, 26, Street Stocks, 22 and 4-Cylinders, 13.

Lancaster track President Tim Packman made two major announcements Saturday. Saturday’s upcoming Street Stock race is now the Jeff Brown Sr. Memorial Street Stock 25, named in honor of car owner Brown who died recently of cancer. Street Stock racer Dave Wilson has donated his recent race earnings to the purse for the Brown Memorial.

Secondly, the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour “Ol” Boy Cup 60 slated for June 30 at Lancaster will be broadcast live via online streaming on The broadcast will be blacked out in a 150-mile radius around Lancaster but will be available on pay-per-view for $19.99.