Shawn Beatty has done well for many seasons in the drag racing at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway. Until last Friday, though, a season track point championship had eluded him.
When Beatty advanced to the third round of Friday’s IHRA Top ET class eliminations before losing, he earned enough points to clinch his first career points crown with one event left in the season.
Beatty now holds an 80-point margin over Bill Balser Jr., heading into Lancaster season finale Sept. 30.
“Knowing that I’m the champion already, no matter what happens in the final night, sure takes the pressure off,” said Beatty, 55.
Beatty caught some breaks in Friday’s races.
“I lost in the third round and Bill moved into second in points when he went a couple more rounds than me,” he said. “Fran Pepi and Zell Gaymon both went out in the first round, but they both have had great seasons this year in our point battle.”
Beatty raced this season with a teammate, Chris Van Baalen, who will share in the championship. At Lancaster drivers can join the points as teammates but only one of those drivers can run for the points on a given race night. Beatty ran for the points every night at Lancaster this season except one. Van Baalen ran for the points on a single occasion when Beatty could not attend two weeks ago. He did the job that Beatty was hoping for in Beatty’s absence.
“I couldn’t make the Friday night race on Labor Day Weekend because I had to attend a wedding,” said Beatty, who resides in Lancaster. “Chris had to get us some points and he went all the way to the fifth round I believe before he went out. So Chris did an excellent job in helping me out that night and helped make this championship all happen. Without Chris I wouldn’t have done it.
“I’ll tell you what if Chris hadn’t done as well as he did for me back on Labor Day weekend, I would have had a lot more stressful work to do as far as the championship goes over these last few weeks.”
The championship was built on consistency as Beatty has been winless at Lancaster this season.
“I didn’t win a race this year but I went rounds,” said Beatty who drives a 1969 Pontiac GTO. “I went at least three or four rounds a week. I’ve been in the top three in points every week this season and I took over the point lead on June 10 and have not lost it since that time.”
Beatty is a veteran of the local racing scene.
“I started drag racing back in 1982 and took some time off because I had to work second shift so I took 12 years off. I came back in 1996. Lancaster has been my home track for years. The staff and racers have always been excellent. It’s always a fun time racing although some nights are more than others. The more rounds you go on a race night the more fun it gets.”
A few years ago under a previous promoter, various problems led to a sharp decrease in car counts on both the drag racing and stock car sides at Lancaster. Under new leadership, the car counts have improved over the last year, which Beatty finds encouraging.
“I think the overall drag racing program at Lancaster is getting better,” said Beatty. “It should get even better. The facility has been upgraded much better and the staff has been good. We all work good together. It’s a great place to be again. I look forward to it every week.”
Beatty does not have any sponsors adorning his car and depends on the help of a few people.
“Wayne Cleveland (fellow driver) has been very instrumental in my career,” said Beatty. “He’s been a champion at Lancaster. He’s been there for me and has been my go-to guy.”
Along with Cleveland, Beatty also made mention of the tremendous support of his wife Tracy and racers T.J. Mendola, Paul Cochi and Charlie Tripi. Technical assistance has been provided by Transmasters Transmissions and Jan-Cen Race Engines.
Beatty says that he plans to come back and race again next season at Lancaster especially now that he finally has a season championship to defend.
“I’ll be back at Lancaster for sure next year,” said Beatty. “I have to, it’s my home track. Those racers are my guys.”
Heading into Lancaster’s championship finale, other divisional championships have also been clinched.
Dale Eckert has secured the Mod ET class season crown for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. Teammates Mason Fix, Jim Bruckman and Nick Morrissey have clinched the Street championship.
Mike Peters and Rob Brandel are tied for the Bikes/Sleds point honors heading into the finale.
Rain takes toll
Ransomville Speedway’s Sportsman/Street Stock Twin “King of The Hill 100’s” has been rain postponed from last Saturday until Friday at 7:15 p.m. Justin McKay is Ransomville’s 2016 Novice Sportsman season point champion.
Little Valley Speedway’s season closing race program fell victim to rain also on Saturday and will not be rescheduled. It means that the Cattaraugus County track ran just two races in 2016.
Little Valley was originally scheduled for five race dates in 2016 but had two rainouts. In addition last weekend’s program was originally set up months ago as a two-day show, with separate races set for Friday and Saturday.
Three weeks ago track management canceled the Friday race, leaving only Saturday on the docket, but that was subsequently rained out.
• Heading into this coming weekend’s U.S. Open Weekend at Lancaster, Orchard Park’s Patrick Emerling will be arriving there on a high note after winning the Race of Champions Sportsman 75, on Friday at Oswego Speedway. The Race of Champions Modified 250 was postponed on Saturday at Oswego; it will not be staged on October 29.
• Lancaster’s stock car racing community will also be remembering Street Stock racer Rick Ortwein who died this past week from a heart attack. Several cars that campaign at next weekend’s U.S. Open will display special Ortwein tribute stickers.