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WNY Auto Racing: Reis modifies Freedom lineup – literally

Following a few months of speculation, Freedom Motorsports Park promoter Bob Reis has announced that he is changing up the lead division of his Friday night weekly stock car program at the Delevan-based dirt oval in 2017.

Reis is giving the axe to the long-running RUSH Crate Late Model division and replacing it with his new Outlaw Modified class. Reis explained both his rationale for the change and what exactly an Outlaw Modified is.

"I'm getting rid of the Crate Late Models basically due to low car count and part of the reason is that there's too many Late Model tracks and we were one of them and there wasn't enough cars around to support all those tracks so it hurt the car counts," said Reis. "It spread things really thin with no track able to draw a full field.

"I just felt like it wasn't going to get any better. No one's jumping on board to build new cars, so for us this was the best thing to do for us right now."

Reis spent the better part of this last summer evaluating the possibility of bring a Modified-type of class to Freedom. He talked to many in the Modified and racing communities before choosing the Outlaw Modifieds.

"I started reaching out to some Modified teams and initially I was not heading in the Modified direction," said Reis. "I was heading towards Super Late Models as the new head class. But there's the same issue with those guys. They get a decent field at two local race tracks, Stateline and Eriez, but for me to jump on board, and asking some of those guys to run three nights a weekend, some of them would but many would not. I really didn't want to hurt those two other tracks programs.

"Also, I'm a Modified guy and I have sort of wanted to do Modifieds the whole time I've had this track. I started to inquire with Modified teams and found out there's a lot more interest then I thought there was. So far we got a pretty good list of cars that are interested.

"Basically geographically we're in the middle of Ransomville Speedway and Canandaigua Speedway but we're south. That's a 100-mile stretch of the Interstate 90 where there is no race track, and between Ransomville and Canandaigua is easily a two-hour ride and there's a bunch of Modified teams that live in the middle of that area that can go either west or  east. And so after talking to some of them, that's how the high interest in coming to Freedom developed. We're the closest track now to many of these Modified teams."

Reis is not running one type of Modified exclusively such as solely a dedicated small block or a big block engine-powered car in his new Outlaw class. Instead, he's incorporating a mix and match of various rule books comparable to that of the Short Track Super Series run by promoter Brett Deyo.

"You can run either a big block or a small block at Freedom,"  Reis said. "Canandaigua is big block and Ransomville is small block and the teams closest to us, including Pennsylvania, run a little bit of both so that was the thinking behind allowing both types of engines. Teams at Freedom can run either Hoosier or American Racer tires with only a few specified compounds to be legal at Freedom. At the end of next season we'll reevaluate the tire situation and probably settle on one tire manufacturer then. Also, teams will have the option of running body sail panels."

The purse for the Outlaw Modifieds will be greater than it was for the RUSH Late Models as well.

"The Outlaw Modified weekly feature race will pay $1,100 to win and $150 to take the green flag,"  Reis said. " I paid the RUSH Late Models $600 to win and $100 to take the green. I think we'll get more paying fans in the grandstands with the Outlaw Modifieds, and Modifieds tend to bring more crew members in the pits each week compared to Crate Late Models so more paying fans and more paying crew members in the pits will certainly, I feel, offset my expense of the higher Outlaw Modified purse."

Local asphalt Modified standout Patrick Emerling is adding the Freedom dirt track venture to his racing diet.

"Patrick is building his Outlaw Modified program right now and he lives 5 miles from the race track," Reis said. "Some drivers have committed to being here weekly and others have expressed interest.

"There are other tracks across the Northeast that run rules already similar to our new Outlaw track that have had success and we hope to duplicate the same at Freedom."

Winds of Change

A few notable other changes have occurred at the area speedways in recent weeks. Ransomville Speedway General Manager Tana Robinson has left that speedway and relocated to Central New York. She served Ransomville for nearly two decades in various roles before being promoted to the position of general manager by the Atwal family when they purchased Ransomville a year ago. Jennifer Martin has been named Ransomville's new general manager. The World of Outlaws Sprint Cars will visit Ransomville on July 23.

After 14 years of ownership, the Bicknell and Williamson families have sold Merrittville Speedway, located in Thorold Ont., to driver/real estate businessman Don Spiece.

Farewell 'Butcher'

The local racing community is remembering Holland Motorsports Complex Hornet division driver  Donald "Butcher" Palmer, 49,  who died suddenly Nov. 23.  Despite being plagued by health issues in recent years, Palmer – also well-known for his days as a Buffalo Bisons batboy – found a way to keep driving. While rarely in contention for a win, Palmer's true racing legacy is that he raced for pure fun and enjoyed every lap he ran. His smile and friendly demeanor made everyone remember what many times seems to be forgotten – that racing is foremost about having fun. Palmer enjoyed his racing no matter where he finished. He also enjoyed helping his son Bob with his racing career.

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