Elma's Joe Skotnicki has been busy molding and reshaping the Race of Champions since purchasing the sanctioning group in 2016. Success has been mixed with a few bumps along the way, and Skotnicki is poised to open another event Saturday when the ROC Asphalt Modified Series visits Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway for the "Fans In The Stands 75."
The ROC organization has under its umbrella series in asphalt modified, dirt modified, crate sportman, super stock, asphalt late model and asphalt sportsman traveling groups.
Skotnicki said he is in the process of trying to work through some legal issues involving his purchase of the series while he has also been busy managing the many details involved with promoting his various series.
In a major offseason move this past winter he moved the ROC Asphalt Modified Series' annual marque event, the Race of Champions 250, away from the Oswego Speedway, where it had been run since 1995. He awarded the event to the Lake Erie Speedway in nearby Northeast, Pa., just outside of Erie.
"It's definitely had its ups and downs," Skotnicki said of the ROC. "It's a lot of work. It's rewarding. There's no doubt about that. It's just that you take it day to day and look at each thing and try to improve and the overall scope is that you always want to be stepping forward and not going backwards."
Lancaster has been a fixture on the ROC Asphalt Modified Series, as has Holland Motorsports Complex, over the last few seasons. Skotnicki is excited to get the asphalt portion of his 2017 ROC campaign launched this Saturday at Lancaster.
"I don't know if I have a prescribed forecast for our asphalt Modified series this season," said Skotnicki. "I know the defending champion Patrick Emerling plans to come back and defend his championship. Matt Hirschman talked about running the entire series again. All indications are that he'll be at Lancaster. You'll have Chuck Hossfeld. Andy Jankowiak is coming back full time with the Tom McGrath ride.
"So I think we're going to have a pretty good mix of really good established teams including Mike Leaty. Also guys that can win and haven't done it yet, like George Skora III, Bryan Sherwood, Tyler Rypkema and Daryl Lewis Jr., are guys who have been knocking on the door and I know that when we do drop the green flag, it's going to be a heck of a show with all the talent that we have."
Skotnicki is banking on the move of the ROC 250 will prove successful when the event is staged in late September. Having the Erie Sports Commission as a promotional partner is a big plus, he said.
"We're not really leaving Oswego behind because we will have ROC series races there this year," said Skotnicki. "John Torrese (owner) and Jen Reebel (general manager) at Oswego have been great to us. It wasn't an easy decision as far as when you put emotion into it. But when you put the business side into it, what the community of Erie brought to the table as far as an offer, it really stood heads and tails above everything else.
"For starters you're going to a facility that's one of the very best facilities on the planet in our world of short-track racing. The Prischak family spared no expense when they built the place a few years ago.
"Also, when push came to shove the Erie Sports Commission ... (has) done some incredible work. They put out a list of participating hotels with room rates that I couldn't even believe. So already the community involvement and the help from that aspect has been great. I'm hoping it puts the life back into the event."
The ROC Super Stock Series will also be on hand Saturday at Lancaster along with the Street Stocks and 4-Cylinders.
Spiece off to great start at Merrittville
Last fall, after 14 seasons of ownership of the Merrittville Speedway by the Bicknell and Williamson families, the Thorold, Ontario, based dirt track was sold to racer/businessman Don Spiece, who has been busy planning his agenda.
This past Saturday the Merrittville season got off to a fine start with 101 cars in the pits encompassing four divisions and a mostly filled grandstand despite temperatures that dipped into the 30s by the night's conclusion.
"The most difficult thing is that the bar here has been set pretty high and Pete (Bicknell) and Erica (Bicknell) and Randy Williamson achieved the high bar," said Spiece . "So for me to start right off the bat right up top is tough and I'm trying to fill it. ... Last week we had our practice and we had 97 cars. That surprised me. Who would think that at just a practice you're going to get almost 100 cars. I think always that when somebody buys something and someone's been in it for a long time, everybody likes change. It seems to be pretty positive and I hope I can keep it that way."
Veteran Merritville public relations director Jim Irvine is celebrating his 31st season there.