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Stefanski name takes another turn in the Ransomville limelight

Pete Stefanski's name has often appeared over the years in the victorious limelight at Ransomville Speedway. This past Friday, the family name again leaped to the forefront at the Niagara County dirt oval but this time it was Stefanski's young nephew Jake Stefanski who reminded everyone of this family's winning ways.

In the second of two Street Stock features run Friday at Ransomville, Jake Stefanski passed his uncle in the late going and then held off the torrid sheet rubbing challenges of Billy Bleich Jr. to put the Stefanski name back in Victory Lane.

Over the years the elder Stefanski authored victories and championships both at Ransomville as well as throughout the northeastern United States and Canada in the Pro Stock class.

Pete is a four time Ransomville Pro Stock class champion including securing the last two titles in the class before the division was eliminated at Ransomville after the 2006 season due to lower car counts. This forced him in recent years to have to travel several hours to the eastern region of New York State and Canada to compete. For the record, Pete's brother, the retired Joe Stefanski is a two-time Ransomville Pro Stock champion earning titles in 1996 and 2001.

While Pete is still campaigning his Pro Stock on many occasions this season he has joined the Street Stock class at Ransomville Speedway in 2017 in order to avail himself of an opportunity to race weekly much closer to his North Tonawanda home.

Pete has also spent the last few seasons serving as a mentor to Jake who has obviously learned well in the Street Stock ranks having gathered wins of his own over the last few years including this past Friday.

"Honestly just being able to race with him in general and being able to run with him as I grew up watching him here it's just an honor to be racing next to him," Jake said of Pete. "To be able to pass him and pass him clean – it's a feeling I can't describe. My uncle has taught me quite a bit and I had to use that to beat him tonight."

In this 2010 photo, Jake Stefanski, then 16, poses with his race car in North Tonawanda. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News file photo)

Pete Stefanski poses with his car at Ransomville Speedway in 2004. (John Hickey/Buffalo News file photo)

Pete has enjoyed helping develop Jake's career.

"I think Jake's got a better car then me and I've got to stop setting it up that good," Pete laughed. "He's an incredible driver so the young talent that he has is a lot. He's a clean driver. I'm changing my car to a setup more like his car."

Pete started the race from the pole and built a ten car lead before the caution flag waved on lap nine in Friday's nightcap Street Stock race. On the restart, Pete maintained the top spot as Jake surged from sixth to second. On lap 12, Jake caught and passed his uncle in Turn Four to assume the top spot. Bleich also worked his way into second and began his pursuit of the leader.  The lead pair became embroiled in a tremendous joust to the checkered flag, even sideswiping each other down the front stretch with Jake prevailing by a foot. Following Jake's  lap 12 pass, Pete spun out, the victim of a flat tire. Pete placed ninth.

"I knew Bleich was coming and I didn't mean to get up into him there," Jake said. "I will probably apologize to him. I knew he was probably going to be on the bottom and he went high and I came up into him a little bit but my car was getting worse and worse so I just tried to do the best I could."

In this 2006 photo, Jake Stefanski, then 11, prepares his Go-Kart for racing at Ransomville Speedway. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

For Pete, the times have changed with his new foray into the Street Stock class.

"I like racing at a local race track to me but I'm still running my Pro Stock too," Pete said. "I try to hit Utica-Rome Speedway with my Pro Stock whenever I can but it's three hours for me. I've been doing that for 20 years. The traveling is just a lot for me with rain and I don't know what we're going to hit everytime we go racing. Being close to home at Ransomville is 15 minutes from my home whether it rains or not.

"I'm not moving up to the Sportsman class at Ransomville. Everybody says that I should but I just say that you buy the car and I'll drive it but no one seems to want to do that. I'm more happy with a full-fender car. I love it. I get to run Ransomville and do what we can and hit races where we can hit races and just have some fun.

"My Street Stock I've started this season with is a car out of North Carolina and was actually built for asphalt and we kind of converted it over to a dirt car. This past weekend my buddy Alan Peters who we drove for many years with in the Pro Stocks actually just gave me a brand new Street Stock so I just got to get a body hung on it. I'm hoping to get that car out about midseason. The older car I'm running now I'm still learning over these first few weeks what it likes."

In this photo from 2000, Pete Stefanski, Pro Stock champion at Ransomville, poses with daughter Emily (7 months), who has been to races since she was six weeks old; Stefanski said that she is so used to the noise that she can fall asleep in the middle of a race. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

In the first Street Stock feature race Friday, a rain postponed event from May 12, Jaren "Showtime" Israel emerged victorious over Brandon Sherwood.  Pete Stefanski finished fifth while Jake Stefanski suffered a midrace spin placing 12th.

Also at Ransomville Friday,  former asphalt TQ Midget competitor Jonathan Reid, who once drove the fabled No. 9 TQ Midget of the late Harry Macy, emerged triumphant to win his first career Sportsman feature race at Ransomville. Reid made the switch from asphalt to dirt last season.

On a final note, Ransomville management continues to struggle with very rough track surface conditions that has negatively impacted much of the racing there this season. Friday's program was held up for almost an hour after the heat qualifying races to rework the track surface with did improve a bit for the feature races although dust was somewhat prevalent. Management has vowed to conquer their track problems.

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