Even as Holland Speedway was in the midst of running its biggest annual stock car event of the season on Saturday, the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series Thunder in Hills 100, longtime track owner and president Ron Bennett announced that the 58- year old racing facility has been put up for sale, effective immediately.
The sale, which encompasses 135 acres, also includes the Holland Paintball Adventure Park.
In his announcement Bennett stressed that he is under no pressure to sell and that stock car racing will continue as long as he owns the track, no matter how long it make take for a sale to be completed. He said that he is seeking to sell to a new owner who should really have a passion for auto racing together with management skills. Only what he termed "serious inquires" will be considered.
Bennett and two other kindergarten classmates of his, Gordon Becker and Richard Knox, partnered to open Holland in June 1960. Holland debuted as a dirt track before converting to asphalt in 1968. Since 1967 the track has been sanctioned by NASCAR. Five years ago the paintball park located behind the speedway was added.
Over the decades that followed the track prospered greatly with good car counts and large crowds. Numerous upgrades and additions to Holland's physical structure were also made over the years. Racing heroes such as Art Clark, the late Dick Flaig and many others entertained their legions of fans. The last decade, however, Holland has hit on hard times with low car and fan counts due to many reasons including but not limited to the economy, decline in local racing interest and also disagreements between some competitors and Holland management.
Bennett has persevered through nearly six decades of operation. In 1999, Becker retired and Knox did likewise in 2002 leaving Bennett as the sole owner. Now Bennett feels the time is right for him to retire, sell and let others chart the future of the track. All sales inquiries that come will be funneled to Becker and then after review to Bennett.
"I've been here since 1960 when I built the track," Bennett said. "I had a couple of partners who retired and I'm up in age now and I'm looking at it and I have no problems running it but it's time to move on. I'm looking at somebody who is really a serious interested party. There's 135 acres here. It's a big facility. I'm not being pressured it's just that if there's a time that somebody comes up that I think is worthy and can do it, I'll consider it.
"But right now Gordon Becker is the point man as we go through it and we'll see. It's not that we're bailing out. It's not like we're closing it. It's not that. It's going to continue. If I don't sell this year then I'll be here next year but time marches on. I can tell you that 58 years is a long time."
Holland is one of many area speedways to be involved in an ownership/sales scenario in just the last few years. In December of 2015, the Friesen family, after 42 years of consecutive ownership, sold Ransomville Speedway to the Atwal family. Last off-season, following 14 years of co-ownership, the Bicknell and Williamson families sold Merrittville Speedway to Don Spiece.
In 2015 Bob Reis purchased Freedom Motorsports Park from Mike Lauterborn who had owned Freedom since 2010. Also in 2015 the husband/wife tandem of Jim and Jean Scott along with partner Brian Horner bought Stateline Speedway from long-time owners, the Seamens family.
Current Lancaster Speedway and Dragway owner Gordon Reger planned to sell the Gunnville Road oval/dragstrip in late 2014 to businessman/racer Bill Catania Jr., but that deal fell through when Catania suffered multiple legal issues.
On the drag racing side, Empire Dragway in Leicester, formerly known as New York International Raceway Park, was purchased by the husband/wife team of Jerry and Clara Scaccia, from the Metcalfe family on December 31, 2013.
While Bennett was taking care of business off the track at Holland Saturday, Matt Hirschman took care of it on the track with an impressive victory in the Thunder in the Hills 100. After starting tenth in the 100-lap grind, Hirschman, in calculated and patient fashion, settled into a spot just outside the top five in the races early stages.
Soon he worked forward eventually trailing only leader Austin Kochenash as well as Chuck Hossfeld and defending race winner and champion Patrick Emerling as the field went under caution on lap 70. On the lap 75 restart, Hirschman hit the gas and overhauled both Hossfeld and Emerling to gain the runner-up position.
Hirschman began his pursuit of Kochenash from several car lengths down eventually catching him. After a joust of a few laps, Hirschman moved to the inside and sailed into the top spot as the pair charged down the front stretch on lap 88. On lap 93, Emerling got by Kochenash to gain second. Hirschman went on to victory by seven car lengths over Emerling and Kochenash.
Hirschman notched his fourth Race of Champions triumph of 2017 despite not running the series fulltime.
"I wasn't at this race last year," Hirschman said. "But I did my homework coming in. I didn't race last night at Spencer either so I was fresh. We were totally 100 percent prepared for tonight both mentally and physically. Patrick won the last two years here so I always know going in who to look for and who we have to beat. Austin was good tonight too."
Emerling won the Race of Champions event at Spencer Speedway in Williamson on Friday night and complimented it with his bridesmaid run Saturday at Holland.
"Matt was up top and just rolled around us there and he was able to get us on that restart," Emerling said. "I think we both had identical cars speed-wise and he just got out front on that last restart. It was a good weekend for the team and I."