Joe Skotnicki of the Race of Champions sanctioning organization has spent the last few days accessing the results of the 67th annual Race of Champions Weekend, run for the first time in its long history at Lake Erie Speedway this past weekend. He sees a lot of promise and says that his best sales people moving forward he believes will be the race patrons who attended the event.
The marquee event of the ROC weekend is the ROC Asphalt Modified Series Race of Champions 250, a race that has been hosted at a few different venues over its nearly seven decade existence. This past offseason, Skotnicki, of Elma, moved the race from the Oswego Speedway to Lake Erie feeling that the business atmosphere and municipal support from the Erie, Pa. area would be very supportive. He says that was evident this past weekend.
"I think the people are speaking for it," Skotnicki said. "I think they're going to be great ambassadors. The people that were there will make great sales people moving forward on the event. I think the racers showed that they believe in it with 140 cars in the pits for six different divisions. We really can't complain about that from any standpoint. We had great quality racing. Obviously there's not much we can do with the weather. It was cold and it was fall. Today (Monday) it's 70. Mother Nature threw us a little bit of a curveball but I also believe that we're rebuilding and restructuring an event and trying to make it something new and different. I think the folks that were there saw that.
"I'm committed to continuing the tradition and I'm going to do my part. But once you have the event that we had this past weekend it certainly becomes easier to market and easier to sell go the masses."
Educating the business community of the Erie region as to the benefits of hosting an auto racing event is something Skotnicki has tried to do.
"It was the businesses and the municipalities, the U.S. Army involvement, the Pennsylvania troopers and everyone that made it possible," Skotnicki said. "Their involvement was outstanding. It was nothing short of incredible. I think some of them went into it a little bit blindly because some of them had never experienced a motorsports event before. I found out that our grand marshal, Jeff Favre, that was his first racing event ever. He's the vice-president and general manager of Presque Isle Downs and Casino, our title sponsor. So I also think that along with having a great event it opened up some eyes as well."
With the ROC series appearing just two weeks ago in the Buffalo area during Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway's U.S. Open Weekend, Skotnicki feels that between Lancaster and Lake Erie area fans were treated to a great 1-2 punch of late season asphalt competition.
"What I think competitors and fans need to look at is right now nationwide we have two of the marquee events on asphalt back-to-back," Skotnicki said. "It's something to be extremely proud of that as far as our country goes two of the greatest short track motorsports events are right here in our own backyard one weekend apart year after year.
"I don't know how much we'll tweak the ROC Weekend for next year. It wasn't perfect for sure. We've made a list and we'll get everyone together and improve on what we need to improve on. Now we have something to work with."
Skotnicki is also grieving the loss of his friend and NASCAR Modified competitor Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn. who died in a plane crash Sept. 16.
"Ted would be mad if he knew how much some of us missed him," Skotnicki said.
Leaty proud of L2 team
This season L2 Autosport drivers Mike Leaty and Patrick Emerling finished in the first two spots in the ROC Asphalt Modified Series season point standings. It was Leaty's first ROC Modified title. Jan Leaty, Mike's father, is a retired Modified racing veteran who supervises the L2 team. The elder Leaty is very proud of his team's performance this season.
"Our L2 Autosport team is a little family based team," Jan said. "We've grown over the past few years and worked very hard. Now we've won the championship two years in a row, one for Pat (Emerling) and one for Mike and we like that when we show up at the race track that we're one or two of the cars to beat every week. I like that the ROC Weekend is at Lake Erie. I like it a lot. It's a beautiful facility. The racing was fantastic. Let's hope we can grow it and make it more popular with more people here and more cars."
Rudolph again hopes for Super Dirt Week Double
When NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVI goes green this weekend at Oswego Speedway, Ransomville's Erick Rudolph, the 2016 and 2017 BRP Big-Block Modified Tour champion will be hoping to grab the checkered flag in both Sunday's Big-Block Modified Billy Whittaker Cars 200 as well as Saturday's 358 Modified Great Outdoors RV 150. He almost accomplished the feat a year ago although his finishes of 17th in each event did not represent the true story.
In the Big-Block event at Oswego in 2016, Rudolph was running a strong third when he encountered mechanical problems on lap 177 and had to drop out.
"I was running third with less than 30-laps to go and I just fell victim to the rough track and a lot of cars had mechanical failures and we were one of the victims as well," Rudolph said. "I broke a drive shaft."
In the 358 Modified contest at Oswego a year ago, Rudolph worked his way into second on lap 90 but a lap later hit the outside Turn Four wall while pressuring eventual winner Tim Fuller and was forced to pull out of the 100 lap affair.
"I was making a bid for the lead last year in the 358 event at Oswego and I just got a flat tire with a handful of laps to go and that was it." Rudolph said.
Rudolph had many wins throughout this year throughout the Northeast including emerging victorious in eight of nine BRP events this season. He chalked up a trio of 358 Modified triumphs this season at Ransomville Speedway on his way to a second place finish in points there. For Super DIRT Week information consult superdirtweekonline.com.