Despite being a Georgia native, Shane Clanton will feel right at home when the World of Outlaws Late Models visit Stateline Speedway in Busti on Thursday and then Ransomville Speedway on Friday.
Clanton is the son-in-law of retired Warren, Pa., driver Ron Davies. For many years, Davies enjoyed success at local tracks, including Stateline and Little Valley Speedway.
"This is like racing at home for me now," Clanton said. "We've picked up a lot of fans around here because we've spent so much time at Ron Davies shop the last few years. It's like Ron's fans have become my fans, too."
The top four in current WOO points: Chris Madden (Gray Court, S.C.), 1,708; Mike Marlar (Winfield, Tenn.,) 1,674; Brandon Sheppard (New Berlin, Ill.), 1,638; and Clanton (Zebulon, Ga.), 1,628.
Friday's event at Ransomville is the first WOO Late Model race there since 2005, when 37 cars took part. There is a $10,000-to-win payout for the 50-lap event. Billy Moyer holds the Ransomville WOO Late Model track record at 17.432 seconds.
For the last decade or so, car counts and spectator attendance have been dramatically declining at Holland Speedway. This season Daniel J. Hutchinson and general manager Nick Johnston have assumed operational control of the facility now called The Track at Hillside. They have worked hard to try to begin to restore the track to prosperity but have a long journey ahead of them.
Early this season, the stock car counts at most of Hillside's races have been nearly 50 total per show but only 22 cars came to race last Saturday.
Also less than 100 fans attended each of the race programs June 1 and last Saturday, which had numbers that are likely the lowest totals for a race since the track opened in 1960.
When analyzing the car count numbers last Saturday, a few factors must be taken into consideration. First, four of the Sportsman drivers who have come to Hillside this season – Sam Fullone, Scott Wylie, Patrick Emerling and Matt Druar – were participating in the special ROC activity at Lake Erie Speedway.
Mark Pennell, another Sportsman driver, suffered a wreck June 7 at Lancaster and could not make it to Hillside.
The traveling NYPA TQ Midgets that run nearly every race at Hillside and routinely bring 14 or more cars per show were also at Lake Erie. Lancaster Speedway was not racing and yet few of their drivers came to Hillside. Lastly, Street Stock driver Nik Welshans, who won at Hillside June 1, is on the sideline after his car was heavily damaged in an accident June 2 at Lancaster.
Minus these scenarios, Hillside would most likely have had at least 40-plus cars. Drivers say they want Hillside to succeed but have found that getting basic information from the track has been difficult. Hutchinson said he has been talking to many drivers and listening to their suggestions.
A major push in advertising and promotion by Hillside management within the community is badly needed. Time will tell what future Hillside has but fans must remain patient and give the program a chance to grow.
Hutchinson has proved to be a successful businessman outside of racing. Hopefully, that translates within the business of racing.
Hillside will showcase a stock car program at 7:15 p.m. Friday. Crash-O-Rama, now under the direction of Hamburg's JM Motorsports Productions, will run at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hillside.
Championship bids erased
In a single Street Stock accident June 2 at Lancaster, two drivers have lost their respective bids to defend their 2017 Street Stock championships. Following a three-car wreck involving Rich Sharpe, Nik Welshans and Mark Hoch, Sharpe has been suspended from Lancaster for the remainder of the season for his involvement in both the accident and post-accident related issues. Sharpe was Lancaster's defending champion. Welshans, Hillside's 2017 titlist, has suffered major damage to his car and will be out of action indefinitely.