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Father-Daughter reach the top at Hillside

Throughout local auto racing history, there have been accomplishments such as earning a track championship that were a "like-father-like-son" proposition.

This season at the Track at Hillside, perhaps a local auto racing first occurred – the "like-father-like-daughter" variety.

Racing veteran Ken Maltby and his daughter, Michele Maltby-Russo, both claimed track divisional championships at the facility formerly known as Holland Speedway Sept. 7 when they emerged as the Street 8 and Street 4 season point champions, respectively.

Now with Hillside closed for the season, the father-daughter pairing will look for more asphalt stock car racing success by campaigning for checkered flags in the 30th annual U.S. Open this weekend at Lancaster Speedway. They also will compete during the Race of Champions Weekend, Sept. 27-29, at Lake Erie Speedway, and the "Shootout at the Bullring" weekend, Oct. 12-13, at Wyoming County International Speedway.

Ken entered the final points night at Hillside on Sept. 7 with a 50-point lead over Jim Loffredo, authored on the strength of a six-win season. Ken rode to a safe sixth-place result on the final night to grab his first career track championship.

About 30 minutes earlier that night, Michele also arrived at Hillside as the points leader. She drove to a second-place outing to earn her title, also the first of her career. The father-daughter titles are quite significant in this area's racing scene.

When Ken, who has been racing since 1981, was asked about his championship accomplishments this season, the proud dad could not help first talking about his daughter's title.

"I can't believe it for both of us to come out and win championships in the same year and at the same track," Ken said. "It was awesome. The guys on her team, Dice Racing, did a great job in helping her. She drove three different cars this year to clinch that championship. Ben (Michele's husband) and everybody over there really jumped in and helped her out 100 percent.

"As for me, I kept my game plan going in the Street 8 class. It worked for my team, too. We won six times at Hillside this year, and in 23 races counting those at Hillside and Lancaster, we finished every lap at every track we ran this season. That's impressive as far as I'm concerned ... because that's tough to do.

"I told my daughter if we could pull this off and we both come out champions, I don't think anybody else that I've ever remember at least father-daughter, became champions. It's happened with father-son but never father-daughter. That's huge. The family is real happy as well as our teams."

The championship was an early birthday present for Michele, who turned 27 on Monday. Michele, who began her career in 2013, had a feature race win earlier this season at Hillside. She was grateful to Jeff Szafraniec, Bob Palmer and Craig Orr,  who loaned their cars to her this season to help make the championship possible.

"I'm proud of my championship," Michele said. "I don't think it's really set in yet. To win a championship is a dream come true and to be able to win it with my dad in the same year is amazing.

"I came into the final race leading my Dice Racing teammate Jeff Szafraniec by 26 points," she said. "I started the race very nervous, but I kept it in the back of my mind that all I had to do was finish and I knew the championship was mine. From start to finish, everything was smooth sailing in the race.

"After my race, we went through tech thankfully very quickly and then I was able to watch my dad's race and for him to get his championship, too."

When Michele was on the track at Hillside in the final race of the season, Ken was not able to see what was happening because he was strapped in his car in the pit lineup chute waiting for his race, the next to hit the speedway.

"I didn't get to watch her feature race," Ken said. "But they let me get out on the track when her race was over so I could celebrate her championship with her for a moment. During her race I didn't know what was going on, but I had my track radio on and I didn't know until the end when they told her to go to Victory Lane as the champion that she got it. Then it was time to refocus and run my race. It worked out for both of us."

"I think we made area racing history this season and that's a pretty amazing feeling," Michele said.

Champion crowned

Ransomville: Chad Desso, 4-Bangers.

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