Daniel J. Hutchinson says his first season operating the Track@Hillside was filled with "tons of learning moments," and he now intends to put what he learned into practice.
During the track's annual awards banquet Nov. 17, he is expected to unveil new marketing partners, race scheduling and several big-league traveling series that will visit Hillside next season.
"I had a rookie year to learn, just like everyone else has a rookie year in racing," he said. "It comes with things you want to build upon and the successes that you have."
After nearly six decades of direction from the track's former managers, Hutchinson took over the operation in March at Hillside, formerly known as Holland Speedway.
Hillside's 2018 season was marked by low car counts, poor grandstand attendance and also competitive racing. There was also somewhat of a lack of communication that existed between the track and the racing community. Hutchinson also conceded there were some billing and payment concerns that he is addressing by tightening up the accounts payable and invoicing operations at Hillside.
"The very first thing I want to acknowledge is that owning and promoting a track are two very different things. I've learned that I'm not an effective promoter," Hutchinson said. "Therefore I'm adding marketing partners. ...
"I'm looking forward to next year. We're building upon not only those successes, but we're actually growing as far as an organization. We're adding staff and we're adding partners for marketing and promotion ...
"I concentrated on business-to-business people this past year, making sure the focus was on the competitors and try to understand their commitment to the sport and their commitment to their fan base. Now I believe with that we can grow to move the business to the customers and grow the fan base.
"I want to build momentum like we did last year with being able to offer many events on both a Friday and Saturday night allowing competitors to be able to choose what they would want, meaning that they were able to race at multiple facilities by having an afternoon race at Hillside and than an evening race at Lancaster."
When asked if he has any interest in buying Lancaster Speedway, which is for sale, Hutchinson said: "I think the best way to put it is that the best way I can help Western New York and carry on the legacy that Ron Bennett and the other founders started at Holland is by focusing on Hillside and bringing that to its true potential."
As far as the lacking car counts and attendance, Hutchinson acknowledged, "the asphalt racing needed some work."
"The commitment doesn't come overnight from competitors and the commitment doesn't come overnight from a fan base, either," he said, noting that some of the non-racing events such as paintball drew well.
Hutchinson said he felt Year 1 was 95 percent successful and having a full offseason should help Year 2 get off to a better start.
"The largest complication that we had last year is that we got a tremendously late start and we stuck our necks out," Hutchinson said. "By sticking our necks out, there were people that helped us along and there were people that would much rather see us fail. I've learned that though this season that we had very good moments to cherish and we had good racing. We had good fan counts for what we needed to have.
"We didn't walk into a turnkey operation. We had to put processes and policies in place and start from scratch. The largest thing that I've learned is that if we would have not raced at the facility last year and used it as a rebuilding year there would have been a lot of upset people. Throughout all last year, we had 12 to 14 successful events, and of those events, some went off with hitches but the majority of them were learning experiences. Just like you can't get out and win your first race, we didn't necessarily go out and win our first season.
"The monumental task of doing what we did last year I feel was 95 percent successful. The five percent that wasn't successful we're going to have to do better at operationally in order to put the processes and policies in place."