Thanks to the recent sale and reopening of New York International Raceway Park in Lancaster, plenty of grateful and relieved drag racers will fill the staging lanes when a new era begins there Friday night.
Among them will be noted area attorney and veteran drag racer Paul Cambria.
Instead of owning the track as once appeared a strong possibility, Cambria is supporting the venue in the next best way he said he can: by racing there.
The IHRA drag racing weekly points opener will be contested Friday along with the Buffalo Street Outlaws and TNT Super Series. Racing begins at 7 p.m.
"I think as racers, because we all came so close to losing the track, that you're going to see a huge number of racers there every week to support it, because now they know what it's like to almost not have it," Cambria said. "We realize we have to do our part. They said they're going to be more fan friendly to get more of the fans back."
For almost the entire offseason, the future of racing at the track formerly known as Lancaster National Speedway was in serious jeopardy. Then the dual stock car/drag racing facility was bought by local businessmen/drag racers, Mike Swinarski and Vito Antonicelli, on April 30.
Last fall, former owner Gordon Reger put the track up for sale and said he did not intend to have racing there if he could not sell the facility.
Cambria, in an effort to try to save the track, negotiated with Reger, but the sides could not agree on a deal.
"I was one of the people who had made offers to Mr. Reger, but it turned out that Mike and Vito eventually came up with a deal that they're satisfied with," Cambria said. "They saved the track this year. That's a good thing so I wish them the best.
"I really didn't want to own a track. My effort was more about trying to keep the track alive, but I wasn't about to make a bad deal. ... I have a very large law practice across the nation. I run our Los Angeles office. I'm very active in the criminal defense scene here in the Buffalo, Western New York area. Plus we own a restaurant in Clarence (Gianni Mazia's) so we have a lot to do.
"I've been involved in drag racing ever since I was 16. I grew up around it. My dad was in the car business. He was a body, fender and paint man. So we had cars around us all the time. We used to go drag racing at a place in Wattsburg, Pa. That's where it all started for me with my Chevy 409."
Along with his love of drag racing, Cambria also has a passion for the legal world.
"Drag racing and being an attorney are very compatible," Cambria said. "You're competitive and that's a very important part of both situations. I graduated with high honors from law school in 1972. I went to the University of Toledo. They had a trial training program that I was very interested in. That's why I picked that school."
Cambria races in the stock and super stock classes in both NHRA and IHRA national and divisional drag racing events, as well as locally in the mod and pro classes at NYIRP. Cambria won a large-scale IHRA divisional event about 10 years ago in Budd's Creek, Md., in the stock class. Locally, he has won many races at both NYIRP as well as Empire Dragway in Leicester.
Cambria's wife, Paula, is also a veteran drag racer and will make appearances at NYIRP throughout the season. Paul said she will not compete at opening night but could take part on the second week.
"Frankly, when she's on her game she's tough to beat," Paul said. "She is an accomplished racer with a seriously fast race car, a COPO Camaro which goes 145 miles per hour for a quarter-mile. Paula runs the same classes that I do at NYIRP. We could face each other this season. It hasn't happened yet, but it could. I would be afraid of her."
Paul said he has hope for the new ownership group at NYIRP.
"So far the new owners have already been busy by improving the track surface itself," Cambria said. "These guys who bought the track are racers. They knew the issue with the bump in one of the lanes, and one of the first things they did was grind it down to make the track better."
• After having their first four weeks of on-track activity washed away by rain and saturated grounds, Ransomville Speedway will attempt to begin the 2019 campaign at 7:15 p.m. Friday, highlighting the $2,000-to-win, 40-lap DIRT.car 358 Modified special.
• Freedom Motorsports Park will showcase the United Late Model Series Super Late Model fifth annual Ron Baker Memorial at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Wyoming County International Speedway will showcase Military Appreciation Night at 6 p.m. Saturday.
• The TNT Super Series visits Empire Dragway at 5 p.m. Saturday.