There are many ways that race promoters measure the success of a race program. They include grandstand attendance, car counts, fan enjoyment, concession stand sales and other areas that hopefully lead to a positive financial result and a satisfying entertainment experience.
New York International Raceway Park stock car program director Joe Skotnicki has added smiles as a measurement of success.
He ultimately wants success that will put big smiles on the faces of Mike Swinarski and Vito and Sylvia Antonicelli, the new owners of the dual asphalt stock car/drag racing track formerly known as Lancaster Speedway.
While NYIRP's drag racing program began in May, the first stock car program run in the track's limited six-race 2019 schedule was June 27. The program was headlined by the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series Ol' Boy Cup 60.
With a huge grandstand crowd, good car counts and a feel-good celebration among the local auto racing community, the opening show was deemed a success, and the smiles that were hoped for appeared. Mission accomplished.
Now, NYIRP will host the next two stock car shows of their season. On Thursday, the Race of Champions Asphalt Sportsman Series will conduct the Joe Reilly Memorial 54. The Race of Champions Asphalt Late Model Series will headline the July 20 card.
Swinarski and the Antonicellis, who have a lifetime of involvement in drag racing, purchased the track in the spring and began to plan the drag racing season. Realizing that they have limited knowledge of all the intricacies of running a oval track stock car program, they brought in Skotnicki, a seasoned veteran of race promotion and the operator of the Race of Champions organization, to run the oval track program on their behalf.
"I think our opening stock car show this season really opened up the eyes of Mike and Vito and Sylvia to the value of stock car racing at Lancaster," Skotnicki said. "Not just from a financial standpoint. Obviously that's the goal. But I really believe it opened up their eyes to what kind of family that is and how tightknit of a group everyone is. They saw things in a different light and they seemed to be pretty happy afterwards.
"That was my goal, to just put a smile on their faces and let them have some success and let them reap the benefits."
What did Skotnicki think of the opening event success?
"I always told everybody that it's for everyone else to judge the success of it," Skotnicki said. "It was a great night with a fairly strong car count and the fans truly turned out to support it. From that standpoint, and watching it there, it looked pretty good to me, but your goal is always to be better and more efficient. I just keep plugging away at it."
Since ownership purchased NYIRP and made the deal with Skotnicki, there was not a lot of time to prepare for the stock car season opener. Skotnicki, who also promotes his various traveling ROC series races, drew on his experience and knowledgeable staff to help glue the details together.
Skotnicki also promotes race events at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, in addition to other tracks.
"It's been busy and there's no idle time." Skotnicki said. "With Spencer Speedway and NYIRP project and all that I do with the ROC series, to sit back and say that I've enjoyed every minute of it would be a non-truth, only because I haven't really had time to breathe. Everything just keeps ramping up with projects and events to keep the ball rolling."
As is usually the case with promoters, Skotnicki thought that many things went well at the NYIRP opener but that minor improvement is needed in other areas.
"From the ownership standpoint, there's really nothing that I didn't like about the opener and there's always things you can work on," Skotnicki said. "As far as some of the intricacies go from my standpoint, just some efficiencies could be improved. It's not so much about being on time but making sure that things get done in a timely manner. I don't want things to run too long. The opener was done before 11 (p.m.), which is always the goal, but we want to ideally be done by 10:30. It's just little things we need to improve on.
"Staff-wise, we're fine. It's all the people that have been there and they know what they're doing and are all comfortable with one another. It's not like we're working at something new. I just want to fine-tune the show to give everybody the best race night experience they can have."
The ROC Asphalt Modified Series will return to NYIRP Aug. 17 and during U.S. Open Weekend in September. In the meantime, Skotnicki is mixing in his other ROC series to headline the next two shows at NYIRP. Then Street Stocks will be featured Aug. 24.
"We opened up with our ROC Asphalt Sportsman Series June 28 at Spencer and the car count was outstanding with 26 cars on the property and a good fan turnout. So, I'm looking for more of the same Thursday night. The Reilly race has become a tradition at the speedway and I'm looking forward to honoring Joe's memory with a good night.
"As far as the ROC Late Model thing, really, if we didn't pick it up, there wouldn't be asphalt Late Model racing in our area. A couple of years ago, there was some heartburn over some different things. Tim Packman (former Lancaster track president) approached us and asked if I would consider doing a ROC Late Model series. We did.
"We picked it up and kind of had it on a rebound. With changes and uncertainty in the local speedways like Holland and Lake Erie, it's a little bit of a light Late Model schedule in the region this year, but hopefully I can get everything sorted out and get that program back on track fully for 2020."
Joining the ROC Sportsman in Thursday's 7 p.m. card at NYIRP will be the Street Stocks, Four-Cylinders and NYPA TQ Midgets.