Donny "D.J." Raiser runs a business and devotes countless hours to charitable causes and other activities but still finds time to compete in the IHRA drag racing program at New York International Raceway Park.
"Drag racing for me is far more than a hobby," Raiser said. "It's a passion. I've done it every year for 43 years. I never took a year off. As long as I have a car with gas in it and the sun is shining, I'm at a racetrack."
When NYIRP, formerly known as Lancaster Speedway, hosts its annual IHRA season point championship finale Friday, Raiser won't have to sweat out the outcome in the Street ET class because he and points teammate Mason Fix already having clinched the title. Raiser has three NYIRP Street ET wins this season.
The championship is the fourth of Raiser's career at NYIRP and his first since he teamed with Amy Park to claim the Street ET title in 2010. Raiser also is the track's 1994 and 1995 Pro ET champion. Raiser's partner in the 1990s was Jim Fix, Mason's dad.
Mason Fix is a talented young racer from Amherst who has proved to be a top-flight competitor in winning the Street ET point title the previous three seasons, 2016-2018 before hooking up with Raiser this year.
"It's good to drag race with the Fix family," said Raiser, who was inducted onto the Lancaster Dragway Wall of Fame a few seasons ago.
While Raiser and Fix were teammates, Raiser ran the point number on his car this season at NYIRP to earn the team the championship points. Fix was ready in reserve if he were needed to run the point number.
In addition to Street, Raiser also competed in the Mod ET and Pro ET classes at NYIRP this season. Raiser ran a 2015 Challenger Hellcat that utilizes a mechanism to change horsepower settings at the touch of a button. That allowed him to run in more than one class.
In the most recent drag race at NYIRP Sept. 12, Raiser took care of business early to clinch the championship.
"In the last race night, I got the job done," Raiser said. "Dan Knab was the only one who could pass us in points and he pulled up to me and we raced in the first round. We were dead even on the starting light and his car slowed just a little bit and I was fortunate enough to take the win. He's a good racer and a very eloquent young man. It was a pleasure to race as we had a battle all season between him and myself. We were lucky enough to win it."
Raiser has been an institution in the local drag racing ranks.
"My interest in drag racing started in high school," Raiser said. "In 1976, my friend Mike 'O' (Owczarczak) said, 'Come out to the drag races tonight and you can help me out.' He was driving a 1963 Nova. The next weekend I brought my new Mercury Bobcat out and started drag racing."
He says from that point on he was addicted to racing.
"Over all the years, I've made some fantastic friends and 40-plus years ago I started traveling to many other tracks as well," he said.
Raiser has won NHRA and IHRA divisional races and IHRA national events at different times in his career and also has eight national drag racing records.
Raiser said veteran racers Paul and Paula Cambria have "helped me immensely" throughout his career.
If drag racing is Raiser's primary passion, a close second is his dedication to charitable causes.
"I'm on the board of directors of the Variety Kids Telethon," Raiser said. "Last year we raised $1.1 million from the Variety Kids Telethon. I'm also involved with Robby Takac from the Goo Goo Dolls. We are involved with the Music is Art Festival. We do an auction for Robby every year. In fact, earlier this month we raised over $40,000 from that guitar auction. The money raised buys instruments to bring music into the lives of children and families that can't afford it.
"I'm involved with the Cambrias both in drag racing as well as all this charity work."
Lucas Salemi has clinched the Bikes/Sleds class at NYIRP. In NYIRP's two other IHRA drag racing points classes, Reid Ricketson leads twin brother Ryan by 30 points in Mod ET, and Jan Winkowski leads Paul Cochi by 30 in Top ET.
Summit Team Finals
NYIRP and Empire Dragway in Leicester each sent a team of drag racers to the IHRA Division 3 (North Stars) Summit Team Finals last weekend at Keystone Raceway Park in New Alexandria, Pa. NYIRP finished fifth and Empire seventh in the eight-team competition won by Ohio's Dragway 42.
NYIRP-based drivers claiming individual honors were Dale Eckert (Mod ET Gambler's race); Lucas Salemi (Race of Champions Bike/Sled class); Theda Ball (Best Appearing Junior Dragster); and Mike Nearhoof (Best Appearing Motorcycle). Team Empire's Kathy Kiekel had Best Engineered Full Bodied Car.
ROC at Lake Erie
Many area stock car fans and teams will head to Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pa., for the 69th annual Presque Isle Downs & Casino Race of Champions Weekend. Andy Jankowiak leads Patrick Emerling by two points heading into Saturday's $12,500-to-win Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series 250 season finale.
The ROC Four-Cylinders, ROC TQ Midgets and ROC Late Models complete Saturday's 2 p.m. card. On Friday, the Lancaster Street Stocks and ROC Sportsman highlight the 7:05 p.m. program at Lake Erie.