During a time when race fans so often hear about facilities closing their doors, good news comes out of Buffalo, New York on Wednesday afternoon as Lancaster Speedway (Elegant Builders Raceway Park) will be reopening their doors on September 19-21 for the tracks annual US Open event featuring the Race of Champions Asphalt Modifieds.
Bill Catania, who owns and operates Short Track Management, a company based out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has come to an agreement with current facility owner Gordon Reger on a three-day lease and has hopes that a successful event will eventually lead to his company’s purchase of the facility.
“The business model for Short Track Management is to purchase and renovate tracks that have really great opportunities,” Catania told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We see Lancaster as being one of those tracks. I’m looking at acquiring it, but before I acquire it I thought I’d promote this event and see how it goes.”
Earlier this month, track promoter Ralph Galluzzi announced that the facility would be shutting down its stock car racing program after 55 years of competition. The announcement was made just prior to the running of the Tommy Druar and Tony Jankowiak Memorial event for the RoC Modifieds.
In correlation with the announcement made by Galluzzi the facility was put up for sale and news quickly spread throughout the nearby racing community. When Catania, who is originally from Westfield, New York, heard about the tracks closure and the possibility of the US Open not taking place, he stepped up to the plate to make sure it happened.
Catania will be working closely with RoC driver Andy Jankowiak and Joe Skotnicki to make the event a success.
“We believe very strongly in the heritage of Western New York racing,” said Catania. “Lancaster is nearly 60 years old and it is part of the fiber of Western New York. For that race not to happen would be a real shame.”
For many years, Lancaster Speedway was host to huge car counts and some of the best short track racing in the state of New York. Catania witnessed that himself as he raced Late Models at the track during the 2003 US Open when there were nearly 300 cars in the pit area.
Located right off of I-90 in Buffalo, New York, Catania sees a lot of potential with the facility and hopes to fulfill that potential after making necessary renovations.
“That race track was notorious for huge car counts much through the 2000’s,” Catania said. “There have been some shifts in the economy, naturally, but there have also been some changes at the race track. They’ve not done real well the past few years. We believe with the infusion of capital, we can bring the potential of this facility to life.
“The location is unbelievable. 40,000 cars a day go by this racetrack. We believe that if the racetrack is renovated and given its location to people, it’s kind of all the criteria we’re looking at for a good investment.”
Short Track Management recently purchased and renovated Stateline Speedway, a dirt track located in Busti, New York. The track has seen an enormous amount of success in its first six months of operation. Catania said that nearly 7,000 fans and 150 cars came out to the track’s opening night and he see’s the same kind of potential with Lancaster Speedway.
“Much like Stateline Speedway, there is a tremendous history and passion that goes back a long ways both on the fan and driver front,” said Catania. “I’d like to see 150 cars. We have eight classes that are going to run, seven for sure. We’re still deciding on Late Models. If we can just get it to 150 cars and get 3,000 fans come out, I believe that will be a victory.”
In addition to the highlight event, a 125-lap Race of Champions Asphalt Modified feature, Legends Cars, TQ Midgets, Big 10 Super Stocks, Street Stocks, Front Wheel Drive Challengers, Late Models, Vintage Modifieds, and Sportsman Modifieds will all be in action throughout three-day US Open event.
The RoC Asphalt Modified event will also carry the name of the Tommy Druar and Tony Jankowiak Memorial, which adds an additional meaning to the event for Western New York race fans.
Catania told Speed51.com that tentative plans include practice for all divisions and a pit party with a band on Friday night, qualifying heat races and 3-4 features on Saturday, and the rest of the features on Sunday.
More information on this event and the future of Lancaster Speedway is expected be announced in the near future. This information can be found by following the event on Twitter at @LancasterUSOpen or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theusopen. A new website for the event is expected to be launched in the upcoming days and can be found at www.lancasterusopen.com. Fans can also call the track at 1-336-793-8465 for more information.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Gerald Vogel