By Larry Ott
After nearly six decades of stock racing competition at Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster, the engines have now been silenced.
Due to what he described as financial difficulties with the stock car program, EBRP promoter Ralph Galluzzi has canceled the stock car racing program effective immediately at the Gunnville Road facility.
The decision to end the stock car program does not affect the IHRA weekly drag racing, cruise nights or other non-stock car events which will continue to be run as scheduled. More cruise nights may be added on Saturdays to fill the void in the schedule left by the stock cars' departure.
The paved facility, known in previous years by other names, most notably Lancaster National Speedway, was built and opened for stock car racing in 1959.
After years of glorious fields of cars and filled grandstands, the decline has been slow and steady. In recent times, often 30 or fewer cars were coming out to race and the grandstand crowds were often sparse.
There is a strong possibility that the long-running Sunoco Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial 110, which was part of this Saturday's EBRP schedule, could still be run in mid-September as one last stock car gala event.
“While the stock car program will end, I don’t want this era of stock car racing to end without running the Tommy Druar/Tony Jankowiak Memorial because that race means a lot to the fans and this is the 25th annual running,” Galluzzi said. "I will try my best to run this race and will let everyone know what can be worked out.”
On Monday, Galluzzi and former Western New Yorker Tim Packman were busy conducting a fan poll to see if fans would come and support the race this Saturday, following word getting out that the stock car program was going to end. The response was favorable, but the Race of Champions leadership had already decided to postpone their involvement in the event for now.
“Upon hearing the news on Sunday night (that stock car racing was cancelled), we immediately had conversations with our staff and race officials regarding the track’s decision,” said ROC director Andrew Harpell.
“We canceled our plans on the tire inventory for our race teams and unfortunately it didn’t take long for several of our staff to make other plans for this upcoming weekend. I know the importance of the annual Tommy/Tony event and my feeling is that we should put our collective efforts together and come up with another date and make this event turn out in a way that would make everyone proud.”
Galluzzi spoke about why the stock car program will be ending.
“I’ve thought long and hard about this decision for months and trust me, it is a very, very hard decision to make,” he said. "Simply, we no longer get the car counts in the pits or the numbers of fans in the grandstands to justify financially continuing the stock car program.
“The truth is, the stock car program here has been in trouble since 2007 before I got here in 2008. We did everything we could do to try and make it work.
"Some people think that we didn’t promote it enough but when you’re not making any money you don’t have the funding to spend on promotions. When I came here I thought I could fix the problems but it was hard. We’ve noticed a decline in stock car racing interest over the years except in dirt track stock car racing.”
Galluzzi stressed that his primarily drag racing background had nothing to do with the way he ran the stock car program.
“Some people think that I don’t like stock car racing but they’re absolutely wrong," he said. "I do like stock car racing but if you weren’t making any money at it could you keep it going? If it was making money and was financially sound wouldn’t it be natural to keep it going?"
Galluzzi recounted some of the many ways he thought he tried to help try to make his stock car program grow at EBRP.
“Over these last few years, we’ve had free fan ticket nights and lowered the grandstand ticket prices," he said. "These prices were not even close to being at the level that we needed to charge but I had to try something in this economy to get the fans here. But they didn’t come.
“I also raised the purses for the drivers but they didn’t come in the numbers we needed. The number of rainouts we’ve had over the last two years also was quite high -- the most I’ve seen since I’ve been following the racing at Lancaster for the last many years.
“We tried to promote the stock car program to potential sponsors but they didn’t sign up either. They just didn’t want to spend money on stock car racing.”
Galluzzi acknowledged that some critics in the local racing community have been at odds with him over how he handled the stock car program at Lancaster over the last few seasons.
“I worked hard to try to make the stock car program here work and I never gave up trying until the end, which is now,” said Galluzzi. “I can’t stress enough that this was a very hard decision for me to make. I can tell you that I truly appreciate everyone who supported the stock car program here whether they be drivers, owners, fans or my officials and staff who were all there when I’ve needed them.”
For now, with the local stock car season nearly over, those stock car competitors who raced at EBRP now have the option of switching to Holland Motorsports Complex, Wyoming County International Speedway or Lake Erie Speedway should their cars conform to the technical rules at those tracks, all of which run on Saturday nights.
Of course, they also have the option of parking their cars.
Either way, it is an extremely emotional time for generations of stock car fans and supporters who now must ponder the loss of what has been a racing institution in Western New York for decades.