Keep ‘em coming back to the track

John Clifford
Photographer • Staff writer
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Posted 7/7/19

The The racing season is soldiering along despite the constant threat of rain. There have been few surprises in the local racing results. The cars and drivers that were fast last year are still fast …

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Keep ‘em coming back to the track

Posted

The The racing season is soldiering along despite the constant threat of rain. There have been few surprises in the local racing results. The cars and drivers that were fast last year are still fast this year.

What I am loving is what Fulton Speedway is doing for fans. Once a month - or as the schedule permits - Junior Speedway Club members are being trolleyed out to the pits and get to spend about 15 to 20 minutes with drivers before the evening of racing gets going.

I know I’ve talked about it before but one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of racing now is because, as a kid, I was exposed to racing at some of the premier tracks in Western New York. My dad and mom took me and my brother to the races nearly every Friday or Saturday night. Friday was the former Spencer Speedway in Williamson and Saturday at Lancaster Speedway near Buffalo. At those tracks I got to see drivers who later in my life were inducted into national halls of fame all up and down the eastern seaboard. Names like Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Merv Treichler, my favorite driver Roger Treichler and Maynard Troyer. Therefore I will never underestimate the value of kids going to the races. Fulton puts an exclamation on the visit when kids get to meet drivers and climb into their race cars to get a real close look at the whole racing environment.

Laurie Campbell-Mortimer runs the junior fan club and does a phenomenal job wrangling kids and parents and taking them all pit side to have the exceptional positive experience. The night that I happened on the visit she brought the kids to the Torrey Stoughtenger team. Stoughtenger drives the 7s sportsman but there is also JJ Courcy in the 4c sportsman and his wife Michelle Courcy in the 5m. All three drivers and team members showed the dozen kids a great time with each club member sitting in the car and asking as many questions as they could.

I feel like the Wight family - owners of Brewerton and Fulton Speedways - get it, and if we want racing for years to come we need a fan base at this grassroots level that will both continue to go racing when they are older and bring their children to the races. It’s great if people pony up their hard earned cash to go watch a quality show. The job of the promoter is to make sure the experience is so great that the whole family wants to keep coming back week after week and year after year and generation after generation.

Paul Kinney

This week Durhamville’s Paul Kinney announced he was retiring from racing. Everyone became concerned when the Empire Super Sprint car star began selling all his race car equipment earlier this season. The driver of the 19K simply had had enough racing. Kinney is only 35 years old but he has been racing for over 31 of those years. For all of Kinney’s life during the spring, summer and fall he has been at a race track.

“We as racers give up a whole lot to be on the road and at the race track every week,” wrote Kinney on Facebook. “We miss every family function, every friends wedding, every summer party, and many other important things that happen in our lives. We wouldn’t trade it because that’s (racing) ‘what we do’ and it takes a special breed to do it.”

Kinney has raced just about everything in his storied career - starting with quarter midgets, then DIRT sportsman, then 358 modified and big block modifieds. Modified seemed to be the end of the line for Kinney but a five-lap test session in his childhood friend Jason Barney’s sprint car at Utica-Rome Speedway convinced Kinney to go sprint car racing.

“I’ve spent the last eight years running the full ESS tour and it was the most fun and success I’ve had during my entire 31 years racing,” stated Kinney. “I got some of my most memorable wins, met some of my best friends, and made the best memories running around on tour with the rest of the ESS gang.”

With Kinney has been his best friend - his dad Ned. “My Dad has always made sure, through blood sweat and tears, that I have had everything I’ve needed to fulfill a successful racing career,” said Kinney.

Racing not only takes a toll on your family, finances and time but also your body. Doctors and chiropractors have told Kinney that his back “will never get better.” These drivers aren’t strapped in to big fluffy pillows and don’t ride on super smooth tracks. The cars are basically missiles with enough down force built in so they don’t take off and then they race them on dirt that can sometimes take on all the nuance of a plowed field.

The bottom line for Kinney is that there are a lot of other parts to life he wants to experience. “Sprint car racing is very dangerous. I’ve seen friends get injured, and I’ve seen a lot of other racers have either career or life ending accidents. That scares me, as I have a whole lot of things I want to do.”

Kinney’s honesty and transparency are remarkable to me and I couldn’t be happier for someone who has made such an important life decision. Kinney has met some of his best friends (racing) and raced with some of “my heroes.”

“I just want to send a HUGE thank you to Dad and Mom for making it all possible and giving up so much for me to chase my dreams, Samantha (Martin) (Kinney’s girlfriend) for supporting me in every decision I ever make (right or wrong), Gary (Barber) for helping make it happen all these years, and to every sponsor that has supported me or had a part in making my life so much fun.”

See you at the races.

With Kinney has been his best friend — his dad Ned. “My Dad has always made sure, through blood, sweat and tears, that I have had everything I’ve needed to fulfill a successful racing career,”said Kinney.

Racing not only takes a toll on your family, finances and time but also your body. Doctors  and chiropractors have told Kinney that his back “will never get better.” These drivers aren’t strapped in to big fluffy pillows and ride on super smooth tracks. The cars are basically missiles with enough down force built in so they don’t take off and then they race them on dirt that can sometimes take on all the fine nuances of a plowed field.

The bottom line for Kinney is that there is a lot of other parts to life he wants to experience. “Sprint car racing is very dangerous. I’ve seen friends get injured, and I’ve seen a lot of other racers have either career or life ending accidents. That scares me, as I have a whole lot of things I want to do.”

Kinney’s honesty and transparency is remarkable to me and I couldn’t be happier for someone who has made such an important life decision. Kinney has met some of his best friends (racing) and raced with some of “my heroes.”

“I just want to send a HUGE thank you to Dad and Mom for making it all possible and giving up so much for me to chase my dreams, Samantha (Martin) (Kinney’s girlfriend) for supporting me in every decision I ever make (right or wrong), Gary (Barber) for helping make it happen all these years, and to every sponsor that has supported me or had a part in making my life so much fun.”

See you at the races.

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