WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — New owners, new excitement, same great racing.
Lancaster Dragway at New York International Raceway Park, the former Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway, can continue to be a facility that’s beloved by locals. Veteran drag racers Mike Swinarski and Vito Antonicelli and his wife, Sylvia, recently purchased the upstate New York track, located just 15 miles outside Buffalo, earlier this year.
One of the first orders of business was signing a new sanctioning agreement with the International Hot Rod Ass’n. With a full schedule of events, the facility features an eighth-mile drag strip and a five-eighths-mile paved oval, which was originally a half-mile dirt track.
The track hosts some of the top racing events in Western New York. The oval features the 31st annual U.S. Open in September with a variety from Late Models to TQ Midgets on the program. The Buffalo Street Outlaws are held at the drag strip in addition to the IHRA Summit SuperSeries, the largest and most prestigious bracket racing program in drag racing.
Sharon Hughes serves as drag race director and has spent more than 25 years at the facility. She raced in the Super Pro class for a decade. She’s also an EMT instructor and bookkeeper. She even teaches ballroom dancing, although the quick footwork on the track is often measured in reaction times.
Racing is in her family’s blood with four generations including her two granddaughters who compete in Junior Dragsters.
Lancaster Dragway has a rich history with the IHRA Summit SuperSeries and the 2018 champions were: Jan Winkowski (Top), Dale Eckert (Mod) and Ethan Pilote (Junior Dragster). Eckert is one of the most accomplished racers in the Northeast winning over a dozen track championships. He also captured the IHRA Summit Team Finals Division 3 (North Stars) Mod championship in 2017.
“The IHRA Summit SuperSeries fits our track well,” Hughes said. “Last year, we had a lot of drivers join the program who weren’t a part of it before. They liked the opportunity to go to Memphis and race in the World Finals at the end of the year. It’s a great program for us.”
The track points championship extends later in the season and 2018 track champions were: Eckert (Top), Jeff Kerl (Mod), Mason Fix (Street), Mike Peters (Bikes/Sleds), Victoria Young (Junior Dragster).
Lancaster has been the home base for world champion drivers like Mike Janis, Fred Hahn and Jim Oddy. It’s a tightly-knit group of racers with so many of the drivers competing there for years and even decades.
“A lot of people have been racing at the track upward of 20 years,” Hughes said. “They get to know each other so well and that’s great to see. We also have the young kids coming up through the ranks out of the Junior Dragster program. We’ve had it for 26 years and it’s nice to see them still competing in the bracket racing program.”