Generations Gather At Holland
New York Oval Hosts 55th Season; 15 Tracks Open In May
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A mainstay New York NASCAR short track opens its 55th season in May. Holland (N.Y.) Motorsports Complex, a .375-mile paved banked oval, was a founding member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in 1982 and is one of 15 series tracks opening in May.
Ron Bennett and two partners built the original third-mile dirt track during the winter of 1959-60. Three generations of the Bennett family are involved with the track today. Generations of drivers, crews and fans get together there on summertime Saturday nights and this year gets underway on May 24.
Bennett raced a dirt late model-type car known as a modern stock in 1958-59. He, along with partners Richard Knox and Gordon Becker, built the original Holland Speedway. Bennett was a 20-year-old pre-law student at the time. In the following years, the track was enlarged to .375-mile in 1964 and paved in 1968.
“People told us when we opened that the life expectancy of most tracks was five years,” Bennett recalled. “Guys just built tracks in cornfields. They were pretty raw and rules were inconsistent. There were no common denominators from track to track.
“We had no intention of being around for just five years,” Bennett said. “We were going to keep growing our track.
“When we opened I never dreamed that generations of families would be getting together here over the years, but that’s satisfying” Bennett said. “I still feel the excitement. I’ve always had a passion for racing.”
Bennett’s sons Tim with wife Amy, Ron Bennett Jr., and grandchildren are active in track operations today. Tim Bennett took over the reins of leadership in 1998.
“If Tim wasn’t interested in keeping track going, I probably would have sold it,” Bennett said. Tim Bennett, 44, is the track’s promoter, operator and manager.
Among the many multi-generation teams at the track is the Skora family. George Skora III, 29, of Eden, N.Y., began anew at Holland in 2013. He returned to his home track after winning the 2012 NASCAR Late Model championship at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pa. Last year, he posted his first career feature win at Holland and went on to win his first championship there in pro modifieds. Skora’s car owner is his father, George Skora Jr., 56, of Eden, N.Y., and the elder Skora was Holland’s 1984 Charger division champion.
“Racing was something we’ve always done as a family,” Skora III said. “Watching dad race was exciting for me as a kid. It kept me occupied. It probably kept me out of trouble. Today, Dad and I make a great team. That’s pretty special.”
Friends got Skora Jr. interested in racing at Holland as a 15-year-old in 1971. By the time he and wife Jolene married on Feb. 12, 1977, he was hooked. They went to the Daytona 500 as part of their honeymoon. He started his racing career by sharing a Charger car, driving on alternate weeks. He bought the car in 1984 and as a solo driver won the track championship. Skora III was born the following year.
“I grew up with friends at Holland. It was our home every Saturday night since I was four or five,” Skora III said. “I love driving and Holland is a great track.”
Skora Jr. raced late models full-time from 1986 through 1998. Skora III was racing go-karts at the time and moved into Holland’s super stock division in 2000 before progressing to late models in 2001. He placed third in track points in 2003 and second in 2004. After the last season of late model racing at Holland in 2006, Skora took the car to Lake Erie. He won the final Lake Erie late model championship in 2012 and left when the division was discontinued there. He’d been dabbling with a Holland pro modified, and drove it full-time for the first time last year.
“Dad always thought modifieds were the coolest cars, but we stuck with the late model because they were the premier division. When we talked about getting a modified he was all for it. Late models were cycling out around here and modifieds were coming around in popularity.
“We work together as a team. We take the car apart, put it back together, work on the set up and have a pretty good system. Communication is the most important thing and we’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
The Skoras also credit crew chief Kyle Kruger and crewman Tommy Winters for their success.
Skora Jr. said years of racing experience benefit the family racing efforts.
“When I started racing, I started learning,” Skora Jr. said. “I’m still learning. There are changes every year and you have to stay on top of it. With the modified we learned we had to be spot-on in the set up for handling in the corners. If you’re going to win races, you’re car has to handle well. I knew we had a good race car starting out last year. We never finished outside the top-five. We had good luck too, not getting into someone else’s wreck.”
They won the Holland title with two wins and 10 top-fives in 10 starts.
Skora Jr. is excited about the 2014 season. George III will be running full time in pro modifieds at Holland. They also have a new tour-type modified they’ll run occasionally and learn as much as they can.
“I’m a proud dad and car owner,” Skora Jr. said. “I still love racing just like I did the day of my first race. I love opening day just to hear the motors running again. George is an excellent driver. I’m probably the happiest dad at the track.”
Several other second-generation drivers are expected to compete in the pro modified division at Holland this year, Tim Bennett said. They include Scott Wylie, son of seven-time late model track champion Rick Wylie; past late model champion Mike Fiebelkorn Jr., and Jeff Brown Jr.
In the 1960s, the track hosted some NASCAR Grand American stock car races. Holland’s first NASCAR-sanctioned race was the Holland Hundred in 1967. In the modern era, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East have appeared there.
With the track and his law firm established, Ron Bennett went on to have a distinguished career with NASCAR as both northeast region director and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East director. He is a commercial business and municipal attorney. Tim and Amy’s two children are growing up at the track, as well. Tim and Ron’s sister, Julie, also has a son. The kids help with chores and represent the track’s third-generation of future leadership.
Tim Bennett has expanded the track’s corporate hospitality options that now include a swimming pool and deck overlooking the track; added a 45-machine vintage video game arcade that is expanding to include Xbox and Nintendo game with sponsorship from Oogi Games; and is now adding a fourth and fifth field to the Holland Paintball Adventure Park on track property. The speedway’s single event race-night record for hospitality guests is 3,800, Bennett said.
Holland (N.Y.) Motorsports Complex operates on Saturdays and pro modifieds (an SK-style modified) is NASCAR Division I while the other divisions include Charger, Hornet and Figure 8.
Other tracks scheduled to open this weekend include:
Motordrome Speedway, a half-mile banked paved oval in Smithton, Pa., operates on Fridays and features late models. Other divisions: modified, street stock, charger, super compact. www.motordrome.com
Airborne Park Speedway, a .4-mile paved oval in Plattsburgh, N.Y., operates on Saturdays and dirt-style modifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: late model, limited late model, renegade, mini-mod four. www.airborneparkspeedway.com
Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway, a quarter-mile paved oval on Long Island, N.Y., operates on Saturdays and tour-type modifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: late model, figure-8, charger. www.riverheadraceway.com
Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome, a .375-mile paved oval, operates on Fridays and modifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: super stock, four cylinder. www.chemungspeedrome.net
Devil’s Bowl Speedway, a half-mile paved oval in West Haven, Vt., operates on Fridays and dirt-style modifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: late model, renegade, mini stock. www.devilsbowlspeedwayvt.com
Tracks opening through the month include:
Barrie (Ontario) Speedway, a third-mile paved oval, operates on Saturdays and limited late models are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: thunder car, pure stock four. www.barriespeedway.com
Elko (Minn.) Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval, operates on Saturdays and super late models are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: big 8 sportsman, thunder car, power stock, mini stock. www.elkospeedway.com
Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway, a .538-mile paved oval, operates on Saturdays and late models are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: charger, mini stock, super truck. www.myrtlebeachspeedway.com
Spencer Speedway, a half-mile paved oval in Williamson, N.Y., operates on Fridays and modifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: super six, four cylinder. www.spencerspeedway.org
Autodrome St. Eustache, a .4-mile paved oval in near Montreal in Quebec, Canada, operates on Saturdays and sportsmen are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: sports compact, mini legends. www.autodrome.ca
Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, a third-mile paved oval in Scarborough, Maine, operates on Saturdays and the pro series division is NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: sport series, wildcat. www.beechridge.com
Lake Erie Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval in North East, Pa., operates on Saturdays and modifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: street stocks, compacts. www.lakeeriespeedway.com
Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval, operates on Fridays and small block Supermodifieds are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: late model sportsman, hobby stock, ironman. www.leeusaspeedway.com
Edmonton (Alberta) International Raceway, a quarter-mile paved oval, operates on Saturdays and super stocks are NASCAR Division I. Other divisions: thunder car, modified, feature stock, late model. www.edmontonraceway.com
Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participate.
Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars across North America are among the many showcases for Whelen products.
George Skora Jr. competed in the late model division at Holland (N.Y.) Motorsports Complex 1986-1998. Skora family photo