When the RUSH Sportsman Modified Series came to fruition in 2014, it faced the same questions that many first year racing organizations have. Where will the drivers come from? Will we be looking at less than five car features some nights? Can a solid foundation be constructed, surrounded by enough stability to encourage growth? The answers to the last two questions were yes and yes. But where would the drivers come from?
The Niagara frontier has supplied the area big block modified racing scene some fairly good drivers to the larger paying shows the last few seasons. Drivers such as Chad Brachmann, Randy and Roger Chrysler have become staples at various BRP Modified tour events. Also Mat Williamson and Rick Richner have both called Lernerville and Sharon Speedways home respectively. There’s some different reasons why they make the 3 hour trek to the Western PA/Eastern OH area to race among them. Some are looking for DIRTcar points, some are looking to take a few bucks back home, some have friends in the area that race.
But when the area’s first ever attempt at crate modified racing took flight, it was hard to envision any of the Niagara region’s sportsman drivers would buy the spec components necessary and commit to running a whole season. Would they have a reason to come?
Enter Ransomville, NY native Greg Martin. “We love to travel and we’re always looking for new tracks we hadn’t been to,” said the veteran sportsman modified pilot. “Every year we try to do a weekend triple header. Ransomville on Friday, Canandaigua on Saturday and Utica Rome on the Sunday. But this past year, when RUSH sportsman modifieds started up, they did a really nice job of publicizing it and they were great to talk with and all the sudden we were interested.”
There wasn’t much in the way of financial gain for Martin’s appearance given the state of sportsman division purses overall. The winnings barely pay for the gas, but the chance to see new places, to get to meet new people and to have fun racing, that’s right, have fun racing no matter what happens, the true aim of crate sportsman racing, is what Martin found alluring.
“I remember Chad Brachamann talking about the tracks in the area and that he really liked them, so I saw RUSH as an opportunity to run those tracks and we jumped on it. We made the decision to invest in the spec shocks, and most of the other rules were the same, so we went down and had a great time, met some nice people, and learned a lot about PA/OH tracks, and that’s what really attracted us.”
It was a different atmosphere than the Ransomville sportsman modifed champion normally finds in his neck of the woods where the sportsman modifieds contain a good many drivers just looking to do a little racing, but also some who spend a great deal of resources in a highly competitive division.
“Up here, crate racing has evolved into a level where it’s really hard to buy a used modified and buy a crate engine and compete. Everyone has lightweight pulleys and lightweight rear ends. RUSH has a great rules package and it’s really a big difference.”
The area tracks were something that Martin took a studious approach to, learning a little about each every time he raced and he relished the opportunity to race at the area speedways.
|Gary Heeman Photo|
“Lernerville was really interesting,” Martin said. “During practice one time, the track had so much grip and then during the feature it was so slick and glassy. We don’t really have any red clay here except for Weedsport now, so now we have some knowledge that we can take from Lernerville to help us there. Sharon’s surface was more of a sandy type that we find at the NY/PA border area tracks, and then again at places like Five Mile Point. And PPMS was just smooth as glass and slick, that was a neat track. The line was right around the wall and it was a great experience, I’d love to race on that track with about 35 other cars.”
Martin began his career racing go karts and TQ midgets and then gradually moved to sportsman modifieds of the asphalt variety growing up. He’s always had the passion for racing from as early as he can remember.
“I’d get home and get all my chores done on Friday afternoon and it seemed like forever until 6:30 would come and we’d leave for Ransomville. “
“I got to see the greats like Davey Moore, Alan Johnson and Danny Johnson who all drove big blocks back then (Ransomville now runs 358’s as their top class), and Charlie Rudolph too. I made a huge scrapbook of everything Charlie did when I was growing up. He was right in town and you could stop in at his shop and they did all their own engineering. it was just so neat to watch them go all the way from the dirt at Ransomville to Winston Cup. He was my idol growing up.”
Martin became a fixture in the inaugural season of the RUSH Modifieds, and after his first dip into the scene he assumed a position at the top of the standings which he would not relinquish the rest of the season. It culminated in a moment which he won’t soon forget, the night in October when he clinched the inaugural series championship.
“I really wanted to make an impression and I hoped I could lead the series the right direction. I wanted to be sure it was seen in a positive light with a lot of positive press because they (RUSH) deserve it. They did a great job of getting it off the ground and getting the support and sponsors. To be able to win the first championship, was awesome and I’m honored,”
So what does Martin see for the future of the series? What will it take for it to grow? And can it play a valuable role in perhaps fostering growth in the area big block/358 modified divisions in the area?
“I believe it will take off, I think they just need to get an influx of used crate motors down there and once there’s more older chassis in circulation you’re going to see more guys wanting to and being able to go racing and have fun. And I definitely think it’ll be a good thing for modified racing in the area overall. It’ll take some time, but at some point there’s going to be some RUSH guys that’ll naturally want to go big block racing and they’ll sell their car to a guy who wants to start up. The more cars that circulate in the area, whether they have a crate or big block or 358, the better.”
In the coming year, Martin will be at his usual place on Friday nights, at Ransomville Speedway, but he’ll be travelling to the east more which will include some dates with the newly formed “King of DIRT” crate sportsman series at places like Albany-Saratoga and Lebanon Valley. After all, it’s never a bad time to go to the places you’ve never raced before and learn a little. And he’ll be at a RUSH series event when he can, but when he does go out east to take on the highly competitive fields with KoD, he’ll have some fans checking in, some from this area too.