2018 Awards Banquet
FRIENDS OF AUTO RACING HONORS VAN PELT, CRYAN;
INDUCTS BILL BRAINARD, ART JAMES, JAN LEATY, GARY MONTGOMERY TO HALL OF FAME
Veteran Modified racer Billy Van Pelt and Lancaster Street Stock champion Andy Cryan were
named as the Drivers of the Year at the Friends of Auto Racing (Foar Score) Fan Club annual
awards dinner, held on Saturday evening, December 1. Approximately 240 people attended the
event, held at the Elks Club in Lancaster, NY. This annual affair of the Buffalo-based fan club
honors top drivers in Western New York and the Niagara Region of Ontario.
In addition, the Friends of Auto Racing inducted Bill Brainard, Art James, Jan Leaty, and Gary
Montgomery into its Hall of Fame.
Billy Van Pelt raced to an astonishing 20th career Modified title at Woodhull 2018, claiming ten
top three finishes including three victories. He made his 2018 Friday night home at Freedom,
where he finished either first or second in every main event in capturing that speedplant’s
Modified championship. Billy was attending the Woodhull awards banquet on Saturday and was
unable to be present; Freedom Motorports Park’s Bob Reis accepted the award on his behalf and
shared a note of thanks from Billy.
Andy Cryan dedicated his season to his friend and mentor, John Julicher, who passed away in
2018. Andy raced to nine victories and five additional top five finishes to clinch the Lancaster
Street Stock championship with a week to spare. In addition, he launched a Super Stock
program (which had been started by Julicher) late in the season with an impressive fifth place run
in the Race of Champions Super Stock event at Lake Erie Speedway in September.
Bill Brainard made his mark in area racing through the 1960’s and early 1970’s. He claimed the
1965 Super B title at Holland, scoring eight wins through the year, and finished a very close
second to Art Clark for the overall ERCA Super B crown. Later in the decade, he moved into
Modified racing, and was a top five fixture at Lancaster around the turn of the 70’s. His biggest
Modified win came in the 1971 Holland Speedway Genesee 150 over a star-studded field. After
retiring from active competition, he moved from the driver’s seat to the flagstand, serving terms
as the Chief Starter at Lancaster, Perry, Genesee, and Tri-County (now Freedom) for a total of 15
seasons. Now residing in Florida, Bill made the trip to Western New York to accept the honors.
A long time area race official, Art James has served in various capacities, most notably as Pit
Steward, Race Director, and Competition Director. He first joined Lancaster’s staff in 1965, and
after a long tenure at that facility, moved over to Holland Speedway in 1983 In addition, he
assisted at Perry Speedway in the early 80’s, and was part of the officials staff for the Race of
Champions for a number of seasons while that event was held at Pocono. He served as an
inspector for the travelling NASCAR Busch North Series form 1995 through 2001. He
continues presently as a consultant for The Track at Hillside (Holland), Lake Erie Speedway, and
the Race of Champions Series. Beyond his track official’s duties, he served as a long time
spotter for NASCAR motorsports broadcasts on CBS, ESPN, and Turner Broadcasting and was a
past officer and board member of the Foar Score Club.
Jan Leaty was long a northeastern Modified standout, competing on both the NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour and the Race of Champions Series. His record shows a pair of wins in the actual
Race of Champions (both at Oswego), nine career victories and two top five points finishes on
the Whelen Modified Tour (including two victories at the New Hampshire mile) and numerous
feature wins in the RoC Series. Since stepping away from active driving, Jan has been a key
player in the Modified successes of son Mike as well as Patrick Emerling through the L2
Making his mark in announcing, broadcasting, promoting speedways, and running a travelling
series, Gary Montgomery had a significant impact on area motorsports. His over-the-air work
included “Rush Hour on Dirt” telecasts and Motor Racing Network live event broadcasts. His
public address work included serving as part of the announcing teams for the Race of Champions
at both Trenton and Pocono and Super DIRT Week at the Syracuse mile. Gary also had a long
tenure as the voice of Spencer Speedway. He had stints as the General Manager at Dundee,
Canandaigua, and Little Valley Speedways, and founded and operated the BRP CanAm 360 Late
Model Series for 12 seasons. Gary, who passed away in November of 2016, was represented at
the ceremony by his cousin John Baker.
The Thompson family received the Family in Racing Award. The patriarch of the family, Jim,
has been involved in racing for over 60 years, as a driver at Holland, Perry, and North Collins, as
an official as the former Drum Raceway, and most notably as a car owner at Lancaster for over
30 years, fielding cars for a host of talented drivers, including championship seasons for Late
Model driver Bob Straus in 1996 and Mark Pennell in a Sportsman in 2015. Daughter Jayme
currently wheels the family Sportsman at Lancaster, and placed fifth in divisional points in 2018.
Daughter Tracy is the current treasurer of the Foar Score club, and along with sister Jnan, forms
the core of the vocal Thompson support group in the Lancaster grandstand. Tracy’s husband Joe
Reilly was the crew chief for the Thompson Racing Team until his recent unexpected passing;
the signature Sportsman event at Lancaster has been named in Joe’s honor. The third generation
of Thompsons, Tracy’s daughters Mariah and Sam, have stepped up their involvement – Mariah
served as Miss Ransomville Speedway in 2018 and Sam, after a stint as the kids’ Big Wheels
racing flagger at Lancaster, now assists her Aunt Jayme in the pits on raceday.
To add to the Thompson family celebration, Jayme Thompson was named the Most Improved
Driver on Asphalt. The Most Improved Driver on Dirt Award was presented to Ransomville,
Merrittville, and BEI Lightning Series Sportsman driver Dave DiPietro.
Mike Meyers was the popular recipient of the Dick Hammond Dedication to Auto Racing
Award. The chief of the Safety Crew at Lancaster, Mike has established a solid reputation in the
business of on-track first response, from extricating drivers, dealing with fires and spills, and
efficient track clean-up. Mike and his crew are part of the staff at many major racing events
along the east coast, including the Race of Champions, Super Dirt Week, the World Series at
Thompson, and the World Finals in Charlotte.
Daryl Lewis, Jr. received the Achievement on Asphalt Award for his string of top three finishes
in RoC Modified Series events. Mat Williamson was named as the recipient of the
Achievement on Dirt Award in recognition of his ten victory Modified Championship season at
Merrittville. Wyoming County SST Modified champion Ricky Knapp received the Perseverance
Award. Ransomville Modified pilot Matt Farnham was named as the Rookie of the Year on
The Media Award was presented to long time area photographers Alex and Helen Bruce. Amy
Skotnicki of the Race of Champions Series was honored with the Woman in Racing Award.
Russ Gian, who has been a part of the Lancaster Speedway scene in many capacities, was
presented with the Sportsmanship Award. Ed Hawkins, Sr., was recognized for his efforts with
the Mechanical Achievement Award.
(contact: Rick Mooney: Rmooneypr@aol.com or Bobby Woch: (716)-984-8742 )