Successful Area Businessmen, Team Owners Continue Support Of Dirt Late Model Division
WINCHESTER, VA – Aug. 22, 2012 – Whom do fans and racers have to thank for bringing a World of Outlaws Late Model Series event to Winchester Speedway this Saturday night (Aug. 25)? Just look at the name of the $10,000-to-win race.
The barnstorming WoO LMS stars and a host of regional and local standouts will compete for glory in the Ernie D’s & Gunter’s Honey 50, a race sponsored by two of dirt Late Model racing’s biggest benefactors: Winchester Speedway owner Greg Gunter and Ernie Davis, a longtime car owner and sponsor (as well as a former driver) affectionately known as the ‘Junk Man.’
It’s successful, race-loving businessmen like Gunter, 65, of Berryville, Va., and Davis, 62, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who help keep the full-fender class rolling along in their home Mid-Atlantic region.
“Greg and Ernie are so much alike – they give back to the sport,” said two-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards, who plans to take advantage of a break in his NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule to enter Saturday night’s program at the one-third-mile oval. “Everybody’s not in the situation where they can do that, but being that they are, and that they care enough to give back, shows what kind of people they are and shows how much they care about the sport.”
The owner and operator of Gunter’s Honey in his hometown of Berryville since 1989, Gunter has been involved with local racing as a driver (he still periodically competes in the four-cylinder division), car owner (his 2012 effort with D.J. Myers of Greencastle, Pa., marks his 18th year fielding a dirt Late Model) and sponsor for decades. He entered racetrack promotion in 2007 when he leased Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek, Md. – he holds the lease there through 2018 and has an option to extend it another 20 years – and stepped up his involvement in 2010 by purchasing Winchester Speedway.
Gunter has transformed Winchester during his three short years at the track’s helm. He’s not only made significant improvements – new additions include concrete walls (inside and outside), Musco lighting, ticket booths and the public address system, plus an update of the concession stands and a resurfacing of the high-banked track – but also established the speedway as a regular host of special dirt Late Model events like Saturday’s WoO LMS spectacular.
“Greg has done an outstanding job revamping Winchester Speedway in the past three years,” said Denise Hollidge, who manages the day-to-day operations of Gunter’s tracks. “The time and money he has spent to update everything to make Winchester a top-notch facility is great, and Greg knows what it takes to race because he’s a racer himself in the four-cylinder division. He looks out for the drivers and gives back as much as he can – not only to the drivers, but also the fans that support him weekly.”
Richards, 24, has witnessed first-hand Winchester’s emergence under Gunter’s guidance. He’s been a regular visitor to the track for specials in recent years and has enjoyed great success, winning in eight of his last 12 starts there, including a victory in the speedway’s inaugural WoO LMS event last year.
“Greg has put a lot into Winchester and made it an awesome racetrack,” said Richards, whose plans to attack Winchester would only be scuttled if rain happens to postpone the NASCAR Nationwide Series event he is scheduled to run on Friday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. “The last few years have really been a lot of fun because they’ve steadily made the racing better. It seems like they’re always making improvements and they’re always having special shows that pay well.
“I’m looking forward to racing there again (on Saturday night). It’s definitely one of my favorite places to race.”
While Richards plans to drive his father Mark’s familiar Rocket Chassis house car No. 1 on Saturday night, all of his previous appearances at the track have come behind the wheel of Davis’s No. 25. Since 2007 Richards has made most of his non-WoO LMS starts in equipment owned by Davis, making him intimately aware of Davis’s support for local racing.
“Ernie is awesome,” bottom-lined Richards, who departed the WoO LMS as a regular in April to pursue his NASCAR dreams on the Nationwide Series. “Obviously he’s been a car owner for me for quite a few years now, and I couldn’t ask for a better relationship between Ernie, Connie (Davis’s wife) and Keya (Davis’s daughter) and myself personally. They’re great friends of mine and I feel like they’re part of our family now.
“They’re die-hard race fans and racers, they’ve always had really good cars over the years and they’ve always given back to dirt Late Model racing,” Richards continued. “They’ve done a lot of things behind the scenes just to help the racers in different situations. Ernie’s always putting up money to keep all the racers going, and that shows how much him and his family care about the sport, and how much it means to them.
“You couldn’t ask for better people, and everything they’ve given back is very well appreciated.”
Hollidge has similar praise for Davis, who maintains deep roots at Winchester Speedway. As a driver he won dozens of features and the 1992 dirt Late Model championship there (he stopped racing after suffering a back injury in a 2000 crash at Maryland’s Hagerstown Speedway and transitioned to his current role as a car owner), and in the mid-1980s he even briefly co-owned the track with Doug Timmons.
“I don’t think words can describe what Ernie has done for the sport of dirt track racing,” said Hollidge. “Ernie has given so much over the years, not only to many speedways but to many drivers along the way. Ernie has a heart of gold and so much passion when it comes to racing. It’s hard to believe that one man could do this.
“Ernie always has that smile and a ‘hello’ for everyone around. He’s a great man, and it’s a shame auto racing doesn’t have more Ernie Davises.”
Davis, who sold his namesake Ernie’s Salvage Yard business several years ago but still oversees several other business interests, will co-sponsor Saturday’s WoO LMS race and field a car in the action. Former WoO LMS Rookie of the Year Austin Hubbard of Seaford, Del., is scheduled to steer Davis’s No. 25 at Winchester.
Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky., will lead the WoO LMS charge to Winchester. The points leader and new single-season victory record holder (13 to date) enters the event tied with Richards for the top spot on the national tour’s alltime win list, at 39.
The WoO LMS roster will also include defending champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., whose long history of success at Winchester includes two Winchester 200 victories and the 2010 Appalachian Mountain Speedweek event; 1998 Winchester 200 winner Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa.; 2006 series champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y.; Georgians Clint Smith of Senoia and Shane Clanton of Fayetteville; Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y.; Vic Coffey of Caledonia, N.Y.; Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis.; and Rookie of the Year contenders Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., and Kent Robinson of Bloomington, Ind.
The field will also feature talented challengers from throughout the region, including Myers, Winchester points leader Kenny Pettyjohn of Georgetown, Del., Jeremy Miller of Gettysburg, Pa., Dan Stone of Thompson, Pa., Jamie Lathroum of Mechanicsville, Md., Greg Satterlee of Rochester Mills, Pa. (Appalachian Mountain Speedweek winner at Winchester in June) and Winchester’s Ronnie DeHaven Jr.
General admission for Saturday’s racing program, which also includes Winchester’s Pure Stock and U-Car divisions, is $25 for adults and $5 for kids 6-12. Pit passes are $40.
Gates will open at 3 p.m. with hot laps scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and time trials to follow.
Additional info on Winchester Speedway is available by logging on to www.winchestervaspeedway.com or calling 301-481-8855 (office) or 540-667-8143 (raceday).
For more information on the WoO LMS, visit www.worldofoutlaws.com.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Gravely Tractors (Official Lawn Equipment), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award) and McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award); in addition to contingency sponsors Butlerbuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Dominator Race Products, Eibach Springs, JE Pistons, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, MSD Ignition, Ohlins Shocks, QuarterMaster, Roush Yates Performance Parts, Superflow Dynos, Wix Filter, Wrisco Aluminum and XS Power Racing Batteries; along with manufacturer sponsors Integra Shocks, GRT Chassis, Jake’s Carts, Longacre, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis, TNT Rescue, and Warrior Chassis