Bad Breakup: Accusations Simmer Between Race Of Champions And Lancaster Speedway After Split

The 2019-2020 offseason has been one wrought with much confusion, wonder and unanswered questions for many around the Connecticut short track racing scene. 

The exact future of racing is unclear at two of the three long running Connecticut short tracks, with plenty of rumors swirling about both entities. 

But Connecticut isn’t the only place where a facility steeped in Modified racing tradition is facing turmoil and questions. 

In Western, N.Y., New York International Raceway Park, home of the historic Lancaster National Speedway, is awash in controversy spilling over from the 2019 season into the 2020 calendar. 

In the spring of 2019 new ownership took over the facility in preparation for the 60thanniversary season at the five-eighths mile oval. 

Before the start of the 2019 season new track owners Vito Antonicelli and Mike Swinarski partnered with Race of Champions Tour operator Joe Skotnicki. The partnership put Skotnicki’s sanctioning group in charge of overseeing a six-event oval track schedule for the 2019 season at Lancaster. 

Skotnicki’s sanctioning group successfully managed the scheduled events for the season at the facility. The season ended at the track with the running of the US Open weekend Sept. 14-15. 

It was after that weekend that things went bad between the track owners and the sanctioning group overseeing their events. 

Skotnicki says track ownership shorted his company $12,388 from what was owed for the final weekend of racing at the track in 2019. Antonicelli says Skotnicki was paid in full. 

“We aren’t the bad people here,” Skotnicki said. “We did everything we were supposed to, and then some. It shouldn’t be going this way. I’m not saying to put me on a pedestal, we’ve made mistakes, but we did nothing wrong here. Ninety percent of the money that’s missing goes to the drivers, and I’ve already paid them. And I’ve paid my staff too. So I’m out all of that. There’s nobody that’s not paid with this on my side.” 

Said Antonicelli: “His side of the story is not true at all. It’s in our lawyer’s hands right now. He’s very dishonest. … There’s major problems. He’s causing these problems because we dropped the ROC from our race track and he’s stirring up this mess.” 

In addition to partnering with Lancaster Speedway in 2019, Skotnicki’s Race of Champions sanctioning body oversaw a 12-event Race of Champions Modified Tour schedule, which in addition to racing at Lancaster – hosted events at Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome  Spencer Speedway in Williamson, N.Y., Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pa., and Jukasa Motor Speedway in Ontario, Canada. 

The sanctioning body also oversaw a nine-race schedule for the ROC Sportsman Series, a nine-race schedule for the ROC Super Stock Series, a four-race schedule for the ROC Late Model Series, a six-race schedule for the ROC Four Cylinder Dash Series, a six-race schedule for the ROC Dirt Sportsman Series and a four-event schedule for the ROC TQ Midgets Series.  

Skotnicki’s company also leases and operates Spencer Speedway, where there were six events scheduled for 2019. The ROC and has already agreed to terms for operating Spencer Speedway again in 2020.

Skotnicki said before the disagreement over finances with Lancaster Speedway he was of the understanding that the track intended to have his company return to oversee racing at the facility in 2020. 

The agreement between the track owners and the ROC was that the track would pay the ROC a sanctioning fee of $2,300 for two of the three ROC sanctioned Race of Champions Tour Modified events to be run at the facility in 2019. Skotnicki’s management group would also be paid a $500 sanctioning fee to run the three other events at the track which did not include Race of Champions Tour Modified events. The agreed upon sanctioning fee for the final US Open weekend was increased to $2,800 because it was a two-day event. The sanctioning fee portion is what Skotnicki uses to pay his staff to oversee and officiate events and cover insurance costs. 

It was also agreed that declared purse amounts would be covered by the track and track management would give the purse money to Skotnicki to distribute to competitors for all divisions in events at the track. 

On Aug. 17 a wreck early in the scheduled Race of Champions Tour Modified event caused damage to the track fencing that couldn’t be immediately repaired and the remainder of the event of was postponed to Sept. 13. 

The postponed Race of Champions Tour event was made up on Sept. 13, the Friday of the US Open weekend, which also included a Race of Champions Tour feature on Sunday Sept. 15. 

After the US Open weekend Skotnicki billed the track for the previously agreed upon weekend sanctioning fee and purse for the seven divisions run, which was a total of $61,063. He also billed the track for the originally scheduled Aug. 17 event, which had been run on Sept. 13, which totaled $21,325 with the sanctioning fee and purse. 

The track was billed $82,388, a number which adds up when combining the $5,100 in sanctioning fees along with the publicly announced agreed upon purses for the two Race of Champions Tour Modified events and the other six support divisions that were run. All of the purse numbers involved with the US Open weekend at Lancaster  – as with any ROC event – can be found published on the ROC website.

Skotnicki said he was paid $50,000 just after the U.S. Open weekend. He said he met with Antonicelli in October and was paid another $20,000. He said at that point Antonicelli indicated that the track would be partnering with Skotnicki again for the 2020 season. Skotnicki said he asked then about the remaining $12,388 owed to him.

“They said they just didn’t make enough money,” Skotnicki said. “There was various excuses about why they just didn’t have it. I just said ‘Let’s figure out.’ and I figured we’d be working on the schedule [for 2020] and we’ll figure it out.” 

On Nov. 1 Skotnicki emailed track management inquiring about the balance owed and planning for a 2020 schedule. He also sent an invoice for the final $12,388 owed. He got no response from track management. 

Just before Christmas Skotnicki said he met with Antonicelli again. Atonicelli told Skotnicki that the track wouldn’t be partnering with him for the 2020 season. 

“I was told at that point I would still be paid, however I realized it was time to make alternative plans,” Skotnicki said. 

Antonicelli said the $70,000 paid to Skotnicki covered what the track owed him. 

“He got paid in full,” Antonicelli said. “The problem with Joe is that he’s robbing from Peter to pay Paul. He still hasn’t paid people from Lake Erie [Speedway] yet. He’s his own worst enemy and it will catch up to him surely.”

The Race of Champions Tour ran two events in 2019 at Lake Erie Speedway.

Lake Erie Speedway general manager A.J. Moore said Skotnicki doesn’t owe anything involving the two Race of Champions Tour events at the track in 2019.

“Joe Skotnicki and the Race of Champions and Lake Erie Speedway have always had a good relationship,” Moore said. “Joe has been on time in his payments to us and he doesn’t owe us any money. … No matter who it is, in the motorsports industry, everybody has to pay, whether it be to the sanctioning body or to the drivers, everybody needs to do that. We can’t have things like this happen. It will start ruining motorsports.” 

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  1. I found this quote interesting.

    “No matter who it is, in the motorsports industry, everybody has to pay, whether it be to the sanctioning body or to the drivers, everybody needs to do that. We can’t have things like this happen. It will start ruining motorsports.”

    With every missed payment, purse cut, schedule reduction, rules infraction penalty overturn the sport loses some credibility. There appears to be a frequent loser in all these squabbles, the drivers. I don’t know how these drivers and team owners can continue to support the sport when everything seems to be going against them.

    Now, I honestly don’t know which party is right or wrong in this disagreement between Lancaster and ROC/ With every break up, you are going to have two different sides and opinions as to who is to blame and what went wrong. More often the case both parties share some blame but I do know arguing about it in public will not help the sport at all and putting it in the hands of lawyers is only going to cost more money.

    I guess us NE race fans can take some small consolation that profitability of pavement short track racing is not just a problem in our region. It just seems the negative headlines regarding pavement short track racing are far more frequent then positive headlines the last few years. It would be nice to see the trend reversed and see some more positive racing headlines. Only 28 days until New Smyrna and 17 Mods are registered,

  2. I ask you ! why are the dirt tracks in lower n,y. doing so well

  3. World Series entries as of 1/10/2020
    2 J.R Bertuccio Franklin TN
    2B TBA (Gershow Motorsports)
    4 Jeffrey Gallup Feeding Hills MA
    6 Ryan Preece Berlin CT
    17 Jeremy Gestner Tampa FL
    21 Paul Townsend Guelph ON
    21 Jimmy Blewett Howell NJ
    22 Eddie McCarthy Brick NJ
    27 Adam LaCicero, Lavallette NJ
    36 David Sapienza Riverhead NY
    45 Brett Meservey Brewsyer MA
    45 Timmy Catalano Ontario NY
    54 Tommy Catalano Ontario NY
    56 Amy Catalano Ontario NY
    58 Eric Goodale Riverhead NY
    59 Teddy Cranmer North Hanover NJ
    60 Matt Hirschman North Hampton PA
    83 Mike Willis JR Grantham NH

  4. Carl Block wrote, “I ask you ! why are the dirt tracks in lower n,y. doing so well”

    Crazy in NY? Can someone get a wellness check for Crazy in NY?

  5. “I ask you ! why are the dirt tracks in lower n,y. doing so well”

    It’s a new year and new season and the second apparently we will not get to hear the thoughts of Joe Lajoie as he has passed on. Sage of Broadbrook, a former regular in this forum and knowledgeable about everything Stafford going back well into the last century. A fixture on the hill by the old handicappers booth and ready to hold anyone’s feet to the fire in this forum who dares to miss remember events at Stafford Speedway. I miss Joe a lot.
    Passed into the great beyond you say. God no, alive and well so sorry for misleading. Passed onto the dark side better known as dirt racing. Associated with the Eddie Marshall, Marshall Oil Co 98 of Lebonon Valley. Big Block Modified and a very competitive 6th in points last year at Lebanon Valley.
    Just saying that’s one of Stafford and Connecticuts best fans for decades deciding he’d rather travel hours to NY dirt tracks then the 30 minutes of so to Stafford to support the spotty appearances of the racing farmer DJ Burnham.
    That Carl may be your canary in thee coal mine.
    I wonder if around the Thanksgiving feast the Arute’s ponder if it was a mistake converting the track from dirt to asphalt so long ago. Probably not. And there is always the possibility of converting it back. Oswego does it for one event for Pete’s sake.

  6. This situation sounds almost similar to something that happened at Oxford Plains almost 25 years ago. Oxford hired Tom Curley to manage the track for them(which included ACT Pro Stock Tour races and the Oxford 250). However, Oxford’s owner at the time never ended up paying Curley either some or any of the money. This resulted in original version of the ACT Pro Stock\Super Late Model having to fold since Curley had to sell off most of the ACT assets to pay the Tour points fund and purses.

  7. Talking smack about Lake Erie and being completely wrong does not help their cause here. I’m leaning towards believing team ROC here.

  8. Sean O’Neill says

    Drivers on the ROC got stiffed on their pay all year long,way before the US they said “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is NO way to run a failing race series

  9. More negative news. I harken back to the days of the old Race of Champions. I remember going to the old Trenton Speedway and watching ALL the Modified hot shoes showing up. I remember local tracks having a “ROC” automatic qualifying race. That was before the tour concept came out. I think something like this should be looked at again. Too many of the really good racers never leave their comfort zone. Some good Western NY drivers and some of the southern boys, alongside the North East crowd would be awesome.

  10. Sean,
    My understanding is that all declared purse money for ROC events has been paid in full for the 2019 season. To say someone got “stiffed” is to say they never got paid. It is my understanding that there were at times some delays in purse checks being distributed in 2019, but ultimately all purse money was paid in full. Getting paid later than expected is certainly not getting “stiffed”.

  11. Doug it wasn’t the Arutes who choose to pave the track

  12. Paved in 1967 by Mal Barlow. Right as usual Elect.

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