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July 13, 2007

 

Flying Pressman mowing down rivals

mower

Photo provided by Jack Pratt
East Freetown’s Bryan Knapp leans into turn during a recent lawnmower racing event.  The Flying Pressman competes for the Grasscar Racing Club.

By By TOM VARTANIAN
Motorsports Writer

Even in racing, there must be a form of love at first sight. At least, that is the case for one Cortland Standard employee. Bryan Knapp works in the pressroom in the basement of our Main Street location and is one of those guys who prints every edition of the newspaper you receive each day. The East Freetown resident also has found a form of racing that he really enjoys — lawnmower racing. Yep, you heard right, Knapp has found a way to turn those ill-working and discarded-for-a-newer-model lawn tractors into a racing machine and he has fun doing it.
“I read about it three years ago,” said Knapp. “It sounded interesting, so I went to the next race these guys had in Locke and really got hooked on it.”
Knapp got his first old mower and with the help and insight from his co-workers (Ray Marsh, Jack Pratt and Chuck Hudson) a little corner of the Cortland Standard basement became a race shop.
“We did build a racer in the basement,” said Knapp. “I did not know that much about some of the mechanics involved, but all the guys had their thoughts and we went to work. It has been a lot of fun building and racing the tractors since then. I bought that first tractor for 50 dollars and put 50 more dollars into it to get it ready to race.”
It certainly has been fun because Knapp, who was known as the Flying Pressman, now has a total of four tractors. Three of those are race-ready for any event. With Caterpiller now on the hood of his racers, the Catman competes in the Old Goat, Overhead and Super Divisions and there are many more divisions to compete in, depending on what you want to do to your tractor. Most of the tractors Knapp races hit speeds between 25 and 40 miles per hour. He has certainly created some buzz throughout the building because Knapp has reached victory lane a few times. Of course, Knapp does not always feel the need to talk about his exploits that much, but that is where his press agent (Pratt) takes over.
Knapp competes in a club called Grasscar and their motto is Redneck Racing for a Cause. There is no admission charge for spectators at their events, but there is a modest fee for each tractor entered. While each event is taking place, the club looks to raise some money for someone who may need it.
“What money we can raise will go to a person who needs it,” Knapp explained. “There might be a little girl who needs help with medical expenses, that money goes to her. We are just in this to have fun.”
It is a family day whenever Knapp goes racing because his wife and daughter will be there to cheer him on as well. In fact, Knapp has always been a race fan.
“I grew up in Blodgett Mills,” Knapp said. “I lived on a farm near Skyline Raceway and would watch the cars go by the house on the way to the track. My brothers and I could hear the races and the announcer. We would have our own races around the house at the same time. My mom worked at the track when Buck Towsley owned it and we would go with her.”
As much fun as it is, Knapp also knows the club has a few troubles of its own.
“We had 12 races last year and there are only five this year,” Knapp explained. “Most of the trouble has to do with insurance. We sign waivers that we will not hold anyone responsible if we get hurt racing, but the insurance still has to be there for the spectators. Even though we race on very small tracks, there is still a chance that someone could break through the hay bales around the track and hit someone watching. That is why the insurance is needed.”
While the club does compete in West Nile, Sennett, Locke and Sempronius for most races, Knapp would like to see more of a local interest in this area.
“I think it would be great if we could get a local club and tour with the local fairs,” Knapp said. “We could race at the fireman field days in places like Lansing, Cincinnatus, Homer and McLean. There is also the Corn Festival in Cincinnatus. I think it would be fun and you do not need a lot of space for a race track, mostly you need some hay bales and a person to wave a flag.”
Could you imagine the Cortland Standard 500 featuring dozens of 20-30 lap races for 10 classes of racing tractors or more? It does sound interesting. Maybe you should talk to Bryan Knapp, you might just get this little racing bug as well.
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Back to the bigger cars, this will be a final update on 17-year-old Corey Jalbert for a while. According to Stuart Cummings, the father of Jalbert’s girlfriend and a former webmaster at Cornwall Speedway, Jalbert has been continuing to improve and may start some rehabilitation work very soon. They are still not sure if Jalbert will every walk again, but his overall health continues to get better. I do have an e-mail address to send get-well messages to Jalbert. That address is stucummings@sympatico.ca. You can also send mail to the following address: Corey Jalbert, c/o Tiffany Cummings, 116 McKenzie, Cornwall, Ontario K6K 1J1.
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Skyline Raceway (Blodgett Mills) will enjoy a regular six-division racing card this Saturday night with the Sportsman Modifieds, IMCA Modifieds, Pure Stocks, Four Cylinder Stocks, Junkyard Dogs, and Junkyard Pups all in action as racing begins at 6:30 p.m. sharp. Prior to the start of racing action, Oldies 101.5 WXHC will present a 1950’s-style Sock Hop Saturday Night Car Show with many classic cars on display behind the main grandstand. Come out early and check out some beautifully restored antique cars and street rods starting at 4 p.m.
For the more information, call the track office at 607-657-8222, the speedway on race day at 607-849-6600 or log onto www.skylineracewayny.com, the speedway’s official Web site.
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Thunder Mountain Speedway (Center Lisle) feature two nights of racing action. All of the racing action Saturday will  be sponsored by Simplex Auto & Machine with the Modifieds, Sportsman, Hurricane Street Stocks, Warriors, and Bandits, as well as the Trailer Races! The Trailer Races are a must see, as cars or trucks with a trailer (pop-up camper, boat, or snowmobile) attached to the back bump and bang around the speedway in an effort to derail their opponents’ trailer. Last trailer attached wins the whole shooting match. The gates for this regularly scheduled event will open at 4 p.m. with the racing action getting underway at 6:30.
On Sunday, the Sportsman, Hurricane Street Stocks, T-Mods (open-wheel IMCA-style Modifieds on the IMCA tires), Road Warriors, Road Bandits, and another combined four-cylinder/six-cylinder enduro take to the track. All classes with the exception of the T-Mods and Road Bandits will be running for regular points. The T-Mods will offer fans a snapshot of their big appearance slated for the “Hurricane” weekend of September 21-22. This night will also be a highlight of the Road Bandit division, with the winner solidifying a coveted starting spot for the Short Track Super Nationals at Woodhull Raceway in October. This class goes by many different names (Road Bandits, Junkyard Pups, Lightning Cats, and FWD 4 Cylinders) around the region, but one thing remains true at every track, these drivers put on a heck of a show, and anyone can win it on any night. The gates for this show will open at 3 p.m., with the racing getting underway at 5 p.m. They have on-site camping that is free of charge for those that wish to stay up at the fast track for both nights of racing. For more information, call the speedway office at 607-849-7889 or checking out their Web site at www.thunderracetrack.com.
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Nice N’ Easy Grocery Shoppes will present the exciting DIRTcar racing action this Friday at Brewerton Speedway. Scheduled for competition will be the DIRTcar Modifieds, IMCA Modifieds, ESDCA Mod Lites, 4-Cylinder Super Stocks, and Four-Cylinder Enduros. Race time at “The D-Shaped DIRT Demon” is set for 7:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the track office at 315-668-6906, the race line at (315) 668-RACE or visit the track’s Web site at www.brewertonspeedway.com.
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Two of Fulton Speedway’s biggest 2007 season sponsors will be highlighted Saturday with the stock car races on Novelis / Ferris Industries Night. In race competition on the fast 3/8-mile clay oval will be the DIRTcar Modifieds, DIRTcar Sportsman, Gypsum Express Crate Sportsman, UMP Pro Stocks, UMP Street Stocks and Four-Cylinder Enduros. Race time at the “Home of the 22nd Annual Victoria 200” is set for 7 p.m. For more information, contact the track office at 315-593-6531, the race line at 315-668-RACE, or log on to the track’s Web site at www.fultonspeedway.com.
* * *
J. M. Uvanni & John’s Auto Restoration will sponsor the action Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway (Vernon). It will be Mid-Season Championship night with double points for the 358-Modifieds, Sportsman, Pro Stocks and Pure Stocks. The IMCA Modifieds will run a regular show and there will be an appearance by the Mod Lites as well. Racing action begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information, call the track office at 315-725-5709, the Track Phone/Raceday Phone at 315-829-4557 or log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com, the official website.
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Cayuga County Fair Speedway (Weedsport) will host the DIRTcar Big Block Modifieds, DIRT Sportsman Modifieds, Street Stock and Enduros Sunday on Ferris Mowers Night. Racing action gets underway at 7 p.m. For more information, call the track office at 315-834-6606 or log on to the track’s Web site at www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com.
* * *
Watkins Glen International will host the SCCA Glen Nationals this weekend. It is one of the longest running auto racing events in the United States and draws drivers from all over the country.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series at The Glen will come to the famed road course in the Finger Lakes Aug. 9-12 and the Zippo U.S. Vintage Grand Prix returns Sept. 7-9.
For more information, please contact the Watkins Glen International ticket office at 866-461-RACE or log on to the official Web site at www.TheGlen.com.
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If you have any racing news to pass along, please contact me at the Cortland Standard Sports Department between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at 607-756-5665, ext. 25 or via e-mail at either sports@cortlandstandard.net or SportsReporter88@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A-Rod goes from neglected to needed

By JIM LITKE
AP Sports Columnist

Talk about a U-turn: All those New Yorkers who volunteered to drive Alex Rodriguez back to LaGuardia Airport within weeks of his arrival, and almost every day since, suddenly can’t imagine life without him.
Remember the tank top A-Rod’s wife wore to Yankee Stadium nearly two weeks ago? The one with the two-word obscenity printed on the back that the New York Post splashed on the front page and the locals found so offensive?
Well, the only thing that would offend most of them at the moment is finding out that Cynthia Rodriguez borrowed it from her husband’s closet. Because now that the New York dailies again are speculating whether A-Rod could be going, going, gone at season’s end, it might be easier to ship the Statue of Liberty out of town instead.
The Yankees are 10 games behind AL East-leading Boston. But fans understand that without Rodriguez’s off-the-charts contributions so far, calculating the “games-behind” figure would have required the use of their toes as well. That explained why unidentified team executives have been quoted as saying the club is willing to negotiate an extension for Rodriguez whenever his agent, Scott Boras, gets around to calling.
The first time the subject was broached in March, Boras said he was instructed to hold off on contract talks during the season, and that remains his stance in public.
“We have always been under the plan that it’s something we would talk about at the end of the season, and we’ve had no discussions with anyone,” Boras said Thursday, then quickly added, “Don’t expect to.”
Wily as he is, Boras knows the current panic has more to do with slow news days than a real shift in the Yankees’ negotiating stance. But he also knows the longer it drags on, the easier his work likely will be come November, not to mention much more lucrative.
The funny thing is that A-Rod never had it quite this good in New York. For all the things he’s tried to win over fans and teammates — moving from shortstop to third, trash-talking opponents, even baring his soul about visits to a shrink — nothing has made him look better than being surrounded by similarly high-priced, but woefully underperforming teammates. And because details of his salary have been published over and over the last few days, even the most committed A-Rod haters have to concede he’s a bargain.
Rodriguez gets a $27 million salary this year, but thanks to the shrewd deal general manager Brian Cashman cut to bring him to New York, Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks still has to kick in about $11 million of the total. As one of the tabloids noted, that means the Yankees are getting A-Rod’s services for about 60 cents on the dollar.
For purposes of comparison, Andy Pettitte, who’s 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA, will cost the Yankees about the same. And Jason Giambi, who’s parked on the 15-day disabled list, driven in one-quarter as many runs and appeared in roughly half as many games, will take home $21 million.
So, New York, how do you like A-Rod now?
And how do you like your chances of keeping him?
Despite the headlines of recent days, the answer is actually very, very good — thanks to that long ago boo-boo by Hicks.
Because of a clause Boras tucked in there long ago, A-Rod can opt out of his deal within 10 days after the last pitch of the World Series — but that would let Hicks opt out, too.
Few baseball people doubt that A-Rod could command the $30 million or more a year that Boras indicated will be his starting position with any clubs thought to be potential bidders — San Francisco, Anaheim, Chicago and even Boston. But there’s also no question that the Yankees, with Hicks’ still on the hook to contribute for another three years, can afford to be more generous than any of them. And given the Yankees’ track record of paying stars — see: Clemens, Roger — it’s hard to imagine them letting A-Rod leave.
Of course, that assumes Rodriguez will continue motoring along at his MVP pace and, almost as important, delivering big hits in the late innings. He’s already hit seven home runs in the ninth inning alone, two of them game-ending.
“I think it would be selfish on my part to talk about my contract status when our team desperately needs wins,” he said before the Yankees opened a four-game series against the Devil Rays. “My goal is to win as any games as we can, focus on my teammates and really play at a real high level in the second half.”

Loved as Rodriguez is at the moment, however, all it will take is a big drop in production or another subpar playoff performance, and he’ll be loathed again. And that tank top his wife wore to Yankee Stadium could become a hot-selling item in the Bronx, with the word, “too,” tacked on the end.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Shakeup seems to work well for Mets 

By HAL BOCK
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK — If the New York Mets wanted to shake up their offense by firing their hitting coach, it worked.
For two batters.
Jose Reyes and Ruben Gotay opened with consecutive home runs, the first time that’s happened in the Mets’ 46-season history, and New York beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 on Thursday night.
It was a strong start in the first game since New York dismissed hitting coach Rick Down and added Rickey Henderson to the coaching staff. It has not been decided whether Henderson or first-base coach Howard Johnson will replace Down, but Johnson filled the role against Cincinnati. Henderson was traveling and didn’t arrive in time for the game.
New York also jettisoned 48-year-old Julio Franco, who hit only .200 in 50 at-bats with one home run and eight RBIs, and promoted Lastings Milledge from the minors.
The Mets needed both homers, some daring baserunning by Milledge and six sharp innings from Orlando Hernandez (5-4) to win their first game of the second half.
Reyes, fresh off his three-hit performance in the All-Star game, led off the bottom of the first with his fifth homer and Gotay followed with his fourth, both against Bronson Arroyo (3-10). It was the third time this season that the Mets hit back-to-back homers but the first time in 7,238 games the club opened that way.
“I don’t know if they were mistakes,” Arroyo said. “I threw the pitch I wanted to Reyes. The other one (to Gotay) was a 2-1 breaking ball. I was surprised he hit it out of the park.”
Cincinnati finished with just four hits and fell to 5-2 under interim manager Pete Mackanin, who took over for Jerry Narron earlier this month. Arroyo gave up three runs and eight hits in seven innings.
The Reds placed outfielder Josh Hamilton on the 15-day disabled list before the game and recalled catcher Chad Moeller. Hamilton sprained his wrist Saturday night.
Scott Hatteberg hit a two-run single in the second to tie it at 2, but the Mets went in front for good in the fifth.
Milledge, who got the start in left field, led off with a single. Arroyo then retired Hernandez and Reyes before Gotay’s drive fell just in front of diving center fielder Ryan Freel.
Milledge circled the bases and barely beat the play at home, touching the plate with his hand ahead of catcher David Ross’ tag.
“It was a good throw and that made it pretty close,” Milledge said. “I knew it would be close. I kind of waited a split second to get my hand in around him a little.”
Hernandez allowed three hits and two runs, struck out seven and walked three. He retired the last 12 batters he faced.
“I think it was a little difficult coming back after the All-Star game and three days without throwing,” Hernandez said. “I threw yesterday but it was a little difficult.”
Joe Smith worked a perfect seventh for New York, Pedro Feliciano pitched the eighth and Billy Wagner got three outs for his 18th save in 19 chances.
Brandon Phillips led off the ninth with a single, ending a streak of 18 consecutive hitters retired by New York. He advanced on a groundout but was caught off second when Edwin Encarnacion bounced to Reyes at shortstop.
“He wanted to make something happen,” Mackanin said. “It was an aggressive mistake.”
Encarnacion stole second before Jeff Conine grounded out to end the game.