PENN YAN, N.Y. — Blog and Audio by Race Chaser Online New York Dirt Correspondent Steven Ovens — Jeremiah Fish photo —
You’re probably already wondering — why the Frank Sinatra reference in the title?
After Dan Harpell admitted Friday night that he usually closes out every banquet by singing ‘New York, New York’, I thought it was only appropriate.
This is the Dan Harpell that some may not have had the chance to know over the course of the 2014 season at the Yates County Speedway. I feel as though I was one of several who got to know Dan in this light and is what made Dan a great promoter to work with over the course of the 2014 season. And no — the ten of us die-hards left at the end of the night did not hear the song stylings of ‘Big Dan.’ Steve Kellogg says we are better for it, but I’m not buying it.
Friday night’s first and last YCS Awards Banquet was very professionally carried out. After the conduct that was carried out that ultimately saw the track promoter’s title pried away from Harpell, it would have been understandable if he had chosen not to even hold the banquet to begin with. But that’s not Dan’s style and this poorly handled situation by track ownership was not going to deter him from doing the right thing and holding a banquet and paying out point fund monies earned. In fact, Harpell even took the high road during his address to the team owners, drivers, pit crews, fans and track employees by not mentioning in detail all of the underhanded things done that led to his departure as promoter.
However, it was interesting to hear a driver two tables away from me speak up and say, “Don’t worry Dan, we better than anyone know all about him.”
Harpell took a speedway that was set for another losing season financially, and took the steps necessary to get the track back on solid ground. He spoke to the crowd about the difficulties they faced leading up to opening night and all that took place on opening night that could have led to disaster with his business. Fortunately for the fans, drivers and staff Harpell stuck to his plan to bring YCS back to prominence and had the track running well by mid-season. Not even a near-disastrous financial weekend with Monster Trucks (which was on the schedule Harpell inherited) could keep the man in charge from forging ahead and thriving.
Looking back on Harpell’s speech Friday, I will always remember the emotion of his speech and the weight his words carried to all who attended on that Friday night in Elmira, New York. We all got a glimpse into how much this man cared about that speedway being successful and how much he cared about each of us being successful in our own piece of the puzzle. I think he also taught us something about taking the high road when everything in your mind and in your heart is telling you not to. If that doesn’t make you respect someone just a little bit more I don’t know what would.
After addressing the crowd with his emotional and heartfelt speech, Harpell was greeted with a standing ovation. I can’t think of a better way for Dan to go out than that. Surely taking the YCS sign down and driving away from the track just a few weeks prior had to be difficult, but I can only imagine that the crowd’s reaction Friday had to lift his spirits back up. Dan and his three sons put a ton of time, miles and effort into our racetrack to make it successful.
Thank you Dan, for breathing life back into our beloved speedway on State Route 14A in Dundee. But, most of all, thank you for your friendship and support throughout the 2014 season at Yates County Speedway. On a personal level, the staff at Race Chaser Online and Turn 5 Live will be forever grateful for your help in expanding our forum and show into a trusted source for dirt track news in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier.
If you were not able to attend the Yates County Speedway Banquet, here are some highlights from Dan Harpell’s address: