When the largest and most prestigious area multi-day asphalt stock car racing event, the U.S. Open Weekend, takes center stage Friday and Saturday, Dunn Tire Raceway Park's season finale will mark a milestone - the completion of Todd Hannon's first year as DTRP's stock car race director.
The 2012 season has presented challenges and a learning curve for Hannon. The U.S. Open will be his biggest challenge yet.
"The biggest difference between the regular season and the U.S. Open is the length of the event," said Hannon, 35. "On Saturday, the challenge will be to keep the show rolling due to the fact that there will be eight divisions in action with a total of about 578 green flag laps to be run."
The Cheektowaga resident worked his way up through the ranks at DTRP, first being employed as the third turn flagman nine years ago. After three years in this role, Hannon was elevated to the main front stretch flag stand as assistant starter to current DTRP chief starter Larry Woodruff.
After taking a year off three years ago to work in Florida at Hendry Motorsports Park, Hannon returned to the area and his role with Woodruff. He made another move to his current position last winter.
"I actually had to put in for the race director position last winter," Hannon said. "I had to fill out an application and provide my background information."
Once on the job, it didn't take long for Hannon to discover that being a race director is not an easy position.
"Once I got the job, I was very busy all winter taking phone calls and it is still busy. The hardest part of the job is being involved in the week-to-week difference of opinions between drivers and between drivers and myself who are unhappy about decisions that are made.
"Once a call is made, right, wrong or indifferent, it's made and it's time to learn from it and move on.
"I have six officials that I am responsible for communicating with during a race, including flaggers, scorers, and others. I also have one-way radio communication with the drivers during the race so there is a lot to keep track of."
Hannon has been going to DTRP since he was about 2 years old and credits his mother, Laurie Hannon, and his children; Kayleen, 15, Courtney, 13, Ashton, 10 and Wyatt, 8 - with much needed support.
Hannon says that during a race program, he and his officials bond in a way that he feels adds to the efficiency, fun and professionalism of the program.
"Our officials' radios can't be scanned so no one really knows what is said between my officials and myself during a race program but I can tell you that there always is a lot of good chit-chat, sometimes on the very serious side and other times on the more humorous side.
"I've enjoyed my first season as race director and while it's not been perfect, things have gone a lot smoother than I ever would have thought. I hope it continues for the U.S. Open."
The U.S. Open has usually run on a Friday-Sunday format with the marquee ROC Modified race on Sunday. A few weeks ago, DTRP president of stock car operations Tim Packman changed the schedule to a Friday and Saturday event with Sunday serving as a rain date.
Friday's activities include 7 p.m. qualifying heats for all classes except the Legends, TQ Midgets and ROC Modifieds. Saturday, racing will commence at 2 p.m. with Legends, TQ Midget and ROC Modified heats.
Feature racing to follow on Saturday includes: TQ Midgets, 25 laps; Legends, 20; Four Cylinders, 25; Street Stocks, 40; Super Stocks, 50; Sportsman, 75; Late Models, 50 and ROC Modifieds 100.
DTRP will showcase its weekly IHRA Drag Racing Program tonight at 7 p.m.

Pit Stops

. For the last few seasons, Team Sahlen, involving Elma's Joe Sahlen, has been trying to make the trip to victory lane in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series' Grand Touring (GT) division.
After coming close a few times, the team's No. 43 Mazda RX-8 entry featuring California's Dane Cameron and codriver Wayne Nonnamaker of North Canton, Ohio, finally broke through last Sunday with its first win in the Grand-Am GT ranks at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California.
Just last month at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Watkins Glen, Team Sahlen announced its plans to move up with a two-car effort into Grand-Am's Daytona Prototype class next season.
"We've won in every class in Grand-Am that we've run in so to get this win before we go on to prototypes is great," said Nonnamaker.
. When Little Valley completes its season Saturday night, it will mark the end of the officiating career of pit steward Wayne Reed, who is retiring after 12 years in the job. He has been a professional throughout his years in racing. As a key official he will be missed at Little Valley.
. Alex Morris is Ransomville Speedway's 2012 Street Stock champion.