When Ben Russo and Bill Lutz worked together a few years ago in the kitchen of a local restaurant, they did more than just prepare food for the dining public. They eventually whipped up the recipe for what would become the Dice Racing Team, for which both now drive.
Russo won the 50-lap season points finale last weekend at Holland Motorsports Complex and with it the track’s 2013 Hornet division title. Since those early years, Dice Racing has expanded to also include Hornet division drivers Jeff Szafraniec, Donald “Butcher” Palmer, Bobby Palmer and Samantha Lutz.
Szafraniec captured the Hornet division title a year ago and finished second to Russo this season by a mere four points in the Holland points chase.
“In early 2004, Bill Lutz and I worked at a local restaurant and got to know each other,” said Russo, 27, of Sloan. “Soon we got talking about racing and decided to form Dice Racing. We came across a race car and we bought it.
“I had gone to races at Lancaster when I was younger but never thought about actually racing at that time. Then after I met Bill, I began to think about race car driving.
“Bill started driving the car a short time after that and then I started driving in 2008. I have been in the Hornet class at Holland ever since.”
A few seasons ago, the two-man Dice Racing operation expanded to four with the addition of Bill Lutz’s daughter Samantha Lutz and her fianceé, Szafraniec. Now the Palmers, including the cars of Butch and his son Bobby, have been added to the team as well.
Prior to earning his 2013 Hornet championship, Russo had placed third in Hornet points for the last three seasons at Holland. His championship this season seemed improbable based on his results during Holland’s season opener in May.
“I crossed the line first to get the checkered flag and the win on opening night, then as I was slowing down, a wheel bearing broke and I crashed into the second turn wall,” Russo said. “Then from the accident the car went to the tech area, where I was disqualified for a tech violation.”
With the car heavily damaged from the opening day wreck the team acquired a 1990 Honda CRX two days later and had it race ready for Russo for Holland’s second night of the season. That night was washed away by rain but it gave the team more time to prepare.
“We returned the week after the rainout and finished third,” Russo said. “Then in the middle of the season I won three races in a row to get back in the points race.”
This past Saturday, Russo and Szafraniec came into the final point night tied for the title. Russo won the event by a scant three car lengths over Szafraniec to capture his first Holland championship. The victory was also his fifth trip to the Holland winner’s circle in 2013.
“Yeah, Jeff and I gave it everything we had and it was a good race,” Russo said. “We both also had good competition all year and I’m glad I won it.”
During the Holland races, Russo actually shares a pit crew with NASCAR Charger driver Eric Brown. Dale McCool and Joe Brown are key members of the team with Russo’s sponsorship provided by Larry’s Truck Repair.
According to Russo, the Dice Racing operation may purchase a new NASCAR Charger race car for next season, when Szafraniec most likely will be tabbed to handle the driving chores. Russo would also like to move up to another class but if that doesn’t happen he plans on returning to the Hornets to defend his championship.
Holland will close its 2013 stock car season on Saturday with the annual running of the Bud 100 for the NASCAR Pro Modified division. The track will complete all its on-track activity when it showcases another Crash-A-Rama event Sept. 14.
• Champions crowned last Saturday at Merrittville Speedway are Pete Bicknell, DIRTcar 358 Modified; Cody McPherson, DIRTcar Sportsman; Kevin Knapp, Hoosier Stocks; Josh Sliter, Mod Lites; Kyle Pelrine, Mini Stocks.
• Titlists at New Humberstone Speedway thus far in 2013 are: Gary Lindberg, DIRTcar Sportsman and Rob Ledingham, Late Models.
• Wyoming County International Speedway’s Labor Day Spectacular topped off by the SST Modified 100, was rained out last Sunday and will get the green flag at 2 p.m. this Sunday.