Story By: STEVE PETTY / RANSOMVILLE SPEEDWAY – RANSOMVILLE, NY – Ransomville Speedway will be honoring the memory of 11-year-old Mackenzie Kulesza on Friday, May 14 with a 36-lap feature event for the Sunflowers of Sanborn Mini Stocks at the Niagara County oval.
“Plain and simple, I’m flabbergasted how three different tracks (individuals) came to me regarding doing these races for Mackenzie”, stated Tony Kulesza. The Mackenzie Kulesza Memorial for the Sunflowers of Sanborn Mini Stocks will be the first of three memorial races scheduled to honor the 11-year-old who died tragically following a car accident in November, 2020. Two other races will be held in her honor and memory at tracks throughout the region. “The racing community showed their true colors as these memorial races literally mean the world to me and are going to be comforting to the entire family, her close friends, and myself probably more than anyone else,” Kulesza continued.
“It didn’t matter what her father was doing at the track, she knew it was my happy place which in turn, was one of hers,” Kulesza said. Track General Manager Jenn Martin contacted Kulesza first regarding hosting a memorial race for Mackenzie for the Sunflowers of Sanborn Mini Stock division. “My emotions for this race are already through the roof,” Kulesza stated. Kulesza went on to say that “the fact that I may be behind the wheel of a car for this race just added to the emotions because now it is my turn to make Kenzie proud of her dad as she made me proud of her so many times.”
Kenzie’s nature was to see everyone smile. She was known to act like a clown just to see someone smile and had a huge passion for animals and always made sure she would buy something for someone else, every time. “Anytime she had some money, she would go to her favorite store (Five Below) and buy some of her normal purchases like candy, chips, Slim Jim, or an Iced Capp from Tim Hortons,” Kulesza said. “She would always make sure to buy something for someone every time,” Kulesza continued. Kenzie would be that girl that would jump in a mud puddle while wearing a skirt and have the biggest smile there was. To Kenzie, there were no boundaries for age to earn her friendship.
Along with General Manager Jenn Martin, Kelly Krull Sam are organizing a lap sponsorship program and having a raffle as part of the 36-lap event. The number symbolizes Tony’s racecar number when he competed in the division. “The accident hit me very hard as it took place five minutes from me,” stated Kelly Krull Sam. “I offered to help as soon as I knew that Tony wanted to a race. I first met Tony when he interviewed Zack for the BEI Lightning Series years ago. My heart went out to him and knew I needed to do anything he needed as I was concerned about him personally and I kept in touch with him as much as possible, just giving support. Tony is someone who gives all racers his support and friendship and it was my turn to do the same.” As an event planner, Sam has the experience to put them together and organize them to work out smoothly.
Having the race at Ransomville is a perfect fit for Sam. “I grew up at Ransomville in the days of Merv Treichler, Gary Iulg, and Davey Moore,” Sam said. “I knew that Jenn Martin would be all in and do her best to create an excellent event, be it, she also grew up there.” She added that “it just makes sense to have one at Ransomville. People love that track. It’s big and fast and that’s what drivers want”.
One of Kelly’s favorite memories of Kenzie was when Kenzie told her that she was going to marry her son Zack. “I told her it was fine with me, but she needed to ask her dad and then ask Zack. She just smiled and tossed her hair and said “ok”, chin up, and walked off like she owned the place,” Sam explained. “You could talk to Kenzie about life and racing, school and friends and she never felt like you were lecturing or prying. She was simply an incredibly happy little lady, especially when we talked about those things and it made me happy to know that.” “She was and is one of the best people I’ve ever met, and I would’ve done anything for her.”
Besides the lap-sponsorship program, a raffle will also take place, with the proceeds from the raffle going to the family for final expenses. “We are hoping to have the highest-paid 4-cylinder Mini Stock race in New York State history by selling laps to businesses and race fans alike. All lap monies will go directly to the drivers”, stated Kelly Krull Sam. They are also looking for raffle items for the fans and drivers as well. “Nothing will be denied. Anything from large ticket items like TVs, Grill’s Bikes, etc. to raffle baskets will all be accepted”, Sam added. “We are also asking drivers to open their hearts and donate t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and any swag they sell, to be tossed into the stands for the fans that support the race”, she said.
Anyone interested in purchasing a lap or donating to the raffle is asked to message Kelly Krull Sam, Jenn Martin, or Ransomville Speedway on social media. Lap sponsorships are still available. You can also come up with contingency awards as well. Contingencies so far include $100 for the longest tow to the track from DK Motorsports, the hard charger award from Everyone’s Eating Fresh, and each heat winner will be receiving $50 courtesy of Bud’s Apple Pie with second-place finishers receiving $25 from DK Motorsports. To purchase lap sponsorships or giving a contingency award, contact Ransomville Speedway. As of February 1, over $2,300 has been raised in lap monies and contingency prizes.
Two-time Sunflowers of Sanborn Mini Stock track champion Cole Susice is looking forward to the race. “It would be amazing to win the memorial race for Kenzie, considering our family are good friends with the Kulesza’s and it would mean a lot,” Susice said. “My plan is to even let Tony run one of my cars at Ransomville if he accepts”, Cole continued. Running a 36-lap feature is different than the traditional 15-20 lap distances that the division is used to running. “One of my fears is getting the car to run 36-laps”, he said. “We will check everything over before the race like usual, but the main difference is driving the car easy during the first part of the race so we can be there at the end and challenge for the win.”
The Mackenzie Kulesza Memorial will take place on Friday, May 14. A full racing program of Krown Undercoating Modifieds, Investors Service Sportsman, KiPo Motors Street Stocks, and Kevin’s Carpet Cleaning Novice Sportsman will join the Sunflowers of Sanborn Mini Stocks on this night.