DIRT: HOWARD WINS AT BIG DIAMOND
When the track locked down, Duane Howard locked in and the Oley, Pennsylvanian was off to the races as he led the entire distance on Sunday night to capture the 'Spring Fever 75' on Sunday night at Big Diamond Raceway and officially open the 2009 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series.
A runner-up in last year’s lid-lifter at Virginia Motor Speedway, Howard was even more dominant this time around as he kicked off the Big-Block Modified points trail with his first-ever Advance Series victory in the Keystone State, leading all 75 green flag laps to earn a $6,000 pay day in the coal region classic.
“This car was so dominant from the drop of the green, all I had to do was keep my nose clean in traffic and I thought we had a good shot,” remarked Howard, 45, who scored a half-dozen DIRTcar Big-Block wins in the late 1990s at Bridgeport (NJ) Speedway, yet none came close to matching Sunday’s masterful performance on home soil.
“This Troyer car was just outstanding today. The crew did a great getting it ready, they really deserve to win and I’m glad I could do it for them. I’m glad to represent Diamond regulars really well and really enjoy racing against these DIRT guys. I’m ready for Syracuse,” beamed Howard, who finished third in the prized jewel Rite Aid 200 at the Syracuse Mile last October to spark his early season enthusiasm.
Scoring his best career Advance Series finish, runner-up Jeff Brownell Jr. from Waterloo, New York fell three-quarters of a straightaway behind the Chad Sinon Motorsports no. 4 BPG Racing-Mavericks Motorcycle Club-Alex's Lemonade/Troyer entry at the checkered flag. All-time Advance Series winner Brett Hearn from Sussex, New Jersey salvaged third ahead of cousins Jimmy Phelps and Ryan Phelps, each towing in from Central New York.
Four heat races and a pair of consolation rounds were needed to establish the 30-car starting line-up from a fine field of 38 Big-Block entries signed in from the tri-state area. Despite time trialing fifth fastest, Howard copped his heat and luck of the draw put him on the pole for the 75-lap finale. Fresh off a super late model victory the night before at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway, Integra Shocks Fast Time award winner Tim Fuller was not as fortunate as the Edwards, New York chauffeur filed outside row five on the grid after drawing 10th position.
Howard jumped out early and often as he held the competition at bay through five restarts in the 41-minute main event. While minor mishaps and flat tires forced out the majority of yellows, the initial slowdown on lap five was the most serious as Advance Series standout Matt Sheppard slammed the turn three wall to end any chance of repeating last year’s opening day victory at VMS.
Once out front, Howard remained untouchable as the invading Advance Series stars were unable to pose a threat to the six-time Big Diamond points champion. Howard’s second Big-Block win at Minersville, Pa. oval was easily the biggest of his career, one which includes a second-best track total of 62 Small-Block feature victories tallied in more than two decades of racing in the coal region.
Rounding out the top-10 were second-generation standout Billy Pauch Jr., brothers Danny and Alan Johnson (2003 Big Diamond tour winner), Gary Tomkins and Frankie Caprara, while Rick Laubach earned the Bert/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award after improving from 29th spot.
After more than a month off from tour competition, the ground-pounding Advance Auto Parts Big-Block Modified Series heads back into the Empire State for a dirt-asphalt doubleheader. A pair of 100-lappers at Lebanon Valley Speedway on Saturday, June 6 and Airborne Speedway on Sunday, June 7 reward $6,000 to each winner and offer points towards the overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship.
BOWMAN GRAY: CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS LOOK AHEAD TO RACING SEASON
At the beginning of every season, fans naturally look to the previous year’s champions to perform strongly yet again. The champions may feel the burden of meeting their own high expectations, but the new season also brings another opportunity to shine in the spotlight.
In the Farm Bureau Insurance Modified Series, 2008 Champion Tim Brown picked up right where he left off. Although he qualified fifth for the Tucson 200, he fought his way to the front and claimed the checkered for the season-opening 200-lapper. “That’s the best race car I’ve ever sat my butt in at Bowman Gray. It was awesome.,” said Brown. “We started the season off really good and now we just got to keep this momentum going.”
Other championship contenders didn’t fare so well. 2007 Champion Burt Myers ended his race early due to mechanical problems, finishing 18th. Junior Miller, the 2006 Champion, encountered trouble with his car during the opening parade laps and didn’t even take the green flag.
But before Brown can get too confident or before Myers and Miller give up on their season, the 1995 season of Robert Jeffreys may prove to be worth remembering. Jeffreys was the champion in 1994, but started his 1995 season off in horrible condition. For the first three races of 1995, Jeffreys finished 20th, 17th, and 13th – putting him at 18th in the points. Jeffreys never gave up, charging his way back into the race for champion and eventually taking the Modified crown for that season.
The points races continue this Saturday night at Bowman Gray Stadium with Camping World One Dollar Ladies’ Night, where all female fans get to see the racing action for only a buck. There will be racing for all four divisions plus a 109 U-Pull-It Demolition Derby. Ticket gates open at 6:00 for practice, qualifying begins at 7:20, and the first race begins at 8:00 PM. Ticket prices, directions, and more information can be found online at www.bowmangrayracing.com or by calling (336) 723-1819.
WALL: JIMMY BLEWETT WILL LEAD TOUR-TYPE MODIFIEDS INTO SATURDAY NIGHT RACING
Jimmy Blewett of Howell, the winner of the Tour Type Modified feature race at last November’s “Turkey Derby,” is expected to lead the Monster Modifieds back to Wall Stadium for a 100-lap championship race on Saturday, May 9. Blewett goes into the event on somewhat of a hot streak as he also won the season opening 100-lapper for the Red Bank Sleep Shoppe Modifieds at Wall back on April 18.
Although Blewett and his Partridge Racing No. 12 are sure to be favorites when the Mod Squad rolls on to the high banked third mile paved oval on Saturday (May 9), he will see plenty of competition from some of the best drivers in the business. Among those expected to be on hand for the event is local standout Ken Woolley, Jr. of Howell in the famous Dick Barney owned No. 14, Long Island favorite Tony Ferrante, Jr. in his family owned No. 31, 1990 NASCAR Modified Tour champion Jamie Tomaino of Howell in the Howard Harvey No. 99 and former stadium champion Pete Brittain in the Ling Trucking No. 66.
Also expected to post strong showings are Freehold’s Steven Reed in his family’s famous No. 55, Brick’s Marc Rogers in the Blauvelt Racing No. 41, Dave Cranmer in his No. 59 and fan favorite Tim Arre of Toms River, among others.
Also on the May 9 agenda will be the Calabreeze Pools Sportsman and Street Stock racers in 25-lappers and the Legend Cars and the Flanagan Retail Development Factory Stocks in 20-lap main events.
MaiN event action on Saturday, May 9, is slated to start at 7:00 p.m., with qualifying beginning at approximately 5:30 p.m., depending on the number of entries in each division. Grandstand seating will open at 4:00 p.m.
Wall Stadium is located on Route 34 in Wall Township, N.J., just one mile north of Garden State Parkway exit 98 and Interstate 195 exit 35B. The speedway office is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and all day Saturday during events. The speedway hotline number is 732-681-6400, while more information is also available at www.wallspeedway.com.
WATERFORD: KID ROC WINS AGAIN
Keith Rocco scored victory in Saturday’s 35-lap SK Modified® main event without the last lap theatrics he used to win a week ago. Rocco took the lead early on and didn’t look back, capturing his second consecutive win in the division. Other winners from Saturday night action included Tim Jordan in the Late Models and Ronnie Oldham Jr. in the Street Stocks, while Chris Williams took the checkered in the Mini Stocks and Jason Palmer in Legends Cars action.
The 35-lap SK event began with Jeffrey Paul leading the first ten laps from his pole starting position. The action immediately heated up behind Paul as Corey Hutchings, Tyler Chadwick, Rob Janovic Jr., and Keith Rocco were jockeying for track position. Rocco, who came from the ninth starting spot, worked his M&M Motorsports #57 SK Mod in the low groove in the opening laps, and then moved to the ‘Bowl’s very capable outside groove. “I told my spotter to get me to the top when the field singled out” stated Rocco. “Fortunately that was real early". He moved outside Janovic for fourth on lap 6, then outside Chadwick for third a lap later. Still in the high line, he pressured Hutchings for second before completing the pass just 2 laps later. He immediately went to work on the leader Paul, again using the high groove to gain the lead on lap 10. Hutchings and Chadwick followed Rocco around Paul, and the lead pack began to open up some space under green flag conditions.
At halfway, Rocco continued to lead Hutchings, Chadwick and Janovic. Jeff Pearl was making forward progress, moving into the top five by lap 19. The event’s first caution waved with 10 laps remaining for a spin by Wayne Arute. Rocco would get the jump on three ensuing restarts after more single car spins from the rear of the field. With just three laps remaining, contact in the lead pack sent cars scattering with Jeff Pearl and Dennis Gada taking direct hits, while Justin Gaydosh and Ron Yuhas Jr. also received damage. Only Yuhas was able to continue after a visit to the pits. Rocco resumed control on the restart and went on to the victory by a car length over Chadwick. Janovic, Shawn Solomito - making just his second career Speedbowl start, and Wendell Dailey completed the top-five. Hutchings, who ran second nearly the entire event, saw his strong run end in the turn 4 wall on the last lap as a victim of a cut tire.
The Speedbowl competitors provided a great night of racing for the crowd on hand and made for a light night for the track safety and clean up team - the entire race program was completed by 8:45p and had a total of just eight caution flags, six of them single car spins.
The Speedbowl returns to action next Saturday May 2 with another 5-division program featuring NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action for Late Models, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks. They will be joined by the NEATV Truck Series, going a 25-lap distance, plus the Legends Cars. The SK Modifieds will have the night off. Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesdays begin on May 6, and the True Value Modified Tour comes to town for a 100-lap event on May 9. For more information, visit www.speedbowl.com or contact the track offices at 860.442.1585
AIRBORNE:AIRBORNE MODIFIED RANKS GROWING
Defending track champion Patrick Dupree of Saranac Lake tops the growing list of Ernie’s Tools Modified drivers who have purchased 2009 licenses in preparation for the New Airborne Speedway’s Econo Lodge 50 season opener Saturday, May 2.
“I know Pat is really looking forward to getting going,” car owner Wes Moody said. “There’s a lot of excitement about the new pavement. We won’t really know what to expect until that first practice, but you can bet it’s going to be faster and I think that might help Patrick and Martin Roy because they’ve had some experience at higher speeds at Syracuse, Oswego and Dover. The track may have to change the gear rule. It’s going to be a real learning experience.”
“We’re looking forward to the Super DIRT Series race when the Big-Block outsiders come in (June 7)” Moody continued. “We have two cars, but Patrick’s partial to the older Teo chassis No. 24 that he won the title with. We’re going to have the newer one ready for Frank Cozze to drive in the big-block race. He won at Syracuse last year and he’s one of the best.”
Dupree’s mount will carry the sponsorship of Greg Norman Wines, Wesley Moody Landscaping and Dupree Builders. Among the 28 drivers already registered to test the defending champion on opening day are 2007 Modified champion George Foley of Saranac Lake, Martin Roy of Napierville, Quebec, Leon Gonyo of Chazy, Aaron Bartemy, Matt Woodruff, Chris Cayea and Mike Reyell.
Early entries are also on the rise in the J&S Steel Sportsman, Versatile Trailer Sales Renegades, Keeseville NAPA Auto Parts Mini-Modifieds and Monster Energy Bombers. “Our car counts held up well last season and the numbers are looking even higher this year,” track promoter Mike Perrotte said.