The name Putney will now be the next name etched along with 58 others on the perpetual trophy that signifies victory in the Sunoco Race of Champions. An iconic late season tradition at Oswego Speedway, this was the 59th time that the event was run and it was a dandy.
What all 59 events have in common is the fact that winning the race is an accomplishment that will remain at the center of the victor's career for their entire career. Even drivers who have accomplished the fete more than once, cherish their accomplishment even more.
When the dust settled, the sun had set and the lights beamed down it wasn't a Hirschman, a Leaty, Eric Beers, Ted Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld, Earl Paules or even upstart NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour runner Rowan Pennink standing in victory lane. It was Billy Putney from East Aurora, N.Y., a devoted Western New York asphalt Modified racer, who deservedly hoisted the trophy into the chilly Oswego evening.
Putney could have been considered a contender, but far from a favorite. He has recorded a victory in a DART Asphalt Race of Champions Modified Tour event at Oswego, but his finishes of late haven't been the best. He has been fast however. In the Spring he led most of the event until a broken brake caliper and rotor essentially handed the victory to Ted Christopher. A week ago, a broken hub while running well in the top-five sent him pit side before the checkered flag flew. Maybe the 5/8-mile track owed Putney. On Sunday afternoon, whether the track owed him one or not, Putney proved he was the best car out there as he dominated the second portion of the event and went on to the prestigious victory.
“I can't put into to words what this means for me,” offered Putney from victory lane. “I've been around this race for as long as I can remember. My Father (car owner Bruce Putney) has been around this sport forever and to get here for him and our team is just awesome. It's really incredible.”
Putney pitted just before lap 80 with a majority of the field and took on three tires. Putney didn't win the race off pit road and had a bobble off of turn four which turned out to be the turning point in his night. On the restart following everyone's pitstops an incident happened up in the front of the field in turn one that bottled up everyone that pitted, which brought out the red flag. Most cars were able to drive away with minimal damage, with the exception of Jimmy Zacharias and Rick Kluth. Putney was able to drive by the mess in turn one and moved ahead of contenders like Tony Hirschman, Earl Paules, Jan Leaty and a host of others.
“I bobbled out of turn four and it turned out to help us,” stated Putney.
Maybe it was Oswego's way of paying Putney back.
“We seem to really have a great car here,” Putney explained following the race. “The car has been good, but there isn't much you can about mechanical failures, which is what we've experienced.”
When the green waved, Putney cleared JR Kent who had fresh tires and Ted Christopher who had yet to pit for his fresh Hoosiers. At that point Matt Hirschman was in the lead.
“I just caught up to Eric Beers, who was in second, and just rode for about twenty laps,” Putney explained further. “They hadn't pitted yet (Hirschman or Beers) and I knew they would have to, but if they didn't pit on the next caution I may have had to race them a little harder because I would have had plenty of pressure behind me.”
He never did have to race either as they both pitted on the ensuing caution which set up the run to the finish with just over 70-laps to go. Earl Paules lined up behind Putney but was never able to mount a serious a challenge over the final circuits of the prestigious event.
“I had a great car all night and our Ford motor really runs,” beamed Putney. “Earl ran me clean, he didn't do anything I wouldn't have done, that's for sure. If the roles were reversed, who knows, but I'm so happy it worked out as it did. This is by far the biggest win of my career.”
For Putney it will be a night that he, his team and his family never forget.
Paules wound up coming home second with last year's race winner, Tony Hirschman, third. Ted Christopher finished fourth. Jan Leaty finished fifth and climbed past Matt Hirschman in the championship standings for the DART Asphalt Race of Champions Modified Tour.
Qualifying for the event saw Hossfeld set quick time in time trials with a lap of 17.481. The heat races were won by Jim Storace, Dave Wollaber, and Sege Fidanza
The final event for the DART Asphalt Race of Champions Modified Tour is this weekend as part of the 24th annual US Open at Dunn Tire Raceway Park in Lancaster, N.Y.
SUNOCO RoC Weekend Notes:
Sege Fidanza scored the SST 100 victory on Saturday night in one of the Rutherford entries. In the record keeping department, it may have only been Fidanza's second start in an SST car which is pretty impressive.
Other weekend winners; Tommy Cloce, who is the son of Ed Cloce - the owner of the Hemi Cuda Race Team - won the 125 lap Late Model race. Cloce was very emotional following the victory and his celebration defined the type of jubilation reached at the RoC. Tim Garlock - Factory Stock; Jason Brigham - Mini Stock; Mike Bond - NORA Limited Supers; Danny Cascioli - Super Stock were all winners throughout the weekend.
Earl Paules won the All-Star race on Saturday night for the Modifieds immediately following the Late Model feature. Paules rebounded from a tough week on the previous Saturday to show how competitive he was. The 30-lap All-Star event had some interesting racing and more interesting strategy involved. Some of those racers, who had a poor draw used it as a practice session while others tried to improve their potential starting positions. The top 5 chose to draw and started the race in the 6th through 10th positions.
Chris Zacharias should be nominated for an ARPY after the Saturday night downhill races outside the facility. Everyone was safe and quite a crowd came out to watch the event including one joyous accordion player who attended the masses about halfway down. The fix may have been on as Jimmy Zacharias captured the downhill championship in a four-wheel ten-speed contraption created by the legendary car-owner Terry Zacharias.
Finally a huge Thank You needs to go to Marylin and Don Toal for their continued efforts in gathering lap money for the event. Well over $15k was collected which topped last year's event. Eric Beers won $7,443, Putney picked up $4,200 (his overall share was $14,200 from the race) and Matt Hirschman snagged $3,000. It made a pretty good payday for those that were able to collect.
59TH SUNOCO RACE OF CHAMPIONS DART ASPHALT MODIFIED TOUR RACE REPORT
1.) Billy Putney
2.) Earl Paules
3.) Tony Hirschman
4.) Ted Christopher
5.) Jan Leaty
6.) JR Kent
7.) Rusty Smith
8.) James Civali
9.) Rowan Pennink
10.) Andy Walko
11.) Kyle Ebersole
12.) TJ Potrzebowski
13.) Jim Storace
14.) Rick Kluth
15.) Doug Reaume
16.) Mike Leaty
17.) Chuck Hossfeld
18.) Eric Beers
19.) Tom McGrath
20.) Matt Hirschman
21.) Daryl Lewis, Jr.
22.) Erick Rudolph
23.) Tommy Farrell, III
24.) Chris Risdale
25.) Daren Scherer
26.) Sege Fidanza
27.) Tommy Cloce
28.) Jimmy Zacharias
29.) Dave Wollaber
30.) Pete Brittain
31.) Chris Zacharias
32.) Mark Tychoniewicz
33.) Rick Zacharias
34.) Ron Smith.
DNS; Wilbur Hebing.
LAP LEADERS; Beers ( 1 - 58 ) M. Hirschman ( 59 - 60 ), Beers ( 61 - 87 ), M. Hirschman ( 88 - 127 ) Putney ( 128 - 200 ).
LAP MONEY WON; Beers - $7,443, Putney - $4,200, M. Hirschman - $3,000.
DART MACHINERY AWARD $1,500 SET OF HEADS; Ebersole.
GATER RACING NEWS DRIVER BONUS DRAWING $500; Kent.
GATER RACING NEWS BEST APPEARING CAR & CREW AWARD; Lewis.
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HARD LUCK AWARD; Brittain ( 7th to 30th ).
HOOSIER RACING TIRE HARD CHARGER AWARD; Kent ( 26th to 6th ).
TOM BALDWIN HARD CHARGER AWARD $500; Kent.
CHUCK BOOS AWARD $100; Geist.
LAST CAR RUNNING ON LEAD LAP $100; Hossfeld.
ZACHARIAS FAMILY RACING AWARD $100; Lewis.
NEXT EVENT - DUNN TIRE RACEWAY PARK - US OPEN - SATURDAY & SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 19TH & 20TH.
RACE OF CHAMPIONS DART ASPHALT MODIFIED TOUR OVERALL POINT STANDINGS
1. JAN LEATY * 675 2. MATT HIRSCHMAN * 667 3. RUSTY SMITH * 662 4. ERIC BEERS 611 5. TJ POTRZEBOWSKI 593 5. EARL PAULES 593 7. MIKE LEATY * 576 8. DAREN SCHERER 560 9. BILLY PUTNEY * 542 10. JIM STORACE 506