Horton Sensational in Orange County Opener – DTD Exclusive

By JEFF WITHEY

MIDDLETOWN, NY – With a heads up start for the season opener and a luck of the draw for the heat races, “The Sensational” Jimmy Horton found his Halmar International Bicknell chassis, Enders big-block on the outside pole for the start of the 30-lap feature.

Horton and pole sitter Mike Kolka led the field to the green with Horton getting the best of Kolka as they entered turn one for the initial green. Just as Kolka was getting into turn one, he was jostled up a bit and this allowed Jeff Heotzler to overtake him for second.

For the next 28 laps of green flag racing, Horton was flawless. Horton hit his first taste of lap traffic just 11 laps in while the “Jeffer” Jeff Heotzler was trying to keep Horton in his sights. It was tough sledding for the rest of the field as a warm wind and warm temps greeted the racers making the track appear to lock down early with passing becoming a premium.

While the leaders Horton and Heotzler were setting a torrid pace, the action just outside the leaders was intense. With Jerry Higbie,Tommy Meier, Mike Kolka all battling for positions three through five.




A late race caution set up a two-lap dash for the checkered. With the restart it was Horton on the point and Heotzler running second. While a less experienced driver may have wilted under the pressure of running in the lead with a savvy veteran like Heotzler right behind you, Horton was more than prepared for any psych warfare that may have been doled out by Heotzler.

As the field took the final green of the feature, Heotzler was overtaken for second by Kolka but Horton was unchallenged the rest of the way scoring his 17th career big-block win at Orange County. Rounding out the top five were Heotzler, Tommy Meier and Jerry Higbie.

“I want to thank Chris Larsen from Halmar. Were doing what we can and should do and thats keep this car out front” said Horton. The low key Horton is once again going to call Orange County home for the season in 2017.

Notes-

If finishing third is considered a victory, then Jeff Heotzler was all smiles. Heotzler debuted a new sponsor for the 2017 season and a specialized Teo chassis that has a lot of unique engineering to it. From a different nose, to a 3-link style rear end and packer springs with coil springs and no torsion bars, its a work in progress. Heotzler also has new power under the hood from Pat Morrison. The engine is a former Vinnie Salerno owned piece. With only one car and one motor for the season so far, Heotzler will only be making appearances weekly in the big-block division at Orange County. Heotzler is fully recovered from his life threatening heart issue that took place during the 2016 Eastern States weekend…

Billy VanInwegen had a night to totally forget. VanInwegen was involved in a heat race crash when according to him, “the right front brake locked up causing me to get up in the loose stuff in turn one and it was on from there”. On from there is an understatement. VanInwegen destroyed his car with the violent hit to the turn one wall. It was thought that the frame was bent and that being that they only had one car at this time that they would miss a few weeks to regroup…

Doug Reiser, the co-owner of the 358 entry of Tommy Meier will also become the owner of another 358 entry when his son Patrick will debut in the 358 ranks next week. Patrick a two time winner in the rookie sportsman division in 2016 will race only when the 358’s are on the card at Orange County…

Condolences- Tommy Meier’s mother passed away on Christmas day 2016…

Mechanical Gremlins- Steve Dodd ran out of gas after hot laps- The cause was the foam in the fuel cell bladder had shifted…

Richie Eurich had his car pushed to the scales after his heat race. The team couldn’t locate the source of why the motor shut off before the feature. Eurich celebrates his 50th year of racing in 2017…

Winning for some is a weekly occurance. How about going nearly 11 years without a win ? Mel Schurfer picked up the win in the Sportman division. His last win at Orange County in a 358 race over 10 years ago. Congrats Mel!

Sometimes things are not as they appear- In the 2016 running of the Eastern States 100, “Hollywood” Craig Mitchell shocked the field by putting his Bicknell entry on the pole. Whats surprising about that accomplishment is that it was a 5 plus year old car and a sub $10,000 small block…

Higfab owner, Jerry Higbie said that over the winter the team built north of 35 cars.