By KEN BRUCE
NEW EGYPT, NJ – It’s not often that a crash in your qualifying heat race turns out to be a good thing but for Dominick Buffalino, that is exactly what happened on Tuesday night at New Egypt Speedway.
In heat number four as Buffalino and Willie Osmun were battling side-by-side going through turns three and four, asphalt Modified ace Jimmy Blewett decided to make it three wide by diving his Lou Cicconi owned #76 low and into the side of Osmun. This caused both Osmun and Buffalino to spin out. It was a move by Blewett that I thought was not warranted nor needed at the time.
My feelings at that time were seemingly echoed by Osmun who restarted his car and went directly after Blewett to show his displeasure with the move. Osmun was subsequently disqualified from race for what I thought was a minor retaliation; trust me I have seen much worse. Osmun then drove the car directly to his trailer, loaded up and left not happy with the way the situation was handled by the track.
Buffalino on the other hand choose to go in another direction and take his frustrations out on the rest of the cars left running in the heat by getting his car going again, taking his spot at the end of the field and promptly drive around the outside everyone to take the lead and win his heat.
I had a chance to talk to Buffalino before the feature and asked him what happened in his heat and if it made him more determined to do what he did.
“Yeah, I was mad after that happened but I was more mad at the track for not doing anything about it. Hey, Jimmy (Blewett) is a good friend of mine and I’m not sure what exactly happened there, but I sure know what it looked like happened and the track should’ve done something about it. I feel really bad for Willie (Osmun) who did nothing wrong and just tapped him to let him know that he wasn’t happy and he gets disqualified.”
Buffalino, who drew the tenth starting spot for the 60 lap feature event, knew he had a good car for the night, but with the talent level of field that was assembled for the night knew he would have to have things go his way to get the win.
Polesitter Wade Hendrickson jumped out to the immediate lead with second place starter Ryan Godown following right behind him. Hendrickson continued to lead the field until lap 13 when Godown made his move to take over the top spot. As Godown led the way all eyes were on the 14th place starting Billy Pauch Jr. Pauch Jr was rocketing his way through the field. By lap 15 he was already up to the fifth spot. While all of this was going on, Buffalino was also making a steady charge to the front using the outside line to his advantage to move his #51M into contention.
The first 26 laps of the 60 lap feature went non-stop until Rick Laubach went hard into the first turn will after making slight contact with Danny Bouc coming down the front stretch. Laubach slammed off the outside guardrail collecting Brett Kressley in the process. Thankfully both drivers were able to walk away uninjured. The Ryan Kerr owned #1K of Laubach was heavily damaged in the incident.
On the ensuing green flag, Buffalino who was now up to fourth behind Godown, Anthony Perrego and Pauch Jr went to the outside once again and moved around both Pauch Jr and Perrego to the runner-up spot. A great battle amongst the top four was short lived when two laps later the caution came out again for a spinning PJ Oliver. The battle continued between the top four when the race resumed for two more laps when the pre-determined 30 lap fuel stopped the field allowing those drivers running on alcohol to refuel their cars.
hen the second half of the race resumed it was now Buffalino’s turn to lead the field as he powered by Godown on the outside to the top spot. Pauch Jr. followed suit and was also able to get by Godown. He now set his sights on the front running Buffalino. It didn’t take too long for the 2017 New Egypt Modified points leader to grab the lead from Buffalino. Once in front it looked like Pauch Jrs was on his way to the big win as he seemed to be pulling away from the field.
With ten to go Pauch Jrs started to encounter lapped traffic slowing his pace somewhat and Buffalino was starting to close the gap ever so slightly between him and the leader. As Pauch Jr. took the five to go signal from the starter you could sense there was something not quite right as the motor on the Rick Holsten owned #96 was starting to sound like it was having an issue.
With four laps to go Buffalino was now right on the back bumper of the leader and with three laps to go went around Pauch Jr to grab the lead. Once in front Buffalino was gone and sped under the checkered flag to take the win and the $6,000 first prize that went along with it.
Pauch Jr. barely hung on for second with a sour sounding motor as Godown and Duane Howard were bearing down on him in quick fashion. Montgomery, New York’s Anthony Perrego completed his nice run with a fifth place finish. David Van Horn, Johnny McClelland, Frank Cozze, Danny Bouc and Lou Cicconi completed the top ten.
During Buffalino’s victory lane interview he told announcer Nick Leach that this was the most money the team had ever won in one race and he was just so happy for the team after their big win.
I had a chance to talk to Buffalino while his Michael’s Brother #51M was going through tech and as you can imagine Buffalino was in very good spirits regarding the night’s outcome.
“Man, we really had a good car tonight. It was probably the best car I ever had here. Wait I probably shouldn’t say that, we’ve had good cars here before but I never had the chance to race with guys, and I don’t know really how to say this, but race with drivers I can race with without issues. I’ve had good cars here before but we always seemed to have problems in the heat race either mechanical or my own doing and we end up starting 24th in the feature. When you start back there you have to run so hard to just get into the top seven or eight spots. So many times we’ve had good cars here but when you start in the back you don’t have the chance to show it. Tonight we were able to start tenth, which is not the best starting spot, but we were starting with cars that were fast in the heat races so we could race with them and pass them without getting into to any trouble.”
Buffalino is not really known for running the top that much but on this night the outside line was the right spot for his Bicknell chassis and he made it work to his advantage.
“This was definitely the best car I ever had here that could roll the top. It surprised me for sure. I could just work the right front really good so I wouldn’t have to stop or anything and it would set up real nice to work the top. I’ve been working with some shocks the past few weeks and I think their good, but like I said when you are running in the back it’s hard to tell sometimes. Let me tell you though, the race track tonight was my kind of race track. It was smooth and slick and you had to really drive it tonight. Some nights, especially with the small-blocks they make the track so heavy you are just wide open all the way and whoever has the most motor wins.”
The last question I asked Buffalino before I left him to go off and celebrate with his team was. Did what happened in the heat race help motivate you to the win tonight? His response!
“HELL YEAH IT DID! I was mad as hell after that and by using the outside line there in the heat to make it to the front it helped me to believe that I could use the outside line tonight.”
Battery Problems for Pauch
The race was going just as Pauch Jrs had planned it out in his head when he took the lead a few laps after the fuel stop and started to put some distance between and the second place running Buffalino. Pauch Jr., who has been the driver to beat all season at the speedway, started the feature event in 14th after failing to qualify into a redraw spot in his heat race. He knew he had a fast car and if he could stay out of trouble would no doubt get the front.
When the race started Pauch immediately started his charge to the front and by the lap 30 fuel break was in the third spot behind leader Godown and invader Perrego. Once the race resumed, Pauch immediately got by both of the above mentioned leaders only to have the eventual winner Buffalino go around all three of them to take the lead.
That didn’t deter Pauch one bit and two laps later he was by Buffalino for the lead and was long gone heading to win number five on the season at New Egypt. But sometimes the racing gods don’t play nice and with five laps to go you could tell Pauch was starting to have motor issues by the sound of his Morrison power plant as he motored down the frontstretch. Pauch just couldn’t muster up the power in his car to pass the lapped cars and Buffalino took advantage to the situation and by lap 57 was past the ailing machine of Pauch to take the win.
Afterwards a very disappointed Pauch Jr explained just what the issue was.
“We had a battery go bad which is what was causing the motor to lose power. Sometimes things don’t fall the way you want them to but hats off to Dominick (Buffalino). Hey, we had a really good car tonight like we’ve had all year. I took my time the first half of the race to save my tires and in the second half of the race we were really good. Once the battery went dead with about five to go I knew I was in big trouble then it starting missing and it was over. You win some, you lose some. Now we will have to rebound and try to get the win on Saturday.”
As disappointed as Pauch was with the final outcome, he was still happy with how the car ran and was very happy with how the track was for the feature.
“We have a really good car and definitely were the car to beat tonight especially when the track gets slick like that. I was a little worried about the track after the heat races but if anybody has anything bad to say tonight after the feature they have another thing coming. Hats off to the track crew for giving us a nice track to race on tonight.”
Perrego Invades for Top Five
Perrego has made very few starts at the New Egypt Speedway in his young career and it was a surprise to see him and his Superior Remodeling #44 team in the pits for last night’s show.
Without too much experience on the 4/10’s mile dirt oval it was important for Perrego to have a good pill draw for his heat race so he could get some laps in without having to worry too much about passing a lot of cars to qualify. Well, you couldn’t do any better that Perrego did when he drew the #1 pill for the night thus putting him on the pole for the night’s first heat race.
Although track regular Danny Bouc was able to get by Perrego and win the heat race. Perrego managed to finish second making him eligible for the feature redraw. Perrego ended up starting sixth in the feature and once the green flag dropped immediately moved into the top five where he stayed throughout the night’s 60 lap feature.
By lap 18 Perrego had made his way up to the second spot and appeared to running down leader Ryan Godown until the caution flag came out on lap 26 which seemed to stall his charge to front.
“We were very good here tonight and after I got to second around lap 20 we started to run down Ryan (Godown) there using the bottom. I was just trying to be very patient there but it’s very hard here without the sail panels on the back to keep your composure and keep the car straight coming off the corners. I thought I did a pretty good job of that but when Rick (Laubach) wrecked there and the yellow came out I think our tires cooled down a little too much. Then, before I could get them back to where I needed them, we had the fuel stop and that just killed me. I probably should’ve siped the tires a little more than I did.”
All in all it was a good night for the team and Perrego thought if he would’ve have went with their spec motor with the sail panels he probably would’ve been able to compete a little more for the win.
“We came with the open small-block tonight so we couldn’t run the sail panels. The sail panels make such a big difference here at New Egypt that we probably should’ve went the other way and used our spec small block plus you get the weight break with that as well. But who knows we all have to run the same tire anyway so maybe it wouldn’t have made that big of a difference. It was a good run for our team and now it’s on to Grandview on Saturday.”
New Egypt Nuggets
There were 34 modifieds on hand last night. The four heat races were won by Bouc, Laubach, Godown and Buffalino. The two consolation races were won by Frank Cozze and Jeff Strunk…
It was great to see a very nice healthy crowd on hand for the night’s events…
So glad to see that Rick Laubach was uninjured when his car hit the wall very hard on lap 26 of the feature event. Laubach told me this morning via a text message that it was the probably the worst hit he has ever taken as a driver. I also feel really bad for Ryan Kerr who owns the #1K that Laubach drove. Kerr a former driver himself until suffering an injury has jumped back into the sport full force after a decade off. After seeing the pictures of the car this morning, I would be willing to bet the car is a complete write-off…
Good friends and Bridgeport Speedway regulars Ryan Watt and Sammy Martz got together in their heat race. Martz who was making his first visit to New Egypt Speedway in a very long time spun out in turn two and Watt, with nowhere to go, hit Martz a ton causing the rear end of Watt’s car to jump into the air. Both teams scrambled hard to make repairs for the consi and both did make it out with Watt being the only one to qualify for the main event. Not wanting to take a chance on anything else being broken or bent, Watt just took the green flag in the main event and pulled it in…
After much success with their new Bicknell chassis so far in 2017. Watt and the Roberts Racing team will be taking delivery of two new Bicknell chassis later this week. One of the cars will be for Watt while the other car will be for owner Ron Roberts…
A surprise driver in the field last night was Keith Hoffman driving the No. 19 for Rocco Infante. Hoffman told me it was a day of the race deal when Infante called him around 10am to ask him to drive the car. Hoffman at first was hesitant then said, ‘what the hell’ and said yes. Hoffman was able to put the car into the main-event. The car is a former Tim Fuller #19 Bicknell chassis that was owned by Dave Rauscher…
Matt Stangle continued his winning ways in the sportsman ranks by taking the $1000 to win Crate vs Sportsman 25 lap feature event…
As always, I can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dirtracefan25 for any questions or comments.