Makin’ Tracks – Fulton and Utica-Rome Fire ‘em Up – DTD Exclusive

By BILL FOLEY

“Happy New Year” is how I usually greet race drivers, crews and fans this time of year.

New Year’s to me is the beginning of racing season. I live in a two season world…hockey and auto racing.

So this past weekend Central New York tracks finally sprang to life as Fulton got over 60 cars for Saturday practice and nearly 130 were in the Utica-Rome pits for a season opener that didn’t exactly go as planned.

For Bill Shea is stinks to be a promoter. He was definitely in a no win situation on Sunday as portions of his parking lot were underwater. If he pulled the plug the Internet would have lit up as it was a 70 degree day. So he adjusted the parking locations, received help from the near by NAPA store and had parking, but interestingly many race fans drove past the yellow tape and parked in the middle of a quagmire (many eventually burying their cars).




Drivers had complained that UR might get rough. So Bill and the track crew adjusted and tried something different. Sadly the sun, wind and temperatures along with several inches of rain during the week created the perfect storm.

Bill had another item that he couldn’t win at. If he had the smooth track that was desired there would be dust (and for some reason the track didn’t take rubber). If he soaked it, it would or could get wavy or rutty. Either way the Internet bashers were getting him. The track condition from Friday to Sunday was an amazing transition. Some promoters might have given up, but there was a distinct desire to get this show in.

The 4 p.m. start time was a way to get the fans out early with a big show on the docket. Day starts can sometimes bite you and this one did.

Well, the dust was too much and he pulled the sprints off on lap two of their second heat. After lengthy work the track was raceable, the dust was gone, but it was bumpy and much softer.

At the beginning of the night it was one that the Shea’s deserved with a good size grandstand, 50 Sportsman, 29 Sprints, 33 Mods and 18 Pro Stocks. However, apparently a piece of cooking machinery crashed and concessions slowed. The dust brought complaints and some teams even went home without giving the track a chance to get it changed up (but that is their choice as they are spending their money on their race team).

However, eventually at 11:24 p.m. the show ended and the feature events were well worth waiting around for. However, for folks that had to work Monday morning (including all of the employees) it was a late night and not the type of night the track was hoping for.

In life “stuff happens” and such was the case on Sunday night.

I read what complainers had to say and I will make one statement, “Do you really think Bill Shea was trying to create that dust on Sunday and try to ruin his own season opener?”

The effort to get Utica-Rome ready was unseen by the majority of race fans (and even employees), but the track plans a banner season and the desire was to kick it off in spectacular fashion.

Sadly, “stuff happens.”

JUST IN UR is racing at 6 p.m. this Sunday night instead of the 4 p.m. originally scheduled time.

Cars Galore at UR

Everyone knew there would be plenty of cars in the pits at Utica, but the numbers were surprising.

One driver said, “Everyone wants to race so why wouldn’t we be here.”

Fans saw action which included a heartbreaking last half lap slide job on Chuck Hebing by winner Lucas Wolfe, a broken driveshaft taking Alan Johnson out of the lead in the Modified main, a four car side-by-side, bumper to bumper Pro Stock event, a crazy run from the rear in both sprint races by Larry Wight (2 sixth place finished), Pro Stock driver Robbie Speed being a first time UR winner, Wight winning the Modified race over a fast closing Tim Fuller, Sportsman driver Dave Marcucilli winning his second ever UR event, first Sprint race winner Danny Varin accepting a challenge to start in the back of the field for a possible $1,000 bonus and several flips.

There was something for everyone.

Once racing got going in earnest it was another night of CNY racing which fans enjoy.

Certainly, the track wasn’t what track officials had hoped for, but circumstances were there and what we use to call “Spring conditions” proved to be the track that was given to the drivers.

Utica Pit Stops:

Jeremy Nestved is a new Sportsman driver and has never driven anything before. He said, “I’ll race until the car gets wrecked”. He has an 05 Bicknell under the 20N…

Hogansburg’s Thomas Cook was racing on the UR track for the first time in his Sportsman…

New colors for the Kyle DiMetro 15 Sportsman…

Katelyn Hile’s primary sponsor is 1911 Hard Cider which she says “Is sold at Fulton and Brewerton Speedways.” She along with husband Chris didn’t come out for the consolations and are set for this weekend’s SDS event at Fulton…

Matt Hulsizer was a no show. A track regular in 2016 his plans appear to keep him closer to home this year and he is not expected to vie at UR…

Kevin Poitras ran with the Trans-Am type of cars and made his dirt debut. The Toronto resident hot lapped at Fulton and really didn’t see action at UR…

Mike Mahaney had the Skip’s Racing 33 with Olum’s on the side at UR. He has at least four different cars available to him this year as well as the Doug Emery Sprint Car…

Shane Henderson made the haul from Catskill by himself for Pro Stock racing and indicated despite the driver he would like to run UR every week…

Billy Whitaker has a new car after the Super Dirt Week crash. All new Billy said, “Couldn’t even use the old steering wheel because it was bent so badly” He too didn’t come out for his consi…

Jimmy Phelps and Max McLaughlen went home early as track conditions became the issue….

Sprint races were non-points…

Corey Sparks flipped wildly between three and four ending his night in the second Sprint heat…

Mod driver Steve Paine washed out the front end as he got collected early in the night and loaded up….

Among the Sprint teams leaving early were Mark Smith, Alex Vigneault, Pete Richardson, and Glenn Styres…

Matt Sheppard won his heat, but went to his back up car and started in the rear of the Mod main. Great top five run as he actually passed 11 cars on the first lap. He won the heat over Alan Johnson by .298 of a second…

Mike Marseca was leading his consi, but the left front dug in and he flipped. Mike had been having quite a bit of difficulty at the west end of the speedway in the laps leading up to the crash and appeared to try a different line…

The Sportsman main got off to a slow start and Ja Mike Sowle did a nose stand in turn one in a hard ride…

Larry Wight had difficulty, went to the rear of the first Sprint main, rallied for sixth. He indicated he had an oil leak that got all over his driver’s suit. In the second race something happened at the start, he slid to the infield and appeared to be heading straight back on the track before he somehow saved it. He rallied for fifth, but spun out in turn four with two laps to go. He came back for sixth….

JZ Jessica Zemkin-Friesen won her heat, had a good night going, but got into another car causing them her to spin and flip off turn three…

Danny Varin also took a wild ride in the front stretch in the second Sprint main. The right front was gone from the car when it was uprighted…

Jason Barney appeared to have mechanical woes in the first main and didn’t start the second…

Jeremy Pitcher might be in his final full year of racing and sustained heavy side damage…

Former Open Mod runners Claude Hutchings Jr., Steve Way, Jack Miller and Randy Shantel all have moved to the Mod division…

The Bellingers, Robbie and Beth, will run weekly at UR. Robbie also running Brewerton and basically Saturday night off.

Fulton Hot Laps

Around 60 cars were pitside at Fulton for the hot lapping session on Saturday afternoon…

Among the mods on the track were Joe August Jr., Matt Hulsizer, Ryan Jordan, Pat Ward, Larry Wight, Tom Sears and Timmy Sears among others….

Hulsizer apparently is racing Brewerton and Fulton weekly this year. He had some gear issues in his new Bicknell, but had them sorted out quickly…

August was smoking prior to the second hot lap session as valve train issues reared their ugly head….

Tons of Sportsman, nearly ten Mod Lites, three Sprinters, a solid number of Late Models and Novice Sportsman were all on hand….

Tom Juno, of Power Seal, is behind the wheel of a Sportsman this year…..

Word is Chuck Bower will be out late this year due to work commitments….

Ryan Jordan will also be weekly at Fulton for 2017…

There were lots of new graphic works on several of the Sportsman and the fields should be solid week in and week out. There were so many at the track on Saturday and among them were Joe Sobotka, Billy Clark, Colby Herzog, Jessica Power, Patrick LaPage, Charlie Tibbets, Tory Stoughtenger, and a new Teo for Ron Davis III while Max Hill got his first ride in a Late Model and among other LM’s on the track were Chris Fleming (new look), Brett Belden, Jason and Matt Parkhurst and others…

We begin racing at 7 p.m. this Friday for night one of High Banks Hold up and at 5 p.m. on Saturday for the Super Dirt Series Tour along with house Sportsmen and Late Model racing.

It’s a Tripleheader weekend for me with Fulton High Bank Hold Up on Friday and Saturday then off to Utica on Sunday (race time NOW 6 p.m.).

As always send comments along to foley395@hotmail.com.