By BILL FOLEY
Brewerton and Fulton finally got their official 2017 regular seasons kicked off this past weekend and if what was seen continues it will be a good season to take the family to either or both during the upcoming summer months.
Fields are always a concern no matter what type of racing is happening. You always have an idea of who will be hauling into the pits, but you never know for certain.
Brewerton’s field will probably only be missing a couple of the Mods that were on hand for the opener as Ryan Watt and Bobby Varin probably won’t be back soon. Watt was in the area dropping off and picking up a motor and with plans on running the Super DIRTcar Series show at Bridgeport this Tuesday night needed to try Hoosiers on his regular American Racer shod machine. Combined with Bridgeport not running this past weekend he simply wanted to race. The perfect story.
Meanwhile, Varin looked solid running in the top five when Tim Sears Jr. and him got together on the front stretch in a high speed crunching hit that KO’d both.
However, the rest of the field is something as toss in Gary Tomkins, Jeremy Smith, Adam Roberts and Billy Decker to go along with winner Larry Wight, Jimmy Phlelps, Matt Hulsizer, Max McLaughlin, Pat Ward, Chad Phelps, Robbie Bellinger, Tim Kerr, Chris Hile, Tom Sears Jr. along with Tim Sears Jr. and others and you have one heck of a Friday night.
Fulton benefited from just about everyone in the state canceling on Saturday and Tim Fuller, Justin Haers, Jeremy Smith, Mike Maresca, Eldon Payne, Robbie Bellinger and Beth Bellinger were in the pits along with a pretty potent field.
Toss in solid Sportsman fields (41 at Fulton) and the Novice Sportsmen (21) along with Late Models, Mod Lites and Four Cylinders and it should be a fun year.
Feature Time Rodeo
Spring conditions gave the first turn at Brewerton “character” (as my buddy Mike Mallet likes to say).
Watching Mods power through and fishing to find a spot was amazing. Cars on two right side wheels, standing on the right rear and in Larry Wight’s case having only his left front on the ground at one time it becomes a sight that you can’t take your eyes off.
Guys knew what to expect as the track was soft. Rain has been one of those four letter words that track prep and track owners simply hate to hear. It has been tough, but everyone I talked to at Fulton the next night said, “It was what it was”. They mostly said they got the opportunity to race and know that it will be better as it gets a bit drier.
Larry Wight and Pat Ward put on a side by side battle early and you couldn’t ignore the late race run by Jimmy Phelps as it appeared he was going to get the 99L. Exciting start.
The next night at Fulton Wight was on the pole. Larry had Bob McCreadie luck. It was luck of the draw weekend and Larry had his young brother-in-law draw both nights and he pulled out numbers low enough that Wight started on the pole of each heat. Bob McCreadie used to do that just about every time he drew. Not sure who his lucky charm was.
Well, if you were a regular fan this was going to be a Larry Benefit and he jumped out, built up a commanding lead, but eventually the yellow came out.
Timmy Sears Jr. said before the night’s action “We replaced the entire front end overnight after the crash at Brewerton.” In victory lane he noted, “We had tough luck last night and it is good to be here (in victory lane) as I guess we got it (fixed) right.”
You Don’t Want to Have a “Dwight Night”
Novice Sportsman driver Dwight Nichols simply loves family and racing. He’s living a dream.
Dwight has been running a couple of years and his car is sharp looking. He’s mighty proud of it and rightfully so.
In one of the Novice mains he simply was in the wrong place at the worst time as a driver in front of him was out of shape and there wasn’t time to take evasive action.
Dwight was heartbroken. Yes, his night was over, but like many guys with limited finances to put in a race car he also knew that his season could be put on time delay.
He got back to the pits and couldn’t load the car by himself. J.J. Courcey, Ben Karlson along with Torrey and Dave Stoughtenger and the Mikey Wight race team all stayed around to help him get the car on the trailer.
Dwight noted, “It was a bad one as the front axle, shocks, all the radius rods, shock springs, a broken rear end and a cracked header along with the motor plate cracking and losing two rims” puts the team behind the Eight Ball.
To make matters worse later on Sunday the car fell off the jack stands on his hand and he lost a portion of one of his fingers.
Some fans simply don’t know what racers go through. This is a blue collar racer who works hard day-to-day operating heavy equipment. He has wanted to race for a long time and has the chance.
Not surprisingly many teams have contacted him offering him parts to help him get back on the race track sooner than he could have possibly done by himself.
Mod Action Sensational
Features for the Mods both nights had action all over the place.
On Friday Max McLaughlin started his night off in rough fashion.
Max told me, “I kicked a wire off the starter when I got in for my heat.“
Then in the heat another car got around and Max said, “I had no where to go. It was a rough one as we changed the front axled, put on a new side bar and straightened the body panels. I was going to start 20th and I just wanted to finish the race.”
He finished fifth from near the back and explained, “It was a high caliber field. I just tried to run where they weren’t and maneuver the best I could around any of the holes.”
Saturday night he was in contention, but Justin Haers and the 6H got together spinning Max.
If you were at Fulton you had to be amazed at the lines that Haers was running. He was up where no one else would even think of going (except for Chris Hile early in the main). He made calculated risks that paid off as he moved up through the contenders. Justin was something to watch.
Back in tenth place a long battle pitted Jimmy Witko Jr. and Andrew Ferguson. They swapped that spot in the later stages and eventually Ferguson pulled it off. Andrew ran well at the Demon on Friday, but noted, “I was in the top ten at one time, but at the end I just rode it out. I guess I was a little out of shape.”
Witko smiles when asked about his new Bicknell. He is getting the handle on it and at the start of his heat on Friday. He really had the momentum built up in taking the lead off turn two.
Matt Hulsizer also swapped chassis this year and if anyone deserves a change of luck it is him. A fourth at Brewerton and sixth at Fulton got him off to a good start.
Billy Whittaker is a one night a week racer as family commitments keep him close to home on Friday, but on Saturday there he was once again toward the front of the Fulton field as he came home with a third.
Billy noted, “I’m running the Super Dirt Show at Bridgeport on Tuesday. In fact I plan on running the first eight Super Dirt shows and see what happens.”
Jimmy Phelps second and fourth on the weekend is a good opening for the HBR team. Phelps was a solid contender both nights and could have been in victory lane.
Pat Ward in the top three at the Demon with six laps to go, but finished just outside the top five. He noted, “Hit a rut and got up on two wheels. I had gotten through that one for 28 laps, but not that time.”
Sportsman are Healthy
41 Sportsman at Fulton and 31 at Brewerton along with 21 Novice at the Route 57 track and it is evident there are a lot of cars in this division.
There was a B Main at Brewerton with Ricky Yelle and Joe Sobotka finishing one-two and given a choice of going to the back of the main or taking $100 bucks apiece. They took the money.
Alan Fink, who was rumored to be staying home on Friday, won the Sportsman main.
Meanwhile at Fulton two full point, full purse 25 lappers were run with Dave Marcuccilli and Ron Davis III chalking up the wins.
I like the idea of fans getting to see more Sportsman racing, but some of the top drivers really want to find a way they can run against the best drivers in the pits in a main event. This new format is something that hasn’t been done locally before and I am certain there will be some modifications as time moves on.
I got to thinking maybe the 20 cars that actually qualify in the heats get to the A Plus Feature while the remainder run the other A Main. Plus race could be for purse and full points and maybe the other one for full purse, but no points. Just an idea.
However, I am grateful the drivers get to home with some money as otherwise there could be nearly 20 drivers getting no money.
Lots Going On
Mod Lite driver Zack Babcock has been racing hard for a long time and on Friday night he finally chalked up his first ever feature event. He drove a solid race and had to pass defending champion Jeff Sykes in the closing stages.
Zack noted, “It has taken me a long time to get here, but it has been worth it.”
Talked about chassis switching and mentioned in the last column about Mike Bowman. His crew stopped me and mentioned that in ten years of Modified racing that they had started with a Bicknell and then went to Troyer, Teo, Hig Fab, Troyer and now back to Bicknell and at one time even mentioned building their own chassis…
Tim Murphy had his small block mod in the pits…
Andy Noto had his big-block in the former Chad Phelps chassis, but went up in smoke in the prelims…
Asked what you do when your car is standing on its left front wheel, Larry Wight simply answered “hold on”…
Village Variety and Gas Bar is new to the rear quarter panel of Tim Kerr’s 07…
Adam Roberts is set to race weekly at Fulton and Brewerton…
Ben Karlson, Novice Sportsman, has a car that is “13 years newer than my old one.” He built the 77 from frame up over the winter…
Late Model driver Sean Beardsley was in Dave Talbot’s car until his gets ready…
Mod Lite driver Mike Mullen has a new Edge chassis out of Delaware…
ML driver Joe Garafolo had a major clutch problem dropping him out of the main-event…
Thirty-eight year old Tom Perkins from Phoenix built his own Mod Lite during the winter and made his debut on Friday…
Ricky Yelle is now number 5 and captured the B Main for the Brewerton Sportsman…
Four cylinder driver Sam Carista will turn 87 in September, but commenced his 69th season on Friday at the Demon. Sam is having some health issues so grand daughter Stephanie Seeley drove it during the races…
Colby Herzog drove a rear wheel drive Four-Cylinder for the first time as he was behind the wheel of the Mackey 99…-
Joe Sobotka’s Sportsman is a former Justin Wight owned machine…
Chuck Powelczyk continues to roll up record number of feature wins in the Four-Cylinders…
12-year-old Dylan Curcie made his Four Cylinder debut…
Talk of two worlds. In the Fulton Novice Sportsman mains there was a youngster from the North County Remington Hamm whose family was so excited and then there was a driver who I think has run at Afton and Utica-Rome with regular Sportsman A.J. Miller who won the second event of the night…
Dane Keller was missing from the pits as the steward as he has some health issues. He’s expected back…
Robbie Bellinger and Beth Bellinger had difficulties on Saturday in the main event and were forced to drop out. They could be at Fulton on weeks Utica-Rome doesn’t run…
The Four-Cylinder feature winner Chris Bonoffski lost his primary car to mechanical woes in his heat and had to take Nate Powers out of the back up to go on to win the feature. Bonoffski passed Ray Bechler…
Great Late Model battle with Jayson Parkhurst running a solid race to win over Kevan Cook. Not many cars, but action solid…
A.J. Kingsley parked his car early in the night with mechanical problems…
Brewerton had 22 Mods, 31 Sportsman, 10 Mod Lites and 13 Four-Cylinders while Fulton had 30 Mods, 41 Sportsman, 21 Novice Sportsmen, 11 Four-Cylinders and 12 Late Models.
Many thanks to John Wight for pushing forward and running on Saturday night. With everyone else pulling the plug the Fulton action went on. He took a hit crowd wise, but it is a way of saying that the track will try to race no matter what…
I am sure there is much more and I am certain I have missed some of the things I wanted to comment about, but there is always next week.
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