Finish Line Chaplain – What Ifs? – DTD Exclusive


Two weeks ago, leading into Independence Day, was a flurry of activity for me as it was for many other people entrenched in the sport. For that reason and others I didn’t make time to write so I’m combining some thoughts from that and the most recent weekend into one column.

Two weeks ago the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints were running their Donath Motor Worx CNY Speedweeks, and in that regard big shows were scheduled at all of my stomping grounds over the weekend. Four different winners over the span of five nights shows the talent pool that the ESS Speedweeks draws. One driver, who hops back and forth between Sprint Car and Modifieds, was the most consistent with his finishes which earned him the championship for the ESS Speedweek purse.

Danny Varin has been a driver I’ve watched develop since his debut in the Modifieds. When he jumped into a Sprint Car it didn’t take him too long to adapt. He draws from a deep talent pool, and has tremendous support from Dover Brakes to help him. Working with the same crew chief for both classes he runs keeps communication consistent, which makes working with the car’s handling and performance less of a chore to decipher.

Every night had some amazing races at my regular tracks of Brewerton (Friday), Fulton (Saturday), and Utica Rome (Sunday). I can’t begin to pinpoint anything from any single event because the racing was great at all three tracks, however I was impressed with a driver in the Novice Sportsman at Fulton. Jimmy Moyer is the fourth generation driver in his family to win a race on the local circuit. On the Saturday before last he started 8th on the grid and consistently worked his way to the top spot of the 15 lap feature, which had more cars than usual in it. He earned his second win of the season for his efforts.

A lot of controversy developed after the incident that took place at Utica-Rome Speedway between Matt Sheppard and Larry Wight. DIRTcar handled it professionally after assessing the information they gathered by interviewing both drivers and reviewing video evidence. I will say, based on what I saw earlier in the evening, that after Sheppard pitted for a right front flat and rejoined the rear of the field, his driving was far more aggressive than I’ve usually seen on any other Sunday night this year. I noticed him “throw the elbow” pretty hard to move Peter Britten up a lane entering turn one. Sheppard was racing him for four laps trying to get by. This was before Matt and Larry Wight started racing each other for 7th and 8th position.

The social media “experts” who didn’t attend the race had far too much to offer about the incident. Such banter is not only unnecessary but also out of line with anything close to integrity. It does reveal a lack of character in a person to comment on something based on hearsay, an obscured video, or any other second hand source they may draw from to formulate their “expert” opinion. The Bible calls it gossip, and it is a sin. When will people learn that they’re not helping the sport with their second hand conjectured social media blasts? Enough is enough.

My trip to Weedsport on Monday July 2nd was ended early by a complication related to an old sports injury. I rested at home since that Monday afternoon aside from working my regular job until Thursday when my specialist could check me out. It was great to see Dirt Track Digest broadcast some of the event so I could see (from the comfort of my recliner) our friends from the NY6A Tour run one of our favorite tracks. I’m doing much better, and would like to take a moment to thank all of these tracks for their open door to me.

I took last Friday and Saturday off to enjoy a weekend with our friends to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary. My wife and I came home early enough on Sunday to give me time to attend the King Of Dirt 358 Modified race at Utica-Rome. It was tough to leave the tranquility of the peaceful getaway we were invited to in the Adirondacks, but hey, it’s race season. The Seadoo’s will have to wait for another opportune time.

Sometimes being a man of God leaves us with tough choices most people wouldn’t understand. Biblicly, we stand in the gap between Heaven and Earth with both feet in the Kingdom of God that Jesus Christ established on earth. At times we have to help others face the reality of our mortality, which can be both difficult and joyful in the same moments.

I experienced one such moment last weekend during the Super DIRTcar Modified Series New Yorker 100 at Utica Rome. Anyone with a history at the track has probably seen or heard of Laverne Angell. In the 90’s and early part of this century’s he was always roaming the pits to lend a hand to anyone in the Pure Stock, later called the Street Stock class. His kind hearted willingness to help out was always eclipsed by the joyful handshakes and photo ops in victory lane when one of the drivers he helped out won. During the event Laverne approached me quite broken, with the news his father had recently lost a long time battle with several complications caused by illnesses.

James Angell was a Pure Stock competitor there for a number of years in the sixties, winning some back to back championships. During the invocation this last weekend I was privileged to honor James’ memory with a special prayer. His family is hosting a benefit to help offset the overbearing cost of James’ medical expenses this Saturday July 15th.

The beneift will be held at King Pin Lanes in Rome NY from 2-5PM. Tickets are $15 for individuals or $25 for couples. They’re planning a light hearted event with basket raffles, 50/50 ticket sales, and door prizes. More information can be discovered by calling Laverne Angell at 315- 335- 2248, his sister Amy at 315- 335-2081, or Keith House at 315- 832- 8814. Racers, this is an opportunity to show the world what our sport is all about by supporting the Angells however you see possible.

After a long conversion to Big Block Modifieds, the Victoria 200 has been born again as a Small Block Modified event. Historically this race began to honor the life of Victoria Benway, wife of Bub Benway, the builder of Fulton Speedway. She was known as the first lady of the high banks as she worked hand in hand with her husband tirelessly until she predeceased him.

The race was the largest payout Small Block Modified race in the northeast for a number of decades until some track ownership changes. Gene Cole bought the brand for the Victoria 200 along with the Utica-Rome Speedway and moved it to the Vernon oval where it eventually became a big block race.

This year’s event is a King Of Dirt Series race and has been reduced to 40 laps. I’d like to see it become what it once was, where well over 100 Small Blocks showed up to compete for 40 starting spots in a two stage 200 lap race that paid $20,000 to the winner plus contingencies. 42 cars came out to attempt to qualify for the 24 spots available this year.

The 20 lap DIRTcar Sportsman feature was a great race. AJ Filbek led most of the way until Rocky Warner caught up and took over the lead by using lap traffic to his advantage in turn 1 and 2. Filbek used traffic in 3 and 4 to regain the lead but gave it up again 1st the East end of the track by switching lanes to avoid slower traffic. That gave Warner a clean line around the bottom and the lead on the final lap.

Next up the King Of Dirt 40 Lap Small Block Modified race rolled out. 31 cars took the green with the added provisional starters, but on lap one several of the rear cars came together bringing out the first caution. One car went off on the hook but the rest were able to continue.

Eric Rudolph earned his first Utica-Rome Speedway feature win by dominating after taking the lead from Ryan Susice,on a lap six restart. Alan Johnson worked his way to second but Marc Johnson (no relation) was able to overpower Alan for second as the final laps ticked down. If you weren’t there for this race you missed one of the best races to date this year at the Vernon oval. Other notable runs were made by Ronnie Davis III who finished 9th in his first ever modified race, and Bobby Varin who started dead last and raced his way into 10th place.

Mike Welch won the Pro Stock feature under a full moon in the final feature of the night. With 11 cars starting the race and ten finishing, several cautions slowed the pace.

Between being honored by our friends by being pampered like royalty at their private “resort”, honoring James Angell before Sunday’s invocation, and honoring Victoria Benway here, I was stirred to remind you of a Biblical truth written to the Church, but applicable to anyone’s life.

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Romans 12:10 NKJV”

If we could make ourselves find a way to be kind to each other, lovingly with all sincerity, and give preference to each other above our own needs, how would that impact our world?

Honor is a major issue with God. How we treat other people reflects the amount of honor we possess. You see, you can never give what you don’t possess yourself. If you lack the ability to give honor to someone else, what does that say about you?

Simply defined, Honor is celebrating who a person is without tripping over who they are not. So, to honor someone is to pay special attention to them by esteeming them above yourself. Honor doesn’t look at someone’s faults. It appreciates (adds value to) a person’s strengths.

Amidst all of the negativity in the world, our sport, or more specifically the social media world surrounding our sport, could become a great place if people stopped assuming, pressuming, conjecturing, complaining, and bashing every little thing they disagree with, or don’t have enough first hand information to understand.

As I ponder everything I’ve seen in recent years, and yes, been guilty of myself to some degree at times, I have to ask some “what ifs”.

What if you didn’t say anything about something if you weren’t at the event, or didn’t witness something that others are chatting about? What if you kept your opinion to yourself until you found ways to articulate your thoughts with a better perspective? If you feed a fire often enough, eventually you’ll get burned.

What if, instead of bashing a track for a business decision based on unpredictable circumstances like the weather, or uncontrollable actions by someone else, you let them make their own decision to run their business based on the facts as they see them? It is their business, and truthfully it’s none of yours, unless you’re an invested partner with them.

What if, instead of using social media as a sounding board of “everything wrong with the world of racing according to you”, you changed your perspective, became more positive, and began thanking tracks for the things they do right? They work diligently to run efficient shows, often giving discounts to seniors and active duty soldiers. Some let the “18 and under” crowd in for free at regular shows. They all go the extra mile to entertain you with the best competitors and a variety of classes weekly, let alone the extraordinary big events they host several times annually. What if you appreciated them by adding value to their efforts with your words?

How would the sport look to outsiders then? Maybe I’m old school. I’m from a time when parents taught people not to say anything if you didn’t have anything good to say. Maybe I have no problem seeing the best in people, even if I have to dig really deep to find it. Either way, I’m not ashamed to bring a better perspective to prospective fans, and I hope someday the real fans will start acting fanatical again, with smiles on their faces and dirt in their beverages, just happy to be at a race.

What if we asked ourselves, before we spoke or commented on social media:

Is it necessary to share this?

Am I being honorable in sharing this?

Will it build someone up without tearing someone else down of I share this?

Can I find a better way to communicate this thought?

What will God think of me if I say this?

Or, to take it a step furthur, will my words bring glory to God?

I pray you all have a great week because I truly believe you can, and hope you can see the good in everything you experience in your everyday life. Learn to lighten up and enjoy it, come what may, and have a blessed day.

We can be reached at Finish Line Chaplain on Facebook or if you need us, or want to chat.