By ED & BETTY BIITTIG
Utica-Rome Speedway tried everything possible to get the Honoring Alex event in on Friday night but eventually fell to mother nature about 11 pm.
There were nearly 120 cars in the pits, with 36 Modifieds leading the pack of prominent racers at the Vernon oval. And the stands and parking lot at the track were overflowing.
David Schilling of East Greenbush was behind the wheel of the No. 20 Modified at Utica-Rome on Friday. David has been racing since he was seven when he was in a kart and says he misses all the wins he had in karts. After karts David moved to Legend Cars before taking a shot at Sportsman for a few years. Since 2019 he has been behind the wheel of a Modified. His familiar No. 20 now sports the sponsorship of Ollie’s Bargain Outlets that many recognize as a great place to shop for almost anything and get a bargain.
So far this season David has been a contender in all of the events he has been involved in and that began with his season opener event in Florida at All-Tech Speedway in February where he had his first Short Track Super Series win. It wasn’t David’s first Modified win, that came at Thunder Mountain Speedway in NYS and he also claimed a win at Fonda in 2022.
As we wandered the pits at Utica-Rome we spotted another familiar face, Jim “Rocky” Rothwell of South Plymouth. Jim has been in racing 45 years and returned home to Utica-Rome because of his Friday night schedule. Rothwell is well known to the fans and has several wins at the Vernon oval in both Sportsman and Late Model. Both he and his son, Carson raced, Rocky in Crate Sportsman and Carson in Limiteds and both had previously raced at Afton Raceway prior to their switch to Saturday nights. They now plan to race on Friday nights at Utica-Rome.
In 2020-21 we met Seth Martin and Connor Prokop of team Martin/Prokop of Middleburgh and Schoharie, two successful kart racers who had decided to combine their resources and take on the Limited Sportsman sharing the driving duties and racing at both Utica-Rome and Fonda.
Last season the team branched out, and came out with two Limited Sportsman cars, with Seth racing at Utica-Rome and Connor at Fonda and both had impressive seasons. Seth had set his goal on having a win at Utica-Rome last season and through his consistency he came home with the Limited Sportsman title. Due to the rules of the division, that forced him to move up to Crate 602 Sportsman this season. Of course with the rain postponement on Friday Seth is still looking forward to running his first Sportsman feature. Seth and his wife, Ashley welcomed a new addition to their family this past year when Braxton, now eight months old, came into their lives and it looks like he is already a part of the team.
In 2022 Connor claimed three wins in his first full season at Fonda and was fourth in overall points in the division. And now we know that Connor came back this season to Fonda and claimed the opening day win in the division with a last lap pass over Lance Hill. Off to a great start for the young gun from Middleburgh.
The team gives much credit for their success to DKM Fabrication and Dennis Palmatier saying they have received much help from both.
Saturday we made our way to Fonda for the season opener and the Jack Johnson Memorial event, 30-laps paying $12,000 to win. To no surprise the line of fans and competitors was long and the pits were full with over 120 cars. The start time was moved up due to the prediction of rain in the evening and it turned out to be a great call by the Deyo management team.
We ran into many people that we missed seeing over the winter and when the line up sheets went up we realized that there were several names on the list that we didn’t recognize. One we did, however, was Butchie Irwin. Butchie plans on running at Fonda this season in the 602 Crate Sportsman and got off to a great start on Saturday with a heat win. Irwin had his future wife, McKerry with him, and she was still getting accustomed to all the things going on in the pits at the races; it was only her second time at the track.
The 50/50 sellers started where they left off last season and brought the prize to nearly $2000 for the lucky winner. Julie, Rose and Heather work very hard each week and a lucky fan goes home happier each week because of all their efforts.
Tim Fuller was the winner of the Jack Johnson Memorial event and said it was very special for him because Jack had taken him under his wing and mentored him when he first began racing. It was Fuller’s fourth win at the Track of Champions, his last coming on September 22, 2018.
Tim Fuller, who will be inducted into the Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in July, began his racing career in Pure Stocks before building a Sportsman he ran for a couple years and then moving up to 358-Mods in the early 1990s. He quickly became a winner at several North County tracks including Evans Mills where he won titles in 1992 and 93. He was DIRT 358 Modified Series Champion in 1993. His career hit its high point when he was tapped to drive the M1 Modified for Bob Faust and the combination proved to be potent, claiming 61 victories including several extra distance events topped off by the 2004 Syracuse big block event at Super DIRT Week. When Faust retired, Fuller moved on to Late Models and spent seven years on the Late Model tour. In 2015 he returned to his Modified roots and picked up a Super DIRT Week small block win, three titles at Mohawk, and two at Can-Am. His win record after Saturday night at Fonda now totals 261 wins at 45 tracks in 14 states, two Canadian provinces and Australia.
Coming Soon! Lazzaro, the Man and his Machines by Ron Moshier the long awaited book on Lou Lazzaro will be available in May 2023. Go to www.coastal181.com for details on how to order.
As we close we send our prayers for a speedy recovery for Craig Hanson who was involved in a violent flip at Fonda on Saturday. He was taken to Albany Med with a fractured T-12 vertebrae. Latest update posted on Facebook, Craig is home working on his recovery and asks that visits and messages be kept to a minimum so he can rest.
Until next time please send all news and/or comments to email@example.com