Utica-Rome Thruway Thunder Notebook – DTD Exclusive

By Bill Foley

Cars were parked right out to Route 5 as the Utica-Rome Speedway not only hosted the Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions but also the Modified finale for Thunder on the Thruway, as Saturday night provided a full night of racing for the hundreds of fans.

Toss in 50 Sportsman and 21 Pro Stocks to join the 24 Sprints and 29 Modifieds, and it was certainly a night to remember.

The first memory will be Danny Varin stunning the All Star regulars as traveling series such as the Outlaws and All Stars simply don’t lose races in New York State. That is, until Saturday night. Varin certainly made it interesting, as many had him written off when his car caught fire rolling to the trailer after hot laps. Then, in the time trials, he was ready to bail as it caught fire again, but a journey off turn one and ending in turn two seemed to put it out.

However, running away with the dash and then surviving a near-crucial driver error that saw him almost drive off turn three, there he was in victory lane.

Kerry Madsen was a serious challenger for a lap, as Varin made the mistake and you had to keep an eye on Tyler Courtney once he got to second, but a threat never materialized.

It was one of the most emotional victory lanes of the year, but he had little time to celebrate as he had to hop into a Modified.

Varin was behind the wheel of the BDR Speed No. 16, and he said, “It’s something new that came up that we didn’t expect. I will tell you we’re excited about tonight. I think it was last Sunday that he called me, wanting to see if I had any obligations for this race. I said ‘No’. His other driver is on board with us and helped me scale the car and get it ready.

He had worked his way to fourth place in the Modified main only to be forced to drop by the wayside as there were issues—possibly motor or drive train.

All Stars Roster Different: From early this season to Saturday night, there have been some major roster changes in the All Stars, but heavy hitters Tyler Courtney (back after injuries suffered at Eldora in July), Zeb Wise, Chris Windom, and Kerry Madsen are still formidable drivers.

The new faces this time around included Zeth Sabo, Sye Lynch, Brandon Spithaler, and even Madsen.

Dale Blaney was certainly a surprise entry, as was Joe Trenca in a car previously piloted by Tim Shaffer and now by Kyle Reinhardt, but Kyle was unavailable, so the ESS regular was behind the wheel.

Time trials were definitely eventful, with Jordan Poirier done for the night with motor troubles. Sabo limped home with a sputtering engine. Connor Morrell appeared to have engine problems; Denny Peebles went off the banking between three and four; and Varin, the last car out, saw flames from his motor.

It had to be a major disappointment for Poirier, as he timed seventh overall and would have been starting in a decent spot in the prelims.

Also in time trials, Canadian Jacob Dykstra went off turn two, kept the power on, and flipped at the track entrance on the back stretch. His team was able to repair it in time for the feature.

Zeb Wise was fastest in TT, followed by Courtney, Spithaler, Windom, Varin, Madsen, Poirier, Colagiovanni, Lynch, and Dykstra.

So 24 cars were on hand, and by feature time, 23 had survived.

Varin ran away, but for local fans, it was fun watching Stewart Friesen work his way from 13th to fourth at the checker.

Zeb Wise was third, Friesen was fourth, and they were followed by Madsen, Lynch, Windom, Greg Wilson, Spithaler, and Blaney.

All Star Pit Notes: Bobby Hackel lost a left front tire in his heat.

John Trenca drove Joe’s 98.

Heats went to Chris Windom, Danny Varin, and Kerry Madsen.

Chad Miller got jammed up entering turn one in heat action and flipped the 88.

Matt Farnham came home 13th, Joe Trenca 14th, Chad Miller 15th, and Denny Peebles 16th.

DNF’s for regular ESS runners were Jonathan Preston, fourth-place Outlaw finisher Paulie Colagiovanni, Dave Axton, and John Trenca.

Sheppard Out Early: Matt Sheppard has dominated action at Utica-Rome all year and is in pursuit of the NASCAR crown along with the money that goes along with it.

However, his heat wasn’t even a couple of laps old when he pulled to the infield.

He posted on his Facebook page that engine problems ended his night early.

Mod Notes: Willy Decker, Danny Varin, and Justin Wright captured Modified heat wins.

Watching Tim Fuller in the closing stages was fun, as he picked up 13 spots in the 30-lap feature to finish behind Friesen and Wright.

Everyone knows that Fuller and Billy Decker are good buddies, and watching them run side by side for fourth and fifth was satisfying.

Alex Yankowski captured the Thunder on the Thruway crown over Cody Clark. Alex was running midpack, and with seven laps to go, he was 10th. Yankowski got up on the wheel and rallied for a hard driven fifth.

Cody Clark, who was fighting for the Thunder title, finished 18th.

Ronnie Johnson, Willy Decker, JaMike Sowle, Alan Johnson, and Jessica Friesen rounded out the top ten.

Early on, legends Alan Johnson and Pat Ward raced side by side for several laps, bringing back many memories.

Sportsman, Sportsman, Sportsman: The 50 Sportsman supplied plenty of action with five full heats.

Rocky Rothwell, Harry Shaffer, Matt Janczuk, Darryl Nutting, and Payton Talbot won heats.

Carson Rothwell and Jeremy Slosek won the consis.

Janczuk won yet another feature event with a two-second advantage over Talbot, while Willy Decker Jr. was third.

Tyler Bobar won an eight-lap 10-car B main, but 23 cars were scheduled to vie in it.

Pro Stocks: Ken Gates, Bret Belden, and Johnny Holmes were heat winners.

Cousin Luke Horning, Gates, and Nick Stone were the top three in the main event.

It was a long but memorable night at the Utica-Rome Speedway for the All Star visit and the Thunder on the Thruway finale.

Fans had to walk away satisfied and overfed on racing.