By Bill Foley
Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions regulars Tyler Courtney and Zeb Wise were expected to be parked on the front straight for victory lanes at the conclusion of the 30-lap 410 feature on Saturday night at the Utica-Rome Speedway.
However, it wasn’t expected that “local” driver Danny Varin would be celebrating in victory lane as the victor.
Before a standing room-only crowd, Varin captured a very popular victory as he led the entire distance in only his third 410 outing of the 2023 season.
It was a celebration for the ages in victory lane as Danny sat in his car for a long time, taking it all in. He climbed out and was greeted by his wife and children with a long, emotional hug.
Then it was on to the wing as he was pumped. Smiling ear to ear, this is one of those career nights that he will never forget.
However, even though he led the entire night, it certainly wasn’t exactly an easy night, and at one point, it appeared he was done for the night.
He had a fire in the engine compartment in hot laps and then again in time trials.
Danny explained, “We did an oil change this week. And it always takes eight quarts. So I put eight quarts in it, but it wasn’t liking eight quarts tonight. So we thought we blew enough out there in hot laps, but it didn’t. Then, in the time trial, it caught fire, and it was time for me to get out of the car. But once I drove off the banks (between one and two), the flames went away. So we came back here, just drained it off, and tried to work on the car to make it better.”
He then headed out for the dash but didn’t seem concerned about his previous issues.
Danny said, “The dash was good, and I was happy that we were able to rebound after our draw for the time trials because when you start last out of time trials, it’s tough to make up any ground. So the draw for the dash was really good. The car felt good. They said that we were pulling away in the dash. So we just made very small changes here from the dash of that feature.”
The feature seemed like he had things well in control, but fans (and maybe Varin) were concerned if the engine might flare up one more time. There was never a moment for the fans to relax.
However, Danny took off from the pole and built up a commanding lead in the very early going.
There was one moment where second-place Kerry Madsen rolled up on his back end, but fortunately for Varin, that didn’t last long.
Looking back at that series of occurrences, Varin noted, “Driver error. I just drove off the bank in turn three. I pulled the nose over the bank. There was only about an inch of cushion up there, and I just slipped on it. I just caught it wrong. You know, it’s just one of those things where it was just a driver error, and it wasn’t the first time that I’ve done that. I’ve done it quite a few times. So I just try to keep it out of the fence.”
The rest, as they say, is history, as he convincingly drove away from runner-up Tyler Courtney and third-place Zeb Wise.
He didn’t have much time to celebrate as he had to hop directly into the Brett Deyo-owned Modified for the first time this season and head right back out.
“Yeah, we’re so gonna celebrate tonight, that’s for sure. I’m on cloud nine. I knew this team was capable. I told the guys before I went out for the feature that we had everything. You know, we have the motor and the car; we just got to put all the pieces together. It seems like every time we’ve run this car, something has taken us out. I knew the last time I ran this car (at Weedsport against the World of Outlaws), I felt so good sitting in the seat. I could feel how the car was totally in balance. The balance was there tonight. It’s been just kind of one thing after another, and tonight we were able to polish one off here.”
The scope of the achievement was sinking in as he watched those huge All-Star programs roll out.
He said, “I would love to be driving one of those, but I’m proud of what we have. This is my car, and I drive for another guy with the same car and the same motors for the 360 races. We’ve tried to build both cars identical and keep everything the same. There are only three of us working on this thing. I just couldn’t ask for any better crew guys. They haven’t traveled the country or done any of that big stuff, but they’re capable. They could do it.”
In conclusion, Varin said, “This is only our third show of the year in a 410, so you know it’s amazing we’re sitting here. We were talking with Ty Wolfgang at Weedsport, and he said they had run around 50 something races, and I said, ‘Oh, this is our second’ but when the car feels that good, I don’t know if how many times you’ve raced matters.”
Danny looked back at what they had done and said, “We made some wholesale changes about a month ago with both cars, and ever since, it’s changed back to the car being tremendous, and it’s just put us on another level.”
Indeed, Danny Varin, whom Central New York fans watched for a long time in Modifieds, was at his own level on Saturday night, as seldom do Upstate New York 410 drivers finish ahead of the likes of the World of Outlaws or the All Stars, but for the huge throng of fans in attendance, they will long remember the night the local guy beat the travelers.
Varin won the Tezos All Stars Circuit of Champions 30-lap feature at Utica-Rome.