WEST HAVEN, VT – Matt Sheppard had never seen Devil’s Bowl Speedway prior to Sunday, August 11, but he quickly became very familiar with the Vermont track’s Victory Lane area. “Superman” won every race he ran at the inaugural “Battle at the Bowl” Big Block/Small Block Modified Challenge, and he capped an undefeated three-day weekend with an $11,500 payday. Brett Hearn and Kenny Tremont Jr. also took victories at the event, which drew one of the largest grandstand crowds of the last 20 years at Devil’s Bowl Speedway.
The event offered a unique format that allowed drivers to enter and attempt to qualify two open-wheel Modified cars – one powered by a 358-cubic-inch Small Block engine making around 650 horsepower and the other with a 467-cubic-inch Big Block engine good for 800-plus horsepower – and several drivers took the opportunity. Sheppard, however, stuck with one entry – a Big Block – and enjoyed a perfect night by sweeping his qualifying heat race, a 25-lap preliminary feature, the unique “Pole Shuffle” match race tournament, and the 50-lap main event.
Sheppard opened his perfect weekend with wins on Friday and Saturday at two tracks closer to his Waterloo, N.Y. home base, then made the 240-mile haul across the New York State Thruway to Devil’s Bowl. Marc Johnson led the 25-lap Big Block feature from the start, but Sheppard took command at lap 7 and sailed to an easy win. The Big Block race changed dramatically in the final laps when Johnson spun and collected top contenders Stewart Friesen, Tremont, and others. Brett Hearn finished second ahead of Bobby Varin, Demetrios Drellos, and Brian Berger.
Hearn, who entered two cars, won the 25-lap Small Block feature after battling with Tim Fuller. Sussex, N.J. racer Hearn took the lead from Fuller 10 laps in and cruised to the win. Fuller was second, followed by Rocky Warner, Friesen, and Brett Haas. Sheppard and Hearn each collected $1,500 for winning the preliminary features.
Sheppard continued to roll in the one-of-a-kind Pole Shuffle – a single-elimination, bracket-style, match race tournament to decide the pole position winner for the 50-lap finale. With the top six drivers from each 25-lap feature squaring off one-on-one for a two-lap sprint, Sheppard took down Drellos and Berger in the first two rounds before defeating Friesen’s Small Block car in the final match.
The $10,000-to-win Battle at the Bowl was dominated by Sheppard all the way; he led all 50 laps and was never seriously challenged even as he worked through heavy lapped traffic in the final laps. Friesen finished second in the finale and earned $5,250 after combining his three feature finishes and a bonus as the highest finishing Fonda Speedway regular. Hearn finished third to complete a trifecta for the day, totaling $4,600 in winnings.
Warner – who won his heat race and provided excitement in the Pole Shuffle – finished fourth. Fuller ended the night in fifth place, followed by Varin, Drellos, Berger, Johnson, and Tremont. Friesen, Hearn, Warner, and Fuller all used Small Block cars in the 50-lapper, with Sheppard and the balance of the top 10 in Big Blocks.
Tremont pulled a different kind of double-duty, as he also competed in the 40-lap “Leon Gonyo Memorial” race for the King of Dirt Racing Crate Modified Series. The West Sand Lake, N.Y. driver dominated the box score of the race, but his victory was never certain until the checkered flag waved. Joey Scarborough had a stout drive from the 10th starting position and engaged Tremont in a thrilling battle until the final corner. Scarborough pulled even with Tremont with two laps to go before being trapped in lapped traffic and having to settle for the runner-up finish. The win was Tremont’s sixth in 11 Crate Sportsman races at Devil’s Bowl in 2019.
Kale Groff made it two podium finishes in two Devil’s Bowl appearances in 2019, finishing third. Vince Quenneville scored his first top-five finish of the season in fourth place and Robert Bublak Jr. finished fifth in his first Devil’s Bowl start of the season.
Limited Sportsman regular Adam Piper turned heads in his first attempt to qualify for a top-level Sportsman race, by leading the first four laps and holding on to a sixth-place finish. Frank Hoard III took seventh ahead of Tony Ballestero, Marty Kelly III, and rookie Joey Roberts. A massive pileup on lap 17 eliminated seven drivers from the race, though no injuries were reported.
In addition to the racing, the event served as a fundraiser to support autism awareness and the initiatives of the Crossroads Center for Children in Rotterdam, N.Y. A silent auction for racing memorabilia donated by Stewart Friesen raised money along with a pre-race cookout and cornhole tournament, and the 50/50 raffle added another $2,600. The Star-Spangled Banner was performed by “American Idol” finalist Madison VanDenburg.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway returns to weekly action on Sunday, August 18 at 7:00 p.m. as Fabian Earthmoving presents the track’s five weekly racing divisions and the first-ever appearance of the Can-Am Mod Lite Series. Regular admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and free for kids 12 and under. Preparations are also underway for the Interstate All Battery Center “Vermont 200 Weekend” on August 31 and September 1.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway is located on Route 22A in West Haven, Vt., four miles north of U.S. Route 4, Exit 2, and just 20 minutes from Rutland, Vt. For more information, visit www.DevilsBowlSpeedwayVT.com or call (802) 265-3112. Devil’s Bowl Speedway is on Facebook at facebook.com/DevilsBowlSpeedway, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @DevilsBowlSpeed; follow the action using the #DevilsBowl hashtag.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS – “Battle at the Bowl” Big Block/Small Block Modified Challenge
Devil’s Bowl Speedway – West Haven, Vt.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
“Battle at the Bowl” Big Block/Small Block Modified Challenge (50 laps)
1. (1) Matt Sheppard, Waterloo, N.Y.
2. (2) Stewart Friesen, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
3. (5) Brett Hearn, Sussex, N.J.
4. (3) Rocky Warner, Gloversville, N.Y.
5. (8) Tim Fuller, Watertown, N.Y.
6. (7) Bobby Varin, Fonda, N.Y.
7. (6) Demetrios Drellos, Queensbury, N.Y.
8. (4) Brian Berger, Castleton, N.Y.
9. (18) Marc Johnson, Guilderland, N.Y.
10. (21) Kenny Tremont Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y.
11. (8) Brett Haas, Pittsfield, Mass.
12. (14) Mike Mahaney, Kings Ferry, N.Y.
13. (10) Jack Lehner, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
14. (11) Travis Billington, South Glens Falls, N.Y.
15. (22) Don Ronca, Clifton Park, N.Y.
16. (16) Jessey Mueller, Chestertown, N.Y.
17. (15) Roger Henion Jr., Montgomery, N.Y.
18. (12) Allison Ricci, New Paltz, N.Y.
19. (23) Matt Pupello, East Schodack, N.Y.
20. (19) Ronnie Johnson, Duanesburg, N.Y.
21. (13) Elmo Reckner, Ballston Lake, N.Y.
22. (24) C.G. Morey, Rutland, Vt.
23. (17) Matt Depew, Argyle, N.Y.
24. (20) Cody Bleau, North Greenbush, N.Y.
Pole Shuffle Winner: Matt Sheppard
Consi Winner: Kenny Tremont Jr.
AMSOIL Award: Matt Sheppard
Fonda Speedway “Red Chair” Bonus: Stewart Friesen
M&K Racing Enterprises Bonus: Brett Hearn
Big Block Modified Feature (25 laps)
1. (2) Matt Sheppard, Waterloo, N.Y.
2. (3) Brett Hearn, Sussex, N.J.
3. (7) Bobby Varin, Fonda, N.Y.
4. (8) Demetrios Drellos, Queensbury, N.Y.
5. (13) Brian Berger, Castleton, N.Y.
6. (15) Jack Lehner, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
7. (17) Travis Billington, South Glens Falls, N.Y.
8. (4) Mike Mahaney, Kings Ferry, N.Y.
9. (12) Jessey Mueller, Chestertown, N.Y.
10. (1) Marc Johnson, Guilderland, N.Y.
11. (18) Cody Bleau, North Greenbush, N.Y.
12. (19) Kenny Tremont Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y.
13. (16) Bodie Bellinger, Johnstown, N.Y.
14. (5) Stewart Friesen, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
15. (9) Don Ronca, Clifton Park, N.Y.
16. (11) Brian Whittemore, Pittsford, Vt.
17. (14) C.G. Morey, Rutland, Vt.
18. (10) Bobby Hackel, Rensselaer, N.Y.
19. (6) Matt DeLorenzo, Cropseyville, N.Y.
Time Trial Winner: Marc Johnson (17.660 sec.)
Heat Winners: Marc Johnson, Matt Sheppard, Brett Hearn
AMSOIL Award: Matt Sheppard
Small Block Modified Feature (25 laps)
1. (1) Brett Hearn, Sussex, N.J.
2. (2) Tim Fuller, Watertown, N.Y.
3. (3) Rocky Warner, Gloversville, N.Y.
4. (4) Stewart Friesen, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
5. (5) Brett Haas, Pittsfield, Mass.
6. (8) Jessey Mueller, Chestertown, N.Y.
7. (7) Marc Johnson, Guilderland, N.Y.
8. (6) Allison Ricci, New Paltz, N.Y.
9. (9) Demetrios Drellos, Queensbury, N.Y.
10. (14) Elmo Reckner, Ballston Lake, N.Y.
11. (10) Roger Henion Jr., Montgomery, N.Y.
12. (20) Matt Depew, Argyle, N.Y.
13. (17) Ronnie Johnson, Duanesburg, N.Y.
14. (15) Matt Pupello, East Schodack, N.Y.
15. (18) C.G. Morey, Rutland, Vt.
16. (16) Frank Hoard III, Manchester Center, Vt.
17. (19) Justin Barber, Gansevoort, N.Y.
18. (13) Don Mattison, Wells, Vt.
19. (11) David Schilling, East Greenbush, N.Y.
20. (21) Alex Bell, Cambridge, N.Y.
21. (12) Mike Mahaney, Kings Ferry, N.Y.
Time Trial Winner: Brett Hearn (17.489 sec.)
Heat Winners: Brett Hearn, Tim Fuller, Rocky Warner
AMSOIL Award: Brett Hearn
King of Dirt Racing Crate Modified Series “Leon Gonyo Memorial” Feature (40 laps)
# – denotes rookie
1. (3) Kenny Tremont Jr., West Sand Lake, N.Y.
2. (10) Joey Scarborough, Brandon, Vt.
3. (8) Kale Groff, Troy, N.Y.
4. (12) Vince Quenneville, Brandon, Vt.
5. (18) Robert Bublak Jr., Ballston Spa, N.Y.
6. (2) Adam Piper, Leicester, Vt.
7. (4) Frank Hoard III, Manchester Center, Vt.
8. (14) Tony Ballestero, Ballston Spa, N.Y.
9. (19) Marty Kelly III, North Bennington, Vt.
10. (1) # Joey Roberts, Fletcher, Vt.
11. (11) Billy Lussier, Fair Haven, Vt.
12. (24) Justin Comes, Middlebury, Vt.
13. (25) Walter J. Hammond, Canaan, N.H.
14. (30) Adam Pierson, East Corinth, Vt.
15. (13) Mike Fisher, Castleton, Vt.
16. (9) Josh Sunn, White River Junction, Vt.
17. (20) Tanner Siemons, Orford, N.H.
18. (16) Bobby Hackel, Rensselaer, N.Y.
19. (28) Allan Hammond, Orange, N.H.
20. (5) Mike Palmer, Salisbury, Vt.
21. (15) Ron Proctor, Charlton, N.Y.
22. (7) Brian Calabrese, Johnstown, N.Y.
23. (6) Dylan Rabtoy, Swanton, Vt.
24. (17) # Michael Wagner-Fitzgerald, Gansevoort, N.Y.
25. (26) Cody Ochs, East Greenbush, N.Y.
26. (21) Elmo Reckner, Ballston Lake, N.Y.
27. (23) Walt Hammond Jr., Canaan, N.H.
28. (27) # Brent Warren, Salisbury, Vt.
29. (22) Jimmy Ryan, Shoreham, Vt.
30. (29) Tim LaDuc, Orwell, Vt.
Did Not Qualify: Wayne Stearns, Jeff Washburn, Brian Whittemore, Whitey Slavin, James Fadden, Jack Speshock, Connor Cleveland
Heat Winners: Mike Palmer, Joey Scarborough, Frank Hoard III, Dylan Rabtoy
Consi Winner: Walter J. Hammond
Shiley Fabrication Hard Charger Award: Adam Pierson (+16 positions)
Shiley Fabrication Hard Luck Award: Brent Warren
AMSOIL Award: Kenny Tremont Jr.