By LEON ANDRUS
AFTON, NY – Friday Night September 6 at Afton Motorsports Park (A.M.P.) three track championships were still up for grabs in the Modified and the two Sportsman divisions. It was also the final night of racing for the regular season, and then the heavily talked about return of the Short Track Super Nationals returning on Friday and Saturday October 11 and 12. The IMCA division and the fourth appearance of the Sling Shots rounded out the exciting evening off racing.
The ZMK Construction Modified championship feature basically boiled down to Brandon Walters (22) the point leader going in and Brett Tonkin (15) the defending track champion as the two that could win it all. At the start of the feature the front row consisted of Jeff Sheeley (38) and Mitch Gibbs (2g) as the starting line-up came to Scott Stevens green flag. Gibbs from his outside starting spot charged to the top spot as he and Sheeley raced to turn number one. Gibbs recorded lap number one and stayed there the entire distance as the car was on rails early as he was widening his lead lap after lap. When the first yellow showed on lap number nine for Brian Malcolm (119) who slowed as something broke and he had to go to the pits, Gibbs had a full straight-away lead at that point. On the restart Gibbs shot back to the front with Sheeley still in second but lap ten another yellow appeared for Dan Creeden (16x) who spun and also Darwin Greene (1) went pit-side with a flat tire. Back to green and Gibbs opening up a lead once again and a huge battle going on behind him as Sheeley is being pressured by Rusty Smith (34), Nick Nye (6nn), and Alan Barker (77). The final yellow appears on lap eighteen for Brian Mady (2) spinning in turn two. Going back to racing Gibbs charges back to the front but now Barker has cleared the others he was battling to get up to make a run at Gibbs. Barker was making headway at doing that until Gibbs got a look at his nose outside of him. Gibbs moved his line and the two went to the checkers just that way and completing the top five were Sheeley, Ryan Jordan (R21), and Tonkin. Heat race winners were captured by Nye, Gibbs, and Barker. Gibbs said in victory lane that the car felt good and had to thank his crew and sponsors for sticking with him. We have been struggling with this new car as you can tell by the starting position but we made some major changes and it was great tonight. I knew I had a pretty good lead once as I didn’t hear anyone, and then when I saw Barker on my right, I knew I had to move up a lane and it was good up there too. Walters who was crowned the 2019 track champion finished right behind Tonkin to capture his first career championship. He mentioned that it was a boring race as he knew I just needed to keep Tonkin close and I was going to do anything I didn’t need to do. I haven’t slept much this week as I have been thinking about this all week and been texting Tonkin back and forth. Walters celebrated up on his roof and had a double spray going on. He also mentioned about what a huge turn-around at the track this season and thanked Ron Ford and his entire staff for the great season.
The Rinker Insurance Agency Crate Sportsman had two competitors with a shot at the championship and one with an outside shot but the other two would have had to have an extremely bad night with him winning. Bobby Flood (91) point leader going in and AJ Digsby (99) as the one with a shot. The other outside contender was Blaine Klinger (9k) so that was the focus for the excited fans to look forward to. Fred Smith (119) and Ryan Macartney (24) who both had wins on the season were looking just to grab the win and try to move up the standings their selves. Macartney shot to lead and try to motor away as everyone is battling behind him. Gary Smith (7up) Flood, Digsby, and Fred Smith all have their own battle going on. The first caution comes out just after completing the halfway point as newcomer Jordan Lawrence lost a wheel and collected the (23) of Brandon Loucks in the process. It turned out to be the only caution in the race and as the heated battle behind Macartney starts to see Digsby making his way past Gary Smith and then on lap fifteen Digsby outruns Macartney for the top spot and Smith followed through for second. Flood drifted back to seventh at the finish and that was enough for Digsby to not only win the battle on this night but the war. The top five at the finish behind the top two were Macartney, Allan Hodge (5H) and Dave Rosa (61). Heat winners were Hodge, Fred Smith and Macartney. It was an extremely happy and emotional victory lane as Digsby climbed out of his car. It was a heck of a run as the car was hooked and I just can’t believe it. We been trying this and trying that and listening to different ideas but wow is this great. Consistency and believing as I have done this for twenty-three years, and here we are celebrating with championship number one. I need to thank so many people from sponsors, family, crew and owner. Wow!
In the Chambers & O’Hara Open Sportsman feature the championship would come down to Dennis Clapperton (d9) or Dave Rosa (61). Dan Burman (57) and Danielle Smith (7up) led the field to the green for the twenty-lap feature go. Burman jumped to the lead as Clapperton who started six was coming fast as he took over the top spot on lap two. Clapperton never was challenged seriously in this event so it was a matter of not doing anything to put him in harms way or a mechanical breakdown. Chris Jordan (22j) had a little something for him at restarts but Clapperton when on to win the event and the championship, putting an exclamation mark on his season. Three cautions slowed the action for minor incidents with the first one on lap six. It was for the (00) of Brad Burman spinning in turn four and getting collected by Michael Roach (33). Lap seven saw the (58m) of Marshall Hurd go around in turn four and track officials sent the (16) of Brandon Kuhn also to the back for the contact. The final caution was on lap thirteen for Kuhn getting in the water on the inside edge of the track and going around. A little help came from the Hurd machine to get Kuhn down there. Following Clapperton and Jordan across the line to complete the top five were Dan Burman. Bill Deckleman (90) and Jim Gould (28). Heat winners for the three heat races were Jordan, Dan Burman and Danielle Smith. Clapperton mentioned that the track was a little different tonight and it was around the ending laps that I got it figured out. He was asked if he thought going into the year if he thought he would be standing here with a championship. Clapperton says you strive for that but you can’t really think about it.
The Trophy Guy IMCA Modified division saw the seven-car starting field come to the green with Matt Roberts (613) and Gary Roberts (U2) leading the way. Gary beat Matt to turn one and was able to lead a few laps before Matt would overtake him and stay there until the checkers flew in the caution free race. Beau Ballard (15) did get by Gary for second and then Tyler Stoddard (S/360) and the (7) of Jim Cummings. Ballard won the only heat. Matt was happy as all the kids were with him tonight and he mentioned that it was his best win total season to date with ten at this date at various tracks.
The All Star and Junior Sling Shots were also on the card for the final regular race of the season. There were seven Junior competitors and four All Stars with two winners, one in each class. The All-Star winner was the (28s) of Don Slosek and the Junior winner Liam Jackson. In the feature the All Stars start in front of the Junior competitors. One serious looking incident happened on lap two when All Star driver Bob Boughton (81) spun on the front stretch and Junior Competitor Gordon Smith (44) collided as it happened right in front of him. Drivers were ok but heavy damage on both machines.
A.M.P. Notes, Ron Ford and staff will now focus on the big Short Track Super Nationals coming in on Friday and Saturday October 11 and 12. Ford and the entire staff would like to thank all the competitors, fans, owners and crews for returning the Fairground oval back to a place folks are wanting to come to. The Trophy Guy handed Crate winner AJ Digsby an extra $25.00 for winning and displaying one of his trophy decals on his car. A bonus has already come in for the Modified portion of the Super National courtesy of the New York State Stock Car Association as they will give $100.00 to the first regular competitor at A.M.P. that is a member.
Results from Afton Motorsports Park on Friday Sept. 6th.
ZMK Construction Modifieds – Championship.
Mitch Gibbs, Alan Barker, Jeff Sheeley, Ryan Jordan, Brett Tonkin, Brandon Walters, Paul Jensen, Ken Titus, Dan Vauter, Jeremy Smith, Darwin Greene, JR Hurlburt, Alex Tonkin, Brian Malcolm, Nick Nye, Dan Creeden, Rusty Smith, Kailee Demorier, Brian Mady, Bob Stahl, Travis Smith.
Track Champion; Brandon Walters.
Rinker Insurance Agency, Crate Sportsman – Championship.
AJ Digsby, Gary Smith, Ryan Macartney, Allan Hodge, Dave Rosa, Fred Smith, Bobby Flood, Steve Andersen, Brandon Loucks, Blaine Klinger, Dustin Harris, Jason Feinberg, Matt Brewer, Jim Rothwell, Ryan Stone, Ray Leonard, Todd Titus, John Williams, Steve Babicek, Jordan Lawrence.
Track Champion; AJ Digsby.
Chambers and O’Hara Open Sportsman – Championship.
Dennis Clapperton, Chris Jordan, Dan Burman, Bill Deckleman, Jim Gould, Chance Spoonhower, Blaine Klinger, Dave Rosa, Danny Yankowski, Leah Decker, Craig Pope, Marshall Hurd, Bailey Boyd, Shawn Davis, Zack Falciani, Duane Knapp, Danielle Smith, Brandon Kuhn, Jim Rothwell, Brad Burman, Michael Roach.
Track Champion; Dennis Clapperton.
The Trophy Guy IMCA.
Matt Roberts, Beau Ballard, Gary Roberts, Tyler Stoddard, Jim Cummings, Leonard Miller, JT Roe.
Liam Jackson, Julia Renwick, Zack Welch, Evan O’Hara, Trevor Houghton, Gordon Smith.
Matthew Backus, Dan Slosek, Rodney Renwick, Bob Boughton, Alex Boughton.
Points season is over. Short Track Super Nationals will be Friday and Saturday October 11th and 12th.
THANK YOU TO ALL THE RACE TEAMS AND FANS FOR A VERY EXCITING AND COMPETITIVE 2019 SEASON. Hope to see you for the upcoming weekend and definitely for the 2020 race season.