By FRANK CATIZONE
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Danny Tyler didn’t take too long getting accustomed to the large racing surface presented to him at the Orange County Fair Speedway as he picked up his first career Modified victory in only his fourth appearance last Saturday night in the 30-lap feature event.
Tyler, who joined forces with car owner Bill Pascual in the middle of July, has been a stickler to short race tracks throughout his career. However, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete on the large five-eighths mile, hard clay oval when approached by Pascual and made his debut on July 22.
“It took some time adjusting to the larger racing surface, especially hitting my points going through the turns,’’ said Tyler. “I’m used to running the smaller bull rings like Accord Speedway. My family has been racing at that track for many years and I pretty much grew up there.
“I have run Middletown a few times in the past during Eastern States and the Hard Clay Open, but it takes some time getting used to the larger straightaways and the power here. There are also a lot of good drivers here and you really have to be on your game.’’
Ironically, the victory guaranteed Tyler a starting spot for Sept. 15’s King of the Catskills championship race at Accord. Tyler is currently leading the point standings there and would like nothing better than to capture that title in 2017.
“This has been a very good season so far,’’ said Tyler. “I’ve been able to win two races at Accord with my own car this year and now picked up my first win at Middletown. This car was just fantastic tonight and the racing surface was just unbelievable. Of course, my starting position also helped.’’
Tyler, a third-generation driver, started outside pole by virtue of his victory in the second qualifying heat and took full advantage of his position to pace the 26-car field for the entire race. He got the jump on pole-sitter Kirk Horton and was able to stretch out his cushion after each restart.
Reigning track champion Tommy Meier, who was embroiled in a three-way battle with Jimmy Horton and Jerry Higbie for this year’s Modified championship, brought out the race’s first caution when a right rear flat sent him to the pits with seven laps completed.
Donnie Wilson grazed the outside wall on the ensuing restart to force another caution with eight laps in the record books.
Tyler then stretched his lead out over Kirk Horton and Jimmy Horton, who were battling for second place, as the race progressed until Higbie slowed on the track with a right rear flat with 27 laps completed.
Meier was in trouble again a lap later when his car spun coming down the homestretch after being involved in an altercation with Gary Edwards Jr. with 28 laps down. Meier was forced to retire for the evening and finished in 24th position.
The race was halted for the last time on the ensuing restart as Matt Janiak, Jim Bobbitt and Richie Eurich were involved in a homestretch incident.
Tyler then went on to grab his initial OCFS victory ahead of Kirk Horton, Jimmy Horton, Bob McGannon, Brendan Finley, Mike Kolka, John Ferrier, Tyler McKee, Craig Mitchell and Mike Ruggiero.
Jimmy Horton’s third-place effort provided him with a 52-point cushion over Meier entering Saturday’s championship night for all divisions. Jimmy Horton, who is seeking his third track title, paces the way with 957 points.
Meier is still in the chase with 905 points and Higbie, who finished 18th, stands in third with 901.
Dan Morgiewicz held off the challenges provided by Leo Fotopoulos to capture the first victory of his young racing career in the Sportsman 20-lap main event.
Morgiewicz, whose only other racing experience came in Slingshots, started on the pole and led throughout the event despite being constantly pressured by Fotopoulos, who was also seeking his initial career triumph.
Greg Sleight drove home with a third-place effort and moved to within eight points of Jesse Leiby entering Saturday’s regular-season finale. Sleight, who stood in first place most of the season, pushed his season total to 1,136 points. Leiby paces the way with 1,144.
Joe Bonetti picked up a fourth-place finish with Jeff Hulseapple, Roger Henion Jr., Joe Conklin, Leiby, Howie Finch and Joey Bruning rounding out the top 10.
Chris Raser started on the pole and led the distance to pick up the first win of his OCFS career in the Rookie Sportsman 15-lap feature race. Two-time winner Jake Granacker followed in second place with Dylan Smith, Michael Giuliano and Mike Orlando rounding out the top five.
Raser, the nephew of Modified driver Kirk Horton, had trouble negotiating through lapped traffic in the latter stages as Roddy Watts and Granacker both cut into his lead. Watts made contact while trying to get around Jeff Jones in the first turn to force a caution with 11 laps completed.
Raser was then able to speed ahead with a clear track in front of him as Granacker settled into a second-place effort.
Erin Paulison and Brett Weslowski made contact between the third and fourth turns on the final lap with Paulison’s car flipping and landing upside down. Paulison wasn’t injured, but her car was completely destroyed.
Jim Maher kept his perfect streak intact this season as he captured his third victory of 2017 in the Street Stock 15-lap main event.
Maher, who was making only this third appearance this season, wrestled the lead away from Tommy Pickles on the eighth lap and then went on to capture his 17th career OCFS victory ahead of Pickles, Joel Murns Jr., Charlie Donald and Joe Scheffold.
Four-time feature winner Mike Vigiletti, who appeared well en route to another track championship, pitted after just five laps and finished in 14th place. That enabled Pickles to close to within 20 points of Vigiletti entering the season finale.
Darryl Hulbert won the Northeastern Vintage Modified 12-lap feature race.
Modified Feature Finish, 30 Laps: 1. Danny Tyler, 2. Kirk Horton, 3. Jimmy Horton, 4. Bob McGannon, 5. Brendan Finley, 6. Mike Kolka, 7. John Ferrier, 8. Tyler McKee, 9. Craig Mitchell, 10. Mike Ruggiero, 11. C.G. Morey, 12. Stan Frankenfield Jr., 13. Chris Whitehead, 14. Corey Lowitt, 15. Danny Cronk, 16. Richie Eurich, 17. Gary Edwards Jr., 18. Jerry Higbie, 19. Joey Falanga, 20. Jim Bobbitt, 21. Matt Janiak, 22. Donnie Wilson, 23. Chris Shultz, 24. Tommy Meier, 25. Jimmy Spellmon, 26. Bob Hayes Jr.
Sportsman Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Dan Morgiewicz, 2. Leo Fotopoulos, 3. Greg Sleight, 4. Joe Bonetti, 5. Jeff Hulseapple, 6. Roger Henion Jr., 7. Joe Conklin, 8. Jesse Leiby, 9. Howie Finch, 10. Joey Bruning, 11. Mel Schrufer, 12. Brad Horton, 13. Anthony Falanga, 14. Danny Carlough, 15. Jared LaBagh, 16. Patrick Murphy, 17. Jimmy Johnson, 18. Tommy Vigh Jr., 19. Matt Shultz, 20. Bobby Flood, 21. Connor Otten, 22. Troy Arnold, 23. Chris Grispin, 24. Bob Wosyluk. Did Not Start: Austin Smith.
Rookie Sportsman Feature Finish, 15 Laps: 1. Chris Raser, 2. Jake Granacker, 3. Dylan Smith, 4. Michael Giuliano, 5. Mike Orlando, 6. Brian Durbin, 7. Brett Weslowski, 8. Jamie Doolan, 9. Erin Paulison, 10. Russell Crotty, 11. Jeff Jones, 12. Rich Eggers, 13. Roddy Watts, 14. Alan Cote. Disqualified: Michael Bull. Did Not Start: Jimmy Leiby, Anthony Horton.
Street Stock Feature Finish, 15 Laps: 1. Jim Maher, 2. Tommy Pickles, 3. Joel Murns Jr., 4. Charlie Donald, 5. Joe Scheffold, 6. Pete Wiegand, 7. Jim Hajkowski, 8. Scott Gumaer, 9. Shawn Johannessen, 10. Larry O’Donnell, 11. Jack Dekker, 12. Ryan Modiano, 13. Tim Daly, 14. Mike Vigiletti. Did Not Start: Emerson Cargain Sr.
Northeast Vintage Modified Feature Finish, 12 Laps: 1. Darryl Hulbert, 2. Ray See Sr., 3. Bob Schmidt, 4. Dan McKiernan, 5. Bill Liese, 6. John Hager, 7. Mike Houghtaling, 8. Tom Laner.