By MIKE MALLETT
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Mike Gular has gone all of 2018 without securing a feature win. The Boyertown, Pa., driver won the Grandview Speedway title without grabbing a checkered flag. Time was running out on the season for him to crack victory lane.
Gular earned that first win in the unlikeliest of places, the Orange County Fair Speedway. It’s a track that’s he’s only raced at once before, the Hard Clay Open back in April. Thursday night he dominated the 50-lap Hard Clay Finale to finally put a checkmark in the win column for 2018. It was a good one to win as it earned him $10,000.
“Man I feel bad my crew chief isn’t here tonight he had surgery today,” mentioned Gular. “This one is for Jeremy. What an awesome night. If we were going to win one, I sure as hell didn’t think it would be here. I was glad to be able to hold them guys off. This was a hell field here tonight. To come out on top. I’m speechless.”
Gular went away from the pole position to start the 50-lap affair with Jerry Higbie to his outside. Higbie won the opening lap charge into the first turn allowing him to secure the number one position.
Higbie and Gular remained close at the front. Gular was never more than a few feet behind the Orange County Fair Speedway regular. Higbie worked the cushion while Gular found his rhythm right in the middle groove.
As Higbie tried to make the top work Gular nipped at his heals. On lap nine he was tired of running in the second position. Gular drove under Higbie on the exit of the second corner to take the number one position.
“He (Higbie) got away from us there in the beginning,” cited Gular. “I just paced myself and the car started coming to us and I got back by him.”
Gular encountered traffic on lap 13 but it wasn’t going to be a factor as the caution was necessary for a slowing Mike Ricci. At this point it was Gular the leader with Higbie, Bachetti, Mat Williamson and Matt Sheppard the top five.
As the action resumed Gular kept up the pace as Bachetti emerged with the second position at the green flag. Like Higbie, he tried to keep pace with Gular. They raced at the front as Sheppard moved into the third position in the running order.
The top three remained unchanged as they reached mid-point of the race. Gular’s advantage over both Bachetti and Sheppard began to shrink as the traffic got heavier. Before he had to make any difficult decisions with the slower cars the yellow flag was shown again on lap 27 as Ryan Godown blew a right rear tire.
Sheppard muscled his way by Bachetti on the restart with Gular still in control. Sheppard was able to keep pace with Gular. He never threatened Gular with a pass but he didn’t let him get too far away.
On lap 33 Sheppard’s chances at his first Orange County victory went by the wayside as the second place running slowed off the exit of turn four with what looked like a softening right rear tire to bring out the caution. Under this yellow Sheppard, Friesen and Bachetti all hit pit road for fresh rubber.
With several of the top runners pitting, Gular now was flanked by Williamson for the restart. Williamson threw everything at him on the restart. Gular was up to the challenge holding off the Merrittville Speedway track champion and Brockville Ontario Speedway Fall Nationals winner from a week ago.
After a lap Gular was able to put some cushion between himself and Williamson. This space was again deleted as another stoppage in the race was called for as Bachetti slowed and stopped in turn two.
This yellow gave Williamson another crack at Gular on the restart. As he did all night, Gular was unfazed by it. He did what he had been doing all night. He got a great run off of four to the green to keep Williamson in second.
Gular pulled away from Williamson in the closing laps to pick up the biggest win of his career.
“I felt pretty good, but I didn’t know how hard to push the tires,” stated Gular. “He’s (Williamson) good and if I didn’t see him I wasn’t going to push it any harder. These Bicknell cars are great. I guess he got second. Them guys do a hell of a job.”
Williamson, of St. Catharines, Ont., finished in the second position. He was trying to conserve the right rear on his Bicknell car in the final laps while hoping Gular had overworked his. It didn’t work out forcing him to settle for second.
“He (Gular) had a really good car tonight and he ran a good race,” commented Williamson. “Toward the end I was kind of just hoping that his tire would blow or something. It looks like mine was pretty close. It would have been nice to have one more spot.”
Orange County Fair Speedway Modified champion, Anthony Perrego, ended up in third at the checkered flag after starting the race from 11th. The Montgomery, N.Y., driver was pleased with the efforts on the night.
“We had a great car to come from 11th to get third,” said Perrego. “We were trying to conserve our tire there at the end after Matt (Sheppard) got the flat. I was looking at his tire in front of me and he had a little bit of tread. I cruised for a little while but then the car got tight on me so we had to back it down and end up with third.”
Tyler Dippel had another strong outing in the Hard Clay Finale finishing in the fourth spot while Mike Mahaney had a solid run finishing in fifth.
Hard Clay Finale Notes
Seventy-seven cars attempted to earn a starting position for the event…
Heat race victories were taken by Stan Frankenfield, Higbie, Sheppard, Godown, Williamson, Gular and Sammy Martz. Three consolation events were necessary with wins going to Brian Krummel, Shane Jablonka and Ricci. Allison Ricci won the three car three lap dash for the final spot in the show…
Jeremy Smith and Danny Creeden used provisional starting positions to make the show. Creeden picked up hard charger honors with his eight place effort. Smith finished 15th….
Billy Decker ended up the Short Track Super Series North Region Champion by two points over Anthony Perrego. He earned $12,500 for the title…
Brett Hearn was an early scratch after blowing a water pump in hot laps. The fan ended up going through the radiator ending his night…
Perrego’s team worked hard after warmups as they had to replace a broken bolt in the rear-end…
Duane Howard’s night almost came to an end in warmups. Howard jumped the cushion and slammed the wall with the rear of the car in turn two. Luckily he was able to continue and make the show. He finished 21st.
ORANGE COUNTY FAIR SPEEDWAY 10/18/18
HARD CLAY FINALE FINISH (50-LAPS): 1 Mike Gular 2 Mat Williamson 3 Anthony Perrego 4 Tyler Dippel 5 Mike Mahaney 6 Stewart Friesen 7 Jerry Higbie 8 Danny Creeden 9 Billy Decker 10 Craig Mitchell 11 Jimmy Horton 12 Billy Pauch Jr. 13 Matt Sheppard 14 Bob McGannon 15 Jeremy Smith 16 Ryan Godown 17 Jackie Brown 18 Tyler Boniface 19 Andy Bachetti 20 Sammy Martz 21 Duane Howard 22 Brian Krummel 23 Billy VanInwegen 24 Rich Eurich 25 Allison Ricci 26 Mike Kolka 27 Donnie Elliott 28 Mike Ricci 29 Stan Frankenfield 30 Shane Jablonka 31 Matt Hitchcock
Did Not Qualify: C.G. Morey, Brett Tonkin, Rick Laubach, Ric Hill, Tommy Meier, Corey Lowitt, Steve Dodd, Nick Nye, Joe Bonetti, J.R. Hurlburt, Roger Henion Jr., Kurt Hundeland, Leo Fotopolous Jr., Yanick Mathieu, John Ferrier, Dillon Steuer, Ricky Davis, Cass Bennett, Mark Pullen, Kyle Armstrong, Chris Stevens, Ed Burgess, Gary Edwards, Sean Mandel, Marc Johnson, Jeremy Markle, Jason Kosch, Brett Haas, Austin Smith, LJ Lombardo, Anthony Falanga, Craig Hanson, Rich Eggers, Tom Hindley, Frankie Harper, Tom Foley, Michael Horton, Danny Cronk, Jessica Friesen, Joe Falanga, Jeff Heotzler, Donnie Wilson, Connor Otten, Mike Storms, Brett Hearn, Rob Rowe