MIDDLETOWN, NY – The winning driver of the Big-Block Modified feature on Opening Night of weekly racing at Orange County Fair Speedway will continue a tradition that first began in 1950. While automobile racing traces its Orange County roots back 100 years to 1919, weekly stock car racing—the precursors of today’s Modifieds—began on April 16, 1950 and has continued uninterrupted since that memorable date.
The first weekly racing program was held on a small one-fifth-mile asphalt-surfaced track that was located inside the famed five-eighths-mile Hard Clay speedway. Tex Enright, who later gained fame as a colorful race starter was the day’s winner, his only Orange County victory of record. Since then 41 other drivers have won season openers, led by all-time track record holder Brett Hearn, who has tasted first night victory champagne nine times.
Other multi-time Opening Night winners include this week’s honoree, Carl Van Horn, who captured four Modified features; three-time Opening Night victors Bobby Bottcher, Will Cagle, Rich Eurich, and Jeff Heotzler; with Frank Cozze, Danny Creeden, Bud Marl, Chuck McKee, Frankie Schneider, Al Tasnady, Bill Wimble, and defending track point champion Anthony Perrego each winning two openers.
Drivers who have raced at Orange County on a weekly basis some or all of their careers have won the vast majority of Opening Night feature races. But that hasn’t always been the case. The first outside invader to take home the season opener top prize was Hartford, Connecticut driver Dick Fletcher back in 1954. Then in the 1960s, Flemington (New Jersey) Speedway great Al Tasnady won two Orange County openers, as did Fonda (New York) Speedway champion Bill Wimble.
In 1983, C.D. Coville, from Upstate New York, ushered in the DIRT Motorsports era by winning the first race under Glenn Donnelly’s reign. “Barefoot” Bob McCreadie, from Watertown, New York, took the local boys to task in 1985, while Jack Johnson, whose home track was also Fonda Speedway, won in 1995, the last outside invader to win on Opening Night.
Winning Opening Night Modified features the past five years were Tim Hindley (2014), Anthony Perrego (2015), Bob McGannon (2016), Jimmy Horton (2017), and Perrego for the second time in 2018. With early season bragging rights on the line, three-dozen or more top Modified drivers are looking to start 2019 weekly racing with a victory. And who knows, there’s always the possibility an outside invader will pull into the Orange County pits and win the Opening Night top prize money of $7,100.
It will all play out on Saturday, April 13, 2019 and the start of the 70th consecutive season of weekly stock car racing at Orange County Fair Speedway. Will a new Opening Night winner’s name be added to the long list of great Orange County drivers? Or will one of the previous victors take the checkered flag once again? Racing gets under way at 6:00 P.M at the historic Middletown, New York five-eights-mile “Hard Clay” surfaced speedway. Opening Night will include four divisions of race cars—Big-Block Modifieds, Small-Block Modifieds, Sportsman, and Street Stocks—in qualifying races and main events.
Adult admissions to Orange County Fair Speedway weekly races is $20, with children 10 and under $5.00. There is a $1.00 car charge for the Drive-In section. The first 1,000 fans through the gates on opening night will receive a Carl Van Horn commemorative souvenir. A special program with pictures and stories of Van Horn’s racing career will be available as well. Before and after the races, fans can enjoy free live music at the 31st Lap Tavern. And as a special prize, the 1,500th admission on April 13 will receive two passes for the August 100th Anniversary Weekend. The competitor pits open at 3:00 pm; spectator gates at 5:00 pm.
Advance ticket sales and additional information is available at the Track Office. Call 845-342-2573 during business hours. Fans and competitors are reminded to visit the speedway website for the latest track news: www.orangecountyfairspeedway.net.
ORANGE COUNTY FAIR SPEEDWAY — OPENING DAY WINNERS 1950-2018
1950 04/15 Tex Enright 1960 04/10 Ken Wismer Sr. 1970 04/18 Will Cagle*
1951 04/15 Frank Schneider 1961 04/08 Carl Van Horn 1971 04/17 R. Schwendernmann
1952 04/26 Joe Romer 1962 04/21 Al Tasnady 1972 04/29 Carl Van Horn
1953 04/26 Bud Marl 1963 04/13 Frank Schneider* 1973 04/14 Bobby Bottcher*
1954 04/16 Dick Fletcher 1964 04/05 Bill Wimble 1974 04/20 Carl Van Horn
1955 04/30 Pete Corey 1965 04/10 Al Tasnady 1975 04/12 Wayne Reutimann*
1956 04/21 Bud Marl* 1966 04/06 Bill Wimble 1976 04/10 Buzzie Reutimann
1957 0414 Ray Brown* 1967 04/29 Will Cagle* 1977 04/16 Bobby Bottcher
1958 04/13 Sonny Strupp* 1968 04/20 Jackie Evans 1978 04/22 MeMe DSantis
1959 04/04 Carl Van Horn 1969 04/12 Will Cagle* 1979 04/21 Bobby Bottcher
1980 04/19 Billy Osmun 1990 04/14 Sammy Rogers 2000 04/15 Brett Hearn
1981 04/11 Harry Behrent 1991 04/20 Frank Cozze 2001 04/28 Brett Hearn
1982 05/01 Rich Eurich* 1992 05/02 Brett Hearn* 2002 04/20 Jeff Heotzler
1983 04/02 C.D. Coville 1993 04/17 Brett Hearn* 2003 04/19 Chuck McKee
1984 03/18 Larry Brolsma 1994 04/16 Jeff Heotzler 2004 04/17 Tommy Meier*
1985 04/06 Bob McCreadie 1995 04/15 Jack Johnson 2005 04/16 Chuck McKee
1986 04/12 Brett Hearn* 1996 04/13 Jeff Heotzler 2006 04/29 Craig Mitchell
1987 04/18 Brett Hearn* 1997 04/19 Frank Cozze 2007 04/21 Mike Kolka
1988 04/16 Carl Reynolds 1998 04/18 Rich Eurich 2008 04/19 Brett Hearn
1989 04/22 Brett Hearn* 1999 04/17 Rich Eurich 2009 04 18 Danny Creeden
2010 04/17 Brett Hearn 2014 04/12 Tim Hindley* 2018 04/21 Anthony Perrego*
2011 04/09 Danny Creeden 2015 04/18 Anthony Perrego
2012 04/14 Chris Shultz 2016 04/16 Bob McGannon
2013 04/13 Jerry Higbie 2017 04/29 Jimmy Horton*
*Won Opener and Track Modified Point Champion Same Year
42 Different Winners, 1950-2018
Multiple Winners Single Winners
Brett Hearn – 9 Harry Behrent Craig Mitchell
Carl Van Horn – 4 Larry Brolsma Billy Osmun
Bobby Bottcher – 3 Ray Brown Buzzie Reutimann
Will Cagle – 3 Pete Corey Carl Reynolds
Rich Eurich – 3 C.D. Coville Sammy Rogers
Jeff Heotzler – 3 MeMe DeSantis Joe Romer
Frank Cozze – 2 Tex Enright Wayne Reutimann Bud Marl – 2 Jackie Evans Ron Schwendernmann
Chuck McKee – 2 Dick Fletcher Chris Shultz
Frankie Schneider – 2 Jerry Higbie Sonny Strupp Al Tasnady – 2 Jack Johnson Ken Wismer Sr.
BillWimble – 2 Mike Kolka Tim Hindley Danny Creeden – 2 Bob McCreadie Tommy Meier
Anthony Perrego – 2 Bob McGannon Jimmy Horton