VERNON, NY- With the extended weather forecast looking very promising for this Sunday April 17, all systems are go for Utica-Rome Speedway’s 55th Season Opener.  Busch Beer will present the first night of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing, highlighted by Twin 20’s for the Gates-Cole Insurance Modifieds.  The SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman, Broedel Energy Open Sportsman, and Pro Stocks will also be in competition. 

Matt Sheppard had a stellar year at Utica-Rome Speedway in 2015, racking up an incredible 10 wins on his way to the 2015 Modified championship and a second place finish in the New York State NASCAR Whelen All-American Series standings.  This season, he comes back looking to repeat but with a new team as he was forced to start his own team over the winter.  It all starts this Sunday as Sheppard will have to fend of some familiar faces that chased him last year as well as some new faces that will be in attendance this Sunday.  Last season, Larry Wight, Mike Mahaney, Pat Ward, Vic Coffey, Matt Hulsizer, and Danny Varin were just some of the drivers that chased Sheppard and they are all confirmed to be in attendance this Sunday.  Other drivers that have committed to this Sunday, and some the season, are Danny Johnson, Alan Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Rob Bellinger, Vinnie Vitale, Shaun Pangman, Jim Nagel, Brandon Walter, Cory Pike, Ryan Phelps, Ryan Bartlett, Josh Hohenforst, and more.  The battle for the win in each of the $1,500 to win, $150 Twin 20 lap main events should be intense. 

The SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman completed their first full season as part of the weekly program at Utica-Rome Speedway in 2015, and like Sheppard, Rocky Warner had a dream season on his way to the title.  With Warner’s off season medical issues, it is unclear when he’ll return so the pre-season favorite for the title has to be Matt Janczuk.  Janczuk was in striking distance all season long for the title and looks to improve his spot by one to claim the title.  AJ Filbeck, Cody Clark, Kyle Kiehn, Alan Fink, Glenn Forward, Corey Barker, Daryl Nutting, Rocco Leone, and Chris Cunningham are some of the drivers who compete weekly last season at the Utica-Rome Speedway with most expected back this season, along with a host of new drivers. 

The Broedel Energy Open Sportsman return in 2016 and the battle for the title could be much of the same as it was in 2015 with Steve Way and Claude Hutchings, Jr. battling for the title.  Hutchings hope to get over the hump this season to grab his first Utica-Rome Speedway championship.  Way, Jack Miller, Jeremy Vunk, Heath Carney, Tom Tophoven, Craig Pope, Lucas Heintz, Randy Shantel, and more are expected back this season. 

With 2015 Pro Stock champion looking to move on to the SUNY Canton 602 Sportsman division, the chase for the Pro Stock title is now wide open.  Mike Welch looks to be the favorite for the title as he was narrowly beat by Forward for it in 2015 but with most of the contenders from last year returning and some new faces, and old faces returning, it will be a battle to the end.  Each night, the Pro Stock division puts on one of the best shows of the evening. 

With the long winter layoff and the favorable forecast, anticipation for Sunday is at all-time high.  Competitors and anyone else who has not yet purchased their NASCAR license, full or temporary, you are encouraged to arrive early to fill out the necessary paperwork.  To get the license and tax paperwork ready for Sunday, call Kim Shea at (315)794-7805. 

Gate will open at 3;30 p.m. with racing kicking off at 6 p.m.  For more information on the “Action Track of the East”, please log on to www.uticaromespeedway.com or call the speedway office at (315)829-4557.  Utica-Rome Speedway can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter at @UR_Speedway.