A LOOK BACK AT ANOTHER EXCITING SEASON AT THE UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY
VERNON, NY- The 2017 race season at the Utica-Rome Speedway opened with a renewed enthusiasm after the off season return to weekly DIRTcar racing, and the racing action didn’t disappoint. When not hampered by rain, fans were treated to great on track racing every Sunday evening.
The season kicked off on April 23 with the first ever Gladiator Twin 20’s for the 360 Sprints plus the first weekly DIRTcar event at the Vernon oval in over a decade for the Gates-Cole Insurance DIRTcar Modifieds, Broedel Energy DIRTcar Sportsman, and DIRT car Pro Stocks. After battling some challenging spring time track conditions, track crews got the track in shape for some great racing that saw Larry Wight take the DIRTcar Modified win while Danny Varin and Lucas Wolfe each took a win in the 360 Sprint A-Mains. Dave Marcuccilli was the Sportsman winner while Robbie Speed took the Pro Stock win in exciting fashion. Matt Sheppard closed out the month at Utica-Rome Speedway with his first win of the season on April 30 while Rocky Warner was victorious in the Sportsman. Robbie Speed scored his second win of the season by besting a tough field in a Super DIRTcar Pro Stock Series win.
Rain took the next two events on the Utica-Rome Speedway schedule on May 7 and May 14, and after a scheduled week off, racing resumed on Sunday May 28, Sheppard passed Richie Evans on the all-time Utica-Rome Speedway win list for the third spot after taking the DIRTcar Modified feature win. Danny Varin collected his second 360 Sprint win at UR with the A-Main win in the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints, while the Sportsman win went to Alan Fink and the Pro Stock winner was Mike Welch.
After a June 4 rainout and a Sunday off to hold the first-ever Motocross event on June 11, racing resumed on the half-mile oval on June 18. Rain interfered with the action on that night as well with just two feature events being completed. Jeff Trombley won the CRSA Sprint A-Main while Warner won the King of Dirt Sportsman in dominating fashion. Rain won again on June 25.
The first event in July came on Sunday July 2 with the annual Super DIRTcar Modified Series and the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprint Speedweek doubleheader that saw Stewart Friesen add another win to his all-time feature winner total at Utica-Rome Speedway as he took the New Yorker 100 win, but the talk of the event and the rest of the season was about what happened behind him in the later stages of the 100-lap race. On lap 88, after mid-race pit stops, Sheppard and Wight were making their way back through the field when they tangled. Wight took several severe tumbles down the backstretch and came to a rest in turn three while Sheppard’s mount sat disabled a short distance away. A physical confrontation then ensued between the two drivers, which would lock their names together for the rest of the season and beyond whenever anyone mentions their names. Chuck Hebing took the ESS win with Danny Varin being crowned the Speedweek champion. Mark Effner was the DIRTcar Sportsman feature winner. On July 9, Erick Rudolph took the 358-Modified King of Dirt victory while Warner took the Sportsman winner. Welch won another Pro Stock main event while Joe Abass too the first Novice Sportsman main event of the season. The following Sunday, July 16, Pat Ward took the rain delayed Modified win from June 18 while Sheppard took the win in the regularly scheduled nightcap. Marcuccilli took the win in the $1,000 to win Sportsman Mike Martin Memorial while Welch was victorious again in the Pro Stocks. After another rainout on July 23, racing resumed the following Sunday July 30 and Sheppard continued his dominance in the Modifieds with another win while Warner also took another Sportsman win while Shane Henderson won his first ever Pro Stock event at UR with a win in the Gene Kotary Memorial. Tom Juno won the Novice Sportsman feature.
On August 6, Sheppard kept going with his winning ways with another Modified win while Matt Janczuk took his first Sportsman win of the season and Welch returned to Pro Stock victory lane. Jimmy Moyer was another first-time winner in the Novice Sportsman. The following Sunday, August 13, Sheppard made a last lap pass of Marc Johnson to keep his win streak alive while Dave Moyer won the Sportsman feature. Welch won another Pro Stock main with Devin Willis took home the win in the Novice Sportsman. On August 20, during the annual Night of Legends event, Sheppard doubled up on the evening as not only did he win another Modified event, but he also won the King of Dirt 358-Modified Series event in a borrowed car after a race long battle with Rudolph. Warner took the big win in the $1,000 to win King of Dirt Sportsman Series main while Chuck Dumblewski won the King of Dirt Pro Stock Series event. Rob Yetman won the rain delayed KoD main event. On Sunday August 25, Wight entered the pit area with no intentions of racing and by the time the dust settled, he was standing in victory lane in teammate Ward’s backup car and fire suit and ending Sheppard’s victory lane dominance. In the Sportsman main event, young Charlie Tibbitts scored his first-ever win while AJ Walters won his first UR Pro Stock feature. Floyd Billington was the Novice Sportsman victor.
Rain again interfered with racing that was scheduled for Sunday September 3 as the tail end of Hurricane Harvey dropped heavy rain throughout the region. With the cancellation, Sheppard was name the Gates-Cole Insurance Modified 2017 champion while Matt Janczuk took the Broedel Energy Sportsman championship. Mike Welch earned his first Utica-Rome Speedway Pro Stock championship. The following Sunday, September 10, saw the first ever Ultimate Sportsman Showdown take place after being delayed from July 23. Warner battled with Marcuccilli for much of the 50-lap event, but he would hang on to win the $5,000 main event.
The final event on the half-mile oval was run on Tuesday, October 3, to kick off Super DIRT Week festivities. Mat Williamson shocked the field after making a late race charge to pass both Sheppard and Friesen to score the big Super DIRTcar 358-Modified Series win. Jason Barney survived a four-car battle to grab the 360 Sprint Cole Cup A-Main while Glenn Forward took the Sportsman main event win.
Near the end of the season, Utica-Rome Speedway owners Bill and Kim Shea along with Fulton Speedway owner John Wight, announced their intentions to change their headline divisions for the DIRTcar Big Block Modifieds to the more affordable 358-Modifieds. If the feedback from the recent Northeast Racing Products Trade Show is any indication, it should prove to be a very popular move. Look for more news about the upcoming season in the coming weeks on out Facebook page and at www.uticaromespeedway.com.