History of the Utica-Rome Speedway
The Utica-Rome Speedway is a race track with a very storied history. It began life in 1961, when it was built on some old farmland by Joe Lesik. Utica-Rome replaced the Vernon Speedway, an early stock car track that was sold and converted into the Vernon Downs horse racing facility. The track itself was a quarter mile asphalt oval just off Route 5 in Vernon, N.Y. At the end of 1961, Rene Charland was the track's first ever track champion. In 1964, the speedway was sold to Dick and Dorothy Waterman and partner Bernie Ingersoll, who kept the speedway in their possession until February of 1979. At the end of every year, Waterman held a big race called, "The New Yorker 400", a race which was a very popular and storied one. Many big name drivers showed up for this race and won.
An old Utica-Rome bumper sticker.
Here is the logo found on the cover
of the track program.
The above photo shows "The Rapid Roman" Richie Evans in his famous #6NY coupe at Utica-Rome after a feature win as the sun sets in the background in the mid 1960's.
When one thinks of the Utica-Rome Speedway, one of the first names that comes to mind is Richie Evans. Richie, a 9 time NASCAR Modified National Champion, was from local Rome, NY. He began his racing career at the speedway in drag cars and hobby divisions, before he moved up into the Modifieds. Other Utica-Rome drivers from the past that come to mind include Utica, NY driver Lou "The Monk" Lazzaro (who was an active driver at NUR in 1998!), many time NASCAR Champion and Evans arch rival, Jerry Cook, Geoff Bodine, Maynard Troyer, Rene Charland, and Billy Wimble.
In 1962, the speedway added an eighth-mile dragstrip, called the Utica-Rome Dragway, on the north end of the property. It was a very popular addition to the speedway. As you can see by the bumper sticker above, stock car races were held on Sunday nights at 8pm, while drag racing on the dragstrip was on Saturday nights at 7pm.
The above logo is another UR track logo from the 1960's when the Speedway was NASCAR Sanctioned.
Utica-Rome was converted from a 1/3 mile paved circuit to a 5/8 mile dirt oval in the winter of 1979, when it was sold by Dick Waterman. The speedway ran without a sanction in 1979 and 1980. From 1981-1982, it was run by Fonda Speedway promoter Ron Compani under a DIRT Motorsports Sanction for the first time ever. After 1982, the speedway fell silent for two years. In late 1984, DIRT Modified star Jumpin' Jack Johnson bought into the speedway with Jim Beachy and Fred Burrows and reopened it in the spring of 1985. They renamed the track The New Venture International Speedway, and had a DIRT Motorsports Sanction for the second time. In late 1985, Johnson sold his interests in the track. Beachy and Burrows ran the track till the fall of 1987. Because of various problems, the speedway was to fall silent in 1988.
1981-1982 Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Logo
New Venture Int'l Speedway - Beachy Logo
However, in 1989, the track was rescued when it was leased by Fulton Speedway's Millard "Bub" Benway along with his niece Gisele and her husband, Eric Kingsley. They renamed the track, "New" Utica-Rome Speedway, and thus began "The Outlaw Circuit", a weekly tri-track combination of Brewerton, Fulton, and New Utica-Rome Speedways. Eric Kingsley and Benway wanted to make Utica-Rome what it once was, a strong weekly show with good car count and excellent crowds. In 1992, the Kingsley family finally bought the speedway, and brought a NASCAR Winston Racing Series sanction back to the track. Rules for the modified division were basically unrestricted. This meant that you could run alcohol, sail panels, and wide tires, known as drag rubber. This outlaw combination was very popular with the fans, and this was one of the most successful times in the history of the speedway.
Utica-Rome was sold to a group of partners in late 1995 and operated under the NASCAR Winston Racing Series from 1996-late June 1998 by that group. Dale Planck won three consecutive NASCAR Regional Championships from 1994-1996 with his home track as Utica-Rome. After a break in the partnership and some legal troubles, Utica-Rome was reacquired by former owner Eric Kingsley towards the end of June 1998
Eric Kingsley, owner of the speedway, rescued the track, its drivers, and the fans. He shut the track down for one week, and returned everything back to normal. The crowds came back in large numbers and so did the drivers. Eric and his family operated the speedway for the remainder of the 1998 racing season. After the 98 season was over, Kingsley began making some major improvements to the facility, of which include 5,000 yards of new rock free clay, a new 14 foot fence in turns one and two, a new enlarged pit area, and a brand new large concession stand. The Kingsley family is very excited about the future of the speedway.
1999 was the most successful racing season ever at the speedway. Large crowds week in and week out came to the speedway to see some of the finest racing action in the Northeastern United States.
Drivers raved about the excellent track conditions. Between the 2001 and 2002 the track was sold once again, this time to the Cole family of Gates-Cole Insurance Company.
The speedway was once again named "New
Utica-Rome Speedway" for the era that began in mid 1998 and went through 2001.
In 2002 the track was renamed Utica-Rome Speedway LLC under the direction of Tom Cole for the yet another new era in this history of the speedway.
The 2002 season was a season of change at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Last winter, the speedway saw a change of ownership from the Kingsley family to Cole family. During the racing season, the guardrails lining the outside of turns 3 and 4 were removed, to the delight of many drivers. The 2002 racing season also proved to be one of the most competitive seasons at the speedway in recent memory, with 38 different winners in the 74 events competed. After a stellar rookie rookie season on the DIRT circuit in 2001, Waterloo’s Matt Sheppard entered his first full season of competition in the headline DIRT 358-Modified division at Utica-Rome Speedway with high hopes. Sheppard was a model of consistency thoughout the 2002 campaign in his potent Paine Motorsports/Nick’s Café Teo-Pro numbered 28s, tallying 1 win which came late in the season while in the leader of overall points. Sheppard also had twelve top 5’s, and fourteen top 10’s on route to his first Utica-Rome Speedway championship.
High flying Gordy Button of Kirkville returned to victory lane on Memorial Day weekend, on the two-year anniversary of the horrific sprint car wreck that threatened to end his driving career. It also was his first win at the speedway since the 1995 season. "Panic" Button finished fourth in the season long points battle. Danny Johnson won the opening event for the Turning Stone Casino Resort DIRT 358-Modified Super DIRT Series, with New Jersey’s Brett Hearn taking the win in Utica-Rome Speedway’s season ending Super DIRT series event. Overall, there were 12 different winners in 17 DIRT 358-Modified events run during the 2002 season.
Brett Hearn and Danny Johnson beat out the UR regulars to bring home the Super Dirt Series Victories
Jamie Christian of West Winfield and Tim Clemons of Gloversville both finished the season with 5 wins a piece in the competitive DIRT Sportsman division, with Christian taking the Utica-Rome Speedway title. Clemons, the defending Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Sportsman champion, made a late season charge, but Christian’s consistent finishes were too much for Clemons to overcome. Rounding out the top 5 in overall points were Paul Carey (0 wins), Kevin Crave (1 win), and Jim Roberts (0 wins). Mike Button won the Sunoco Race Fuels Sportsman Super DIRT Series event in mid-June. In all, 8 drivers graced victory lane in a total of 18 events.
Jamie Christian continued his winning ways in the sportsman class, picking up his 2nd UR track championship and adding to his total of sportsman victories with 23, the most by any driver. Here he races with teenage sensation, Jessica Zemken.
Oneida's Jason Rood proved that consistancy is the key to a track championship, not feature wins. Rood failed to get a victory in 2002, but on the strength of eleven top 5’s and fourteen top 10's, he still managed to win the Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Pro Stock title. Invader Dave Schulz took the win in the Empire Sports Network Super DIRT Series event for the DIRT Pro Stocks. In the 18 events completed, 9 different drivers landed in victory lane.
Gordy "Panic" Button returned to the weekly wars and claimed victory over on Memorial Day, 2 years after suffering an almost career ending injury in a sprint car at Utica Rome. Here he races with 2002 Champion and DIRT Wonderboy Matt Sheppard.
Oneida's Jason Rood proved that consistancy is the key to a track championship, not feature wins. Rood failed to get a victory in 2002, but on the strength of eleven top 5’s and fourteen top 10's, he still managed to win the Utica-Rome Speedway DIRT Pro Stock title. Invader Dave Schulz took the win in the Empire Sports Network Super DIRT Series event for the DIRT Pro Stocks. In the 18 events completed, 9 different drivers landed in victory lane.
Dave Mannise of Fulton ended the 2002 season in familiar territory, as Utica-Rome Speedway Pure Stock champion. After winning 5 times and having late season motor problems, Mannise claimed his ninth Utica-Rome Speedway championship. Six different drivers graced victory in the 17 races completed.
The Empire Super Sprints visited Utica-Rome Speedway on two occasions, with Dan Kaszubinski grabbing the win on Labor Day weekend, and Doug Emery taking the Super DIRT Week win. Also visiting the speedway on two occasions were the Central New York Mini-Sprints, with Doug Norrie taking the victory in both events. A scary moment occurred during their Labor Day weekend visit, when a Mini-Sprint was launched into the flagstand on the original start, sending flaggers Matt Burdick and Tom Neddo leaping from the flagstand to the ground. Both were uninjured and continued on with their duties for the remainder of the event.
Female Sprintcar standout Erin Crocker rolled into the spotlight with 3 victories after teaming with 2002 and 8 time Empire Super Sprint Champion, Mike Woodring, who clinched his title with a 3rd place run in the final race of the 2002 Utica-Rome season.
Utica-Rome Speedway entered its 42nd year of operation when the gates opened for the 2003 season, and fans were treated to great racing in all divisions once again. The race for the championship was also hotly contested in every division with the DIRT 358-Modified championship wasn't decided until the last lap of the final point race. In the support divisions, a young local driver claimed his first-ever title in the DIRT Sportsman class, a returning veteran taking home the Pro Stock title, and a Pure Stock driver living out his dream by winning his first points championship.
Dale Planck took a two-year leave of absence from regular competition, but returned to Utica-Rome Speedway for the 2003 season and quickly showed the rest of the competitors that he meant business. Planck won the season opening 40-lap event and nabbed another victory later in the season. Despite leading the points most of the season, Planck's luck went sour late in the season, allowing a consistent Mitch Gibbs to take over the point lead going into the final night of points. With two 20-lap features being contested, a little luck would be all that Planck needed to regain the point lead. Early in the first event, bad luck bit Planck and sent him to the pits and seemingly ending his title chances, but on the restart, Gibbs was caught up in a tangle that started in front of him, and flipped hard down the back stretch in spectacular fashion. Gibbs emerged from his destroyed machine uninjured, but his Nice n' Easy sponsored #2g would never see another race. During the long red flag period, Planck made repairs to his car and was able to gain some valuable points. The two veterans would go into the second event tied atop the point standings. Gibbs managed to finish 5th in a backup machine while still feelings the effects of the hard crash in earlier event, but Planck outraced him to the finish by placing second behind winner John Ramsey to take home his 5th
Utica-Rome Speedway 358-Modified championship. It was quite a comeback year for Planck in his Lost your Marbles Motorsports #77x. Gibbs settled for 2nd with 2 wins for the season, with defending champion Matt Sheppard (2 Wins), 2001 champion Todd Burley (3 wins), and Vernon's Willy Decker (1 win) finishing in top five in the season long standings. Finishing in positions 6th-10th were Mark Flach, John Ramsey (1 win), Paul Kinney, Jeff Kotary, and Dave Rauscher. Other winners include Gus Schmidt, Jim Rothwell, Paul Jensen, and Pete Taylor. Invading Dave Camara took the win in a late season event, with Brett Hearn victorious in the special mid-week Advance Auto Parts DIRT Modified series event and the season ending Turning Stone Casino Resort 100-lap race.
Mitch Gibbs and Dale Planck battled all year long, bringing the championship battle to a tie entering the final race.
2003 Sportsman Track Champion Billy Shantel Jr. looks to the inside of Jim Roberts.
Bill Shantel, Jr. from nearby Canastota was crowned the Utica-Rome Speedway Sportsman champion after taking the lead late in the season and never letting it go. Shantel tallied two wins at the half-mile speedplant in 2003, held off defending champion Jamie Christian (5 wins), John Scarborough, Jessica Zemken (1 win), and Jim Roberts. Tim Mayne, Butch Reiter (1 win), Bill Price, Tim Clemons (5 wins), and Steve Way (1 win) filled out the top ten in the standings. The Sunoco Race Fuels Sportsman Super DIRT Series made two stops at the Vernon oval in 2003, with Jessica Zemken becoming the first female racer to win a DIRT series event and Jamie Christian victorious in the second event.
After a year layoff, Jerry Holmes returned to the weekly Pro Stock wars at the Utica-Rome Speedway and looked as though he never left. After finishing fourth on opening night, Holmes won the next four events, and finished with six victories for the season. Holmes held off Bret Belden (4 wins), Eric Vanderhoof, 2002 champion Jason Rood (2 wins), Chad Ray, and Brian Belden. Ray and Belden finished in a tie for fifth in the overall standings. Filling out the rest of the top 10 were Bill Knapp (1 win), Buddy Hencke (1 win), Joe Palmer (1 win), and Ed Ostrander. It was Holmes' second championship at the speedway. Tom Denton also graced victory lane and Tom Kuck was the victor in the Empire Sports Network Pro Stock Super DIRT Series event.
Orange County Fair Speedway Invader Tom Kuck picked up the Pro Stock Super DIRT Series win but had to hold off Fonda hotshoe Kenny Gates and 2003 Utica Rome Track Champion, Jerry Holmes.
After spending his childhood attending races at the Utica-Rome Speedway and dreaming about racing and winning, Art Newman lived out that dream when he was crowned the 2003 Pure Stock champion. That dream was almost cut short in a horrific flip on the frontstretch during the season. Fellow competitor George Schulze let Newman use his car the remainder of the season, and Newman took over the point lead late in the season to win his first championship. Newman also nabbed 2 wins during the season, holding off Herm Staats (2 wins), Jim Thomas (2 wins), Waylon Wilczek, and Rick Condes. Rick Trexler (1 win), Ted Crawford, Chuck Cushman (4 wins), Dave Pope (2 wins), and Phil Norman filled out the rest of the top ten finishers. Dave Mannise also grabbed two wins with Russ Marsden victorious one time.
Two weeks after a horrific wreck destroyed his own car, Art Newman Jr. would get back on his championship track picking up the win in a car borrowed from fellow competitor George Schulze.
The Empire Super Sprints visited the speedway 3 times during the 2003 campaign, with Justin Barger winning twice and Mike Lutz collecting the other win.
The Central New York Mini-Sprints competed six times throughout the season, and Cory Sparks (twice), Doug Norrie (twice), Matt Norrie, and Don Harvey all gracing victory lane. Bryan Howland was named the overall champion for their Super Sunday Series at Utica-Rome Speedway.
The IMCA-type Modifieds made a single visit for the North East Affordable Rading Association (NEARA) series, with George Catanzano showing the field the fast way around the clay oval.
The Empire Super Sprints race 3 wide off turn 2 during their final appearance of 2003.
The last event of the season was the 2003 Awards Banquet, which was held at the nearby Turning Stone Casino Resort in mid-November, where competitors were given their first glimpse of things to come in 2004. First off, race director Chip Burdick was promoted to general manager. It was also announced that speedway had hundreds of loads of new gray clay put down over the red clay that has been the norm at the speedway for years. The new surface promises to make the racing action even better than what fans were treated to this past season. Also, the infield area of the speedway was re-manicured to make viewing the racing action easier. Finally, a new entry level division was added for 2004. The Four Cylinder Super Stocks will added as a cheap alternative at aspiring racers.
The 2004 season at Utica-Rome Speedway actually started during the off-season with a steady flow of press releases announcing a series of incentive programs, the new track surface, and the formation of a huge point fund for the DIRT 358-Modifieds. A hefty $10,000 was going to the 358-Modified track champion at the end of season, with the 10th place finisher in points getting $1,000.
20 year old Niagara-on-the-Lake native Stewart Friesen started his quest for the $10,000 358-Modified championship in fine style by winning the first 4 events of the season at Utica-Rome Speedway. Overall, Friesen graced victory lane 8 times in the potent Madsen Overhead Door ride en route to his first ever 358-Modified title at the Vernon half mile.
Vermont native Dave Camara made the trek every week to the Utica-Rome Speedway and even though he was running up front every week, he was unable to go home with a victory. His top 5 and top 10 finishes matched that of the champion Friesen during the point season with 11 and 13, respectively, helping him finish 2nd in the overall standings. Camara took home a hefty $6,000 for his second place finish in the point standings.
358 Modified Champion Stewart Friesen
The 3rd place finisher in points was also unable to find victory lane in 2004, but Mitch Gibbs also used consistent finishes to help his cause in the standings. The Nice n’ Easy Grocery Shoppes numbered 2g found his groove late in the season and was threat every week in the second half of the season. Gibbs collected $4,000 for his efforts.
Spencerport’s Todd Burley has always been fast at the Vernon oval, and 2004 was no different. Burley netted 2 wins on the season on his way to his 4th place finish in the standings and received $2,500 at the season ending banquet.
Filling out the top 5 in the standings was Brian Weaver from Windsor NY. Weaver stated at the beginning of the season that he came to win races, and he was able to collect 2 wins throughout the season. The southern tier standout was awarded $2,000 for his 5th place finish in the overall standings.
The rest of the top 10 were Mark Flach, Bobby Varin (2 wins), Jamie Christian (1 win), Willy Decker, and Gus Schmidt.
The race of the year was when the Turning Stone Casino Super DIRT Series made a midweek stop on August 26. Bobby Varin charged from the 19th position to lead in the early stages of the 100 lap affair only to have a series of late race cautions end his bid for the victory. Alan Johnson took home the win in a race that saw 12 lead changes among 8 drivers.
89b Todd Burley, 2g Mitch Gibbs and h24 Bobby Varin
Jessica Zemken continued the year of the “young guns” at the Utica-Rome Speedway as the 18 year old driver started the season with 3 race win streak in the Sportsman division. She finished the season with 4 wins and the overall points champion. Veteran Sportsman competitor Mike Button finished 2nd in the standing, netting 3 wins throughout the season. Paul Carey had a career season in the Sportsman division, grabbing his 1st career win and backing that up with 2 more wins by the season’s end, including a win in the Sunoco Race Fuels Sportsman Super DIRT Series. Another driver that picked up his 1st career win is Billy Price and managed a 4th place finish in the standings. Rookie driver Kenny Stafford also netted his 1st win and a fine 5th place finish in his first full season of competition. Steve Way (1 win), Jeremy Vunk, Bill Shantel, Jr. (1 win), Butch Reiter, and Tim Nye filled out the top 10 in the Sportsman point standings.
Sportsman Champion Jessica Zemken
Like Friesen and Zemken, Roy Fifield started the season with a win streak that would launch him into a points lead that he would never relinquish as he won the first 5 Pro Stock events and finishing the season with 6 wins and the Pro Stock championship. Multi-time Utica Rome Speedway Pro Stock champion Bret Belden did not manage to find victory lane at the speedway in 2004 but was consistent enough to finish second in the overall standings. Oneida’s Jason Rood was also a model of consistency throughout the season, having four 2nd place finishes before winning the last events of the season, including the Empire Sports Network Super DIRT Series event on Labor Day Weekend. The late season run cemented a 3rd place finish in the standings for Rood. Tom Denton returned to the Pro Stock ranks in 2004 looking for the success he enjoyed in past years. Denton managed to grab 1 win for the season while be in the running for many more, and he finished 4th in the standings. 2003 champion Jerry Holmes managed only 5th place finish in the standings in 2004 despite winning 4 times. The constancy that Holmes displayed in 2003 escaped him this past season. Finishing out the top 10 were Dave Moyer, Bob Mills (1 win), Brian Belden, Ryan Lund, and Mark Effner.
Pro Stock Champion Roy Fifield
Even though he missed the opening 2 nights of Pure Stock competition at the Utica-Rome Speedway in 2004, when Russ Marsden did show up he was virtually unbeatable. Marsden won 11 of the next 13 events and grabbed the point lead on the last night of competition to become the 2004 Pure Stock champion. Chris Cunningham finished 2nd in the standings, winning once and having a handful of top 5 finishes. After winning the opening 2 events, Dave Pope led the chase for the championship until the final night of competition when he fell to 3rd in the standings. Veteran Pure Stock campaigner Chuck Cushman was the 4th place finisher in the standings, netting 1 win for the season with fan favorite Jim Thomas finishing out the top 5. The remainder of the top 10 was Bob Bird, Art Newman, Rick Condes, Dave Janczuk, and Phil Norman.
After a successful debut in June, the IMCA Modifieds were signed on for the remainder of the season as a regular division. George Catanzano immediately adapted to the fast Utica-Rome Speedway, grabbing 4 wins en route to his championship. Kevin Buff finished in the runner-up position while grabbing 1 win on the season. Aaron Jacobs, Skip Pabis, Jojo Donato rounded out the top 5 positions in the overall the standings. Sean Lias (1 win), Dale Caswell (1 win), Bill Anderson, Lyle Smith, and Chris Thurston were the remainder of the top 10 in the standings.
Pure Stock Champion Russ Marsden
Chuck Powelczyk was the Four Cylinder Super Stock champion in their inaugural season at the speedway on the strength of his 6 wins. Joey Delacruz, Jack Hill (2 wins), Jim Money (4 wins), and Lee Hartzog chased Powelczyk in the standings.
4cyl. Track Champion Chuck Powelczyk
The season concluded in November at the Turning Stone Casino Resort with the annual Awards gala where nearly $50,000 was handed out in point money and bonuses. At the banquet, several announcements were made concerning the improvements at the speedway. The surface was reconfigured, evening out the transition in the banking in the turns, new fencing put up for the spectators, and the turn 4 wall being extended as a safety measure for the drivers. Also in late December, an announcement was made concerning the sanctioning of the speedway. DIRT Motorsports was not returning as a sanctioning body, and the speedway will operate as an independent in 2005.
Shortly after the 2004 season ended at the famed Vernon oval, loads of clay were hauled in and laid out on the speedway. The new clay was put in the turns of the half-mile track, evening the transition in the banking.
Also the smaller inner track was resurfaced with the new clay, making a track specifically for Four Cylinder Stock and Mini Sprint type racers.
While that was being done, a new fence was put up along the front stretch that separates the spectators and the race track. The new fencing replaced the old fence that has been standing since the track was built.
The Grandstands were cleaned and painted which gave a fresh new look to the facility.
The Racing started off with just as much excitement as it ended with in 2004. The racing was again outstanding and the intensity was at an all time high. Willy Decker's Consistent top 5 finishes made him the 358 track champion. Week after week the "mighty mods" put on great show and nearly each week it came right down to the checkers.
Willy Decker battles with Don Mattison
In the Sportsman division Paul Carey claimed his first Sportsman title. This division was very competitive and proved to be a class of drivers that put UR fans on their feet!
Paul Carey and Mike Button
The Pro Stock title went to Jerry Holmes as he came away with 8 wins on the season. Yet another exciting field of cars!
Jerry Holmes, Jim Normoyle and Jason Rood
With 11 wins Russ Marsden ran away with the Pure Stock title.
Week after week he came straight to the front as the rest of the field battled for the other top spots.
Chuck Powelczyk wheeled his 4cyl. Super Stock to Victory Lane 4 times and picked up the 2005 title. Ken Carson with 5 wins would have to settle for second in points.
In the IMCA Modifieds George Cantanzano Dominated the Field with 12 wins (7 in a row) Bill Anderson's First two wins and 6 top 5 finishes would earn him 2nd. in points with Kevin Buff settleing for 3rd.
VERONA , NY- On Saturday November 11, the 2006 Utica-Rome Speedway season officially came to a close at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona , NY with the annual Awards Banquet. Nearly 500 guests filled the Mohawk room to see the top 10 drivers in each division receive their accolades for the 2006 season, with over $65,000 being handed out between point and tire money.
For the second consecutive year, Willy Decker was the driver receiving the huge $8,000 check for winning the 2006 Utica-Rome Speedway 358-Modified championship. Bobby Varin had the point lead going into the last night of competition at the fast Vernon half mile but an expiring power plant and Decker’s second place run allowed the 2005 champion to repeat as the 358-Modified champion. Varin slipped to second in the standings and had to settle for the $6,000 runner-up check. Varin had four wins on the season. Ted Lamb (1 win) collected $4,000 for his third place efforts, with Todd Burley (3 wins) and Jamie Christian collected $2,500 and $2,000 respectively for their top five finishes in the point standings. Paul Kinney (1 win), Mitch Gibbs, Gus Schmidt (1 win), David Orr, and John Ramsey were also recognized for their top 10 finishes
in the standings. In all, over $25,000 was handed out to the top 10 in points. Bill Shantel, Jr. was given the Rookie of the Year in the 358-Modifieds with David Orr awarded the Most Improved Driver award. Bobby Varin was given the Hard Charger award. Special thanks go out to Mirabito “The Energy Leader” and Gene Cole, both who make this stellar point fund possible.
Mike Button was recognized at the 2006 Utica-Rome Speedway Sportsman Champion, his first ever title at the Vernon oval. An incredible turn of events on the last race of the season saw then point leader Kyle Lewis receive an on track penalty that relegated him to the pits, opening the door for Button to claim the title. A fourth place run in the event was enough for Button to claim the title. Button had one victory on the year. Another driver slipping by Lewis in the standings on the final night was Jeremy Vunk. The second place finish in the standings was two time winner Vunk’s careers best. Lewis (1 win) fell to third in the standings with Brad Alger and Paul Carey (2 wins) rounded out the top five. The rest of the top ten to be recognized were Steve Way (3 wins), Matt Janczuk, Tim Nye (1 win), Casey Williams, and Alan Barker (1 win). Rookie of the Year went to Danny Varin, who scored a win on the same night as his father Bobby. Most Improved went to Matt Janczuk while Jeremy Vunk was the Hard Charger.
Jerry Holmes was on hand to collect his fourth Pro Stock championship after a stellar 2006 season with seven wins. Bret Belden (4 wins) was second in the standings with Jim Normoyle (2 wins) third. Tom Denton (2 Wins) and rookie Chris Mackey filled out the top five in the standings. The rest of the top 10 awarded point money was Dave Moyer, Don Decker, Bill Knapp, Ed Ostrander, and Mark Effner. Chris Mackey was awarded the Rookie of the Year with Ed Ostrander given the Most Improved Driver award. Former champion Bret Belden received the Hard Charger Award.
For the third consecutive season, Russ Marsden was recognized as the 2006 Pure Stock champion after another dominating season, with 10 wins in 16 events. Chris Cunningham (2 wins) was able to keep the chase for the title close, even holding the point lead late in the season, but fell short in the last several weeks to finish in the second spot in the standings. Ron Hawker (1 win), Curt Prevo (1 win), and Glenn Forward rounded out the top five spots. Filling out the top were Tim Janczuk, Shawn Dunn, Frank Hyatt, Jim Thomas, and Chris Carr. The Hard Charger award went Chris Cunningham with Rookie of the Year going to Chris Carr. The Most Improved Driver award went to Tim Janczuk.
In his first full season in the IMCA Modified division, Jim Roberts was named the Utica-Rome Speedway Champion, grabbing three wins en route to the championship. Aaron Jacobs finished in the runner-up spot with Kevin Buff (2 wins) was third. Rounding out the top five was Mark Chrzanowski and Ken Rogers. Mike Smith (4 wins), Bob Banks, Dale Caswell (1 win), Pete Anderson, and Bill Anderson were the remaining top ten point getters.
During the evening, General Manager Dick Sweet mentioned that many new things are on tap for the upcoming 2007 season, including the return of the “New Yorker” event to the speedway. The 2007 version will be 200 laps in length and be exclusively for the 358-Modifieds. More details will be coming during the winter months. Also he made it point to announce that the huge point fund, again with the help Mirabito “The Energy Leader”, for the 358-Modifieds will remain intact for the 2007 season, with $8,000 again going to the point champion in the 358-Modified division.
Track announcer Mike Mallett handled the microphone throughout the evening with local comedian Joe Peck keeping the large crowd entertained during dinner. The Uptown/Downtowners kept the large throng dancing until the midnight hour.
Special thanks go out to all the sponsors, drivers, crews, officials, and fans that helped make the 2006 season a resounding success.
This past Saturday, November 17, at the beautiful Turning Stone Casino and Resort it was an end of an era for General Manager Dick Sweet at the Utica-Rome Speedway. With the speedway’s Annual Awards Banquet being the last event of the 2007 season, it concluded Sweet’s three year run at GM at the popular Sunday night track. Over 420 patrons attended the gala with over $65,000 going out to the competitors in the five weekly divisions.
Stewart Friesen took home a huge $8,000 check for becoming the 2007 358-Modified champion, his second title in four years at the Vernon oval. Friesen had five wins on the season plus a win in the return of the New Yorker 200, which was worth another $10,000. Willy Decker and Pat Ward shared second place in the final standings, each getting $5,000 for their efforts. Decker had four wins in point races in 2007, plus sweeping the two Dart Dirt Race of Champions events at the speedway, while Ward finished the season with three wins. While winless in the 2007 season at the Vernon oval, Ted Lamb was consistent enough to nail down a fourth place finish in the standings, worth $2,500 to the veteran. Collecting a check for $2,000 was fifth place finisher Todd Burley, who had two wins at the speedway in 2007. Also honored and given checks for the 2007 efforts were the remaining top 10 finishers Gus Schmidt ($1,500), Bobby Varin ($1,400), Bill Shantel, Jr. ($1,300), John Ramsey ($1,200), and AJ Romano. Pat Ward and Willy Decker also collected the Hard Charger Award while Bill Shantel, Jr. was named the Most Improved Driver.
Veteran Mike Button used consistency to grab his second consecutive Sportsman championship as was winless on the season but had an incredible 14 top five finishes in the 15 point events competed. Button had to fend off Alan Barker (3 wins), Matt Janczuk (1 win), Jeremy Vunk (2 wins), and Casey Williams (2 wins). The rest of the top honored were Tim Nye (1 win), Jim Rothwell (2 wins), Steve Way (1 win), Larry Wight, and Brad Alger (2 wins). Alan Barker was also given the Hard Charger Award while Casey Williams and Matt Janczuk shared the Most Improved Driver Award. Larry Wight, his first season in a full sized open wheel car, handily won the Rookie of the Year Award. Jim Rothwell was given a “Dancing with the Stars” award for his attempt at a rooftop dance when he collected his first Utica-Rome Speedway win in nearly a decade.
Collecting his third consecutive, and fifth overall, Pro Stock championship was Jerry Holmes. Despite missing the first event of the season, Holmes was strong enough to overcome the deficit to grab the title by winning five events. Tom Denton (2 wins) and Bret Belden (2 wins) gave Holmes the toughest competition throughout most of the season but fell just short. Chris Mackey (4 wins) and Jim Normoyle (3 wins) filled out the top five point positions while Bill Knapp, Chad Ray (1 win), AJ Digsby (1 win), Dave Moyer, Shawn Frost rounded out the top ten. Tom Denton collected the Hard Charger Award, Shawn Frost the Rookie of the Year, and Chad Ray the Most Improved Driver Award.
Russ Marsden continued his dominance of the Pure Stock division at the Utica-Rome Speedway by winning eight wins en route to his fourth consecutive championship. Tim Janczuk (1 win), Chris Carr (2 wins), Matt Ball (2 wins), and Chris Cunningham filled out the top five positions with Jim Thomas, Waylan Wilczek (1 win), Ron Hawker (2 wins), Keith Stevenson (1 wins), and Cale Hoffman rounded out the top ten. Tim Janczuk was named the Hard Charger with Cale Hoffman the Rookie of the Year. The Most Improved Pure Stock driver award went to Chris Carr.
In the IMCA Modifieds, Jim Roberts was honored as the track champion on the strength of his four wins, over Aaron Jacobs (3 wins), Ken Rogers, Kevan Cook (2 wins), Mike Jacobs, Mark Chrzanowski, Chris Fleming, Dale Caswell (6 wins), Lyle Smith, and Jeff Jones. Aaron Jacobs went home with Hard Charger Award with Ken Rogers named the Most Improved Driver.
After a roast of outgoing General Manager Dick Sweet by Doug Elkins of dougsdirtdiary.com and Utica-Rome Speedway employees, Sweet had a few words to the packed Mohawk Room of the Turning Stone Casino. In a heartfelt speech, Sweet went over his three years at the track. Sweet thanked all the employees, owners Gene and Gloria Cole, racers, and fans for making his run a successful one, and when he was done talking, he was sent off with a standing ovation.
After Sweet’s speech, Race Director John Tiff took to the podium to give a look to the 2008 season. He mentioned the return of the $25,000 plus point fund courtesy of Gates-Cole Insurance and Mirabito Fuel Group and that the tire refund program will continue in 2008. Also, Utica-Rome Speedway will run a Pure Stocks series with Thunder Alley Speedpark and Can-Am Motorsports Park that will pay $1,000 to win. Also, it was announced that the Victoria 200 name was sold by former Fulton Speedway promoter Eric Kingsley to Utica-Rome Speedway and the event will be held at the Vernon oval in July. Tiff also announced that the Big Block Modifieds will be added to the mix for the 2009 season. In the rules department, he announced the 358-Modifieds will operate compete at one weight in 2008, at 2400 lbs along with an open carburetor rule. Barb Clark was also named the Director of Operations, handling most of Sweet’s weekly duties at the Utica-Rome Speedway.
Oneida’s Paul Kinney came home sixth in the standings driving his Nice n’ Easy sponsored entry to five top five finishes. Veteran Utica-Rome driver Jamie Christian came home in seventh in the final rundown in his self owned jc61 mount. Competing his first full season at the Utica-Rome Speedway was Ballston Spa’s Jimmy Davis, although winless this season, Davis showed that he could run with the best of them as he ran up front on many occasions. Davis finished the season with six top five finishes to finish in eighth in the standings. Ted Lamb, from Clay, turned up the heat in the final few races in ’08 after a bad crash in the early part of the season, finishing with a second and win in the final two regular season events. Overall, Lamb had three top five finishes to go with his lone win to grab the ninth spot in final rundown. Veteran Edmeston driver Paul Jensen rounded out the top ten in the standings. Jensen’s return to the weekly wars at the Utica-Rome Speedway saw him with one top five finish overall.
The final chapter in the 2008 Utica-Rome Speedway season was written this past Saturday, November 8, when the annual Awards Banquet was held at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort in Verona NY. Over 430 attendees watched as the top ten drivers in each of the weekly divisions were recognized for their efforts, along with several special awards.
Pat Ward, of Genoa NY, took home the lion’s share of the huge 358-Modified point fund as he took home a check worth $8,000 for his first ever Utica-Rome Speedway championship. Throughout the season, Ward collected eight wins in his Gypsum Express entry along with 13 top five finishes in point competition. Coming in second in the final standings was Vernon’s Willy Decker, a former two time champion, who had grabbed three wins during the ’08 season. Next up was Sharon Springs native and 2008 New Yorker 200 winner Bobby Varin. While Varin went through the regular season winless, he saved his best for last as he took the win in season ending $10,000 to win New Yorker 200. 2007 defending track champion Stewart Friesen endured a tough second half of the season that saw him drop from a very competitive second in the standings to fourth at season’s end. Despite the frustrating end of the season, the young driver from Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario came up with four wins during the season at the Vernon oval. North Norwich’s Mitch Gibbs came into the season with a new team and high hopes but an early season bone jarring crash derailed his season and even though he had some chances at victory during the season, Gibbs went winless and rounded out the top five point positions.
In the Sportsman division, Brad Alger took center stage as he was honored for his first ever track championship at the Vernon. Alger completed the season with four wins during regular competition along with nine top fives. Alger also followed the Dart Dirt Race of Champions Sportsman tour, where he had also was champion. The driver that chased Alger all year at Utica-Rome and on the RoC tour was Matt Janczuk. Janczuk consistently finished up front as he also collected nine top fives to go with his one victory. Jeremy Vunk, another RoC series regular, grabbed one win on the season with 11 top fives to finish a competitive third in the standings.
After a season of knocking on victory lane’s door, fourth place finisher Jason Rood grabbed that elusive win late in the season to help cement his point standing. Rood had eight top fives during the season. Steve Way rounded out the top five in the competitive division, grabbing two wins and seven top fives in point competitions. Jeff Leslie took home the honors for finishing in the sixth position in the final Sportsman standings, finishing with five top five runs. Tim Nye was next in line, finishing seventh on the strength of his three top five finishes. The rest of the top ten were made up of seasoned veterans, with Jim Rothwell coming home in eighth with five top fives. Next up in the ninth spot was defending champion and two time winner Mike Button who also had four top fives to go along with his two wins. Rounding out the top ten was Jack Miller, returning to weekly competition after a few seasons off. Miller finished the season with one top five finish.
Jim Normoyle was a model of consistency in the Pro Stock which carried him to his first ever Utica-Rome Speedway title with three top fives and an incredible 14 top five finishes. Normoyle took center stage during the Pro Stock portion of the program as he was honored for the hard fought title. Finishing in the runner-up position was Rob Seavy, who made a late season charge in the standings to grab the position. Seavy ended his season with one win and 11 top fives. Former track champion Tom Denton was next in line, finishing third after netting two wins and seven top fives. Another former track champion was fourth in the final rundown as Bret Belden took home three
victories in ’08 along with eight top fives. Rounding out the top five was Bill Knapp, who had a fine season with one win and 12 top fives. Shawn Frost surprised many in ’08 by grabbing four wins on the season to go along with 10 top five finishes to net him the sixth spot in the standings. Next up in seventh was Mark Effner, who finished the season with one win and nine top fives. Ed Ostrander ended up in the eighth spot, with a one top five. Rounding out the top ten in the Pro Stocks was AJ Digsby who had one win and two top fives and Dave Moyer who ended up with one top five.
Ever since Russ Marsden started racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway as a weekly competitor, Russ Marsden has dominated victory lane and taken home the honor of being the Utica-Rome Speedway Pure Stock champion, but the 2008 season saw that change. Chris Carr broke Marsden’s championship streak at four as he was officially named the 2008 Utica-Rome Speedway Pure Stock champion this past Saturday. Carr finished the season with two wins and an impressive 15 top five finishes. Marsden finished two points shy to take the second spot. Marsden finished the season with seven victories and 14 top fives as well as being the SUNY Canton Street Stock
Series champion. Ron Hawker completed the season in the third spot with three wins and 13 top fives. Next in the fourth spot was Phil Norman who took home one win to go with his 11 top fives. Rounding out the top five in the standings with two wins and four top fives was Tim Janczuk. Frank Hyatt finished in the sixth spot with three top fives followed by one time winner Chris Cunningham, who had two top five runs. Waylan Wilczek (two top fives), Cale Hoffman (two top fives), and Bill Mason (one top five) rounded out the top ten point positions.
Next up were the special award recipients with Jim Davis (358-Modified), Steve Yankowski (Sportsman), Dan Peo (Pro Stock), and Robert Thiemes (Pure Stock) all receiving the New Comer Award. The Most Improved Driver Award went to Paul Kinney (358-Modified), Jeff Leslie (Sportsman), Mark Effner (Pro Stock), and Phil Norman (Pure Stock). Taking home the Outstanding Performance Award by division was Willy Decker (358-Modified), Matt Janczuk (Sportsman), Rob Seavy (Pro Stock), Russ Marsden (Pure Stock). Determination Awards went Gus Schmidt (358-Modified), Casey Williams (Sportsman), Ivan Joslin (Pro Stocks), and Andy Potter (Pure Stock).
Following the award portion of the program, Race Director John Tiff took to the podium to speak about the upcoming 2009 season. First off, he confirmed that Big Block will be part of the regular Sunday night program, running with the 358-Modifieds. The Big Block rule structure will follow the DIRTcar rulebook while the 358-Modifieds will continue to use the current Utica-Rome rulebook with the exception that the small block powered cars will now be allowed to use dry sump oil systems. Also, the Modified division will see a purse increase with the winner of the feature events now getting $2,000 to win in addition to the current point fund that will remain in place for the 2009 season. Speaking of rule changes, Tiff informed the large gathering that this will be the last year of the “open motor” Sportsman division. Beginning on 2010, the Sportsman division will be a crate motor division, using the guidelines currently being used by DIRTcar and other tracks.
Continuing on, Tiff stated the three major sponsors will still be on board in 2009. Dart Machinery will continue with their sponsorship of the two 200 lap programs in ’09 while Gates-Cole Associates will continue to sponsor many of the major programs next season. The Mirabito Fuel Group will continue their backing of the huge Modified point fund, a fund that pays out over $25,000 to the top ten Modified drivers at season’s end.
Tiff then went on to give highlights of the upcoming season’s schedule which included the Victoria 200 to be run as a two day program on Mother’s Day Weekend and the New Yorker 200 Weekend on September 11 and 12. Continuing the tradition of honoring people from Utica-Rome Speedway’s past, July 22 will be the date for the midweek Dart Dirt Race of Champions Modified Series event in honor of Bill Wimble. Also, Fan Appreciation night will return in ’09, as fans that bring canned good for the local food pantries will get in for five dollars while fans without a canned good will pay seven dollars with two dollars going to the food pantries.
Lastly, Tiff mentioned that the Utica-Rome staff is gauging interest in a golf tournament. The proceeds from the tournament will help fund the point fund at the speedway. Anyone interested was told to contact Bill Cole, Gene Cole, or Barb Clark.
Next up was Director of Operations Barb Clark, who had just completed her first full season in that capacity. Clark went through and thanked everyone including drivers, staff, and ownership for their help in making the 2008 season a successful one.
The night ended in several hours of table racing and dancing as everyone in attendance seemed to have a great time.
Overall, the night was a success with good food from the Turning Stone Casino and Resort staff and the award presentation was done a fine fashion by track announcer Mike Mallett. Over $65,000 in point funds and tire money was handed out to those in attendance
New Yorker 200 - 2008
For the eighth straight year, the Utica-Rome Speedway held their Annual Awards Banquet at the Turning Stone Casino this past Saturday evening. Nearly 450 patrons attended the gala to celebrate the 2009 season to see the top performers of the recently completed season receive their awards and point and tire money, which totaled just over $75,000.
After a wonderful and satisfying meal, the awards portion of the celebration began with Utica-Rome Speedway’s Director of Operations Barb Clark and longtime Gates-Cole Associates/Utica-Rome Speedway employee Connie Plows presented track owner Gene Cole and his wife, Gloria, with a special presentation. Gloria was presented with engraved vase while Gene was given a plaque with a clock, also with a special engraving. Given on behalf of the speedway employees, it was awarded for their undying dedication to Utica-Rome Speedway and the sport of auto racing.
The Pure Stocks were the first class honored with the top ten given their due for their efforts of 2009. Ron Hawker (11 wins) was crowned the 2009 champion after a dominating season, his first championship at the Vernon oval. 2008 champion Chris Carr (3 wins) finished in the runner-up position, with Frank Hyatt (3 wins), Chris Cunningham, and Bill Mason rounding out the top five. Jim Thomas, Rob Thieme, Cale Hoffman, Phil Norman (1 win), and Mike Harrison filled out the top ten.
Next up were the Pro Stocks, with Tom Denton (6 wins) being honored for his championship run, his fourth overall. Coming up short in his first full season at Utica-Rome was Rocky Warner (2 wins) while multi time champion Bret Belden (2 wins), Bill Knapp (1 win), and Jim Normoyle (2 wins) made out the top five spots. The rest of the top ten was filled by Shawn Frost (3 wins), Mark Effner (1 win), AJ Digsby (1 win), Chris Mackey, and Rob Seavy (1 win). Overall, the Pro Stock division was the most competitive division on a weekly basis.
The Sportsman were next to hit the stage with Jason Rood netting his first Sportsman championship. Taking his Turning Stone Casino and Resort mount to victory lane six times, Rood had a career year in the competitive open wheeled division. Jeff Leslie (3 wins plus 2 Dart Dirt Race of Champions series wins) was second with local veteran Steve Way (2 wins) third in the standings. Fourth was Matt Janczuk (3 wins) while Jeremy Vunk (1 win) was fifth in the final tally. Rounding out the top ten positions was Mike Button (1 win), John DeForest, AJ Filbeck, Claude Hutchings, Jr., and Craig Pope.
For the second consecutive year, Pat Ward collected the $8,000 champion’s check in the headline Modified division. Ward and his Gypsum Express team grabbed five wins on the season en route to the lucrative title. Stewart Friesen (3 wins) had to settle for second in the standings, just ahead of Bobby Varin (4 wins), Willy Decker (2 wins), and Ronnie Johnson (1 win). The second half of the top ten was made up with Todd Burley (2 wins), Paul Kinney, Jamie Christian, Danny Varin, and Brian Weaver. Overall the top ten point getters took home a combined total of just over $27,000.
After the top ten in all the weekly divisions were honored, the special award portion of the event was up. Newcomer of the Year Awards went to Ronnie Johnson (Modified), Claude Hutchings, Jr. (Sportsman), Rocky Warner (Pro Stocks), and Mike Harrison (Pure Stocks).
The Outstanding Performance Award went to Stewart Friesen (Modified), Jeff Leslie (Sportsman), Bret Belden (Pro Stocks), and Chris Carr (Pure Stocks).
Most Improved Awards were handed out to Danny Varin (Modifieds), John DeForest (Sportsman), Chris Mackey (Pro Stocks), and Robert Thieme (Pure Stocks).
The final special award of the evening was the Determination Award, given to those that worked hard all season to grab a top ten finish in the points in their respective divisions but fell just short. Ted Lamb was the recipient in the Modifieds, with Bill Trexler, Jr. (Sportsman), Ed Ostrander (Pro Stocks), and Keith Stevenson (Pure Stocks) all taking home the award in their respective divisions.
Race Director John Tiff, Jr. was the next to take the stage, and after a brief review of the 2009 season he congratulated the track champions on their efforts. Also receiving congratulations was Modified champion Pat Ward for his Dart Dirt Race of Champions Modified Series championship, Sportsman campaigner Jeff Leslie for his Dart Dirt Race of Champions Sportsman Series championship, and Bobby Varin for the being inaugural “Thunder on the Thruway” Series championship.
After the 2009 review, Tiff continued on with a look ahead to the 2010 season. He mentioned the return of the hefty Modified point fund, thanking Joe Mirabito of the Mirabito Fuel Group for his continued contributions to the fund. He also thanked Bill Cole and Gates-Cole Associates for their support. Also, he mentioned that there will be no significant rule changes for any division in 2010 which was met with applause from the Sportsman contingent in attendance. He did mention however of a Dart Machinery Spec motor that is in development that will be an option in both the Sportsman and Pro Stocks. Continuing on, he announced the 2010 season will begin on Sunday April 18th with a “Thunder on the Thruway” event for the Modifieds plus regular action for the Sportsman, Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks. Also announced were the dates for the Victoria 200 on May 9, New Yorker 200 Weekend on September 10 and 11, and the return of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series on Thursday July 29. In closing, Tiff thanked all competitors, fans, crews, and families for making Utica-Rome Speedway so successful in 2009 and he also thanked Ray Halbritter and the Oneida Nation for the involvement and hoped for more marketing possibilities between the speedway and the Oneida Indian Nation.
Ric Lucia, promoter of the Fonda Speedway, was next to speak to the huge crowd as he discussed the expansion on the popular “Thunder on the Thruway” Series between Fonda and Utica-Rome Speedway. He also explained the benefits of the series between the two tracks that barely sit an hour apart and hoped for continued success of the series.
Director of Operations Barb Clark closed out the festivities by thanking everyone that helped make the Utica-Rome Speedway a continued success which included fans, drivers, crews, and their families. Finishing out her speech, Clark pointed out the speedway employees one by one and thanked them for sacrifice and hard work. Afterwards, the patrons hung around discussing the racing seasons of past, present, and future or dancing the night away to the music provided the Uptown Downtown DJ’s.
Another season was wrapped up this past Saturday evening at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort as Utica-Rome Speedway celebrated the 2010 season. Nearly 500 patrons were on hand to watch as the top 10 in the weekly Modified, Sportsman, Pro Stock, and Pure Stock division receive their point money as well as the top finishers in the Thunder on the Thruway Series for the Modifieds, Sportsman, and Pro Stocks. Over $100,000 was handed out in point fund, tire money, and other awards throughout the evening.
Stewart Friesen took home the lion’s share of the Modified point fund when he received his $8,000 Utica-Rome Speedway Modified Champion’s check. The Utica-Rome Speedway championship was just one of the many accomplishments Friesen had in 2010 as he also captured the Race of Champions Dirt Modified title, the Five Mile Point Speedway Modified Championship, the Thunder on the Thruway Modified title, and then capped it off with a huge win in the SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 as part of the Super DIRT Week festivities in Syracuse. Friesen scored five wins and 16 top five finishes in 19 starts during his run to his third Utica-Rome Speedway title. Bobby Varin battled Friesen for the title right into the final weeks but had to settle for second with four wins and 13 top five finishes. Second generation driver Ronnie Johnson used three wins and 11 top fives to grab the third spot in the final standings while two time defending champion Pat Ward finished the season in the fourth spot on the strength of one win and 10 top fives. Another former champion Willy Decker rounded out the top five in the standings. Todd Burley (one win), Danny Varin, Casey Williams (one win), Brad Alger, and Paul Kinney filled out the top ten in the final 2010 point standings.
The Thunder on the Thruway Modified Series was also honored where again Friesen was the big winner. He collected another $8,000 check for grabbing the championship in special series with the Fonda and Utica-Rome Speedways. The top four in the standings matched the Utica-Rome Speedway final standings with Varin again in second, Johnson in third, and Ward in fourth. Rounding out the paying positions was Billy Decker and Michael Storms. Fonda Speedway promoter Ric Lucia was on hand to present the checks for the Thunder on the Thruway Series as well as the Best of Four Thunder Series.
In the Sportsman division, Bill Trexler Jr. was honored for his first Sportsman title. Trexler had to outrun runner up finisher Matt Janczuk for most of the 2010 season, and he finished the season with five wins and 14 top five finishes in 16 starts. Janczuk’s fine second place finish came after he grabbed four wins and 13 top fives. Claude Hutchings Jr. (nine top five finishes), Jeff Leslie (three wins, nine top fives), and Steve Way (one win, eight top fives) rounded out the top five spots. Finishing out the top ten was Chris Mackey (two wins), Jim Rothwell (one win), Mike Button, Randy Shantel, and AJ Filbeck filled out the remainder of the top 10 point getters.
In the Best of Four Thunder Sportsman Series, Trexler was crowned the champion followed by Filbeck and Chuck Allen. Trexler’s Thunder championship was worth another $1,000.
The Pro Stock standings showed the dominant season Tom Denton had en route to his fifth Pro Stock championship as he ended the season with an incredible 10 wins and 16 top five runs in 17 starts. With one win and 13 top five finishes, Super DIRT Week Pro Stock winner Rocky Warner came home in the second position in the standings followed by Bret Belden who had three wins and 13 top fives. Jim Normoyle, with one win and eight top fives, finished in the fourth spot with Jeff Pastorella filling out the top five in the standings after finishing the season with six top five finishes. Rounding out the top 10 was Mark Effner, Glenn Forward (one win), AJ Digsby, Bill Knapp, and Dave Moyer.
Warner was crowned the champion in the Best of Four Thunder Pro Stock Series which earned him another $1,000 while Pete Broderson and Bret Belden filled out the rest of the paying positions.
The 2010 campaign saw Chris Carr return to championship form as he took his second Pure Stock title after a season that saw him grab six wins and 15 top five runs in 16 starts. Chris Cunningham, with four wins and 11 top fives, and defending champion Ron Hawker, two wins and 13 top fives, tied for the runner up in the standings. Bill Mason, with seven top fives, was fourth in the final standings while Frank Hyatt (two wins and six top five runs) and Dave Arbes (eight top fives) rounded out the top five in standings with a tie for the fifth spot. Rob Thieme, Jim Thomas, Scott Wheelock, Jim Richmond, and Steve Burton rounded out the top ten. Richmond and Burton were tied for the 10th spot.
Special awards were also handed out in each division with the Newcomer Award, given to a competitor in their first full year in a division, going to Mark Kislowski in the Modifieds, Chris Mackey in the Sportsman, Glenn Forward in the Pro Stocks, and Dave Arbes in the Pure Stocks. The Most Improved Award was given out to drivers who saw the biggest gain in points from 2009 to 2010 and Casey Williams was the recipient of the award in the Modified division while Claude Hutchings Jr. was the Sportsman winner. Jeff Pastorella took home the Pro Stock honors while Scott Wheelock was the Pure Stock award winner. An Outstanding Performance Award went out to the second place point men in each division with Bobby Varin in the Modifieds, Matt Janczuk in the Sportsman, Rocky Warner in the Pro Stocks, and Chris Cunningham in the Pure Stocks all receiving their awards. A Determination Award was given out the weekly competitor who just missed making the top ten in points by finishing in the 11th spot and Modified competitor Paul Jensen took home the award as well as Craig Pope in the Sportsman and Ed Ostrander in the Pro Stocks.
Bones Bourcier, who is currently working on a book covering the 50 years at Utica-Rome Speedway, was on hand and treated the large crowd to a sneak peek to some of the stories he has uncovered during his research on his current project. During his speech, Bourcier showed how the past stars were connected to the current Utica-Rome stars and revealed some of the characters that have had an impact on the history of the famed Vernon oval. Many of Utica-Rome’s fans are already familiar with some Bourcier’s work as he penned the book on the speedway greatest driver when he wrote “RICHIE! The Fast Life and Times of NASCAR’s Greatest Modified Driver.”
Race Director John Tiff Jr. also took the stage to address the 2011 season and some of the minor rule changes for the upcoming season, as well as some of the races planned for next season. One change of note was a change in start time, which will now be 6 p.m. instead of the 5:30 start time of the past few seasons. He closed his segment by summarizing Friesen’s incredible season and on behalf of the speedway, he presented Friesen with a certificate for a new driver’s suit in honor of the great season and for raising the profile of his home track.
Director of Operations Barb Clark ended the evening by thanking the speedway employees that make the speedway the success that it is today. She did a roll call of the officials and thanked them personally for their hard work. Track owner Gene and Gloria Cole got special mention, as they provide the tools necessary to complete the task.
Special thanks goes out to Gates-Cole Associates and the Mirabito Fuel Group as their sponsorship help make everything possible. Also, special thanks goes out to the champions who all had their cars on display in the banquet as well as to Scott Gall who had a 1968 era Modified on hand, lettered up to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Utica-Rome Speedway.
ANNUAL AWARDS BANQUET CAPS OFF 2012
UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY SEASON
VERNON, NY- This past Saturday on November 12, Utica-Rome Speedway concluded its 50th Anniversary Season with the annual Awards banquet which was held at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort. This year, just over 400 people attended the season ending gathering to see over $70,000 in point fund and tire money get handed out.
For the second consecutive year, Stewart Friesen claimed the Modified track championship at the Utica-Rome Speedway and the $8,000 check that comes with the title. Friesen, piloting the potent Tom Cullen owned Westmoreland Golf Club sponsored TEO, picked up five wins on the season en route to his fourth track championship at the Vernon oval. Collecting $6,000 for finishing in the second spot in the standings was former track champion Pat Ward who finished the season with one win. Bobby Varin also collected just one win in point competition while finishing third in the standings which netted him a check for $4,000. While Varin may have been frustrated with his win total during the season, he also collected two non point wins during the season that was worth $10,000 each when dominated both the Victoria 200 and New Yorker 200 events. Popular second generation driver Ronnie Johnson went winless throughout the point season at Utica-Rome on his way to a fourth place spot in the standings, using consistency to gain the $2,500 check. Like Varin, Johnson won a non point event when he took the $5,000 Thunder on the Thruway win to open New Yorker Weekend. Rounding out the top five was Todd Burley who was awarded $2,000 for his efforts. Rounding out the top ten in the standings was Alan Johnson, Bill Trexler, Jr., Willy Decker, Ted Lamb, and Paul Jensen.
Matt Janczuk was honored for his dominating season seven wins in 13 starts in the Sportsman division, and while collecting his trophy and point money, Janczuk had a surprise for his longtime girlfriend Meghan Curro. After his acceptance speech, a video was played on the large video screen where Janczuk proposed to Curro in which she happily accepted. Also honored for their season long efforts was second place point man Chris Mackey, and third place finisher AJ Filbeck. Jeff Leslie and Claude Hutchings, Jr. rounded out the top five in the standings with Jim Rothwell, Steve Way, Randy Shantel, Jack Miller, and Joe Harrington filling out the top ten.
Also having a dominant season in his respective division was Rocky Warner in the Pro Stocks. After finishing behind Tom Denton last season in the standings, Warner set a goal to come into this season and win the title. With seven wins and just two finishes outside the top five, Warner accomplished that goal by taking the 2011 title. Mark Effner also had a stellar season with the fine second place finish in the standings, ahead of former champions Bret Belden and Denton. Bill Knapp came home in the fifth spot ahead of Glenn Forward, Chris Carr, Ed Ostrander, Dave Moyer, and Dan Lashure.
Ron Hawker returned to championship form in 2011 by posting eight wins in 13 starts on his way to his second career Utica-Rome Speedway Pure Stock title. Finishing second in the standings to Hawker was Ricky Breed followed by Dave Pope, Bill Mason, and Frank Hyatt. Rounding out the top ten spots in the final Pure Stock standings was Rob Thieme, Chris Cunningham, Scott Wheelock, Jim Thomas, and Bryan Owens.
After honoring the top ten in points in the weekly divisions, it was time for the special awards with the Newcomer award winners being announced first. Modified rookie Bill Trexler, Jr. was the recipient in the Modified division with Joe Harrington taking the honors in the Sportsman. In the Pro Stocks, it was rookie driver Chris Carr taking the award while Bryan Owens was honored in the Pure Stocks.
Outstanding Performance Awards were the next up with Pat Ward taking the honor in the Modified ranks with Chris Mackey taking the award in the Sportsman. Mark Effner was the Pro Stock award winner with Ricky Breed taking home the award in the Pure Stocks.
AJ Filbeck was awarded the Most Improved Driver in the Sportsman with Bill Mason and Rob Thieme sharing the honor in the Pure Stocks.
The final special award of the evening given out was the Determination award which is annually given to the 11th place point person in the point standings, given in honor of their season long efforts that found them just short of a top ten finish in the point standings. Casey Williams and Jason Rood shared the award in the Modifieds with Craig Pope honored in the Sportsman. Jim Normoyle was the recipient in the Pro Stocks while Stan Clark took home the award in the Pure Stocks.
After the award ceremonies were complete, Race Director John Tiff took to the podium and gave a brief review of the 2011 season and how special the 50th Anniversary Season was. He then touched on the fact the speedway is up for sale but it will be business as usual for the upcoming 2012 season, including the continuation of the popular $8,000 track championship which is just part of the $28,000 plus Modified point fund. Also announced is that there are no planned rule changes in any division with the exception of the Pure Stocks, where the 8” American Racer tire will be the mandated tire for the 2012 season. Tiff also announced that the 51st season opener is scheduled for Sunday April 29.
Next to the podium was Director of Operations Barb Clark who thanked the long list of sponsors that help make the season successful. Clark then moved on to thank the employees individually who had helped throughout the 2011 season.
Clark’s speech officially ended the festivities with the night then capped off with a live DJ and attendees dancing the rest of the night away.
the season, came home in the top five in the standings with a fourth place finish that netted him $3,000. Rounding out the top five in standings was popular second generation driver Ronnie Johnson, who earned $2,500 for his efforts. Young Larry Wight earned his first and only Utica-Rome Modified win in his first full season en route to his sixth place finish in the point standings, worth $1,700.
Another newcomer this season was Ryan Phelps, who was seventh at season’s end and collecting $1,500. Jimmy Davis returned to weekly competition and was rewarded with a $1,400 check after posting two wins and an eight place finish in the standings. Despite not making every event, Matt Sheppard was able to come home in the ninth spot, worth $1,300, after garnering two wins and numerous top five finishes. Todd Burley persevered through a season that saw him suffer through multiple engine issues, but he pushed on and still won twice and grabbing the final paying position in the standings. Burley took home a $1,200 check for his efforts.
For the second consecutive year, Matt Janczuk was crowned the Utica-Rome Speedway Sportsman champion during the banquet. Janczuk won eight point races on the season including the final three to put the finishing touches on his championship season. Janczuk’s main competitor throughout the season was second place point man Jeremy Vunk. Vunk would be in competition for the title for most of the season until the final month but would have to settle for second with three wins at the season’s end. AJ Filbeck, with one win, would come in third in the final rundown with Claude Hutchings, Jr. and two time winner Steve Way in fifth. Rounding out the top ten was Chris Mackey, one time winner Heath Carney, Craig Pope, Jack Miller, and Mike Stiles.
In the Pro Stocks, Tom Denton collected his sixth career title in 2012 at the Utica-Rome Speedway and winning six features along the way. Making a strong run for the title in the final six races was newcomer Pete Stefanski who took four wins in those final six but would still have to settle for second in the final point tally. Two time winner Glenn Forward would come in third in points followed by another two time winner in Shawn Frost. Chris Carr rounded out the top five followed by Bill Knapp, Bret Belden, Jeff Pastorella, Ed Ostrander, and Mark Effner.
Four time Pure Stock winner outran teammate Ricky Breed, who also had four victories, to grab his third Utica-Rome Speedway Pure Stock championship. Following Hawker and Breed was one time victor Chris Cunningham, two time winner Bill Mason, and Rob Thieme. Rounding out the top five was Frank Hyatt, two time victor Tim Janczuk, Andy Szewczyk, Bryan Owens, and Chris Watkins.
Special awards of appreciation were handed out to several track workers, the first to two truck operator and anthem singer Shannon Terrier. Terrier kicked off the racing action every week with her rousing version of the national anthem and she kicked off the evening awards ceremony with the anthem before being presented the award. Track Employee of the Year award went out to Bob Weatherbee who puts in countless hours every week doing everything from helping with track prep to picking up trash around the speedway after race nights.
Sportsman competitor Heath Carney was awarded with a trophy for his many excursions off the speedway in turn three, with the trophy made from part of tree that was victimized during one of his off track trips.
Newcomer of the Year Awards went to Mike Mahaney in the Modifieds, Mike Stiles in the Sportsman, Pete Stefanski in the Pro Stocks, and Chris Watkins in the Pure Stocks.
An Outstanding Performance award was also given out to a competitor in each division with Modified driver receiving it in the Modifieds while Jeremy Vunk in the Sportsman, Pete Stefanski in the Pro Stocks, and Ricky Breed in Pure Stocks picked up their awards in their respective divisions.
A Most Improved Driver award was next up and Heath Carney was the recipient in the Sportsman while Glenn Forward collected it in the Pro Stocks. Andy Szewcyck took home the award in the Pure Stocks.
Collecting the Determination awards in their respective divisions was Todd Burley in the Modifieds, Bobby Heintz in the Sportsman, Jim Normoyle in the Pro Stocks, and Jim Thomas in the Pure Stocks.
Race Director John Tiff took to the stage after the awards presentation and quickly reviewed the 2012 season and then put to rest any rumors concerning the upcoming 2013 season. He stated that the track was still owned by Gene Cole and plans were for a full 2013 season with the four weekly divisions in competition weekly, starting on April 21. Also, he mentioned that the popular Night of Legends will return in late August with a twin 50 lap Modified event, each paying $5,000 to win. Asphalt and NASCAR Champion Jerry Cook and Dirt Modified legend Dave Lape will be honored on that evening. Also, the New Yorker 200 Weekend will be moved ahead a week with the New Yorker being run on Labor Day.
Director of Operations Barb Clark finished off the night festivities with a speech thanking all the track employees for their hard work and determination in helping make Utica-Rome Speedway the success that it is. Her speech concluded with each employee being recognized one by one and then a group photo taken of the staff.
VERNON, NY (November 10)-This past Saturday, Utica-Rome Speedway celebrated the end of another successful season with the Annual Awards banquet at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort. Over 400 patrons were in attendance as over $70,000 in point fund, tire money, and door prizes were awarded as well as special awards being handed out to some deserving individuals.
Stewart Friesen collected his fifth overall Utica-Rome Speedway Modified championship, which was worth $10,000. Friesen started the season slow but a four race win streak in the midseason vaulted him to the point lead and the championship. By the season’s end, Friesen collected a total of five wins. Pat Ward, winner of three feature races, was second in the standings and collected $7,000 for his efforts. In his first complete season at Utica-Rome, Mike Mahaney went winless but used consistent top five and top ten finishes to come home third in the final point rundown in which he earned $4,500. Veteran Modified driver Alan Johnson, also winless on