Rt 5 Vernon, NY
UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY REGULARS PROVE EQUALLY AS TOUGH AT OTHER VENUES AS THEY DO ON SUNDAYS
VERNON, NY- Every week during the 2011 season, Utica-Rome Speedway hosted some of most competitive Modified racing with some of the most talented drivers. While it is easy for a track to boast about how good their competitors are, one of the best ways to tell is when the drivers take their talents on the road and how they fare against others. Below is how the top ten in the Utica-Rome Speedway Modified point standings fared on Sundays and wherever else they raced.
1) In 2011, Stewart Friesen again became a road warrior, chasing high dollar shows across the Northeast while racing weekly at the Brewerton, Five Mile Point, and Utica-Rome Speedways. Taking the titles at both Five Mile Point and Utica-Rome and falling just short at Brewerton, Friesen was a force to be reckoned with every night of the weekend as he grabbed 14 wins, five at Utica-Rome. Friesen also proved he could win away from his weekly haunts by starting of the 2011 season with a pair of wins in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park and continuing throughout the summer by winning on the Race of Champions Dirt Modified Series and scoring another Thunder on the Thruway Modified championship. For the second consecutive year, Friesen scored the big win at the New York State Fairgrounds for the Super DIRT Week festivities. By scoring the controversial win, Friesen moved into elite company by becoming one of the few drivers to win the big event more than once. Friesen ended his season on a high note by winning on the asphalt at Wall Stadiumís Turkey Derby.
2) Former track champion Pat Ward, like Friesen, had a steady diet of three weekly tracks along with chasing some of the higher dollar events in the region plus the Race of Champions Modified Series. While many would consider any season with a win a good year, Wardís handful of wins is considered a down year for the likable veteran. Going winless at the super competitive Brewerton Speedway while collecting two wins at the Fulton Speedway and another win at Utica-Rome, Ward was in the mix nearly every single night. A former Race of Champions Modified Series champion, Ward came home in fifth in the competitive series while narrowly missing out on the Thunder on the Thruway Series title, coming just 10 points shy of the championship.
3) Bobby Varin started the season off with a bang at Utica-Rome by taking the opening night win then on the next day he came from deep in the field to take the $10,000 Victoria 200 win. Varin wouldnít win again for the rest of the season until the last event of the season, the prestigious New Yorker 200. In an act of total domination, Varin would lap right up to the third place car when the checkered flag flew. Varinís three Utica-Rome wins were worth over $22,000. At his other two weekly tracks, Glen Ridge Motorsports Park and Fonda Speedway, Varin would finish in the runner up position in points at both while he would finish third overall in the Thunder on the Thruway final standings. Two wins at Fonda and four at Glen Ridge would round out Varinís win total for the season. Considered a down year by Varinís standards, it would still be a considered a great season by most.
4) Popular second generation driver Ronnie Johnson would have his best season yet overall in 2011. Six wins at Fonda en route to his first career Fonda Speedway Modified Championship, the son of legendary driver Jack Johnson would find thing a little tougher on Sunday nights. Johnsonís only win of the season came on the final weekend of the season at the Vernon oval when he took the $5,000 to win Thunder on the Thruway Series event on the Friday night of New Yorker weekend. Johnson would finish in fourth in the Thunder on the Thruway Series.
5) Making the trek eastward down the Thruway each week from his Spencerport home, Todd Burley didnít have the success he was used to at Utica-Rome. Going winless in 2011, the former track champion still was competitive on most nights, enough so that would be able to get a fifth place in the final point rundown. On Friday nights, Burley competed at the Ransomville Speedway and was right in the thick of the points battle there, scoring two wins on the season. In the end, he would fall just six points shy of the Ransomville track championship.
6) There isnít much else that can be written about Alan Johnson that hasnít been written already. Making his first all out assault at Utica-Rome in nearly thirty years, the all-time DIRTcar Big Block Modified feature winner managed to grab one win this season. After suffering motor issues late in the season, Johnson limped into the off season. He also scored one win at Brewerton and two at Fulton plus a late season win at the Black Rock Speedway, but is was far below the double digit win standard he is accustomed to.
7) Bill Trexler, Jr. completed his first full season as a Big Block Modified driver and it can be considered a success as he was competitive despite the talented field he raced against every week. He didnít score a feature win but he did give veteran Billy Decker everything he could handle in a gritty performance on July 28 in a midweek Thunder on the Thruway Series event, finishing second. Trexler rarely roamed outside Vernon but when he did before the Utica-Rome season began, he scored a top ten finish at Fulton.
8) The 2011 season was an up and down season for former track champion Willy Decker. When he was stricken by mechanical issues, Decker could be found running near the front on most occasions. He was able to score two wins at his Sunday evening home while he was able grab another win at the Brewerton Speedway. He finished eighth in points at both tracks he was a regular at, Brewerton and Utica-Rome.
9) Ted Lamb surely didnít enjoy the type of season he was hoping for in 2011 as he wasnít able to grab a feature win at Utica-Rome. He did score three top fives and lead 29 laps en route to his top ten finish in points. Lamb also ran for half a season at Brewerton with top five and 18 laps led there.
10) Soft spoken veteran Paul Jensen ran as a regular at one track weekly and rarely ventured anywhere else in 2011. Unable to grab a win in 2011, he was able to grab a top five and lead circuits.
While the top ten at Utica-Rome Speedway compiled some impressive statistics, some of the drivers outside the top ten also were impressive. Casey Williams, Paul Kinney, and Steve Hulsizer all grabbed feature wins at Utica-Rome Speedway in 2011 with Kinney also scoring two wins at Glen Ridge. 13th place point getter Kenny Tremont struggled mightily on Sunday nights but was track champion at both Lebanon Valley and Glen Ridge.
The 2012 season looks to be just as competitive if not more so as almost all the drivers that competed weekly in 2011 are reportedly returning for the upcoming season with the exception of Paul Kinney. Kinney will be moving into the 360 Sprints as a regular on the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints Tour.
On April 29, the 2012 season will kick off to begin the 51st season of racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway with a full show of Modifieds, Sportsman, Pro Stocks, and Pure Stocks. A tentative schedule will be released shortly.