Chasin’ Racin’: All-Star Circuit of Champions

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By Mark Kane

For Capital Region Independent Media

Justin Peck sets a track record at Utica Rome Speedway and picks up $10,000 to win Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions win. Chasin’ Racin’ photo

With the season-long point chase over and the Fonda Speedway closed for their annual fair, promoter Brett Deyo moved the Saturday racing to Utica Rome.

Wow, what a show it was with the Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 Sprints and the finals of the Thunder on the Thruway Series for the Pro Stocks, 602 Sportsman, and the Mighty Modifieds.  

A full field of cars greeted the standing-room-only crowd and even Mother Nature couldn’t resist this show. Pulling into the track early I was surprised to see all the campers and the fans that had made their way to the track so early. I guess it was not just me who had been looking forward to the show since it was announced.

UTICA ROME SPEEDWAY

You could hear the rumble and it was not race cars but thunder. Once the storm hit the area it started out as a light shower then to a heavy rain and just as quickly, it moved on. It may have made for a late night with roughly a two hour weather delay, but it also made for one of the best racing surfaces I have seen anywhere in years and it stayed smooth and fast from the drop of the first green to the final checker of the night.

The 410 winged warriors of the All-Stars are bad-ass fast. Then add some extra water to the track and man, smooth it was. In the 410 Sprint Car time trials Justin Peck set a new track record of 14.711. That’s 122 mph average speed around the half-mile aboard his No. 13 Buch Motorsports, Coastal Race Parts, Speedtoys Die Cast Collectibles, Big Spring Car Wash Sprinter for the 30, 410 Sprints on hand from near and far. It was his fifth fast-time qualifier award and just the start of a great night for the Monrovia Indiana chauffeur.

It was a tough night for Fonda Speedway NAPA Modified driver Danny Varin, who has been hot as the weather here in New York with his 360 Sprinter. After breaking in his heat race going down the back stretch the team along with others in the pit came to his aid and worked hard to get the 01 Sprinter back to racing and that they did. 

In the feature, his luck did not change much as he was working his way from deep in the pack and coming fast on the high side, picking off cars. Varin went over the berm in turns 3 and 4 and went deep into the woods, making for a delay trying to get the car freed from the trees. For Varin, he walked away and the car would have been ready to go the following night at Weedsport but Mother Nature put a stop to that idea as the night was canceled.

Another NY Modified driver, Larry Wight, lost his power plant in a big way in the feature just prior to the Varin incident. Early it was Cory Eliason, Sye Lunch and Chris Windom picking up heat race wins on a very fast racing surface with NY 360 Sprint driver Paulie Colagiovanni strapping in a 410 for the night and picking up the B Main. Picking up the DASH FOR CASH along with the pole starting position was Brent Marks.

ALL-STAR CIRCUIT OF CHAMPIONS

At the start of the Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions feature, the 23-car starting field did their four-wide formation to salute the fans as the fans saluted them right back, with most on their feet and cheering as they were about to witness a great sprint car race.

A tacky and smooth racing surface makes for a great All-Star Circuit of Champions feature at Utica Rome. Chasin’ Racin’ photo

Now as much as fans love the winged warriors, we all know they can get strung out and not much of a race, but not on this night and on this track as come feature time, the track was still in great shape and it sure was fast.

As the Sprinters dropped from their formation and into their starting position it was Brent Marks and Justin Peck leading the 24-car starting field to the green, with Marks getting the jump and lead as the field drove into turn one. With Marks out front, Peck had to deal with the 7BC of current point leader Tyler Courtney. 

During the early going it was all Marks out front as he had opened up on the field, but as quick as he had gotten away from the pack, Marks and Courtney started to reel in the leader. The top 3 were fast and had caught the back of the pack within the first eight laps as Marks now had Peck and Courtney to contend with along with lap traffic.

Behind the leaders there were some great battles with two- and three-wide racing as the winged warriors of the Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions were putting on a show for the fans and Danny Varin was on the high side after starting deep in the pack and he was coming fast. Up front things were staring to heat up as Courtney worked his way around Peck and was now putting the pressure on the leader as you could throw a blanket over the top three down the back stretch.

Going into turn 3 it was Marks the leader and as they came out of turn 4 it was Peck the new leader, using the top side with perfection, working his way past both Marks and Courtney in a great move. The caution was out as Larry Wight had his motor go up in a cloud of smoke as a brief fire erupted in the engine compartment.

Back to green and the caution was right back out as Danny Varin was off the track and into the trees between 3 and 4, bringing out the red flag. The red flag gave teams the chance to come to the track and work on their cars and set them up for the remainder of the event.

Once back to green after a single file restart Peck emerged as the leader as the battle behind the top 3 once again heated up between Chris Wise, Cory Ellison, Zeb Wise as double D, Danny Dietrich was on the move and would put his 48 ride into the battle. As the laps clicked away Peck would continue out front as Courtney worked his way to second past Marks, and still there was great racing mid-pack as well as for the fourth spot.

As the checkers fell it was Justin Peck picking up the $10,000 paycheck for his fifth All-Star Series of Champions victory in 2022 and 10th of his career with Courtney, Marks, Windom and Ellison rounding out the top 5.

RACE RESULTS      

Tezos All-Star Circuit of Champions Presented By Mobil 1 410 Sprint Car Feature Finish (30 laps): JUSTIN PECK, Tyler Courtney, Brent Marks, Chris Windom, Cory Eliason, Danny Dietrich, Zeb Wise, Hunter Schuerenberg, Kyle Reinhardt, Cap Henry, Bill Balog, Sye Lynch, Dave Blaney, Ryan Smith, Joe Trenca, Lucas Wolfe, Jordan Thomas, Davie Franek, Matt Farnham, Logan McCandless, Denny Peebles, Danny Varin, Paulie Colagiovanni, Larry Wight.

Did Not Qualify: Greg Wilson, Logan Crisafulli, Chase Moran, Mark Coldren, Bradley Howard, Steve Glover

SUNOCO MODIFIED THUNDER

I would think if you are a driver the best way to come back from disappointment is to climb back on the horse, or all 800 of them under the hood, and that is just what Larry Wight did, picking up the $4,000-to-win SUNOCO Modified Thunder on the Thruway Series victory.

Larry Wight picks up Thunder on the Thruway Series win at Utica Rome Speedway. Chasin’ Racin’ photo

At the drop of the green it was veteran Billy Decker with the early lead, with local racer Bobby Hackel holding down a solid second. After starting 10th on the field, Wight was on the move early and working his way to the front. With back to back cautions Wight continued his march to the front, working the high side into the new second-place car position, going from fourth to second on the first restart. 

Becoming the new leader working the high side and making the move to be the new leader on lap 7, Decker was not willing to give up the spot and the battle was on between the two ex-teammates. As the laps clicked off, Wight began to pull away from the field and with going green flag laps to the checker, Wight opened up a comfortable lead on the field.  

At the checker it was Wight in for the win with Decker, current Utica Rome point leader, 10-time winner Matt Sheppard,  Alex Yankowski who weekly makes the long tow from Pennsylvania. to the Vernon oval was fourth and Jimmy Phelps rounded out the top 5. With his fourth place finish, Yankowski is the Thunder on the Thruway champion.

Alex Yankowski grabbed the Thunder on the Thruway Series championship with a fourth-place finish. Chasin’ Racin’ photo

F.X. Caprara Car Companies Thunder on the Thruway Series Sunoco Modified Event No. 6 Feature Finish (30 laps): LARRY WIGHT, Billy Decker, Matt Sheppard, Alex Yankowski, Jimmy Phelps, Stewart Friesen, Tim Fuller, Bobby Hackel IV, Demetrios Drellos, Chris Curtis, David Schilling, Mike Mahaney, Willy Decker, Alan Johnson, Rocky Warner, Pat Ward, Ronnie Johnson, Bobby Varin, JaMike Sowle, Randy Shantel, Will Shields, Tucker O’Connor, Jim Walsh, Ronnie Holmes, Aaron Jacobs, Dale Gray Jr., Brad Poppleton.

MORE RACING

The 602 Sportsman found Matt Janczuk continuing his winning ways, picking up win No. 10 on the season, holding off Fonda champion Payton Talbot. With his second-place finish, Talbot is not only the Fonda Speedway champion but will now add Thunder on the Thruway Series champion to his resume.

Following Janczuk and Talbot to the line was Chris Mackey, Chip Constantino and Chad Edwards.

In the Pro Stocks it was Beau Ballard holding on for the win over A.J. Walters, Luke Horning, Josh Coonradt and Kenny Gates rounding out the top 5. Finishing sixth was Nick Stone, who won the Thunder on the Thruway series.

Well, we are winding down for the 2022 racing season. It is hard to believe this season went so fast. We still have the Utica Rome’s Elite Short Track Super Series, Fonda Speedway 200 weekend and Albany Saratoga Massive Weekend.

Thank you to all the 2022 sponsors, the track promoters and, of course, all the loyal fans that come to the races week after week to cheer on the drivers.

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