Chasin’ Racin’: Return to Utica Rome: ‘Home of Heroes’

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By Mark Kane

For Capital Region Independent Media

Stewart Friesen picks up SUNOCO Modified wins at Utica Rome running down Billy Decker and at Fonda  running down Rocky Warner. Chasin’ Racin’ photo

Well, we finally made it back to the “Home of Heroes,” Utica Rome Speedway, a facility that has sure lived up to its name over the years.

The facility that has been both dirt and asphalt and has been the home of some of the top wheelmen on the East Coast in the past as well as the present. With the “Rapid Roman,” the Late Richie Evens, the all-time winner on the asphalt with 33 wins and Stewart Friesen leads all winners with 61 wins and seven track championships.  

Over the years the names and the cars have changed, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of talent in the pits, no matter the surface or the sanctioning body, the two names above are proof of that.

UTICA ROME SPEEDWAY

The racing surface was in great shape considering the lack of rain we have been having, making way for some great side-by-side heat race action in all weekly divisions as well as the CRSA 305 Sprints, who were in town with a fine field of 25 teams.

The pits had 26 SUNOCO Modifieds, 29 602 Sportsman, 14 Pro Stocks, 11 Limited Sportsman and nine Four-cylinders. The new lighting sure lights up the racing surface with no dark areas from top to bottom and that’s a good thing as they use the entire racing surface.

It was Randy Shantel and Billy Decker bringing the SUNOCO Modified to the green with Decker, who earlier in the night dominated his heat race, getting the lead into turn one with Shantel and Alan Barker in the top 3, with Barker wasting little time moving to second.

Billy Decker has found a new home at Utica Rome Speedway as the popular driver continues to be a threat to win. Chasin’ Racin’

Taking advantage of their good starting spots, Andy Bachetti and Alan Johnson quickly moved forward. Finding the high side was the 84Y of Alex Yankowski on the move, as was Stewart Friesen, who has seemed to take a liking to his new Bicknell Chassis. Friesen slipped over the berm during the early going and lost several positions. He had to now work his way back to the front.  

Lap after lap, Friesen was picking off cars. By lap 10 it was Decker, Barker, Bachetti, Johnson, Yankowski and Friesen now back to just outside the top 5 and still charging. Like Friesen, Bachetti had the misfortune of sliding over the berm and dropping out of the top 5, and now it was Friesen in the top 5 and working on Yankowski and getting the fourth position.

On the move was current point leader Matt Sheppard, who started 15th. Using a pair of slide jobs, first on Johnson, Friesen would be the new third place car by lap 20 and by lap 22 would be the new second place car with a slide job on Barker.

Popular veteran Pat Ward is calling Utica Rome home in 2022. Chasin’ Racin’ photo

With the race going green to checker, Friesen started to close the gap on Decker, going high in turn 1 and cutting to the bottom in turn 2 and doing the same in turns 3 and 4. Each lap you could see the lead was shrinking as Decker still powered the high side and Friesen was coming fast.

Using the same move in 1 and 2, Friesen would be the new leader and power his way on to the win with Decker, Sheppard, Rocky Warner and Andy Bachetti rounding out the top 5.

At the checkers, Alan Johnson crossed the line third but came up light on the scales. The win for Friesen was number 61.

In other action, Jeff Trombley picked up the 305 CRSA Sprint car feature as Matt Janczuk picked up the 602 Sportsman win, Beau Ballard continued his winning streak with the Pro Stock win, and Seth Martin won the Limited Sportsman.

‘TAILGATE FOR A CAUSE’

When I speak of how the racing family comes together in times of need or for a good cause, it makes me proud to be a member of this family. On Saturday the racing family came together to support Crossroads Center for Children with “Tailgate For a Cause.”

This has become a yearly event presented by One Zee Tees and AIM Autism, and once again the Fonda Speedway family was right there to support such a great cause. Through the speedway, their teams, sponsors, the fans and all those behind the scenes, $30,000 was raised with a chicken barbecue, dunk tank, silent auction and raffles.

Also on hand was NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Todd Bodine and, of course, everyone’s favorite little buddy and roof dancer, Parker Friesen. The Friesens have proved over the years, along with their sponsor Halmar, there is more to racing than winning; there is also the good this sport can do for people and that is what this team is all about, helping others that need it.

The Mighty SUNOCO Modifieds made their way to the smooth racing surface 27 strong. At the drop of the green by luck of the draw it was 2021 SUNOCO Modified Co/champion Rocky Warner with the early lead, with Jessica Friesen and Demetrios Drellos holding down the top 3.

The caution was out early as Stewart Friesen, who had been running fourth, made contact with the outside wall between turns 1 and 2, spinning and ending up in turn two and then to the hot pit for repairs. Once back to green and Warner and J.Z., Jessica Friesen continued to lead the way with Ronnie Johnson, the other half of the Co/champions in 2021 was now up to third.  

It did not take Stewart Friesen long as he was right back up on the top of Fonda Speedway, moving to the front and putting on a show for the fans. Yes, that is what it was — a show of just how much natural talent Friesen has behind the wheel of the Halmar International 44. Lap after lap hitting his marks, setting up his next move and seemingly always looking forward, Friesen worked his way through the tough SUNOCO Modified field.

After David Schilling brought out the yellow it brought the field back to Warner after opening up a big lead. Back to green and it was Warner, J.Z., Johnson, Drellos, and rising star 17-year-old Alex Yankowski rounding out the top 5 as Johnson and Drellos continued their battle for third, with Drellos getting the spot.

The caution was out for the 21P Pep Corradi sitting low in turn 4. Once back to green and Warner was right back to the point as Drellos was the new second place runner. As good as the racing was upfront mid pack they were having a great battle for position as Point Leader Matt DeLorenzo, Bobby Varin, Danny Varin, and Chris Curtis raced lap after lap as Friesen was now working his way into the top 10. A pair of caution flags for the #34 of Dave Constantino who slowed on the back stretch and Danny Varin #93 who slowed soon after going back to green. Back to racing and it was Stewart Friesen cracking the top 5 with Warner holding steady on the top, Friesen started to use the same lane he ran at Utica Rome, high in 1 and low in 2 and same in 3 and 4 and started to cut into the lead. Running down the leader seems to be something Friesen has gotten used to as Friesen was now within striking distance as the two drivers were running hard, Warner with the momentum on the top and Friesen cutting through the turns. With a handful of laps remaining going into turn one Friesen again pulled alongside of Warner as they raced through two this time it was Friesen with a wheel ahead getting a big run off the bottom and would be the new leader down the back stretch and cruised to the win. For Friesen it was win number 83 at the Track of Champions and 4th of the year. Rounding out the top 5 was Rocky Warner, Demetrios Drellos, Jessica Friesen, and Ronnie Johnson.

            The 602 Sportsman was action packed to say the least with plenty of cautions but between the cautions there was some great racing. At the drop of the green Brett Mortensen grabbed the early lead until losing it on a lap 7 restart to Tanner Warner with Chad Edwards in tow to second. Again the lead would change hands on a restart as Edwards would be the new leader after Tony Farone brought out his second caution. Once back to green Edwards would remain out front as the racing inside the top 10 was nerf bar to nerf bar as Cody Clark who had started deep in the pack was on a charge as was Payton Talbot and Chip Constantino all 3 who would work their way into the top 5 with great drives.  At the checkers it was Chad Edwards in for his 6th win of the year as Payton Talbot, Tanner Warner, Cody Clark and Chip Constantino rounded out the top 5. In other action Beau Ballard picked up the Pro Stock win, Zach Dufel was the winner of the Limited Sportsman, as Ken and Kerrie Hollenback picked up the 4 Cyl.

            At Albany Saratoga Matt DeLorenzo continued his hot streak with his 3rd NAPA Modified win of the year followed by Mike Mahaney, Rich Ronca, Marc Johnson and Demetrios Drellos rounding out the top 5. Other winner found Pat Jones with the 602 Sportsman win, Chad Jeseo Pro Stocks, Craig Wholey Limited Sportsman.

            At Lebanon Valley Speedway it was Kenny Tremont Jr. in for his 141st Big Block feature win and has no signs of slowing down. Following Tremont Jr. to the line was Andy Bachetti, Kyle Sheldon, Brett Haas, and Mike King rounding out the top 5. The Small Block Feature was won by Alan Houghtaling as Tim Hartman Jr. picked up a pair of 602 Sportsman wins. In the Pro Stocks it was Rick Duzlak in for the win with Dave Streibel getting the Street Stock win.

            Congrats go out to the “Doctor” Danny Johnson for picking up win #600 of his Career!

            Please continue to support the sponsors that make weekly racing possible.  Have a great weekend.  Enjoy the warm temperatures.

Tight fender to fender racing action in the Pro Stocks on a great racing surface at Utica Rome. Chasin’ Racin’ photo
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