By Mark Kane
For Capital Region Independent Media
For the first time, the (STSS) Short Track Super Series made its way into Vermont for the $10,000-to-win Slate Valley 50 at “New England’s Fastest Dirt Track,” Devil’s Bowl Speedway, and Matt Sheppard picked up his first-ever Devils Bowl win.
For Sheppard, it was a great weekend picking up wins at Utica Rome on Friday and Orange County on Saturday on their new racing surface.
It has been some time since I made my way through the beautiful countryside on my way to the historic facility. In fact, it was back in 2000. What a race that was as the teacher Jack Johnson in the Bryon Goewey-owned #20 put on a clinic on how to drive on a slick racing surface and his students Billy Decker and Dave Camera would finish second and third in the USNA 200-lap event that at the end of the year would find Jumpin’ Jack Johnson winning three of eight events and the USNA Championship.
DEVIL’S BOWL SPEEDWAY
The Devil’s Bowl Speedway is a beautiful facility just over the New York border in West Haven under the watchful eye of owner Mike Brunno. The track is a half-mile, semi-banked with long straights and a very smooth racing surface with a weekly field of 602 Modifieds also on the card.
But the one thing all promoters have no control over is the weather and we as dirt racing fans know wind, sun and daytime racing makes for a dry slick racing surface and that is what it was.
Hot laps hit the track just after 4 p.m. and I was on the road before the sun went down and that included watching the first Sportsman event. From the drop of the green flags for hot laps the show was run right off without a hitch with very little down time, only for a little track prep and letting the fine crowd stretch their legs. As one heat came off the track the next set was ready to go.
Brett Deyo’s STSS staff and the Devil’s Bowl staff worked together as a well-oiled machine getting the cars to the track.
A field of 32 Bob Hilbert Short Track Super Series Fueled by SUNOCO Modifieds made their way to the pits for Round 5 of the River Valley Builders STSS North Region. Picking up heat wins were Matt Sheppard, Demetrios Drellos, Brett Haas and Marc Johnson, along with the $150 Five 55 Enterprises Bonus that went with it as Roger Henion picked up the consi win.
By the luck of the draw Matt Sheppard would be the pole sitter and grab the early lead in the green to checker 50-lap feature with outside pole sitter 14-year-old second-generation driver Derrick McGrew holding down second and Mat Williamson sitting third.
Finding the dry slick conditions to his liking, Sheppard quickly opened up a lead on the field as McGrew also put some distance between himself and Williamson as Anthony Perrago and Demetrios Drellos were in the top 5 as third-place driver Erick Rudolph fell to sixth. The young McGrew was peddling his Modified for all it had as Williamson started to close the gap as the racing inside the top 5 was starting to heat up.
As the laps clicked away, Sheppard’s lead grew as Williamson started to pressure McGrew for second and Perrago was working on Williamson with Drellos and Rudolph racing hard. Out front Sheppard worked his way into lap traffic as Williamson was now all over the rear deck of McGrew and made the pass to the second position with a great move in turn 1 as Drellos worked on the 44 of Perrago.
With the great racing out front, mid-pack Mike Mahaney, Marc Johnson, Stewart Friesen and Max McLaughlin were in a tight battle as on this day starting position was the name of the game. It now was Drellos who would make his move and work his way to fourth around Perrago and wasted little time getting past McGrew to take over third.
With Sheppard now in heavy lap traffic as the lap cars were racing for position, the lead for Sheppard was shrinking and by the halfway mark Williamson was within striking distance as McGrew was falling back. With 25 down and 25 to go it was Sheppard, Williamson, Drellos — who has turned many laps at the track in the past as a regular including a track championship — Perrago and Rudolph, with 12th starting Tim Fuller, who was fast in his heat, holding down the sixth spot and McGrew still holding on inside the top 10.
As the leaders worked through traffic, Drellos was now all over the rear deck of Williamson and starting to put heavy pressure on the second-place runner as they started a heated battle with Drellos getting the spot and Williamson coming right back to gain the spot back two laps later. As tight as the racing was mid-pack, they were now racing side by side for position, as were the lap cars that were also racing position.
Back up front the battle for second continued as they swapped the position, giving Sheppard a chance to work lap traffic and increase his lead once again. As the laps clicked away and Sheppard with a more comfortable lead, it was anything but comfortable for second as Williamson, Drellos and Perrago battled hard for second, with Rudolph sitting in fifth with the best seat in the house, watching the battle and looking for racing room.
Coming out of turn 2 the trio went 3-wide down the back stretch with Williamson getting the spot with Drellos and Perrago ready to pounce. As they were closing in on the last few laps, with Williamson in second, Perrago worked his way to second only to once again find Drellos come back and retake the spot. Sheppard held on for the win with Williamson, Drellos, Perrago — who had won the last STSS event in Bloomsburgh Fair Raceway in Pennsylvania — and Rudolph rounding out the top 5.
Slate Valley Results Summary – Devil’s Bowl Speedway June 19, 2022
Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series Fueled By Sunoco River Valley Builders North Region Round No. 5 Feature Finish (50 laps): MATT SHEPPARD, Mat Williamson, Demetrios Drellos, Anthony Perrego, Erick Rudolph, Tim Fuller, Jimmy Phelps, Mike Mahaney, Max McLaughlin, Stewart Friesen, Andy Bachetti, Marc Johnson, Bobby Hackel, Brett Haas, Derrick McGrew, Tanner Siemons, Robert Bublak, Roger Henion, Dan Creeden, Adam Pierson, Randy Green, David Schilling, J.R. Hurlburt, Richard Smith, Danny Tyler, Neil Stratton and Daniel Morgiewicz.
ALBANY SARATOGA SPEEDWAY
On Friday night at “The Great Race Place,” Albany Saratoga Speedway, it was former two-time track champion Marc Johnson, popular driver of the 3J, picking up his first win of the year in the NAPA Modified feature. So far in 2022 it has been a tough year, but maybe this is what the Guilderland driver needed to get his season back on track. Having a two-week-old chassis can’t hurt either.
At the drop of the green it was Scott Huber grabbing the early lead and started to walk away from the field as Johnson, who started eighth, was on the move and working his way to the front and coming fast as he was in second by lap 6. With a clear track ahead, Johnson started to reel in Huber on another smooth fast racing surface that both fans and drivers have gotten accustomed to.
On the move from his 12th starting position was the hottest driver in the Capital District, Matt DeLorenzo, as Adam Pierson and Jack Lehner, who was behind the wheel of a brand new DKM Chassis machine. The run for Johnson got easier as the leaders started to work their way through lap traffic as Johnson was getting through the traffic better than Huber.
With Johnson on the bottom down the back stretch and Huber on top, Huber was slowed by a lap car as Johnson powered by his way into turn 3 and into the lead. Lap 20 found the field tighten up as the caution was out. On the restart it was DeLorenzo making a statement as he quickly worked his way down the back chute to be the new second-place car, something Johnson did not need.
A series of yellows, a little beating and banging between Demetrios Drellos and Mike Mahaney that brought out the final caution would keep DeLorenzo close, but Johnson was keeping the new 3J wound up on the outside and turned the DeLorenzo 3D back and picked up his first win of the year with DeLorenzo, Adam Pierson, Jack Lehner and Jessey Mueller rounding out the top 5.
In other action, Tim Hartman Jr. became the All-Time Sportsman win leader with a last lap, last turn pass on Tyler Rapp, who was looking for his very first win. Following the leaders to the line were Cody Ochs, Andrew Buff and Brian Calabrese rounding out the Sportsman top 5.
In the Pro Stocks it was Rob Yetman picking up the win in an exciting feature with Jason Casey, Kim Duell, Scott Towslee, and Luke Horning rounding out the top 5 after being involved in a turn one crash earlier in the event.
The Limited Sportsman found Mike Parodi in for the win while Mark Bush won the Street Stocks and Jon Sheppard the 4 Cylinders.
At Fonda Speedway it seemed more like October than June with a chill in the air, but the on-track action was as hot as the weather was cold.
What a difference a week makes. Last week, Mark Mortensen picked up the Sportsman feature win and this week he was involved in an early tangle in turn two that brought out the red flag, ending his night.
Just the opposite in the SUNOCO Modifieds as last week it was Dave Constantino bringing out back-to-back cautions and his night ended early and this week he picked up his first win since 2019 in dominating fashion after grabbing the lead on the initial green.
The DKM boys had the #34 on rails running the high side as Chris Curtis, who was running second, had nothing for the leader. On the move was Rocky Warner from the third row starting spot and took over third down the back stretch, setting his sights on Curtis as Demetrios Drellos quickly moved to fourth from his ninth starting spot. Out front Constantino was rim riding the high side and continued to check out from the field as Warner took the second spot from Curtis coming out of turn 4.
As the laps clicked away Constantino was now in lap traffic on the smooth fast surface, but Warner was cutting into his lead and was the faster car in traffic as Ronnie Johnson had moved his way into the top 5. Just outside the top 5 Bobby Varin, current point leader Matt DeLorenzo, and two-time winner Craig Hanson were in a heavy battle. Out front Constantino had cleared traffic and once again opened his lead as the top 5 were pulling away.
Coming out of turn 4 Drellos made his move to work his way to third around Curtis. The caution flew for Brian Gleason, who had come to a stop entering the pits going to the hot pit and returning to bring up the rear. Back to green Constantino and Warner went into turn 1 side by side with Constantino on the top and powered his way back to the front.
With Constantino opening the lead and Warner comfortably in second, the battle for third heated up as Drellos and Curtis raced hard for the position going back and forth before Drellos finally secured the spot on the high side of turn 1.
At the checkers it was Constantino in for the win with Warner, Drellos and Curtis with another solid run and Johnson rounding out the top 5.
Also on tap for the night was the Bill Ag Memorial Elimination race for the top 5 in points, but due to a tie for fifth, six cars made their way to the infield for the seventh edition of this special event that is a two-lap shootout between two drivers, with Bobby Varin coming to the line and calling out DeLorenzo, with Varin getting the win. Then it was R.J., who would defeat Varin, next it was Hanson who would defeat Johnson, then the next round would defeat Warner and coming up was Hanson and Drellos with Drellos picking up the win and turning a lap of 18.158 and pocketed a cool $1,000 for his two-lap effort.
In other action, Chad Edwards picked up the 602 Sportsman win with Clayton DuMond and Payton Talbot rounding out the top 3. The Pro Stocks found a new winner for the first time in 2022 with Luke Horning picking up the win over Nick Stone and Kenny Gates in a good tight race that came right down to turn 4. The Limited Sportsman found Kyle Dingman pick up his third win of the year and Ken Hollenback picked up yet another 4-Cyl win.
Don’t forget to support the promoters and sponsors that on a weekly basis keep the sport of dirt track racing alive.
Chasin’ Racin’ would like to congratulate all the seniors who graduated this year. What a great accomplishment. You should all be very proud of yourselves. Now, on to the next important chapter in your life. Great job!