A special night of tribute to the legends of the racing past at Evans Mills Raceway Park brought a throng of people to the track on Sat. June 22. The largest crowd of this young season saw fans out near the road looking for parking on TJ Toyota night at the track. Great names such as Neil Tooley, Glenn Rarick, Jeff Walts, Ally Amell, George Gordon, Denzil Billings, Adrian Flath, and others graced our presence. Doug Flatterly had a nice display just inside the track entrance. Adding to the nostalgic touch was a good field of race cars from the DIRT Vintage and Classic Asphalt Modified series.
After a microphone glitch, the large number of Canadian fans and racers who crossed the border were treated to a live rendition of the Canadian national anthem, performed by Indian River student Miranda Bert-Brown, followed by the American anthem. All in all a great start to the first official summer night of racing at Evans Mills Raceway Park!
After the heat races, the vintage cars parked on the front straightaway and fans were invited down to the track to examine the cars and collect photos and autographs. Several interviews were conducted with the enthusiastic drivers. One former driver from Lowville NY had not been to the track in 44 years and was amazed at the changes at this historic 3/8 mile track. The redraws for the feature inversion numbers were held and for the first time in three weeks, no one drew the number one stick. Josh Verne Jr. drew the number 5 for the Sport Compact/Serv Pro Thunderstock feature for which he wasn’t too pleased. First heat winner Dave Riopelle from Ottawa, ONT, Canada next drew the #4 stick for the INEX legends. Larry Welling in the Caskinette Ford Modified #48 pulled the 5 stick, resulting in significant inversions for all three features.
While car count in the Sport Compact and Serv Pro Thunderstock classes is still weak, the racing was strong as Craig Caskinette in the #19 held off Tim Dunn in the 96T in the Sport Compacts for his first feature victory after four second place finishes in a row. It was a big celebration in victory lane for the congenial pilot from Theresa. Chuck Monica in the #32 also grabbed his first win over Justin Pope in the #100 in the Serv Pro Thunderstock class.
The DIRT Vintage cars in what may be their only asphalt race of the season put on a wicked display of adaptation to the macadam surface in their 15 lap feature with several cars slinging the back end around as if they were on the clay. Darrel Billings Jr. was the top runner in the 70’s-80’s class with Patrick Charland topping the 50’s-60’s division. One hallmark of any Vintage show is the enthusiastic victory lane interviews given by the drivers with the support of their families.
A special characteristic of the INEX Legends feature was that over half the field was from Canada! Nile Tyson from Toronto in the immaculate #49 was not only making his first start in the U.S., but experienced his first ever border crossing. Dalton Rombough from Watson was a late arrival in the #41 but had the car hooked up and won the feature, followed by Coleby Felber in the #14, points leader Josh Marchese in the #31, Bryce Norton the #8, and Niles Tyson in the #49. This year Evans Mills Raceway Park is using the “cone restart” after a feature race caution, giving each driver from front to back the opportunity to choose whether to race the inside or outside lane. Tyson made a bold move to try the outside lane on a restart and made it work, picking up three spots in the process.
The Classic Asphalt Modified Series was next with Shiloh Janes getting the win in the Ray Hedger built #16, followed by his father and CAMS official Tim Janes in the beautiful #50. Fans enjoyed the loud roar and rumble of the big block motors as they cruised by the grandstand.
The Caskinette Ford modifieds put on a dramatic display during their 30 lap feature. Our own racing legend Terry Gardner with 50 years of racing experience led from the drop of the green flag and appeared to be well on his way to his first feature win in years in the 2x. Alas, the car took a spin between turns 3 and 4 with five laps to go and a dream moment for the modifieds was lost. Randy Brunelle in the 007 inherited the lead but was pressured by Mannsville driver Russ Brown who was picked for the ride on the #1 car. Brown knocked on the door several times but couldn’t get by the Malone pilot in the OO7 who picked up his third win in four tries. Brunelle had helped set up the Gardner car and in victory lane expressed his sympathy for the driver of the 2x, then thanked the ownership of TJ Toyota (2009 National ASA Champion Tommy Cloce was in the house) for their great sponsorship of the evening. Top five finishers in the Caskinette Ford modifieds were Randy Brunelle in the #007, Russ Brown in the #1, Dave Fuchs in the #4, Tony Pettinelli in the 2NY, and Terry Gardner who came back for a fifth place finish in the 2x.
The terrific crowd swelled the nights 50/50 drawing to $746. During the evening, we learned that former track operator Vern LaFave was involved in a fiery crash in his 350 supermodified at the Oswego Speedway. Vern appears to be ok but will likely have some healing to do. Evans Mills Raceway Park wishes Vern the best in his recovery.
There will be no racing Saturday June 29 in recognition of local high school graduation activities. The next night of racing is Saturday July 6 with a special Independence Day night celebration as flags will be distributed to many of the early arrivals to the track. Evans Mills Raceway Park continues to draw increased interest and crowds and the rest of the summer promises to be a great one!