Column By: DYLAN FRIEBEL / RPW – WEST HAVEN, VT – Rocky Warner was the last car through the gate on Sunday at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway. However, he was the first across the line when it counted, as he dominated the second half of the Vermont 200 to pick up the $12,000 payday.
With defending race winner Brett Hearn starting in the second row, it didn’t take long for the #20 to take the lead. He did so in less than five laps, but unlike last year, did not pull away. Both Justin Comes and Joey Scarborugh followed him through traffic.
With some cautions towards the end of the first 100 laps, Rocky Warner was lurking and had gotten to second at the 15 minute break.
This race was the tale of two halfs with the first being mostly green flag racing. However, the second was not. Caution laps mounted, but the Flyin’ Squirrel pounced early once the race resumed, taking the lead just 15 or so laps into the run.
Warner never looked back despite many restarts with the likes of Hearn, Hackel and Tremont all taking turns at the leader.
“I honestly thought they were starting later tonight,” Warner said. “I’ll be honest. I thought hot laps were at 5pm, not 3pm. It sucks getting here late. It’s the last thing Jake (Spraker, his car owner), wants to do is be late. Starting last in my heat, we were a little bit worried about that but we took care of business.”
With the halfway break, Warner was just trying to bide his time and find the right opportunity.
“We got to second there by halfway,” he said. “I was just trying to race, nice, straight, clean and keep the car underneath me. We had a fast hot rod tonight, but we had too much gear in it.”
Did he really think he could get past the leader?
“I told my guys that we were going to have to pass Brett on a restart,” he said. “We did that and then got lucky holding everyone off. It seemed like there were about 20 of them, but honestly, having more gear helped us on restarts the most.”
At the end of 2018, it seemed as if Warner’s first full-time season in the Modified division was not what the team wanted. Almost everyone had written him off. However, with a Fonda Modified Track Championship under his belt and winning the largest paying Crate race around, winning the Vermont 200, 2019 has proven that he is back.
“This win feels awesome,” he said. “At the end of last year, I almost wrote myself off. I didn’t have to worry about everyone else doing that. I think Jake did too at some point.”
But now, he’s caught a big one.
“This may be the biggest win I’ve had in my career,” he said. “I love coming here, but haven’t won until tonight. We brought the same car we ran our Modified show with up here with. We just put a crate motor in it and it ran good tonight.”
The second annual Vermont 200 weekend has now come and gone. It once again lived up to the billing with one of our sports brightest stars, Rocky Warner, picking up the big payday.
Now, who’s the odds-on favorite for 2020? If you’ve not been to this event, what are you waiting for? You need to see it for yourself.
This year, 2019, has been one of redemption for Rocky Warner. On Sunday, he might have written the next big chapter in his story.