RPW Column: As Orange County’s Eastern States Weekend Nears, Entry List’s Taking Shape

Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – As the Eastern States Weekend gets closer, the entry list continues to grow. At this writing, 6 former winners of the 200 have filed entries for the prestigious and historic race.

Stewart Friesen has been the most successful driver in the most recent 200’s with 3 wins and a 2nd place finish in the past 4 races. Other past winners that are currently entered are Richie Eurich (1988), Tommy Meier (2015), Jimmy Horton (1991, 1995), Billy Decker (1998) and Jerry Higbie (2009).

Matt Sheppard raced regularly at OCFS in 2020 and he was the hottest driver at the track before racing came to a halt. His current streak stands at 4 straight wins at the 5/8ths mile hard clay. In all nine modified features that have been raced at OCFS in 2020, Sheppard has placed in the top 5 in every event. It was that kind of consistency that had him at the top of the point standings after the most recent event. He will definitely be a threat in the 200.

Other winners from OCFS this season were Friesen and Anthony Perrego, both with 2 wins and Dillon Steuer with his first ever OCFS Modified win. Friesen, as already mentioned will be going for his 3rd in a row. Perrego and Steuer have filed their entries.

In addition to most of the OCFS regulars, the entry is growing with invading drivers filing their entries. In 2018, Jessica Friesen was the first female driver to qualify for the 200 and she ran a great race, finishing all 200 laps with a respectable 12th place finish. Marc Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Mat Williamson, Duane Howard, Andy Bachetti, Max McLaughlin, LJ Lombardo and Kenny Tremont all are appearing on the entry list as well. Along with former winner Decker, the Gypsum Racing Team will be well represented with Pat Ward and Larry Wight joining Decker in competition.

Williamson had the biggest ever OCFS payday with his 2019 Centennial Weekend victory. McLaughlin was the fast qualifier for the 2019 200 and he recently scored his first Super DIRTcar Series win at the final event of OktoberFAST at Weedsport Speedway. Behind the wheel of the Sweetners Plus 32c, he can be in the mix for a win. 10 time OCFS Modified winner Bachetti, 3 time winner Lombardo along with the rest of the veteran driver entries all know how to get around OCFS and it’s always great to see these drivers give it a go in the 200.

Many of the modified drivers will be doing double duty in the 358 race as well. Danny Creeden will be in the Rob and Jenny Sedita #1. Stewart Friesen will be in the 1Z. Williamson, the 2019 358 winner, is entered. Lombardo, recovered from his recent back surgery, is listed on the 358 roster.

Others from the invading group of drivers that appear on the 358 list are Bachetti, Steuer, Ward, Decker and Wight.

Quite a few of the OCFS regulars will be doubling up in the 358’s. Both Sheppard and Mahaney raced regularly at OCFS in 2020 and they will be looking for the Small Block win. Mahaney is definitely a driver to watch in both divisions as he had many good finishes in the recently concluded OktoberFAST events.

Other OCFS regulars doubling up are Steuer, Bob McGannon, Jimmy Spellmon, Meier, Perrego, Allison Ricci, Tyler Boniface and Craig Mitchell.

The Sportsman always draws a large field of cars to ESW and 2020 will be no exception. Winners from the 2020 season that have entered are Dom Roselli Jr, Grant Hilfiger, Cody Higbie and Andrew Buff. 2019 Sportsman champ Hilfiger is the only driver to have 2 wins at OCFS this year. Higbie, in his first season of racing at OCFS scored an impressive win on July 18th, outracing the veteran Hilfiger for the checkers. Buff is the most recent Sportsman winner. He made the trip to OCFS on July 28th for the Twin 20’s Sportsman event and came away with his first OCFS victory.

Tanner VanDoren had a solid season at OCFS. Consistent finishes had him in the point lead when the regular season came to a halt. He has been so impressive that Pat Giuliano, owner of the immaculate #51 D&M Home Improvements/Healy Chevrolet HigFab, has tapped VanDoren to drive the car. Tanner spent time at the most recent OCFS practice session getting comfortable with the car.

Other entries from drivers who placed well up in the Sportsman points include Joey Bonetti, Bobby Flood, Sammy Martz Jr, Troy Arnold and Jeff Hulseapple.

It will be an exciting weekend for a driver making her OCFS competition debut. Isabella Van Orden will be behind the wheel of the very sharp looking #2 Comfort Experts Teo Pro Sportsman. She is making the jump up from the slingshots. Nicknamed ‘The Deerpark Diva’, she has been improving her skills in the recent OCFS Test & Tune sessions. Good luck to Isabella and this great group of people.

OCFS had 4 Street Stock races this season. Bob Sleight grabbed 2 wins with Wayne Taylor and Jim Hajkowski winning the others. It’s expected that these winners along with other OCFS regulars will racing in the Street Stock part of the weekend.

There has been much sadness in the OCFS racing family this week with the passing of Tom Perrego. Tom was a 2 time winner in the Sportsman division during his racing days and he was a fixture around the pits with his son Anthony’s racing. You could easily see how proud Tom was about Anthony’s accomplishments. Tom was very popular with everyone who knew him and there have been so many awesome posts about him appearing on social media. Race Pro Weekly sends their condolences to Anthony and the entire Perrego family, the folks on the Superior Remodeling 44 Racing team and to all his friends that will miss him so much.