Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – This past Saturday, Anthony raced his 358 Small Block Modified to victory to claim the division championship that was worth $10,000.
The stakes were much higher on Thursday as Perrego was one of four drivers in contention for the 2021 OCFS United Rentals DIRTcar Big Block Modified championship worth $25, 000 to the highest finishing driver of the four.
And in a dramatic 50 lap race, Perrego held off a charging Stewart Friesen to lay claim to the 2021 title. With the $5,000 race win payout, Perrego earned $30,000 for his efforts Thursday.
It was pre-determined that the championship eligible 4 of Perrego, Friesen, Matt Sheppard and Billy Decker would be starting in positions 10-13. It was Craig Mitchell and Tommy Meier on row one for the start with Friesen 10th, Perrego 11th, Sheppard 12th and Decker 13th.
Mitchell raced out to the lead at the start with Matt Hitchcock briefly into 2nd before Meier took the spot. The first caution was out on lap 4 for Friesen as he had what appeared to be a broken shock. Quick pit work got the Halmar 44 back out to competition. Perrego quickly gained the upper hand on the other 3 title competitors as he was up to 5th by lap 5.
Sheppard and Decker’s progress was slower, but steady as they moved forward. Meier took the lead from Mitchell on lap 5. Caution was out again on lap 6 for Donnie Wilson and Bob McGannon. Strong running Jimmy Horton moved into 2nd on the restart. Caution was again out after 9 were down as Matt Janiak slowed. Sheppard began to flex some muscle, moving into 4th, just trailing Perrego in 3rd.
With 12 laps down. caution was out for Hitchcock who rolled to a stop. Meier continued to lead over Horton, with Sheppard getting by Perrego for 3rd.
Horton brought out the next caution when he had a tire go flat and hit the turn one wall. Meier led on the restart over Sheppard, but Perrego passed Super Matt the next lap tom take 2nd.
After 2 more quick cautions, it was the first extended green flag period of the race as Perrego closed in on Meier and made the pass for the lead on lap 23. Sheppard passed Meier for 2nd on lap 25. It was close racing for some laps with Sheppard trying to race down Perrego. By this time, Friesen had worked his way back up to 5th with Decker in 7th.
With 29 down, McGannon stopped it turn 1. The restart saw Friesen jump up to 3rd. With 15 laps to go, the final caution flew for Dillon Steuer. The restart saw Friesen move up to 2nd and Decker moved up to 4th. The 4 drivers battling for the championship were now 1-2-3-4.
Friesen tried everything he could to close in on Perrego and on lap 44, he got close to Anthony on the outside. But as the laps trickled away, Perrego stretched his lead a bit. At the checkers it was Perrego the winner by a tad over a second over Friesen with Sheppard 3rd, Decker 4th and Meier 5th.
Mitchell was 6th with Mike Mahaney 7th, Keith Flach 8th, Janiak 9th and Chris Stevens 10th.
“Sheppard got by us there, and I was back to 3rd. But I got going good on the bottom, made some passes and it was smooth sailing from there,” Perrego said in a most jubilant Victory Lane. “When I got out front, I had a guy down in turn one with signals and I was watching the scoreboard in turn four to see who was moving up. I just wanted to make sure that no one got around me on the outside. Thanks to Brian Smith for everything he does for us. It’s just an awesome year we are having. Now, we move on to try to win the Eastern States.”
The playoff style run to the championship was a bold move by OCFS officials, the first of it’s kind in the northeast dirt racing world. It surely brought a lot of attention to this final race. And it was fascinating race to watch from my point of view. Watching those 4 drivers jockeying for position was great to watch. OCFS promoter Chris Larsen had some thoughts about the playoff format after the race.
“I think it was a good thing we did. It was more exciting than just running every Saturday. Obviously, we kind of copied it from NASCAR with the format, but I thought it went well. Racing Thursdays enabled guys (Stewart) Friesen and (Billy) Decker to be able to compete and so fans could see them compete too. And it worked out. We wanted the four best drivers to be competing for the championship and it worked out that way. It was a great race and a lot of fun doing it.”
A pair of Arkel Motors 20 lap Sportsman races were held and both 2021 Sportsman champion Joe Bonetti and Jeff Hulseapple collected their 3rd wins of the season.
In race #1, Josh Allen led the first lap but on lap 2, he broke a rear shock and dropped out. Eighth starting Bonetti assumed the lead and distanced himself from the rest of the field for the balance of the race to win by over 4 seconds over Rafaele Carson. Carson made up many spots in the 2nd half of the race in a good run for 2nd. In his first ever OCFS appearance, Jeff Gallup was 3rd with Ryan Walther 4th and Lem Atkins 5th. The balance of the top 10 was Gary Edwards III 6th, Dylan Smith 7th, Mike Orlando 8th, Fred Pavia 9th and Mike Weslowski 10th.
“This is very cool. My crew guy Marty called me at 2 this afternoon. I wasn’t really sure we were going to race. My fiancee who I am marrying in two days said to go have a good time. We haven’t even washed the mud off of it. This Bicknell chassis was a rocket,” Bonetti said.
In race #2, Hulseapple stormed out to the lead from his 2nd starting spot and cruised to a nearly 5 second win over Joey Bruning. Longtime OCFS racer Frank Jashembowski made his first start in many years. He raced the #26 usually driven by his brother Bob and it was a successful race as Frank took 3rd. Gary Edwards Jr was 4th and Michael Bull 5th. Rounding out the top 10 were Travis Green 6th, Kasey Hufcut 7th, Jesee Leiby 8th, Mark Connoly 9th and Nick Giardini 10th.
And that concludes the Orange County Fair Speedway regular season. Congratulations to the champions, Anthony Perrego Modifieds and 358’s, Joe Bonetti Sportsman and Mike Vigiletti Street Stocks.
Thank to to Mr. Larsen, Mr. Gurda, Brett Hearn, Doug Dulgarian, Peter Reynolds, Jake Meier and all the staff at OCFS who would always answer any number of questions I would ask during the season. The cooperation I get from all of them makes doing the work I enjoy doing much easier and I certainly appreciate it. Looking forward to Eastern States Weekend!!