Area Stock Car Racing: Returning to asphalt salvaged Williams' year
Remember the connect-the-dots puzzles, where you went from number to number and created a picture?
When Joe Williams of Scotia started connecting the dots during the summer, what he saw was pretty ugly, so he decided it was time for a change.
After struggling on the dirt at
Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Williams switched to the asphalt at Devil’s Bowl midway through the season, and the change paid off last Friday, when he drove to his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Series win of the season at the Vermont track.
To say that Williams struggled at Albany-Saratoga is an understatement. In eight starts, beginning on April 20, he had one top-10 finish, a seventh on April 27. From May 18 to June 8, his finishes were 28th, 13th, 30th and 26th, and he was ready to find a seat in the stands.
“Every week, it was costing us $500, $700, $400 to race,” said Williams this week. “I’m 28 years old, and it’s just me and one other guy who pay for everything. When you start paying that much money to quote, unquote, have fun, well, I thought I could have fun doing something else that wouldn’t cost as much.”
But all it took to put the fun back in racing was a switch back to
During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, when Albany-Saratoga also had an asphalt surface, Williams raced at both Champlain Valley Racing Association tracks and struck up a friendship with Vermont driver Mike Bruno, who purchased Devil’s Bowl from the Richards family during the winter.
“When I was really struggling this year, I got a call from Mike, who talked to me about coming to the Bowl,” said Williams. “I told him I was stuck in this deal because I couldn’t afford to change the car over, but he told me he’d get back to me in a couple of weeks.
“After 10 days later, he called me back and said he had a ride for me, and set me up with Matt Sargen.”
Cody Sargen of Greenfield Center had been running at Devil’s Bowl this year and the team had a backup car, which they offered to Williams, and he jumped at the chance.
“The car I’m driving is their spare car, and it’s 11 years old,” said Williams. “I wasn’t sure what would happen, but once I got the ball rolling, I knew this could work. As a driver, it was like I hadn’t missed a step. If it wasn’t for the Sargens, I’d probably be sitting in the stands at Malta.”
Williams has had success on both dirt and asphalt. He won the Mr. DIRTcar sportsman championship in 2007. and had five victories last season on asphalt at Albany-Saratoga, losing the track championship to Ron Proctor.
The obvious question is, after all the success on asphalt last year, why switch back to dirt this year?
“I must have hit my head ice racing during the winter,” Williams joked. “In the fall and the winter, it sounded like a great idea. I had started racing go-karts on dirt, always raced at Malta and Fonda and had a lot of success on dirt, so it seemed like the natural thing to do. But the evolution of dirt racing changes from week to week, and you’ve always got to stay on top of the shocks and the tires, and everything else, and I just couldn’t keep up, financially.”
Driving for someone is a whole new experience, one that Williams could get used to.
“Not having to spend money
every week is weird,” he said. “The thing that’s hard is that the dirt car is just sitting on jackstands in my garage, race-ready. That car was brand new over the winter, but now it just sits there. But we’re not losing money with it, either.”
Williams may bring that car back out at the end of the month for the Outlaw 200 at Fulton, but this weekend, he’s concentrating on the final race at Devil’s Bowl, a 100-lapper on Sunday as part of the Vermont 200 Weekend, which also includes a 100-lapper for late models.
“One of my crew guys sent me a message after the win last week and said I finally have a reason to smile,” Williams said. “We worked really hard to get there.”
Fonda Speedway swings back into action Saturday night with a full card of racing, including modifieds, 602 sportsman pro stocks, street stocks and the CRSA sprints. The modifieds will be racing for $2,500 to win, while the 602 sportsman winner will receive $500. Racing will begin at 7 p.m.
During intermission, Kenny Marshall will be inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in another special
Marshall, the son of NYSSCA Hall of Famer Paul Marshall, has been involved in racing for most of his life, working on cars for Harry Peek, Jack Johnson, C.D. Coville and Will Cagle in the early 1970s. But Marshall is probably best known as one of the top flaggers in the business. In addition to working at Super DIRT Week in Syracuse, Marshall has also twirled the flags at Albany-Saratoga, Devil’s Bowl, Fonda, Lebanon Valley, Orange County and Utica-Rome. He also was the race director at Fonda Speedway in 1989, and, after moving to Florida, was the assistant general manager of East Bay Speedway in Tampa, Fla., and Putnam County Speedway in Satsuma, Fla., before returning to the Northeast.
Marshall was also an accomplished ice racer, winning eight American Motorsports Enthusiasts Club chamionships.
Around the tracks
u Scott Bachetti, father of Lebanon Valley driver Andy Bachetti, suffered a heart attack at Accord Speedway last Friday and is still in the critical care unit of Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie. Keep him in your thoughts.
u While Williams was driving to his first win of the season at the Bowl last Friday, Proctor finished seventh and won his second straight NASCAR Whelan Modified
u Rain washed out last Saturday’s $10,000-to-win New Yorker at
Utica-Rome, but on Friday, Bobby Varin won the 50-lap Night Before
the New Yorker, taking home $5,000. Two other Fonda regulars, Jimmy Davis and Ronnie Johnson, finished third and fourth, respectively.
Varin, who drew the pole, now has six career wins in sail panel races at Utica-Rome.
The New Yorker dates back to 1963, when Lou Lazzaro won the inaugural race, which was run over a grueling 400 laps.
u In the it’s-about-time category, Mike Tholin finally found his way to victory lane in last Friday’s budget sportsman feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Tholin, one of the nicest guys you’ll find at a race track, last sat in victory lane at the Malta track on Sept. 4, 2009, then ran at The Ridge for two years,
rather than switch over to the
Tholin, who operates a trucking and excavation business,
began running hobby stocks in 2000, and was the track champion in that division at Albany-Saratoga in both 2001 and 2003.
u Two former track champions — Todd Stone and Ken Tremont Jr. — will be competing in Sunday’s 100-lap modified race at Devil’s Bowl. Stone was the 2008 champion, while Tremont has six titles, on both dirt and asphalt. The modifieds will qualify Saturday, with the feature Sunday.
u Budget sportsman, street stocks, four-cylinders and a 100-lap enduro are on the racing card at
Albany-Saratoga tonight, The budget sportsman will be running 50 laps in a run-whatcha-brung race. Action gets under way at 7.
u Lebanon Valley Speedway will hold a memorial for JC Flach, who was killed in a logging accident last week, during Saturday night’s program. Racing will include 358 modifieds, sportsman, budget sportsman, pro stocks, pure stocks and four-cylinders. The card will begin at 6.