Stock car racing: Duell's career has had a lot of ups and downs
The older that drivers get, the more they cherish their wins, because they never know if a trip to victory lane will be their last.
Kim Duell, 53, had that feeling two weeks ago, when he notched his first pro stock victory of the season at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Even though he had won the final race of the 2013 season at the Malta track, and his win on June 20 came on the seventh racing night of the season, there was something special about it.
“It reminded me of when Dale Earnhardt finally won at Daytona,” said Duell Thursday. “I pulled into the pits and all the modified guys were lining up to slap my hand. I’m not usually at a loss for words, but that really got to me. I guess they liked the fact that I got a win for the Geritol gang.”
For those who haven’t been around the racing game for very long, Duell isn’t your run-of-the-mill pro stock driver. He had a promising modified career in the mid-1980s, winning three features at Devil's Bowl Speedway, until the cost of racing got out of control; went into retirement; started racing again when his son, Scott, graduated from high school; went into retirement again and started building pro stock chassis; and came out of retirement to run for Joe Lazzaro.
And he’s never lost his love for racing.
“When I drove for Chuck Harriman [in the early 1990s]. we didn’t have any wins, but I finished second a couple of times and was pretty consistent in the top five [at Malta],” Duell said. “But then equipment started to advance, and Chuck wanted to run the Valley. I didn’t think we had the equipment for the Valley, so we parted as friends. I ran my own stuff for a while, but it got to the point where racing was too expensive, and I got out of it for a while.”
He returned to race street stocks when his son graduated from high school.
“I could see that he was good, and had some talent, so I built a pro stock, an old-school Camaro, for him. I think that was 2002,” Duell said.
Scott Duell and Joe Santoro teamed up with car owner Joe Lazzaro to form a formidable team. In 2005, the two combined for 11 victories in 21 races, and on the final racing night of the season, Santoro made his debut in the sportsman division.
“Joe said the cars [pro stocks] were going to be parked because the boys were going to open wheel, and he asked me if I wanted to come out of retirement,” Duell said. “I love the pro stocks, so I jumped at it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
And he’s been doing in on both dirt and asphalt, winning the Albany-Saratoga championship on dirt in 2008 and on asphalt in 2010.
Although he’s running a chassis he built in 2005 [Jeff Washburn is running its twin], Duell and another veteran still have a few tricks up there sleeves.
“This car is a little heavy, and we don’t have a fresh motor under the hood, but it’s still good when the track slicks up,” said Duell. “Jack Cottrell’s been helping me. He’s got some ideas that are pretty off the wall, but they work. When you have a guy like Rob Yetman, who is the class of the field, to beat him, you have to think outside the box.”
The wins are special, and the racing is still fun. That’s what keep Duell going.
“When Albany-Saratoga goes under, that’s when I’ll quit,” he said with a laugh. “But when they announced at the banquet that they had extended the lease, I turned to my wife and said, ‘Guess I know what I’m going to be doing.’”
If Hurricane Arthur doesn’t throw a monkey wrench into the works, it’s going to be a good week for racing fans.
Albany-Saratoga and Glen Ridge Motorsports Park both have fireworks scheduled for tonight. In an attempt to draw more drivers, Glen Ridge will be paying $3,711 to win the modified feature. As an added attraction, all firefighters with proper ID will be admitted free of charge, and a fire truck and a Life Net medical helicopter will on display.
On Saturday at Fonda Speedway, it will be Hawaiian Shirt Night,” with all fans wearing a Hawaiian shirt receiving $2 off a general admission ticket.
But the big event comes on Tuesday, when Albany-Saratoga returns to action for the Brett Hearn-promoted “Big Show 6” Super DIRT Series modified qualifier. Because of an increase in sponsorship, the 100-lap “Big Show 6” will pay $10,000 to win, and should draw a quality field of cars.
“Guys I’ve talked to have really been putting this on their calendar earlier this year, as opposed to other years, because the track conditions are so good,” said Hearn.
The Tuesday night card will also include a pair of 20-lap features for the sportsman division, with each feature having its own payout.
“It’s a great showcase for young drivers who want to work their way up through the ranks,” said Hearn.
Hearn won “Big Show 5,” and has won six of the eight modified features contested so far this seasaon.
Around the tracks
Danny Johnson won Wednesday night’s Super DIRT 358 series race at Ransomville, with defending Fonda Speedway champion Stewart Friesen second.
Johnny Scarborough returned to victory lane last Friday, winning one-half of the Twin 25s at Devil’s Bowl Speedway. The win was Scarborough’s first at the Bowl since 1999, when he ran in the sportsman division.
Todd Stone won the other 25-lapper, despite spinning into the infield on lap four and then getting involved in a minor jingle on lap seven.
Glen Ridge’s car count took a big jump last Friday, with 17 modifieds and 21 sportsman taking the green flag in their respective features. Jamike Sowle (modifieds) and Mark Mortensen (sportsman) got their first wins of the season.