Area stock car racing: Varin's streak of podium finishes ends
OK, Bobby Varin haters. Might as well skip right through this. To paraphrase Mark Antony in “Julius Caesar,” we have come to praise Varin, not to bury him.
Actually, Antony said it the other way around, but I really doubt if anyone is going to run to their William Shakespeare collection to check a quote.
One of the season’s most amazing streaks came to an end last Friday at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, when Varin got tangled up with Jeff Rockefeller, bounced off the wall and had to retire to the pits with rear end damage.
That was the first Glen Ridge feature that Varin had failed to finish this season. But the really amazing part is that it was also the first time this season that Varin hadn’t finished in the top three. In 12 weeks of racing, he had five wins, three seconds and four thirds. But now, the streak is over.
“I was trying so hard to get a podium finish every week,” Varin admitted Thursday. “That would have been amazing. That’s probably why I was so upset after Friday’s race, but now, I’m over it. Life goes on.”
What won’t go on is Varin’s chances of winning the $20,000 bonus that goes to any driver who can capture both the overall Race of Champions Tour championship and the overall American Racer Cup championship. Until last Friday, Varin still had a shot, but no more.
Going back to the 12 podium finishes. The Nelson Racing 85 that Varin is driving is a good car, and the team has a good maintenance program, headed by Erik Nelson, but Varin’s experience also has something to do with it.
“I’ve probably got a 1,000 more laps than some of the other guys,” Varin said. “And the fact that there’s only 14 or 15 cars makes it a little easier. But you’ve still got to pass cars and make sure nothing happens, like it did last Friday.”
Varin was back at work Thursday after renewing an old acquaintance Wednesday night. Varin reunited with former car owner Jake Spraker for the Twin 50s at Utica-Rome Speedway, and although the team didn’t have much success on the “first date” of its renewed relationship, Varin is pretty positive that it won’t take long for things to click.
“We’re probably going to hit Fonda when it reopens . . . not the first night, because I’ll be at Grandview,” he said. “We’ll probably hit the Outlaw 200. Right now, I’ll go anywhere Jake wants to go.”
Varin replaced Stewart Friesen in Spraker’s 1J, and Varin has inherited some of the team’s problems.
“There’s definitely an engine issue,” said Varin. “That problem existed before. We’re going to get to the bottom of it. It may not even be a big problem, but right now, we can’t put a finger on it.”
With the exception of his runs at Glen Ridge, it’s hasn’t been a memorable summer for Varin. He was all fired up when the season began because he was supposed to be running a full season at Orange County Speedway in Middletown in the Atlas Trucking 66, but when that deal fell apart in the summer, Varin’s season went downhill quickly.
“I was excited about the season because we had an awesome program set up,” he said. “Then we got into all the turmoil in the summer,
and the season turned on its ear. I sat out three Saturday nights in a row, and I hadn’t done that in 25 years.
“I wasn’t prepared for the season to fall apart. I thought I had a pretty good plan B, but I wasn’t ready to implement it because I didn’t think plan A was going to fail.
“Jake and I have had a lot of success in the past, and hopefully, we can carry it through.”
More on the Ridge
While checking up on Varin’s finishes at the Ridge, I happened to check the point standings, and after an initial shock, decided I liked what I saw.
Unlike most other dirt tracks, Glen Ridge has a point system that rewards victories. In the Glen Ridge breakdown, the winner gets 250 points, second is worth 220, third is worth 200, and it keeps falling at a pretty good clip.
Varin is still the points leader with 3,050, and has a 180-point lead over Craig Hanson, but that’s not really a big gap. With Varin finishing 14th last Friday and Hanson getting his fourth win, Hanson chopped 160 points off Varin’s lead. So anything can happen.
The driver who won’t benefit from the points system is Elmo Reckner. He’s having one of his most consistent seasons ever, with 11 top-five finishes (one win, five second, four thirds, one fourth), but because he only has that one win, he trails Varin by 210 points with just two point races left.
Gates ties record
It took all season, buy Kenny Gates of West Winfield finally tied Todd Hoffman’s track record of 51 career pro stock victories at Fonda Speedway Saturday.
Gates, who ended the 2012 season with 50 wins, tied the record in the first 15-lap feature on the “Night of Features” at the Track of Champions.
“We wrecked bad at Utica-Rome on Wednesday, so I have to thank my crew for all of their help getting here,” said Gates in victory lane
after the win. “I was just trying not to screw up after getting the lead. I honestly never thought I would get 51 career wins, so this is great.”
The question now is, who will finish as the track record-holder? Kenny Martin Jr. has 50 wins, so he and Gates could be dueling it out for a while.
Fonda crowned its track champions on Saturday. Friesen won his second straight modified crown, while Dave Constantino won his first title in the 602 sportsman
division. Peter Broderson retained his crown in the pro stock class, and Ron VanAernam earned his fourth career title in the street stock division.
Around the tracks
Congratulations to David Emigh for recording his first novice sportsman win at Albany-Saratoga Speedway last Friday. It was just a little over a year ago (June 29) that Emigh drove to his first pro stock victory. He and his brother, Brandon, both started out in the limited division, and Dave Emigh recorded victories on asphalt in both the Renegade and pro late model divisions.
Mark Kislowski was also a first-time winner at the Malta track, chalking up his first modified win. The last time he was in victory lane at Albany-Saratoga was when he was wheeling a sportsman in 2009.
Interesting enough, both Kislowski and Jamike Sowle recorded their first modified vicories at both Albany-Saratoga and Fonda this season.
Albany-Saratoga will be running Triple 20s tonight, with $2,000 to each winner. Mike Sowle of Sowle Enterprises is kicking in the extra cash.
Although it looks like Brett Hearn (modified) and Rob Yetman (pro stock) have just around wrapped up championship at Albany-Saratoga, the sportsman battle is going right down to the wire. Jeremy Pitts leads Derrick McGrew by just four points.
Hearn only has a 34-point lead over Ken Tremont Jr., but with the consistency Hearn has shown this year, Tremont might have to settle for second.
Speaking of Tremont, he finally returned to victory lane at Lebanon Valley last Saturday. With only two point races left, Hearn has already socked away the modified point title.
Friesen and Danny Johnson each walked off with $5,000 Wednesday night for winning halves of the Twin 50s at Utica-Rome. Ronnie Johnson had the best night of any area driver, with a fourth and an eighth.
Ron Proctor finished second and fifth in the twin features at Devil’s Bowl last Friday. The runner-up finish in the first feature was his best finish since June.
Devil’s Bowl will be running twin features again tonight on its last Friday night race of the season. It looks like Proctor, the two-time NASCAR Whelen modified series champion, will be giving up his crown. Todd Stone is the points leader with 854, and Proctor is a distant fifth with 764.