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Chasin’ Racin’

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    Mark Kane/For Columbia-Greene Media
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    Mark Kane/For Columbia-Greene Media
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    Mark Kane/For Columbia-Greene Media
March 27, 2018 01:12 am Updated: April 2, 2018 12:45 pm


With all the local car shows now over, the only thing left is for teams to put their finishing touches on the cars and hope Mother Nature does her part.

Yes, race fans, it is that time of year again and as fans we have had enough of the cold and snow and we are all looking forward to hearing that first rumble from the pits.

For the teams that have been busy at work they, too, are waiting with high expectations for the upcoming racing season. They have been busy preparing their rides and looking for that edge that will give them the advantage during the upcoming 2018 racing season.


Changes this season

There have been many changes — drivers changing tracks, teams changing divisions, some retired drivers making a comeback and some drivers who are calling it a career.

Even DIRTcar made a huge change that may be good for the Super DIRTcar Series, but may hurt the speedways that race under the DIRTcar banner. It has been where drivers needed home track points as part of the season-long Super DIRTcar Series to crown a champion at the end of the season.

In 2018 this is no longer the case. Only your Super DIRTcar Series points that you accumulate will count. Now how does that hurt the weekly tracks? First off, drivers may just decide not to run weekly if they are not in contention for a championship. This will leave car counts down, and we all know lower car counts will mean fewer fans in the stands as well as less money coming through the back gate to pay the purse. It also gives a driver a chance to move around the Northeast and hit higher paying shows that they might not have had the chance to run if they were running for the home track points. I know, it all sounds a little complicated.


New tracks for popular race teams

OK, now let’s take a look at some of the teams that will be having a new home in 2018. Most likely the biggest change, and a surprise to many, will be Ronnie Johnson calling the Valley of Speed, Lebanon Valley, home for the 2018 season. The 2RJ will also be back to his usual Friday night home at Albany Saratoga Speedway. The 2RJ team will be using KEVLAR Power under the hood of the team’s two TEO Chassis.

Taking over the seat of the potent Jake Spraker ride at Fonda will be his former Sportsman champion, Rocky Warner. What hasn’t Rocky Warner accomplished in the Sportsman ranks as he has won championship after championship, win after win, and now it is time to take his talent to the next level.

Longtime car owner and former driver Bill Nelson has hired young gun Demetrois Drellos to pilot the team’s 2018 Bicknell with power coming from a John Grant Racing Engines Big Block and will call Fonda Speedway home for the season using Nelson familiar No. 85. The family-owned Drellos 111 team will again be in action on Friday nights at Albany Saratoga.

Veteran Sportsman car owner Rich Dodson will be getting out of the Sportsman ranks and moving up to the Modified ranks with Willy Decker behind the wheel of a 2018 Bicknell with KEVLAR power under the hood and will concentrate on the Albany Saratoga Speedway championship in the 1X.

Earlier in the year former Accord Speedway runner Jackie Brown was said to be moving his Friday night racing to the Great Race Place, Albany Saratoga Speedway, in 2018. After taking a few years off from behind the wheel to be a mom, Jessica Zemken will return where her career started at the Track of Champions, Fonda Speedway, behind the wheel of the 1Z, Billy the Kid-powered TEO. Before taking time off, Zemken had shown her talent behind the wheel of the 360 as well as 410 sprints and will be a welcome addition to the field.

Sportsman driver Brian Borst will come out of retirement and will be calling Fonda Speedway his Saturday night home aboard his familiar 69, as will Jeff Holt, who ran early in 2017 before destroying his 32 Machine.


Local drivers make their mark

Local Ravena Racer Joey Carnibucci will be making his return to the drivers’ seat of the 95 Sportsman ride with help from Lia Cars, Vent Fitness, Burger Fi, and Jordan’s Barber Shop.

Former area resident Gary Vanalstyne will be making a return to racing after being out of the seat for 13 years with a 2008 TEO and has dedicated his season to his brother-in-law, Kevin McMillen, who passed away. Sponsorship for the team is coming from Mac-Sons Industrial Services and A&A Power Equipment, and they are looking for additional sponsors to come aboard as they will be, as he puts it, “shaking off the rust” in the Sportsman at Albany Saratoga. If heart and love of the sport has anything to do with it, he should do just fine in his return. He would like to thank his brother and niece, Larry and Rachael, for their continued support as his only two crew members.


Vedder hangs up his helmet

After 51 years as a driver popular Bob Vedder is going to hang up his helmet. The 53 team will be greatly missed at the local speedways as Vedder was a fan favorite. His low buck, clean driving style found its way into hearts of many fans for many years. Was Vedder a big winner? No, but winning is not what made Vedder popular with fans and drivers alike. Weekly he would pull into the pits and even picked up a win in his last year of racing on a limited budget. I would like to wish Mr. Bob Vedder the best in his future plans, thank you for all those Saturday nights you took away from your family to put on a show for the fans. You will be truly missed.


Garrett Poland

While at the Fonda Car show I had the chance to speak with one of our local young racers Garrett Poland. What a great kid. When you hear all the negativity about the younger generation, maybe they just have not come across Garrett Poland.

Maybe it’s the time he spends playing sports, working hard at his studies, or working and learning about his No. 40G Junior Slingshot, but Poland came across as nothing short of a very responsible and respectable young man.

Like every kid, Poland enjoys his time playing videos but also spends plenty of time playing basketball for RCS as well as traveling teams, and is now running track. One thing is for sure, he has to keep up on his studies to enjoy the fun parts of his life.

His parents, Michele and Bert Poland, insist on good grades. It is great to see this family together. You can see what the word “family” means to them. As parents they are 100 percent behind their son and everything he does and wants to do.

The name Downes Racing is on the door panel and for the local race fans that is a name that goes way back in racing, and yes, Uncle Don is right there helping out.

As far as the 40G, Garrett Poland is proud to carry on the number of Downes racing. The career of this young talent started on two wheels with bikes as they traveled up and down the East Coast, winning many events. He was also crowned the New York state champion.

Last year they made the move into the Tobias Built Slingshots, from two wheels to four, and a change that seemed to fall right into place. As a rookie they traveled to the 5-Mile Point Speedway, where he picked up the win at his first-ever event at the Speedway.

While racing at the Glen Ridge Speedway in 2017, Poland showed his consistency and control behind the wheel. The combination of family support, consistency, control of his race car and the willingness to learn brought Garrett the Glen Ridge Track championship in his rookie season against some very talented young drivers.

Looking down the road this young talent would like to move up to the Sportsman Division and with the support he has behind him and his drive to do his best, I am sure his dreams will come true when he is ready to make the move.

Understanding it takes a team effort like any sport, Garrett would like to thank his Mom and Dad, Michele and Bert Poland, Absolute Fire Protection, Jordan’s Barber Shop, J.B. Photography, AAA Roofing, Myers Bike Shop, Doggie Style Mobile Pet Grooming, Cat Box R.C. Raceway, Grandma and Grandpa Poland, and Downes Racing. A special thanks to J.K. Motorsports Concept for the great Graphics. You can follow Garrett at Garrett Poland Motorsports on Facebook, and keep a watch out for their new T-shirts and hoodies, which will be coming soon. There are also 40G stickers available on the Facebook page.

It won’t be long now race fans so please remember to support those who support the greatest show on dirt, DIRT TRACK RACING.