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Chasin’ Racin’: Remembering a legend, following the dirt

Mark Kane/For Columbia-Greene Media
September 19, 2017 03:13 pm

It may not be local or dirt track news, but the racing family lost one of its own as Ted Christopher passed away after an air plane crash on his way to the Riverhead Speedway in Long Island.

Christoper was the Brett Hearn of Asphalt Modified racing — either the fans loved him or hated him — and he grabbed win after win, as well as many championships along the way. If it had four wheels and turned left, Ted Christopher would drive it from TQ Midgets to the full Bodied NASCAR.

There was one thing the fans knew when Christopher was in the field: it was going to be exciting. At age 59, we have lost a great competitor. Our thoughts go out to the Christopher family.

Friday night it was road trip time as I ventured up to the Brewerton Speedway and once again it was an enjoyable night of racing on a super fast, super smooth surface at the Duel at the Demon Super DIRTcar Series 100-lap event for the Modifieds with the always-exciting DIRTcar Sportsman event.

After being suspended for two races by DIRTcar, many wondered if Matt Sheppard would be able to make up the points.

Going into the event, Sheppard had moved to within three points of Larry Wight and only 76 behind point-leader Billy Decker after picking up eight wins along the Series so far in 2017. After having a great mid-season drive back to the front of the points as he looks for yet another Super DIRTcar Championship, Sheppard is red hot and Friday night was no different.

At the start of the event Sheppard dropped out of the top 10, making his charge to the front that much harder against the best in the business that follow the Super DIRTcar Series. It was a great race early as Pat Ward and Gypsum teammate Larry Wight battled hard for the lead.

The caution flew as Justin Haers and Mike Bowmen hooked in turn 3. Once back to racing it was Jimmy Phelps and Tim Sears in a great battle for third as Wight and Ward continued to lead the way out front with Billy Decker on the move and Sheppard still outside the top 5.

With 50 down and 50 to go Decker was fast and looking for more now sitting third after a great consistent ride to the front. The laps continued to click away for Wight, working his way through heavy lap traffic.

With 60 down and 40 to go Sheppard cracked the top 5 and Decker was starting to put the pressure on the leaders. Stewart Friesen, Albany Saratoga Champion Peter Britten and local racer Keith Flach were trying to make it work sitting inside the top 10 and throwing it to the high side. With Decker starting to cut into the lead through traffic the caution flew for Lee Gill that tightened up the field.

Once back to green Wight was back to the front as the war was on for second as Decker and Sheppard raced. Phelps was now holding down fourth.

With 80 down and 20 to go, Decker slid off the bottom giving Sheppard a shot and again contact was made as Sheppard would be the new second place car. Now the race was on as Sheppard chased down Wight and made the move to the bottom to be the new leader on lap 89, only to have Wight find the bite on the high side to come right back to lead lap 90.

The slower car slid up leaving Sheppard the hole he needed and Wight drifted just a little high. It was all Sheppard needed to grab the lead and continue on his way to pick up the win, his 56th of his career of the series that tightened up the points.

Following Sheppard to the line was Wight, Phelps, Sears and Decker rounding out the top 5. Local racer Keith Flach ran a consistent race with an 11th place finish.

What a way to celebrate your 22nd birthday — winning your first-ever Super DIRTcar Sportsman event.

Well, that’s what Corey Barker did Friday night after Dave Marcuccilli pulled to the infield while holding down a commanding lead. The misfortune for the current point leader would be all the young driver needed as he cruised on for the win.

Following Baker to the line was Jeremy Pitcher, Ron Davis, Rockey Warner from dead last and Glen Forward.

Saturday the Super DIRTcar Series moved to Mohawk Speedway where 2017 Fonda Speedway and Mohawk Track Champion Tim Fuller grabbed the win using the W-16 Small Block power plant. Following Fuller was Billy Dunn, Ryan Arbutthnot, Matt Sheppard and Jimmy Phelps.

Then on Sunday the SuperDIRTcar Series was right back at it, this time at the Cornwall Speedway with Super Matt once again finding his way to the win over Billy Decker, Larry Weight, local Keith Flach and Pat Ward.

Here in the Capital District, Bobby Varin found his way to victory at both Albany-Saratoga as well as Fonda over the weekend as Harry Schaffer picked up the win at the Glen Ridge Motor Sports Park.

Well folks, Garrett Poland, a 12-year-old from right here in our area picked up the Jr. Slingshot Championship at Glen Ridge in his first year of racing.

A past champion on two wheel BMX racing, the young champ had a great season with two wins at the Ridge along with a win on the road at the 5 Mile Point Speedway. In coming weeks we will have more about this fine young racer and what it took to grab that first Championship. Congrats to a fine season to Garrett and the entire team, job well done in your rookie season.

Other news has both Utica Rome and Fulton Speedway dropping the Big Blocks and going to the 358 Mods for next season as Canandaigua Speedway will go back to the DIRT Motorsports banner in 2018 running Big Blocks as their headline division.

They have started to put the dirt down at Oswego for Super DIRT WEEK 2017, Oct. 4-8. Much more to come.

This coming weekend Fonda Speedway will play host to a big two-day event with racing kicking off Friday night with the King of Dirt 358 Modifieds and Sportsman, Pro Stocks, CRSA 305 Sprints and Modified warm-ups with music to follow.

Then, Saturday night they come right back with a big 100-lap Super DIRTcar Series event, Super DIRTcar Pro Stocks and the Kramer Williamson 360 Winged Sprint Car feature with drivers from ESS, URC and Patriot groups. This is going to be a great weekend of racing and, as of right now, the weather is looking great.