It’s only three weeks into the area stock car racing season, and it’s already getting redundant.
Brett Hearn is 3-for-3 at Lebanon Valley Speedway; Stewart Friesen has won two in a row at Fonda, and would also be 3-for-3 if not for a flat tire on opening night.
Thank goodness for drivers like Derrick McGrew.
McGrew is what dirt-track racing is all about; a low-budget driver who loves to race.
The fact that he’s also very good at what he does is a plus. McGrew won last Friday’s budget sportsman feature at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, the second year in a row he’s been in victory lane on opening night.
He’s not motivated by money or fame. He’s motivated by his 5-year-old son.
“He’s busting my stones all the time,” McGrew said with a smile after last Friday’s win. “He started racing go-karts last year, and he won nine races, and I only won one. He doesn’t let me forget it. He won his first race last Saturday, so I figured I’d better get a win to keep up with him.”
McGrew has been racing for 12 years, but it seems like it’s been longer because he worked on Ronnie Johnson’s crew in the late 1990s. “When I was with Ronnie, all I cared about was racing,” McGrew said.
McGrew won his first sportsman feature at Albany-Saratoga in 2002, when the secondary division featured heavy hitters like Mike Ballestero, Tim Clemons, Tom Hartman and John Bellinger. His overall win total at Albany-Saratoga is 16, which includes seven in the sportsman division and nine in the budget sportsman, including three on asphalt during the last two years of the Richards family regime at the Malta track.
Winning the opener last year turned out to be the highlight of McGrew’s season, as it was extremely tough to even qualify last year, when Albany-Saratoga regularily drew 50-plus budget sportsman. He only had one other top-five finish all year.
“The way the track was last year, it was narrow and hard to pass,” McGrew said. “After I won the first week, I’d usually be starting 20th after that, and I couldn’t afford to bang my way to the front like some of the other guys did, so I started getting frustrated.
“I went down to talk to Jack Johnson one day and was complaining about other guys banging to get to the front, and he told me to stop complaining, because that’s the way I used to drive. He told me to start driving the way I used to.”
McGrew didn’t have to do any banging on Friday. His car was set up so well that he was literally cruising.
“Dennis Palmatier hooked me up on Integra shocks and after the heat race, he told me to make some changes,” McGrew said. “I’m not smart enough about shocks to know if what he was telling me was true, but I did it and the car was great. I tried following Paul Dunham on the top for a while[ during the feature], but the car was even better when I moved to the bottom.”
The way his car was hooked up Friday, McGrew may not have to be banging his way to the front, but if has to to get more victories, he’ll do it.
“I’m going back to being the old me,” McGrew. “It’s fun having my son with me, and it’s really fun when the car is running like it did tonight.”
Bowl set to open
Ron Proctor will begin his quest for a third straight Bond Auto Parts modified piint championship Sunday when Devil’s Bowl speedway kicks off its 2013 season with the annual Spring Green.
Proctor will again be behind the wheel of the Timco Transportation/Charlton Oil NASCAR Whelan Series modified. Vince Quenneville Jr., who battled Proctor for the title right down to the wire last season, has picked up new sponsorship from Green Mountain Feeds and Black Diamond Builders this season.
Cody Sargen of Grenfield Center will be looking for his first victory at the Bowl this season.
Included among the other drivers expected at the Spring Green, which includes a 133-lap race for the American-Canadian Tour late models, are former Devil’s Bowl track champions Ken Tremont Jr. and Todd Stone.
Devil’s Bowl opening event will have an added special attraction, as the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet of 10-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be on display. The car is part of a community involvement initiative sponsored by the Vermont Army National Guard.
Around the tracks
Although Glen Ridge only drew 14 modifieds for its seasaon opener last Friday night, spectators and drivers alike raved about the superb condition of the racing surface.
Craig Hanson won the modified feature at Glen Ridge, while Brian Pessolano won the sportsman feature when Ray Zemken and Rocky Warner, battling for the lead, crashed on the last lap. Warner rolled his car, but wasn’t injured.
Bobby Varin was involved in a first-lap wreck in the feature at Orange County Speedway last Saturday, and never completed a lap.
Pete Britten was behind the wheel of the Jerry Darrah 14B in Albany-Saratoga’s opener last week and finished third. If he runs a full season at the Malta track, the Australian driver is bound to get a couple of wins.
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