Area Stock Car Racing: Authors of Coville-Johnson rivalry to be honored

The two drivers brought the best out of each other
Jeremy Wilder of Fort Plain almost pulled off the biggest win of his racing career last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway.
Jeremy Wilder of Fort Plain almost pulled off the biggest win of his racing career last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway.

I was watching a little golf last week, and listened as the commentators talked about the rivalry between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

During the conversation, while talking about all of Mickelson’s accomplishments, one of the commentators made the statement that Mickelson’s win total would have been much higher if he hadn’t come up in the Tiger Woods’ era.

That’s probably how C.D. Coville feels.

Coville, who had a Hall of Fame career, was unlucky to be in the Jack Johnson era.

The two Capital Region legends will be honored at Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Tuesday, June 12, at “The Tribute,” a 61-lap race that will pay $6,112 to win. The battles between Coville and Johnson on Friday nights at Albany-Saratoga and Saturdays at Fonda Speedway were epic. Their driving styles were as unique as their following of fans — Jumpin’ Jack was as smooth as silk, while “Super” C.D. was like a bull in a china shop. But they both got the job done.

Their rivalry was genuine, and they brought the best out of each other. Coville, on two separate occasions, prevented Johnson from breaking the Fonda Speedway record for consecutive wins.

The first time came in 1981, when Coville prevented Johnson from getting his eighth win in a row, which would have broken Steve Danish’s track record set in 1954.

The second occasion came in 1985, when Coville pulled into the pits for the 100-lap Spring Championship, and again stopped Johnson’s winning streak at seven.

There are way too many stories to tell about the two legends, including the time Coville pitched the Barcomb No. 11 into the trees off the third turn at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. But a lot of those tales will be rehashed at “The Tribute.” Put in on your calendar.


Jeremy Wilder came within inches of pulling off the biggest wins of his career last Sunday at Utica-Rome Speedway.

The Fort Plain driver started on the pole for the 100-lap Super DIRT 358 Series race, with Matt Sheppard, arguably one of the best dirt track modified drivers around, right next to him.

Wilder and Sheppard dueled for all 100-laps, with the action really heating up over the final 10 laps, and Sheppard beat Wilder to the finish line by about a foot to claim the top prize of $4,000.

We’re talking real David vs. Goliath here. Wilder was running his family-owned car, sponsored by Riley Mortuary, while Sheppard has one of the best financed teams on dirt and races for a living.

Just goes to show how talented many of the local drivers really are.

Wilder’s wild ride was part of a good day for the DKM chassis guys, as Wilder switched to a DKM late last season. Dave Constantino, one of the men behind DKM (with Kyle Hoffman and Eric Mack), put his own DKM chassis into victory lane at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park.


Stewart Friesen found himself in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series spotlight last Friday with a third-place finish at Kansas Speedway. Friesen led 61 laps in the Halmar-sponsored Chevrolet, but it was his run-in with Monster Energy Series driver Kyle Busch that got the most attention.

With 23 laps left, Friesen forced Busch down to the infield grass in the tri-oval, as the two were coming back through the pack after pit stops.

Friesen took the lead with 67 laps to go, but lost it shortly thereafter — when the race was under caution. The shifter knob in Friesen’s truck snapped off, and he dropped five spots when he failed to keep the pace while looking for it. He finished the race not knowing where the knob came to rest.

“I would love to win one of these one day,” Friesen said in a post-race interview. “Wins are tough and they are hard to come by, no matter what division you are in. You can have the best of the best [equipment] and something not go your way.

“We’re just going to keep our heads down and work hard. When it happens, it will happen.”


Car counts are down at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park, but co-promoter Mike Parillo is keeping his finger off the panic button. Only eight 602 modifieds were at the track last Sunday.

Devil’s Bowl Speedway will be holding a practice session Sunday, and will kick off its season on Sunday, May 27, with a car show and racing program. The Bowl will be getting a lot of extra scrutiny this season, not only for its new, larger dirt racing surface, but also because of the Vermont 200 on Sept. 16. The weekend will feature a $10,000-to-win race for 602 modifieds, the largest single-day payout for that division ever. It’s also open to any drivers, meaning big names like Sheppard and Friesen will be eligible to compete. All they need is a ride.

Ronnie Johnson recorded his first win of the season last Friday at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, going flag-to-flag in the first 35-lap modified feature, which was carried over from a rainout on May 4. The every-other-Saturday rainout schedule has prevented Johnson from getting a rhythm going at Lebanon Valley, his new Saturday night home. In two starts at the Valley so far this season, Johnson has finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

Reach Gazette Sports Editor Tom Boggie at 518-395-3160 or [email protected].

Categories: Sports

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