If Jeremy Wilder is the future of stock car racing, the future is in good hands.
The 22-year-old Fort Plain driver reached another milestone in his career Saturday night when he took home the modified point championship at the season finale at The Ridge.
Wilder, who began racing in the sportsman division at Fonda Speedway when he was 15, went into the night with a 21-point lead over Bobby Varin, and got a big break when Varin pulled the Andy’s Service
No. 97 into the pits early in the feature with mechanical problems.
Wilder, who is majoring in business administration at SUNY-Cobleskill, suffered a flat tire during the feature, but made a quick stop and came back to finish fifth, more than enough to win his first track championship.
“It was just a good way to end the season,” said Wilder Thursday night. “We had one of our best seasons ever, with three wins at The Ridge and one at Fonda, and it was just a good way to bring everything together.”
Wilder was committed to racing at The Ridge this season, and stuck it out when the track switched racing nights. After getting his first career modified victory on April 20, Wilder also made his way to victory lane on July 22 and July 29.
He went on a hot streak during July and August, with two wins, two seconds and two thirds in a seven-week span. The only time he didn’t crack the top three during that stretch was the ROC Tour race, in which he finished seventh.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t want to race at Malta [on Friday nights], but Glen Ridge is only 10 minutes away from our shop, and it didn’t make sense, with work and school and everything, to drive an hour to race on Friday nights,” Wilder said. “Then, when the Ridge switched to Sunday, it didn’t really affect us, like it did guys like Bobby and Stewie [Friesen], because we weren’t racing on Sunday, anyway.”
There are sure to be some detractors, pointing out that the track was only drawing 10 or 11 modifieds during most of July. But Wilder was still running against veterans like Varin, Craig Hanson and Marc Johnson, and the title is well-deserved.
Wilder has all three of his cars for sale, but don’t believe the rumors that he’s cutting back.
“We’re looking to update for next year,” he said. “The plan is to get two new cars.”
He knows he’s probably going to make some changes next season.
“We’re going to race at Fonda, for sure,” he said. “I’m really getting the hang of it. I’d like to run some more Super DIRT Series races with the big block. But as far as a second night, that’s still up in the air.”
Oh, yeah, then there’s that college thing.
“I’m taking more credits this semester than I took last semester, so I’ve been busy,” he said. “I’ve got to get in more credits this semester because I’ll be doing an internship next semester, and then I’ll have my bachelor’s degree in business.”
Title on the line
Two veteran modified drivers will settle their season-long battle for the track championship at Devil’s Bowl Speedway tonight.
Ron Proctor of Charlton is the defending NASCAR Whelan Modified champion at the Bowl, and leads Vince Quenneville Jr. by 23 points going into the final points race of the season, a 50-lap feature.
With the Sunoco Race Fuels “Dash For Cash” semi-features added in the final weeks of the season, a total of 65 points are up for grabs tonight. Points are awarded in heats, the dash and the feature.
Proctor has put together an impressive record this season, with 17 consecutive top-seven finishes, including three victories. Quenneville has five wins to his credit, but a blown engine two weeks ago has him playing catchup.
Quenneville recorded his fifth win last Friday, getting an assist from Ken Tremont Jr. After blowing up his 600-horsepower open 358 motor two weeks ago, Quenneville borrowed a 358 crate engine from Tremont, won the feature and kept his hopes for the track championship alive.
Dan Petronis of Mechanicville came away with his first career win in the late model division at the Bowl last weekend. Petronis was battling with points leader Craig Bushey for the lead with five laps remaining when the two cars made heavy contact, with Bushey’s car climbing the left-rear corner of Petronis’ car. But both drivers corrected in time to finish one-two.
Petronis is a graduate of the limited and renegade divisions at Albany-Saratoga, and has obviously taken a liking to asphalt. During the 2011 season, when Albany-Saratoga ran under a NASCAR sanction, he had six victories and won the late model point title.
When Albany-Saratoga went back to dirt this season, Petronis stayed on the asphalt, switching his racing to Devil’s Bowl.
Busch coming to Spa
Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch will be the guest of the Saratoga Auto Museum’s “Meet and Greet” series on Sept. 20.
The session with Busch will be held at 5 p.m. at the City Center in Saratoga Springs. Tickets are priced at $15, and can be obtained at the museum store or online at www.saratogaautomuseum.com. Attendees can use their admission ticket to visit the museum, which is currently showcasing its “Moonshine to Millionaires — NASCAR’s History, Heroes and Technoglogy” exhibit.
Souvenirs from the museum gift shop, suitable for obtaining Busch’s autograph, will be available at City Center, along with tickets for the M&M’s-sponsored NASCAR VIP raffle, which will give two winners four tickets to a 2013 NASCAR race of their choice.
Around the tracks
u Included on Albany-Saratoga Speedway’s card tonight is a modified “maiden” race, for drivers who haven’t been to victory lane this season. The race will pay $1,500 if 20 or more cars compete, and $1,000 if fewer than 20 cars make the feature. According to the track’s website, “All” modified drivers who don’t have a win are eligible. I take that to mean drivers from other tracks, as well.
Albany-Saratoga regulars not eligible for the “maiden” race are Friesen, Brett Hearn, Mike Perrotte, Tremont, Matt DeLorenzo, Jeff Trombley, Ronnie Johnson, Donnie Corellis and Tim McCreadie.
I’ll take an exacta box of Don Ronca, Marc Johnson and Mark Kislowski.
u What’s a slew of stock car racing notes without an update from The Ridge? I talked with now-retired promoter Mike Romano Thursday, and he said he was told by the Hayes brothers, who own the track, that there will be racing next season, but no official details have been released yet.
In the season finale last Saturday, Friesen picked up his third modified win of the season, and Danny Varin won the CRSA sprint car feature. Rocky Warner won the sportsman championship at by virtue of a second-place finish in the closing-night feature. Warner also won the first street stock race ever held at the track, in 2004.
u Jimmy Davis of Ballston Spa won last Sunday’s feature at Utica-Rome, and Friesen wrapped up the track title with a second-place finish.
u It’s New Yorker Weekend at Utica-Rome, with two bigs nights of racing. Tonight, the modified will run 50 laps for $5,000 to win, and Saturday features the $10,000-to-win New Yorker. Bobby Varin is the defending champion, and picked up $10,000 for winning the Victoria 200 early in the season. But he’s been off his game since banging up his knee in a sprint car wreck at Utica-Rome last month.
u Canajoharie’s Otto Sitterly won the Budweiser Classic 200 for supermodifieds for the third time in his career Sunday at Oswego Speedway. Sitterly, who earned his fifth track title this season, took the lead for good on the 154th lap.