While most people were laboring at their jobs Tuesday afternoon, Bob Savoie was playing hookey.
“I’m feeling a little racey,” he said over his cell phone as he drove down the Thruway, headed for Accord Speedway for the Bullring Battle. “I figured we might as well skip out early and go racin’.”
That’s what a victory will do for you.
Granted, Savoie has always been racey. From the days when he was “Bullet” Bob Savoie, dominating the Champlain Valley Racing Association, to his present-day status as a once-a-week racer, Savoie has always loved to race. It didn’t matter where, it didn’t matter who he was up against, he just loved to race.
And the “Silver Bullet” still has that passion.
He finally made his way back to victory lane last Friday night when he recorded his first modified victory ever at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park. Now he can add the Ridge to a list of tracks where he’s won races, a list that includes Fonda, Albany-Saratoga, Devil’s Bowl, Utica-Rome, Airborne Park, Cornwall, North Ridge, Thunder Mountain . . . I never knew where he got all his wins, and Savoie can’t remember them all.
As he was heading down the Thurway Tuesday, wind whistling through the open window of his truck, I asked him if he remembered the last time he won a race.
He had no idea.
Neither do I. The last one I can find was at Devil’s Bowl in June 2005. That may be right, but who knows?
Savoie has been spending his Fridays at Glen Ridge this year, fielding his own two-car operation (one big block, one small block), and last week, he made a decision that got him to victory lane.
“We finally brought out the small- block car,” he said. “I’d been taking the big block there every week, but that 300 less horsepower seemed to go better.
“The small block seems like the way to go. Besides, I’ve always preferred a small block.”
Maybe that’s because his best years came in a small block.
When Champlain Valley Racing Association founder C.J. Richards decided to drop big blocks from his circuit in 1985 and switch to small blocks, Savoie was one of the drivers who made the switch. He had been driving the big block-powered Richardsdale Farms car, owned by Mike Richards, in 1984, and when the circuit made the changeover, Savoie dominated.
Oddly enough, Savoie had been one of the drivers who was behind a proposed boycott of Albany-Saratoga in 1983. After losing a handful of races to rainouts early in the season, Richards announced he was going to cut the purse, which didn’t sit well with the drivers who had a lot of money invested in their cars. After a meeting in Savoie’s garage in Broadalbin, the drivers agreed to boycott.
As luck would have it, on the night of the boycott, it rained again, so there was no racing, anyway, and Richards then met with the drivers during the next week and ironed out the problems.
But when the circuit switched to small blocks in 1985, and drivers like Jack Johnson and Ken Tremont Jr. opted to leave, Savoie became the king. In 1985, he pulled off the CVRA Triple Crown, winning track championships at Albany-Saratoga, Devil’s Bowl and Airborne Park. Between the three tracks, he won 16 features.
It’s probably no coincidence that Savoie still has fond memories of those days.
“The best of the old days was when we were running the full-blown CVRA, from Albany-Saratoga to Plattsburgh to Devil’s Bowl,” he said. “We were driving our butts off up and down the road to race, and it was a lot of fun. I’m convinced in those days, the days were 100 hours long.”
From 1984 to 2000, he racked up 33 wins at Albany-Saratoga. and he also won three track championships, including beating Don Ackner by a point in 1986. I remember doing an interview with him in 1990, when he talked about retiring. “If I get to 100 [wins], then maybe I’ll stop,” he said.
Fat chance. That 100th victory came at Albany-Saratoga in 1994. Nineteen years later, he’s still feeling racey.
The days of driving for Mike Richards, John Bruno, Mike Budka and other owners are long gone. “I was successful with all of them,” Savoie said. “I’m sure if they still had cars today, I could get a ride. We all had a lot of fun in those days.”
Today, it’s just Savoie and his two-man crew, consisting of his son, Jason, and friend Steve Wagner. But they’re still having fun.
And on a sunny Tuesday, they can leave work early and head out to a race.
“I was never really out of racing,” said Savoie, who really hadn’t completed on a weekly basis in recent years. “I took a little break, and now, we’re just dabbling. We go when we feel like it. Sometimes we plan on doing things, but sometimes, the plans change.”
One thing hasn’t changed. Bob Savoie still loves to compete.
No stopping Stewart
Stewart Friesen has had some impressive victories at Fonda Speedway in the last two years, but Saturday’s performance took the cake.
Friesen wrecked his primary car during wram-ups, forcing his car to scramble back to Sprakers to get the back-up car out the Zemken race shop.
By the time the car arrived at the speedway, Friesen only had time for a couple of warm-up laps, and started 22nd in the feature.
But anyone who thinks Friesen just wins because of his car, and not his talent, had to bit their tongues Saturday night. Coming from the rear of the field, he took the lead on lap 25 of the 30-lap feature and recorded his eighth win of the season.
“We ran this car at Five Mile Point on Wednesday, so there was dirt all over it and the gears had to be changed, so I owe this one to the crew for all of their hard work,” said Friesen after the victory.
Around the tracks
Maybe those Ross Racing Fab Shop scale pads that Jimmy Davis is using really do make a difference. Davis recorded his first win of the year at Utica-Rome on Sunday, passing Pat Ward on the final lap. The win was worth $2,000, which will come in handy for the Sanford Racing Team.
Brett Hearn won Monday night’s Super DIRT Series race at I-96 Speedway in Michigan, leading all 100 laps. The impressive thing about the win is that Hearn had never raced at the track before. He missed last year’s race because of an infection that landed him in Saratoga Hospital and kept him out of racing for about a month.
Todd Stone won last Friday night’s C.J. Memorial at Devil’s Bowl, a tribute race for the late CVRA founder who built Devil’s Bowl in 1967. The win was Stone’s seventh of the year, and he has to be closing in on the single-season record. I know that Tremont won eight features at the Bowl in 2007. but does anyone know if that’s the record?
The big one is less than a week away. Lebanon Valley will be staging the $17,500 to win Mr. Dirt Track USA Super DIRT Series race on Thursday.
Even Babe Ruth tournaments have a little stock car feel to them. When Niskayuna Babe Ruth hosted the 13U Mid-Atlantic Regionals last week, Mimi Lazzaro, who sings the national anthem each week at Fonda Speedway, handled those duties at the baseball tournament, and Mark Kislowski provided sponsorship through Morris Ford. The Niskayuna roster includes Dylan Sheely, son of modified driver Jeff Sheely (“I haven’t retired. I keep running out of time.”). Niskayuna won the regionals, and will be playing in the 13U World Series in North Dakota next week.
Keith Flach and his crew get a well-deserved pat on the back for a solid second-place run behind Ronnie Johnson last Friday at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. That was Flach’s first top-five finish of the year. The only time he finished better was when he won his only feature in 2010, the first year that former promoter Bruce Richards switched over to an asphalt surface.