There are a number of reasons why a couple of old friends would get together on a Friday; maybe a round of golf and a couple of cold ones to kick off the holiday weekend.
But not when the old friends are as heavily involved in stock car racing as Mike Sowle and Tommy Spencer. Their objective tonight is to put on one of the best racing cards ever presented at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park.
Sowle and Spencer go way back. During the 1989 season, Mike Romano kept his modified, which was owned by Jake Spraker at the time, at Sowle’s garage. Romano won the modified track championship at Fonda Speedway that year, and when Spraker decided to sell his entire operation during the winter, Spencer bought everything. The car was still housed at Sowle’s garage, Sowle was still a major sponsor and Romano went on to win his second consecutive title, this time for Spencer.
Although Spencer has been retired from racing for a number of years, he has been a frequent spectator at area tracks. Sowle had been something of an entrepreneur until taking over the operation of Glen Ridge prior to the 2014 season.
Tonight, they’re joining forces to present “Rumble at the Ridge,” which will be highlighted by a 50-lap modified feature, paying $3,000 to win. The 602 sportsman will be running a 30-lap feature, with $2,000 going to the winner. Heat winners in both the modified and sportsman division will earn a $100 bonus, and there will aldso be a good chunk of lap money available.
Pro stocks will be running for $500 to win, and vintage modifieds and the Xcel 600 cars will have a top payoff of $300.
Sponsored by Spencer’s Adirondac Leather, the show is a fitting end to the end of summer season.
“Tommy really went out of his way to get this going,” said Sowle Thursday. “He put a lot into it for these guys.”
Fans aren’t going to be left out of the festivities. Sowle has a number of raffles lined up, with prizes including everything from bicycles to flat-screen TVs. and that’s in addition to the usual entertainment, which includes the Bushwackers band.
Gates open at 4:30 this afternoon, with racing starting at 7 p.m.
Tyler Dippel, the 14-year-old sensation from Wallkill who competes in the budget sportsman class at Lebanon Valley, recorded a huge upset Tuesday night at Georgetown Speedway in Georgetown, Del.
Running his small block engine against a stout field of big blocks, Dippel won the 35-lap “Bash at the Beach” and took home a total of $5,850.
The win came just four days after Dippel lost a budget sportsman win at the Valley on a disqualification.
After Dippel’s victory on Saturday night, Whitney Slavin filed a protest, saying Dippel had an illegal engine. The motor was impounded and put on a dyno earlier this week. Although the engine was within the horsepower limits, inspectators found that the crate engine had some modifications, and the protest by Slavin was upheld.
Dippel was also disqualified for using illegal engine part in May 2013.
Around the tracks
The Labor Day weekend is usually filled with big races, and this weekend is no different.
All eyes will be on Lebanon Valley Saturday night, where either Brett Hearn or J.R. Heffner will win the modified point championship. They go into the final points of the season dead-even, and because of handicapping procedures, will probably start right next to each other in the feature, provided neither one has any problems in qualifying.
Heffner, a three-time Mr. DIRT Track U.S.A. champion, won the Lebanon Valley crown in 2007 and 2008.
Hearn locked up the championship at Albany-Saratoga last weekend, earning his seventh title and third in a row.
The best-finisher-take-all scenario will also be played out tonight at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, where Rob Yetman and Ken Martin are locked into a battle for the pro stock championship. This one isn’t as close as the Valley. Yetman has a one-point lead over Martin.
Big money will on the line in the two-day New York Weekend at Utica-Rome. First up is the final points race on Sunday. Stewart Friesen, who already has the Fonda Speedway championship in his pocket, leads Matt Sheppard by 10 points. The Utica-Rome championship is worth $13,000, with $10,000 from the track’s point fund and $3,000 from NASCAR.
On Monday, the modifieds will be competing for $10,000 in the New Yorker 200. That card will also include the two events — a ROC Tour race and a GRIT Series race — that were rained out on Legends Weekend.
Chris Johnson ended a seven-year drought last Friday when he won the budget sportsman race at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. His last win at the Malta track came in 2007 in the sportsman series, before it was absorbed by the modified division.
Nick Lussier finished second to Johnson. Lussier has never won a race at Albany-Saratoga, but he did find his way to victory lane in the budget sportsman division at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in 2008.
That big sigh of relief that was heard in the pits Friday night at Albany-Saratoga came from Mark Kislowski, who
finally recorded his first modified victory of the season. It can get frustrating running two nights a week and be looking at a winless season.