Victories are few and far between for Alton Palmer these days, so you’ve got to forgive him if he gets a little pumped up about a second.
Palmer came up about a half-lap shy of ending a four-year winless streak last Saturday night at Fonda Speedway, but had to settle for second when Stewart Friesen, who had taken advantage of a late caution, rocketed by on the final time around the half-mile oval to get the victory.
“I’m counting Saturday as a win,” said Palmer with a laugh earlier this week. “I’m going to be 60 in a year and half, and to run that good, second place is good enough for me.
“At least I held Stewie off a little longer than Bobby did,” Palmer added, referring to a similar scenario when Bobby Varin finished second to Friesen on May 2.
Palmer has a rich history at Fonda Speedway, dominating the sportsman division when it replaced the old 320 class. Palmer won 56 DIRT legal features at Fonda, which tops the all-time win list in that category, and also picked up five track championships.
Since moving to modifieds, he’s been to victory lane five times, but actually climbing behind the wheel of a race car isn’t his only involvement. He’s become a sponsor for many other drivers, most notably Ronnie Johnson, and he and his wife, Carole, have also been the recipients of Lifetime Achievement awards by the New York State Stock Car Association.
“I wore out the whole sportsman deal,” said Palmer. “I told Carole when I started that the one thing I wanted to do was get a win at Syracuse. I told her when I won at Syracuse, I wasn’t going to do sportsman anymore and was going to either a small-block or big-block modified. But as everyone knows, going to modified is very tough. There are a lot of good cars, and a lot of good drivers.
“Everyone wants to finish in the top five or top 10, but it’s a tough deal. There are 15 or 18 guys who could win every night.”
Palmer made a couple of minor changes to his car last Friday, and thinks he might have hit on something.
“We ran this big block the last 10 or 12 races last year, and I was starting to get comfortable with it,” Palmer said. “But I decided to make a couple of changes Friday night, and it seemed to make the car better, easier to drive. Now, I have to hope that it gets through traffic as good as it ran Saturday night when I was out
Palmer would love to be out front more often, but even when he doesn’t, he’s still happy to pull into the pits at Fonda every Saturday night.
“Like Carole tells me, if I don’t go to the races, I’ll just stay in the shop all day Saturday,” he said. “But I’m surrounded by good people and we still have a lot of fun, and I really enjoy watching the young guys come up. Some of the kids I’m racing against, I’ve known since they were in diapers.
“You know, I’ll probably retire from racing when I retire from work, but we’ll wait and see how that goes.”
Teen-age sensation Tyler Dippel will be sidelined for two months or more after being injured in a freak accident Saturday night at Lebanon Valley Speedway.
When Dippel was unloading his modified, one of the cables on the lift gate snapped off the hauler, dropping the gate on Dippel and a crew member, who dove out of the way, but were still hit by the lift gate.
Dippel suffered bilateral fractures in his hip, and his crew member suffered a broken leg. While Dippel won’t need surgery, he won’t be climbing into a race car anytime soon.
Around the tracks
Rocky Warner won Wednesday night’s 602 sportsman Spring Fever race at Fonda Speedway. Warner got the top payoff by having the best overall finish in the two 30-lap features.
Warner, driving the Jake Spraker-owned 1J, won the first feature, and finished second to Chad Edwards in the second race. The top five overall were Warner, Edwards, Connor Cleveland, Cody Bleau and Tony Farone.
“This car was horrible in the warm-ups, time trials and the heat race, but I have to thank Billy Colton and the guys from Troyer, who were . . . able to straight the car out,” said Warner after the race.
With Friesen getting his third win of the season at Fonda, fans are already buzzing about him breaking the all-time record of 12 wins in a season, first set by Steve Danish and later tied by Jack Johnson.
Dave Baranowski Jr., whose father was a longtime competitor at Lebanon Valley, recorded his first career sportsman victory at Albany-Saratoga Speedway last Friday night.
The modified car count at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park nearly doubled last Friday, a good sign for promoter Pete Demitraszek. Willy Decker picked up his first win of the year in the Nelson Racing 85. The Empire Lightning Sprints and vintage modifieds are on tonight’s card.