It’s not often that all four area dirt tracks rain out on the same weekend, but that’s what happened last week, leaving a big gap in racing coverage.
That might have been a problem, but after searching for something newsworthy, I stumbled upon Adam McAuliffe.
If determination leads to success, McAuliffe is going to have an outstanding season.
Rather than sit in the house and complain about the weather, the Broadalbin driver loaded up his sportsman and made a five-hour drive to Bridgeport, N.J., for a South Region Crate 602 series race at Bridgeport Speedway on Sunday.
He finished 10th after qualifying through the consolation race, which didn’t even begin to cover his expenses, but at least he went.
That was McAuliffe’s third trip south this season. He went to Georgetown Speedway in Delaware in mid-March and drove to a third-place finish, and then took part in the sportsman portion of the Doug Hoffman Memorial at Bridgeport on March 31 and won the feature. That was the first time McAuliffe had ever raced at Bridgeport.
McAuliffe is getting as much early-season seat time as he can to get his DKM Cyclone chassis set-up just right. He debuted the Cyclone last fall and drove to an impressive sixth-place finish at Super DIRT Week in Oswego.
McAuliffe will be spending his Friday nights at Albany-Saratoga Speedway this season. He picked up his first career win at Malta last year, adding it to a couple of wins he recorded at Fonda earlier in his career.
Area racing fans are familiar with the McAuliffe name. Adam is the nephew of John McAuliffe, a longtime sportsman competitor who won three sportsman championships (2001, 2004 and 2005) at Fonda Speedway.
The local stock car community was saddened to hear of the death of longtime Albany-Saratoga pit steward and handicapper Bernie Heald on Wednesday.
Heald, who had been in failing health for the last couple of years, ran a tight ship at Albany-Saratoga, and was one of the most respected officials in the area, but he made his presence felt in a number of other ways, as well. The former Town of Malta planning director, who was a graduate of the University of Maine, was also an excellent carpenter and electrician, and there were numerous occasions when I was recruited for major projects at the track, including the demolition of the old bleachers and the construction of the aluminum grandstand that is now in place, when I would work under Heald’s guidance.
Bernie and I also consumed our share of beers at the Publik House (we loved the Wednesday afternoon two-for-ones) and Heald even had a sandwich named after him that is still on the menu.
One of the most memorable road trips I ever took included Heald, his son Scott and Albany-Saratoga promoter Lyle DeVore, when we drove to Tennessee for the NASCAR night race at Bristol, using tickets Heald had obtained from Jeff Sheely. I was covering a 100-lap modified race at Albany-Saratoga (where Heald and DeVore were both working) the Friday night before the Bristol race, and after midnight, we hopped in Heald’s car and drove to Tennessee. After grabbing a couple of motel rooms on the Virginia-Tennessee border, we got to Bristol in the early afternoon, and Heald and his son went into the track to watch final qualifying.
But it was such a gorgeous day, DeVore and I found a convenience store across the street from the speedway, purchased more than enough adult beverages for two people, and spent the day watching (and talking) to race fans outside the track.
The spectacle of Bristol at night was awesome (and incredibly loud) and with the help of the girls working the Jack Daniel’s Twisted Tea concession (what a great thing to find at a speedway!), DeVore and I made it through 500 laps, The finish of that race was the infamous incident between Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Terry Labonte, when “The Intimidator” spun Labonte on the last lap to get the win. Earnhardt Sr. later said he was “just trying to rattle his cage.”
Needless to say, we all made it back alive.
Heald got his grandson Josh involved in racing, and on most Friday nights, they were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the tower at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, handling the electronic scoring.
After Howie Commander took over Albany-Saratoga in 2012, the Healds became the scorers at Glen Ridge Motorsports Park. Bernie was never far away from a race track.
You can’t replace a great man like Bernie Heald; you just remember all the good he did. The next time I’m in the Publik House, you can bet I’m going to raise a glass in his honor.
Stewart Friesen was scheduled to compete in last Saturday’s Super DIRT Series race at Fulton, but that was rained out. On Sunday, he went to Bridgeport for the Short Track Super Series
South Jersey Shootout, and finished third.
Friesen is back on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tour this weekend (after the series had a month off) and will be competing at Dover tonight.
Reach Gazette Sports Editor Tom Boggie at 518-395-3160 or [email protected].