By FRANK CATIZONE
MIDDLETOWN – Anthony Perrego opened the new Halmar International Era of racing at the Orange County Fair Speedway in impressive style last Saturday night as he pocketed $5,000 by running away with the 30-lap Modified main event.
Perrego, who started on the front row inside of Mat Williamson, found the outside groove to his liking after grabbing first place following a fourth-lap restart. The Montgomery driver then went on to capture his second career OCFS victory – the first coming on opening night in 2015.
“I was kind of surprised he (Williamson) gave me the outside for that restart,’’ said Perrego. “But I showed myself on the inside and he changed his line more towards the bottom. I was hoping that would open up the outside so I could go around him.’’
Williamson, who made a long six-hour tow from the Canadian province of Ontario, made the trip well worth his while as he grabbed the No. 1 pill during the draw. He then went on the capture the first qualifying heat and chose to start on the outside for the feature.
Williamson was able to get the jump on Perrego in the OCFS Modified debut and was able to keep Perrego at bay for the first three laps. But Perrego’s car looked powerful down the straightaways and kept the pressure on Williamson. A caution involving Kirk Horton and Tom Hindley slowed racing for the only time during the event and provided Perrego with the opportunity he needed.
“The outside was really fast and my car was really working good between the third and fourth turns,’’ said Perrego. “I spun my right rear on the initial start, but I knew I had a real good race car. He pretty much opened the door when he gave me the outside lane for that restart.’’
Mike Kolka also took advantage of that fourth-lap restart as he was also able to surge ahead of Williamson. But that was as close as he would get to Perrego, who was turning in laps of 21.257 seconds for an average speed of 105.847 miles per hour.
Williamson, who was preparing for May 8’s Hard Clay Open, followed in third place with Tommy Meier, Craig Mitchell, John Ferrier, Jimmy Horton, Chris Shultz, Gary Edwards Jr., and Danny Creeden rounding out the top 10.
There were 32 Modifieds on hand to usher in Halmar owner Chris Larsen’s promotional debut at OCFS. Larsen has signed a five-year lease to promote racing and other activities on the fairgrounds property. A series of four heats were won by Williamson, Perrego, Ferrier and Kolka. Richie Eurich won the consolation race.
Reigning champion Jesse Leiby continued where he left off last season as he drove away with a convincing victory in the Sportsman 20-lap main event. It was Leiby’s 10th OCFS career victory.
Leiby started on the pole and was never seriously challenged as he finished ahead of Greg Sleight, Joe Bonetti, Joe Conklin and Jeff Hulseapple.
Thirteen-year-old driver Alex Yankowski, who already posted wins at Georgetown Speedway in Delaware and Big Diamond Raceway in Pennsylvania this season, was racing among the top three throughout before blowing his engine on the final lap. He still crossed the finish line in 10th place before his car caught on fire.
Bob Jashembowski posted his first OCFS career victory as he led all 10 laps in a race shortened by the time curfew.
Jashembowski, whose only other career win came on the asphalt at Bethel Motor Speedway in Sullivan County, finished ahead of Jimmy Leiby, Dylan Smith, Michael Giuliano and Danny Carlough.
Joel Murns Jr. held off numerous challenges provided by Jim Maher to score an exciting victory in the Street Stock 15-lap feature. It was Murns’ 19th career win and deadlocked Maher for sixth place on OCFS’s all-time leader board.
Murns held off Maher to both the inside and outside lanes throughout the event as they entertained the OCFS audience to the checkered flag. Charlie Donald, Jim Hajkowski and Joe Sheffold followed.
Modified Feature Finish, 30 Laps: 1. Anthony Perrego, 2. Mike Kolka, 3. Mat Williamson, 4. Tommy Meier, 5. Craig Mitchell, 6. John Ferrier, 7. Jimmy Horton, 8. Chris Shultz, 9. Gary Edwards Jr., 10. Danny Creeden, 11. Jerry Higbie, 12. Brendan Finley, 13. Bob McGannon, 14. Chris Whitehead, 15. John Lieto, 16. Matt Janiak, 17. Richie Eurich, 18. Joey Falanga, 19. Joey Bruning, 20. Scott Flammer, 21. C.G. Morey, 22. Steve Dodd, 23. Matt Hitchcock, 24. Jeff Heotzler Sr., 25. Kirk Horton, 26. Tom Hindley. Did Not Qualify: Allison Ricci, Danny Cronk, Stan Frankenfield Jr., Tyler Boniface, Donnie Wilson, Michael Storms.
Sportsman Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Jesse Leiby, 2. Greg Sleight, 3. Joe Bonetti, 4. Joe Conklin, 5. Jeff Hulseapple, 6. Bobby Flood, 7. Tommy Vigh Jr., 8. Jimmy Johnson, 9. Patrick Murphy, 10. Alex Yankowski, 11. Cole Hentschel, 12. Matt Shultz, 13. Mel Schrufer, 14. Milton Mann, 15. Dan Morgiewicz, 16. Austin Smith, 17. Troy Arnold, 18. Tyler Pirone, 19. Mike Horton, 20. Brad Horton, 21. Lem Atkins, 22. Corey Cormier, 23. Leo Fotopoulos, 24. Billy Eggers Jr. Did Not Qualify: Connor Otten, George Begg, Howie Finch III, Jamie Yannone, Bob Wosyluk, A.J. Williams, Tighe Sherlock, Pat Mann.
Rookie Sportsman Feature Finish: 10 Laps (time curfew): 1. Bob Jashembowski, 2. Jimmy Leiby, 3. Dylan Smith, 4. Michael Giuliano, 5. Danny Carlough, 6. Brett Weslowski, 7. Mike Talmadge, 8. Ryan Macartney, 9. Rich Eggers, 10. Anthony Horton, 11. Russell Crotty, 12. Jason Armstrong, 13. Chris Raser, 14. Jamie Doolan, 15. Michael Bull, 16. Chet Doolan, 17. Ryan Neiger, 18. Mike Orlando. Disqualified: Jake Grannacker.
Street Stock Feature Finish, 15 Laps: 1. Joel Murns Jr., 2. Jim Maher, 3. Charlie Donald, 4. Jim Hajkowski, 5. Joe Sheffold, 6. Wayne Taylor, 7. Scott Gumaer, 8. Rob Taylor, 9. Marty Van Nieuwland, 10. Kyle Riley, 11. Mike Vigiletti, 12. Emerson Cargain Sr.