By FRANK CATIZONE
MIDDLETOWN, NY – A battle between two of the most iconic Modified drivers in the history of the Orange County Fair Speedway took center stage last Saturday evening as the track presented its final regular season program of the 2018 racing campaign.
Jeff Heotzler Sr. and Richie Eurich, who are only two of four drivers to crack the 50-win barrier during their illustrious OCFS careers, brought the crowd to its feet with another barnburner as they fought for the first-place prize of $6,000 in the 30-lap main event.
When the dust settled, Heotzler raced home with the 53rd victory of his OCFS career after chasing down Eurich, who dominated the race for so many laps.
“The track was really greasy tonight and hard to figure out,’’ said Heotzler. “I just hung back and conserved my tires for later in the race. But I noticed the car was getting better as the race progressed and I really started pushing it with about 10 laps to go.’’
Eurich, meanwhile, started on the pole and was enjoying a comfortable lead over Brendan Finley, Heotzler, Donnie Wilson and Gary Edwards Jr. throughout the event. But Heotzler was finally able to work himself past Finley on the 26th lap and then quickly turned his attention to Eurich.
Heotzler closed in on Eurich during the next circuit around the five-eighths mile, hard clay oval and then found an opening while racing off the second turn on the 28th lap. He moved past Eurich down the backstretch and then went on for the win.
“It was just like the seas parted,’’ said Heotzler. “I knew I had a good car tonight and I just went for it when I saw the opening. This car has been a work in progress, but we’re getting better each time out and I’m pleased how things are going right now.’’
Eurich, who has 50 career wins to his credit, settled for a second-place effort with Finley, Tommy Meier, Stan Frankenfield Jr., Edwards, Craig Mitchell, Brian Krummel, Mat Williamson and Jerry Higbie rounding out the top 10.
Anthony Perrego, who finished 12th after qualifying through the consolation race, captured his first Modified track championship as he accumulated 934 points to finish ahead of former titlist Meier (909).
Perrego, who has dominated racing at the track this season, also pocketed $6,000 as he captured his fifth victory of 2018 in the Small Block Modified 25-lap feature race. But the effort wasn’t enough to catch Krummel in the championship hunt.
Perrego finished three points shy of Krummel, who was enjoying his first track championship in the Small Block ranks. Krummel also has won a pair of Sportsman crowns at OCFS.
Perrego, last season’s Small Block titlist, took advantage of some early cautions to race second to Tim Hindley after just two laps. He grabbed the lead while racing down the backstretch on the third lap and never looked back.
“We’ve had a good season, but it could have been better,’’ said Perrego. “It would have been nice to sweep both championships.’’
Hindley stood his ground for several laps against Stewart Friesen to finish in second place with Friesen, Mitchell, Frank Venezia, Meier, Finley, C.G. Morey, Matt Janiak and Edwards following.
Jesse Leiby notched his fourth win this season and Greg Sleight grabbed his first track championship to highlight racing activity in the Sportsman ranks.
Leiby grabbed first place away from Troy Arnold on the eighth lap and then went on to finish ahead of Sleight, Arnold, Mel Schrufer and Howie Finch in the 20-lap race. It was Leiby’s 13th career win at the track.
Sleight, meanwhile, who won his first Sportsman race here on Aug. 27, 1988, erased a 13-year (2005) drought two weeks ago with his 24th career win to set the stage for his first title. He finished the season with 1,023 points to 1,008 for Jimmy Johnson. The two drivers were separated by three points entering the night’s racing.
Jim Maher was awarded his fourth win of the season in the Street Stock 15-lap feature and also grabbed his second track championship in the process.
Maher was declared the winner for the 23rd time in his OCFS career when apparent winner Bob Sleight Jr. was disqualified for an illegal coil during the post-race inspection. Sleight had passed Maher for the lead following a restart on the final lap.
Maher finished the season with 1.064 points to finish ahead of Wayne Taylor (1.028), who also followed Maher across the finish line. Mike Vigiletti, Ryan Modiano and Dan Maher rounded out the top five.
Modified Feature Finish, 30 Laps: 1. Jeff Heotzler Sr., 2. Richie Eurich, 3. Brendan Finley, 4. Tommy Meier, 5. Stan Frankenfield Jr., 6. Gary Edwards Jr., 7. Craig Mitchell, 8. Brian Krummel, 9. Mat Williamson, 10. Jerry Higbie, 11. Donnie Wilson, 12. Anthony Perrego, 13. Stewart Friesen, 14. Chris Whitehead, 15. Matt Janiak, 16. Corey Lowitt, 17. Joey Falanga, 18. Danny Cronk, 19. Rob Rowe, 20. Kirk Horton, 21. Tyler Dippel, 22. John Lieto, 23. Jimmy Horton, 24. John Ferrier, 25. Tom Hindley, 26. Chris Grbac, 27. Danny Creeden, 28. Jimmy Spellmon, 29. C.G. Morey, 30. Chris Shultz. Did Not Qualify: Bob McGannon, Mike Walter.
Small Block Modified Feature Finish, 25 Laps: 1. Anthony Perrego, 2. Tom Hindley, 3. Stewart Friesen, 4. Craig Mitchell, 5. Frank Venezia, 6. Tommy Meier, 7. Brendan Finley, 8. C.G. Morey, 9. Matt Janiak, 10. Gary Edwards Jr., 11. Michael Storms, 12. Brian Krummel, 13. Tyler Boniface, 14. Joe Bonetti, 15. Patrick Reiser, 16. Joe Conklin, 17. Tyler Dippel, 18. Tyler Treacy, 19. John Ferrier, 20. Chris Grbac, 21. Chris Stevens, 22. Shane Jablonka, 23. Allison Ricci, 24. Rob Rowe, 25. Roger Henion Jr., 26. Danny Creeden. Did Not Qualify: Cole Hentschel, Bobby Hentschel, Jeff Heotzler Sr., Anthony Falanga, Billy Eggers Jr., Zack Vavricka, Jackie Brown Jr., Jesse Leiby, Gary Edwards Sr., Joey Bruning.
Sportsman Feature Finish, 20 Laps: 1. Jesse Leiby, 2. Greg Sleight, 3. Troy Arnold, 4. Mel Schrufer, 5. Howie Finch, 6. Jimmy Johnson, 7. Jeff Hulseapple, 8. Matt Shultz, 9. Danny Carlough, 10. Jimmy Leiby, 11. Kyle Rohner, 12. Patrick Murphy, 13. Tommy Vigh Jr., 14. Ryan Macartney, 15. Dan Morgiewicz, 16. Joe Bonetti, 17. Pete Goydich, 18. Joe Conklin, 19. John Brown, 20. Cole Hentschel, 21. Dylan Smith, 22. Milton Mann, 23. Tighe Sherlock, 24. Jared LaBagh. Did Not Qualify: Jeff Higham, Anthony Sisco, Alex VanPelt, Donnie Buccafusca, Michael Orlando, Robbie Colburn, Rich Eggers, Mike Bull, Pat Mann, Bob Wosyluk, Lem Atkins, Connor Otten, Jake Bedell.
Street Stock Feature Finish, 15 Laps: 1. Jim Maher, 2. Wayne Taylor, 3. Mike Vigiletti, 4. Ryan Modiano, 5. Dan Maher, 6. Charlie Donald, 7. Shawn Maher, 8. Ron Constable, 9. Jim Hajkowski, 10. Joe Scheffold, 11. Noel Hedges. Disqualified: Bob Sleight Jr. (illegal coil). Did Not Start: Nick Giardini.