RPW Column: A Win For Mom & Kenny: Craig Mitchell Takes Orange County 358-Mod Opener

Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – The last few weeks have been tough for Craig Mitchell. His Mom, Jeanne, passed away on March 23rd. It’s never an easy time of one’s life to suffer the loss of a parent.

But Saturday night at the Orange County Fair Speedway, Craig found something to smile about as he drove to victory in the H.O. Penn 358 Small Block Modified 25 lap feature. ‘Hollywood’ held off a persistent challenge from Anthony Perrego to claim the victory.

“This win here is for my Mom who passed away in March. And for my tire guy, Kenny Kear who we lost in a traffic accident last July,” Craig said

After the redraw, it was Tanner VanDoren and Jimmy Spellmon on the front row as the feature got underway. Spellmon got the jump with 3rd starting Jerry Higbie moving into 2nd. After a quick lap 1 caution, it was Spellmon again leading over Higbie as 5th starting Mitchell moved into 3rd. Spellmon and Higbie were having a close race for the lead until a caution for Charlie Loiodice after 5 laps were completed. The race took a big swing on the following restart.

At the front of the field Spellmon and Higbie made contact with both hitting the outside wall between turns 1 and 2 and both suffering enough damage to end their race. This put Mitchell into the lead with VanDoren 2nd. Mitchell led on the restart as Perrego moved into 2nd on lap 7 with VanDoren in 3rd.

Fourth-place running Danny Creeden moved into 3rd on lap 11 and 12th starting Tommy Meier passed VanDoren for 4th on lap 12. At halfway, it was Mitchell, Perrego, Creeden, Meier and VanDoren.

As the race progressed, Mitchell got into lapped traffic and Perrego was able to make a serious bid for the lead. But Mitchell prevailed and stretched out his advantage a bit until 2 to go when he really got bottled up with lapped traffic.

However, on the white flag lap, Mitchell made all the right moves and took the double checkers a little over a half second ahead of Perrego with Creeden a solid 3rd with Meier 4th and VanDoren 5th. Tyler Dippel, Billy VanInwegen, Jimmy Horton, Ben Bushaw and Richard Smith completed the top 10 running order.

“I saw Spellmon get the push and got into Hig and my Mom upstairs was looking out for me,” said Craig. “The car was good in the heat race, we made a couple of adjustments that were the right call. They really have the track surface in great shape this year.”

The win was Mitchell’s 5th in the OCFS 358 division. His most recent win had been on 9/9/17.

41 358 Small Block Modifieds were in action Saturday. Preliminary racing saw heat wins go to Dippel, Bushaw, Meier and Perrego with Mike Kolka and Corey Cormier taking the consolations.

Joey Bruning did a lot of thinking over the off season about where he was going to race in 2021. After the first two weeks of Sportsman competition, he feels like he made the right decision to race at OCFS. Bruning followed up his 2nd place finish a week ago by taking a convincing win Saturday in the 20 lap Arkel Motors Sportsman division feature.

The green flag saw polesitter Jordan Lawrence jump out ahead of John Bockhorn and Grant Hilfiger. Lawrence stretched out to a pretty good lead. Bruning was moving up quickly through the field from his 16th starting spot, racing his way into the top 5 by lap 7. A caution for a Josh Allen spin after 8 laps down saw Lawrence lose his good lead.

Lawerece maintained his lead on the restart with Bruning 2nd and Hilfiger 3rd. As the race moved just past halfway, it was Bruning moving to the lead with Hilfiger following into 2nd. Bockhorn brought out the caution with a flat on lap 11 while running in the top 5.

Jeff Hulseapple was another driver who was on the move, racing up to 4th from 15th spot. With 5 to go, it was Bruning, Hilfiger, Kevin Stevens, Hulseapple and Joe Bonetti in the top 5. Hulseapple moved into 3rd and Bonetti 4th on lap 17.

The final few laps saw Bruning stretch out his lead over Hilfiger and take the win by nearly 4 seconds over Grant. Hulseapple in 3rd had his second consecutive podium finish in the Vitale Racing 1X with Bonetti 4th and Bobby Flood 5th. Stevens, Ryan Neiger, Gary Edwards Jr, Corey Cormier and Jake Bedell rounded out the top 10.

“It’s been 4 years since we won here,” said Joey in Victory Lane. “This Bicknell chassis is just outstanding. The track surface has been awesome.”

The win was the 6th for Bruning in the OCFS Sportsman Division and as he said in Victory Lane, it was his first in 4 years, his last coming on 6/24/17.

41 Sportsman were signed in on Saturday. Heat wins were by Bruning, Neiger, Flood and Dylan Smith. Mike DuBois and Brian Krummel won the consis.

The Precision Hydraulic and Oil OCFS Rookie Sportsman division made their season debut, having the first of their 6 scheduled events before they graduate into the regular Sportsman after June 26.

And for their first race, the name of the winner may have been new, but the car he was driving certainly wasn’t. Dylan Madsen, racing in Brett Hearn’s Modified Championship car from 2019, took the win in the 12 lap race over Mike Giuliano and Bob Jashembowski.

It was Alyssa Vogel and Jashembowski making up the front row as the field took the green. Jashembowski took the lead at the start, but 3rd starting Madsen took the lead on lap 2. Giuliano took 2nd from Jashembowski on lap 6 as Madsen drove away. At halfway, Madsen led Giuliano, Jashembowski, Isabella Van Orden and Tyler Banks.

Fogel brushed the wall after 9 were down and Van Orden pitted with a cut tire. There was no chnge in the top running order in the final laps as Madsen took the win over Giuliano and Jashenbowski with Banks 4th and Kasey Hufcut 5th. 6-10 were Joey Mennite, Alan Cote, Van Orden, Brett Weslowski and Matt Fairchild.

“I can’t thank the guys for all enough, they worked hard to get the car ready,’ said Madsen. “This is the car that Brett won the championship in 2019, so it’s great to bring it back to Victory Lane. It’s pretty special and it’s an awesome feeling.”

OCFS returns to action on April 17th with the 358 Small Blocks and Sportsman joined by the Street Stocks who will be making their season debut.

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