Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – In recent years, the H.O. Penn 358 Small Block Division at OCFS hasn’t been able to race as much as maybe some of the competitors may have wished.
An incredible amount of their scheduled appearances the past few years have fallen victim to Mother Nature.
With the short season of 2020, only 2 regular season point races were contested with Anthony Perrego and Zach Vavricka taking the wins.
For Vavricka, it was his first Small Block win and it was a thriller as he held off a hard charging Tommy Meier to the checkered flag.
With the United Rentals DIRTcar Big Block Modifieds having half of their 12 race schedule racing on Thursdays throughout the 2021 season, this has opened it up for OCFS officials to schedule 11 regular season point races for the Small Blocks during the season, a fairly significant increase. On many Saturday nights in 2021, the 358’s will be the headline division. And that will be the case on Saturday, April 10 as the Small Blocks have their season opener at OCFS.
One of the Small Block competitors that fans are eagerly waiting to see compete is Tanner VanDoren. As a 12 year old in 2020, he really showed just what he is capable of as his consistency and avoiding on track trouble led him to be the OCFS Sportsman point champion. He followed that up with his biggest win to date, taking the Eastern States Weekend Sportsman Championship race worth $5,000. Tanner recently got his first laps at OCFS with his family owned #22 Hig Fab and he was turning some impressive looking laps.
In addition to Perrego and Vavricka, some of the other 358 drivers who took part in the practice sessions on March 27th and 30th were Joey Bonetti, Par Reiser, Daniel Morgiewicz Jr, Richard Smith, Bobby Flood, Allison Ricci, Rich Ricci III and Leo Fotopoulos. It is not known if all these drivers will be at the opener, but it’s believed that most of them will.
Tommy Meier, who had the dominating win in the OCFS Big Block opener, said on this week’s edition of the OCFS podcast, ‘Talkin’ Dirty’ that he would be in the 358 field this week. Meier indicated that he will not be doing all of the 358 races, but plans on competing in the entire 12 race Big Block series. He has already guaranteed himself a spot in the final 8 in the new OCFS Big Block playoff format.
In talking with some of Richie Eurich’s crew, it is believed that the legendary veteran driver will be competing in the 358’s at OCFS this season.
The Precision Hydraulic and Oil Rookie Sportsman division also kicks off their season on April 10th. As it stands at the moment there is a strong field of 20 cars scheduled for the Rookies. The Rookies are scheduled for 6 races, with their final race on June 26, after which, they will graduate to the Sportsman.
The Arkel Motors Sportsman division will be in action on Saturday. Invading racer Robert Bublak was the winner this past Saturday when apparent winner Brian Krummel was disqualified in tech. If Bublak returns to OCFS this Saturday, he will be eligible for the $200 Back-To-Back Bonus posted by Wicked Truck Worx of Montgomery, NY.
Jared LaBagh was leading last Saturday’s feature, but developed engine trouble. LaBagh was still able to finish 7th with the #38 Comfort Experts Hig Fab. Jared stated on his Facebook page that the engine trouble is serious enough where the engine need replacing. Hopefully, LaBaugh will have a loaner or something else and be in the field Saturday.
It was a tough opener for 2019 OCFS Sportsman Champion Grant Hilfiger as he did not make the feature. Grant was the only repeat winner in 2020 and he’s already scored a win at Selingsgrove Speedway this year. Look for Hilfiger to bounce back and be in the mix for the 2021 Sportsman point battle.
Here is a note that I wish I had known about before I wrote last Saturday’s recap. It was a nice touch seeing the Jack Johnson 12A panel in the Victory Lane photos. A big thank you to Edward ‘Cookie’ Morris for bringing the panel down to the speedway for it’s use. It was an awesome addition to the event as we remembered Jumpin’ Jack. Edward, the use of your panel was much appreciated.
- 3:00 Pit Gate Opens
- 3:30 SBM draw for starting spots
- 4:00 Grandstand and drive in gates open
- 5:30 Mandatory driver’s meeting at the scales
- 5:45-6:00 All cars to the staging area
- 6:00 Hot laps Sportsman
- Hot laps Rookies
- Hot laps Small Blocks
- 6:45 Pre Race Ceremonies/National Anthem
- 7:00 Sportsman heats 8 laps
- Small Block heats 8 laps
- Rookie hot laps, round 2
- Sportsman last chance qualifier(s) 8 laps
- Small Block last chance qualifier 8 laps
- Intermission Small Block driver redraw
- Sportsman feature 20 laps
- Rookie Sportsman feature 12 laps
- Small Block feature (writer’s note, I am not sure of the feature length for the Small Blocks)
- Victory Lane Photos All Divisions
There are several viewing options available for the April 10th racing event. The OCFS grandstands are once again open to a limited capacity. The Drive In is a popular option. The live stream will again be running for those who choose to utilize it