Story By: CHRIS MOORE / UTICA-ROME SPEEDWAY – VERNON, NY – In the return to racing at Utica-Rome Speedway, Sprakers, N.Y.’s Stewart Friesen dominated the field, lapping everybody but the second-place car in a non-stop, 35-lap Sunoco Modified feature.
Friesen captured his second consecutive Fuccillo Autoplex of Nelliston Thunder on the Thruway Series win, and another $4,000 to go with it. The win also set the mark as Friesen’s 13th different winning season at Utica-Rome, the most in the history of the Speedway.
Following the redraw, Friesen started on the pole alongside Gloversville, N.Y.’s Josh Hohenforst. Stewart quickly jumped to the lead, while his wife, Jessica Friesen, rolled the outside to go from fourth to second on the initial start.
The Friesens would occupy the top two spots, until Savannah, N.Y.’s Matt Sheppard slid underneath Jessica to take the runner up spot on lap-12. By the time Sheppard had reached the runner-up position, Friesen had already opened nearly a straightaway lead.
From there, Friesen and Sheppard set an unbelievable pace, that nobody else in the field could maintain.
“I knew the one car I wasn’t catching was Sheppard. I kept going as hard as I could because I knew he’d be there if I didn’t,” explained Friesen in Victory Lane.
As Friesen and Sheppard diced thru lapped traffic, Jessica Friesen, Josh Hohenforst, Sheffield, Mass.’ Andy Bachetti, and Johnstown, N.Y.’s Rocky Warner battled at the back half of the top five.
While they continued to trade positions, Friesen was closing in, while maintaining his straightaway lead over Sheppard. By the end of the 35-lap main event, Friesen would put everybody except Sheppard a lap down.
Sheppard kept pace with Friesen, but never could catch the Halmar No. 44, settling for second in his Hurlock Auto & Speed No. 9s.
Andy Bachetti grabbed a podium finish with his Garrity Asphalt No. 4. Jessica Friesen came home fourth in the One Zee Tee’s No. 1z and Rocky Warner rounded out the top five in the Jason Simmons Racing No. JS98.
Sherrill, N.Y.’s Matt Janczuk won the Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman 25-lap feature from his sixth starting position, picking up the adjoining $1,500 check.
After quickly working to second in the opening two laps, Janczuk continued to work the topside of the racetrack. After working Johnstown, N.Y.’s Brian Calabrese over for multiple laps, Janczuk passed Calabrese for good on lap eight.
Calabrese held on to the runner-up spot. Amsterdam, N.Y.’s Mark Mortensen finished on the podium. Dolgeville, N.Y.’s Cody Clark came home fourth and Shawn Frost of Munzville, N.Y. rounded out the top five.
If there was an award for race of the night, the Next Generation Graphix Pro Stocks would win the award hands down.
After a thrilling battle for 13 of the 20 laps in the main event, Nick Stone up-ended Beau Ballard for his second consecutive Thunder on the Thruway win and the $1,000 payday.
Stone worked the top persistently, finally rolling around Ballard to take the lead before getting the two laps to go sign from starter Joe Kriss. Stone would hold off Ballard from there to take the victory.
Ballard held on for second with Ivan Joslin rounding out the podium. Andy Graves and Jim Normoyle rounded out the top-five in the season opener.
Clayton DuMond grabbed his first career Utica-Rome Speedway win, leading every lap of the Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman feature. He was chased to the line by David Hacket Jr., Jeremy Slosek, Matt Backus, and Pat Nolan, who were the top-five.
Justin Pope was the overall winner of the Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinder feature event in dominating fashion. Wayne Russell Jr. came home third overall and won the Single Overhead Cam victory.
Racing returns to Utica-Rome Speedway next Friday night. All regular divisions will be in action, plus the Senior Services LLC Slingshots and D&S Landscaping Junior Slingshots will compete for the first time this season.
Gates will open at 5 p.m. and racing will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Fuccillo Autoplex of Nelliston Thunder on the Thruway Series Sunoco Modified Event No. 2 Feature Finish (35 laps): STEWART FRIESEN, Matt Sheppard, Andy Bachetti, Jessica Friesen, Rocky Warner, Josh Hohenforst, Brian Gleason, JaMike Sowle, David Schilling, Claude Hutchings Jr., Marshall Hurd, Sean Beardsley, Randy Shantel, Rich Christman, Willy Decker, Tim Mayne, Alan Johnson, Pep Corradi, Aaron Jacobs
Did Not Start: Jeff Rockafeller
Fuccillo Autoplex of Nelliston Thunder on the Thruway Series Worthington Industries Crate 602 Sportsman Event No. 2 Feature Finish (25 laps): MATT JANCZUK, Brian Calabrese, Mark Mortensen, Cody Clark, Shawn Frost, Chad Edwards, Dave Richer, A.J. Miller, Robert Bublak, Payton Talbot, Tucker O’Connor, Tanner Warner, Ed Lukas, Addison Bowman, Rocco Leone, Willy Decker Jr., Brendan Gibbons, Chip Constantino, Kevin Crave, Dana Camenga, Jason Reome, Mark Effner, Joe Williams, David Manchester, Matt Richardson, Tim Falter, Steve Kotary, Ted Starr.
Fuccillo Autoplex of Nelliston Thunder on the Thruway Series Next Generation Grafix Pro Stock Event No. 2 Feature Finish (20 laps): NICK STONE, Beau Ballard, Ivan Joslin, Andy Graves, Jim Normoyle, Kenny Gates, Devon Camenga, Ed Kotary, A.J. Walters, Bill Knapp, Mike Kasluskas, Frank Hoard Jr., Jerry Streeter, John Roese, Kyle Hoard, John Holmes, Brian Wesseldine, Shane Playford, Don Collins.
Did Not Start: Jason Morrison.
Fastline Performance Limited Sportsman Feature Finish (15 laps): CLAYTON DUMOND, David Hacket Jr., Jeremy Slosek, Matt Backus, Pat Nolan, Alexis Jacobs, Lance Hill, Ed Downing, Mike Harman, Max Rose
Did Not Start: Amber Jacobs.
Cool Stuff Antiques Four Cylinder Cruiser Feature Finish (12 laps): JUSTIN POPE (DOHC), Donald Kimball, Wayne Russell Jr. (SOHC), Ray Young, Jean Foster, Corey Valade.