RPW Column: Versatile Racer Billy VanInwegen Ready For A Busy Season At Orange County

Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / SPARROW BUSH, NY – It’s already been a busy start to the racing season for Billy VanInwegen. He recently had a very good showing at the Chili Bowl. As the calendar moves forward, things will pick up quickly for this personable driver from the western Orange County hamlet of Sparrow Bush.

In the latest edition of the OCFS podcast, ‘Talkin’ Dirty’, Billy discussed with hosts Pat Reiser and Brett Hearn his recent experience at the Chili Bowl along with his 2022 racing plans.

“This year, there were close to 400 entries, but when we hit the track, it was around 390. There were a huge number of entries. We got broken down into our qualifying night which was around 88 to 90 cars. We were scheduled for Wednesday, so we had some practice and watched the racing on Monday and Tuesday.”

“Wednesday, we drew 6th in our heat race and finished 3rd. There’s no way to explain the nerves sitting on that ramp like how everyone talks about it, waiting to go out for the heat race, That moment is huge, because if you don’t go forward in your heat race, your in big trouble.”

But going from 6th to 3rd was a positive result for Billy.

“With the invert, it put us on the front row for the qualifier, which was even more nerve wracking. We finished 14th in ‘A’ main, but it was cool to race with some of the best out there.”

With his finish, it put Billy into the ‘C’ main for Saturday, a very impressive feat.

“A cool experience for sure. They do the ‘D’ main and then, they have a long intermission with opening ceremonies. Then, they had the Parade of States where the drivers went out. And the atmosphere is just electric.”

And as he continued to describe the scene, one could tell just how much the moment meant to Billy.

“To be out there with drivers like Donny Schatz and the others out there for the ‘C’, what an experience. Once you get to that point in the program, the lineup is loaded. Just to be part of that was very cool.”

Hearn asked VanInwegen if a return to the Chili Bowl was in the plans.

“That’s what we were talking about. Steve Buckwalter gave me a great opportunity there. It was great to see Tim Buckwalter make the ‘A’ main. I was really rooting for him. The Buckwalter family are great people.”

In a different type of event, last week VanInwegen took part in a charity event for the Penguin Plunge at the Autobahn Indoor Speedway in West Nyack, NY. Racing the best racers from Autobahn, Billy again showed his versatility. He was the fastest in his qualifying group. Of the 48 racers who participated, only 10 qualified for the main event and VanInwegen was one of the 10.

“Crackers (OCFS Marketing director Peter Reynolds) did a great job organizing that event. We were hungry to put on a good showing against the Autobahn regulars. But it really turned out the other way. But it was cool to just make the ‘A’ main, a lot of our guys didn’t.”

Billy took a big win at the 2021 Eastern States Weekend when he took the victory in the USAC Wingless Sprints event.

“It was probably my 5th or 6th time in a wingless car. We were here for the July Twin 50’s 2020 event and finished 2nd. I had a bit of a home court advantage. But that ESW race was a lot of fun. I wish that the radar hadn’t shortened the race, but I can’t say that I was fighting to get the race back going after waiting for an hour and a half. But it’s great to get an ESW win. Obviously, we would like to do it on the Modified side, but to get an ESW win was huge for me and my family. Mike VanDusen brought a strong effort here and it showed.”

Part of VanInwegen’s schedule for 2022 includes at least 2 Sprint Car races at OCFS, the United Racing Club (URC) event on June 17th and the first ever OCFS appearance of the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) on July 9th.

‘We will definitely be here for those two shows. And we want to do as much with the Sprints as we can. Our main focus is with our OCFS effort with the Modified and Small Block. But when the Sprint Cars come to town, we will probably have Mike VanDusen’s #56. And we do have an Escape RV 360 Sprint Car if Mike can’t make it.”

At the time of Tuesday’s podcast, OCFS officials had confirmed that 14 drivers had confirmed that they will be doing double duty at OCFS in 2022 with the busy Big Block and Small Block schedule. And Billy is one of those.

“We will be back in the Escape Powersports #4, Joey Barbagallo’s car that we maintain at our shop.”

VanInwegen is hopeful that some improvements in the engine program will have positive results.

“We just needed to take a step up to be able to keep up with drivers like Matt Sheppard, Stewart Friesen and Anthony Perrego.”

Usually this time of year, the team would be preparing for Florida. Not so this year.

“Instead of heading to Florida, we have our eyes set on the Short Track Super Series Elite Series event at Cherokee Speedway. There is another Elite Series at our home court of OCFS race in April,” Billy said. “If they go well, we will pursue the 3 races in the fall. It’s a nice 6 race deal with a ton of money.”

And VanInwegen is excited for his Small Block Program for 2022.

“We will be working with Jerry Higbie. We have a HigFab 358 car. We’re pretty excited about that. It’s great to work with Jerry, a great group of racers.”

It’s hard not to root for Billy VanInwegen and his family, a great group of people. Good luck to the team, in 2022.

Also on the show was a special raffle. At last week’s penguin Plunge, OCFS legend Tim Hindley had the 23 local drivers sign a new helmet and then sold a limited number of chances to win it. Amazingly, the number 7 chip drawn by ‘Talkin’ Dirty’ co-host Pat Reiser belonged to event organizer, Peter Reynolds. Crackers has indicated that the helmet will be raffled off again next year.

Speaking of Pat Reiser, he has a new car being prepared for 2022.

“We picked up a new Bicknell Racing Products chassis. It’s always good to keep stuff updated and fresh and keep the program in good shape. The car we had been using was a 2015, the same car Tommy Meier won the Eastern States with. But we want to keep up. Races are won just as much now as in April, May and June.”

You would be hard pressed to find two better people in the OCFS pits than Pat Reiser and his dad, Doug. Good luck in 2022.

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