Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – After a several year absence, the OCFS Banquet returned in a big way at a great venue, Villa Venezia in Middletown.The well attended event honored the top 10 from each division with point money and a unique plaque in lieu of traditional trophies.
Anthony Perrego was the night’s big winner, taking home $25,000 for his United Rentals DIRTcar Big Block Modified championship. In addition, Perrego added $10,000 for his H.O. Penn 358 Small Block Modified Championship.
Joe Bonetti in the Arkel Motors Sportsman division was honored as champion as was Mike Vigiletti in the NAPA North East Parts Group Street Stock division.
And Dylan Madsen was recognized as the champion in the short season Precision Hydraulic and Oil Rookie Sportsman division.
In addition, the champion drivers received gifts from EsperJewelers in New Windsor, NY. Madsen, Vigiletti and Bonetti received bracelets. Perrego received a watch for the 358 championship and a champions ring for the Modified title.
In all, $111,750 was distributed to the competitors. During the awards, OCFS announcer Tim Pitts stated that the point fund for 2022 is increasing to $144,500.
Perrego joined Brett Hearn, Chuck McKee and Tommy Meier as the only drivers who have swept both the Big and Small Block championships in the same season. And he shared some thoughts on his 2021 season with Race Pro Weekly.
“We knew it was going to be tough to take both championships. The last night in the Modifieds just worked out for us, We did a lot of work during the year, we had some motor issues. But the outcome from the final night made it all worth it.”
Anthony will be back to defend his titles in 2022, but he hopes an early season schedule conflict will not damage his chances.
“I think the first race, there’s a conflict with the Small Block, hopefully, we can work it out. With the Big Block, win and you’re in,we think we’ll be okay. Hopefully, something can be worked out, if not, we’ll just do what we can.”
Bonetti had been steadily on the rise for the past few seasons and he put it all together in 2021. After grabbing his first ever feature in early June, he took the point lead that he never relinquished. When Jared LaBagh started closing in on Joe, he decided to take some time off from his 358 car and it helped him to hold off LaBagh’s late season charge.
“Going into 2021, we were confident. We had finished 2nd the year before. We built a brand new car and we had every intention of competing for the championship. It’s a tough class with a lot of good drivers, but we clicked off a couple of wins that put us into the point hunt. And after that, it was just about maintaining and staying within reason for the rest of the season. Jared kept the heat on us all year and going into the last night, I knew that I needed to finish at least 18th to win the title. But anything can happen, a part failure or flat tire. I knew that Jared was going to do all that he could to and he smoked the field. That put the pressure on me as I drove through the pack. I made sure not to put my car in jeopardy by not finishing. But once I got into the lead, I was quite comfortable.”
For 2022, Bonetti is going to do double duty again, this time in the Small Blocks and Big Blocks. And his main emphasis will be on improving in the Small Blocks.
“I want to be competitive in the 358’s this year. I hope that the experience in the Big Block makes me a much better and more aggressive Small Block driver. And the Small Block is where I want to put most of my time and effort this year. We want to be competitive in the Big Block also, but we know that it’s a big step.”
And Joe and his wife, Jessica, recently announced that they will be welcoming a baby boy into the family in late July. Awesome news for the Bonetti’s, congratulations.
If OCFS had a comeback of the year award, Mike Vigiletti would have been in contention for it. Mike sat out the 2020 season while recovering from an injury, but he returned in 2021 to capture his 4th OCFS Street Stock Championship.
“It’s everybody’s goal to go for a championship. But coming back, we wanted to be competitive. We came back with a new car that ran great, but unfortunately was wrecked beyond repair at the Eastern States Weekend. We are back this year with another new car, but we again will have to see what we can do with it. It was built by Tommy Vigh, so it’s a very nice piece as far as safety is concerned. But I’m looking forward to racing it.”
A great banquet closed the door on the 2021 OCFS season. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, the speedway has a great schedule of events lined up with outstanding purses and point money up for grabs. Over 20 drivers have indicated that they will be doing double duty in both Big and Small Blocks this year. OCFS Director of Motorsports. Brett Hearn, said it should be one of the best fields of cars seen at the House Of Power in many years. Race fans, get out to OCFS and enjoy the excitement.
It was a very well attended event as of the 41 drivers scheduled to receive awards, 37 were at the event.
When interviewed by OCFS announcer, Tim Pitts, Matt Sheppard indicated that he will be racing regularly at OCFS in 2022. Since he got his first win at OCFS in 2019, Sheppard has been the leading winner at OCFS with 14 victories including a long overdue Eastern States 200 win last season.
Stewart Friesen said that he would like to be in the championship mix, but he will have to do so by trying to win his way in when his schedule allows.
Tim Pitts was assisted in the awards by Race Pro Weekly’s own Marty Kelly III who made the long drive down to be at the venue. Marty did a great job at last season’s ESW and he did another great job with Tim on Saturday.
The champions cars were on display to those who entered the venue. Mike has a very sharp looking Monte Carlo for 2022. Anthony’s Brian Smith owned Superior #44 always has an eye-catching look to it. And Joe’s 2022 ride is looking great as well. Bonetti’s car even received some touch-up work on it at the venue before the crowd arrived.
After the awards were all handed out, some great fun took place as several people took the microphone and did karaoke. Included in the festivities were drivers Jared LaBagh, Allison Ricci, Matt Sheppard and Anthony Perrego. Perrego was especially busy during the karaoke segment, doing a solo piece and a couple of duets with Sheppard. It’s always nice to see people enjoying themselves doing something different that you wouldn’t expect to see them doing.
A nice moment when Allison took the microphone and wished her grandmother a happy 79th birthday. As she talked about her, it was easy to see just how much she loves and cares for her. It’s all about family.
Congratulations to Mr Larsen, Brett Hearn, Doug Dulgarian, Peter Reynolds and to all of the OCFS staff that worked on this banquet. It was a first class event that was a pleasure to attend.