RPW Column: Is There A Clear-Cut Favorite To Win Orange County’s $30,000 Big Block Title?

Column By: MIKE TRAVERSE / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Four outstanding drivers and teams will be in competition this Saturday with their eye on grabbing the United Rentals DIRTcar Big Block Modified Championship worth $30,000 to the winner.

Matt Sheppard, Max McLaughlin, Anthony Perrego and Billy VanInwegen have survived the qualifying process and will be competing for the big paycheck this Saturday, August 27th. The highest finishing driver of the four will win the championship.

Is there a clear cut favorite amongst the 4 drivers?

Based on their 2022 performances at the House of Power, the consensus would be that Sheppard would be the betting favorite. A look at Super Matt’s finishes at OCFS is most impressive. In 14 races, he has recorded 8 wins and 4 runner-up finishes. The other finishes were a 3rd and 6th. That is a formidable stat line.

It took Perrego a few weeks to grab his first win of 2022, but he has 4 wins and 12 top 5’s in his 18 OCFS races.Anthony is looking to sweep both the Modified and 358 titles for the second consecutive season.

McLaughlin has had a consistent season at OCFS. Except for one race, all of his finishes have been in the top 10 with 11 in the top 5 and his first career OCFS win on August 6th, as he beat Sheppard to the checkered flag.

VanInwegen had the most difficult road to the championship race of the four competitors. He made it into the Top 12, but just squeaked into the Elite 8. In order to advance to the Final 4, he was in a must win situation this past Saturday. But Billy and the team put it all together and came up with the impressive win.

So that’s the stats. But it’s not always a given that statistics will win championships. The 1988 Oakland A’s will tell you that. They lost the World Series to a much more statistically inferior Los Angeles Dodgers team. And as they had to play those games in 1988, they will have to run this race in 2022.

When the track was resurfaced in June, it was Sheppard that quickly got the handle on it. And his season-long dominance is working in his favor.

Perrego had a hot streak, recording consecutive wins in July over Sheppard. He’s done it before this season. He was also the winner in last year’s championship race, the team knows how to prepare. So he has that working in his favor.

Mad Max has shown that he can win at OCFS and he has run well here all season. That is working in his favor.

Billy V has had a couple of great weeks, recently grabbing a 358 win in addition to his Modified win last week. The team has been working hard to get their car running better and it looks like they may have hit it. He has momentum working in his favor.

The Final 4 in the Modified Championship race can start no better than 9th spot in the feature line up. If all 4 drivers make the redraw through the heat races they will be drawing for the 9th thru 12th starting positions in the 30 lap event. If 3 make the redraw they will be drawing for 10th,11th and 12th spots and so on.

So while a potential starting spot of 9th thru 12th isn’t a tremendous amount of cars to get through, it’s enough that it’s going to make the 4 work their way to the front. Hopefully, none of them will get caught in any incidents on their way to the checkered flag.

The OCFS racing surface was in excellent shape last week with a lot of multi groove and side-by-side racing. It’s been another hot and dry week in the Middletown, NY area this week, but hopefully, the racing conditions will be similar to last week. That may play a factor in who grabs the big prize.

Good luck to all four of these awesome racers.

While the focus of attention will be on the Modifieds, there is another very close points battle that’s going to be worth watching.

Week in and week out, the Arkel MotorsSportsman division draws the largest field of cars at Orange County, usually between 30-40 a week, or sometimes more. It’s quite an accomplishment to win a championship in this division.

Over the course of the season, Michael Sabia and Cody Higbie have separated themselves from the rest of the point contenders. And going into Saturday’s action, Sabia has a 1 point lead over Higbie.

And one of them will win their first OCFS Sportsman championship on Saturday.

Sabia, racing regularly at OCFS in 2022, came close to the championship in 2019, narrowly beaten by Grant Hilfiger. While he hasn’t scored a feature win this season, he has had consistent finishes. He currently is on a 11 consecutive race top 10 streak.

Higbie has won twice this season, including an impressive win this past Saturday which narrowed Sabia’s point lead from 26 to 1.

Sabia took the points lead on July 30th when OCFS had Twin 20’s for the Sportsman. After more good finishes expanded his lead, Higbie was able to reverse the trend with his win this past Saturday.

While the verdict will be decided in the feature, keep your eye on the heats as well. OCFS awards points in the heats. Higbie was able to benefit last week with a heat win while Sabia had to run the consi, which awards no points.

Good luck to both of these deserving drivers, one a racing veteran who has had a lot of success and the other an up and coming racer from a family with a great history at OCFS.

Positions 3, 4 and 5 in the points, with Travis Green, Drew Boniface and Jared LaBagh respectively, all have separation between them, so there may not be any point position changes amongst those spots.

Anthony Perrego looks to have the H.O.Penn 358 Small Block championship locked up with a 68 point lead over Billy VanInwegen. There is only a 7 point separation between positions 3 thru 5 with Danny Creeden, Jimmy Horton and Craig Mitchell.

Two time 2022 Precision Hydraulic and Oil Rookie Sportsman winner, Joey Conklin, has a 30 point lead over Fred Pavia heading into the finale. Open wheel rookie, Walt Henry, is 3rd with Mike Mikulski and Mike Weslowski tied for 4th.

Bob Sleight looks to be in line for another North East Parts Group Street Stock championship, as he has a 36 point lead over Dillon Gannon. Defending champion, Mike Vigiletti is 3rd. Jack Beaumont looks poised to get his first top 5 placing as he’s solidly in 4th. Jim Hajkowski is 5th.

It’s the final week of the racing season. The season is winding down. Get out and support your local track!!

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