Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – MIDDLETOWN, NY – Sunday during the Short Track Super Series’ Hard Clay Finale at Orange County Fair Speedway, several drivers experienced a true battle of wills, and attrition.
Some experienced the results they were looking for when the 50-lap feature was complete.
Others, on the other hand, ran strong, but didn’t have much to show for it at the end.
One driver who was happy at the completion of the event was Andy Bachetti, who ran up front for nearly the entire event.
At some points during the main, Bachetti dropped a few spots below his fourth staring position, but when the race was over, he was standing on the podium.
“The Garrity Asphalt #4 car was pretty good tonight,” Bachetti said. “We were a little tight in the beginning but my crew did a real good job making the right adjustments all night to get us in position for a good run.”
Bachetti’s car seemed to work a little bit better as a run went on as early in the race, there was long green flag run. Near the 20 lap mark, however, the yellow flag seemed to be flying the most.
“The track was pretty decent tonight,” he said. “We’d go forward, then, go back and back forward again. You just had to bide your time, let the fuel burn off and get the car a little bit better. We were good tonight.”
From the moment the Bachetti crew unloaded their car, the former Orange County Fair Speedway regular, and track champion, seemed to be quick.
“We pulled out of the trailer pretty good today,” he said. “That’s the way you always want to start your night at one of these big races. They really did a good job on the race track and just hats off to my whole team. They worked extremely hard and this good finish is a testament to their dedication.”
Another driver who had good luck on Sunday was Anthony Perrego. Perrego had the luck of the draw from the start as he drew the pole position but during the feature, fell as low as fourth.
“Drawing well tonight definitely helped us,” Perrego said. “That helped us run up front all night. I think we probably needed a little more smoke under the hood but thank you to Butch Getz for letting us use this engine to run.”
Another who benefited from other drivers falling by the wayside, Perrego was able claw his way back up to run with the lead pack and bring his Brian Smith-owned #44 home in the runner-up position.
“Stew (Friesen) was really good tonight,” he said. “Matt (Sheppard) was good before he broke and obviously (Mat) Williamson was pretty good too. We had a little luck to get back up into the top two.”
As the race went on, and Friesen encountered lapped traffic, the gap between he and Perrego began to dwindle. At one point, the driver from Montgomery, NY even took a peak to the inside of the Halmar #44, almost taking the lead, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“We made it interesting for about a lap when we got around the lap cars,” he said. “They really bottled Stew up and I was able to sneak under him but he pulled away. He was the class of the field and we’re happy to come away with a second tonight.”
On the flip side were two drivers who looked like they were possibly in the hunt to contend with winner Stewart Friesen before the 50-lap event was complete, Matt Sheppard and Mat Williamson.
For Sheppard, once he found that the outside had some bite he was able to work his way up to the second position and began to chase down Friesen.
“Stewie was really good tonight,” Sheppard said. “We got up to second and I’m not really sure what we had or didn’t have. I typically get better the longer we run. It was still pretty early when we had our problems.”
Those problems came in the form of a suspension issue which forced the 9s to the pits well before the checkered flag flew.
“It was a fluke thing that we snapped a bolt in half tonight,” Sheppard said. “That’s something that normally doesn’t happen.”
Even with the failure which resulted in a 24th place finish, Sheppard came away with another Short Track Super Series North Region title for 2023.
“We had a really, really good year in the North Series right up until tonight,” he said. “It was a really great year for my team. I can’t thank my crew enough. It was just a tough night for us. I was on vacation in Dallas yesterday (Saturday). I flew home for this. I probably should have just stayed there.”
The only driver who was even close to Sheppard in the hunt for the North Region title heading into Orange County was Mat Williamson. On Sunday, Williamson didn’t have the best draw for the feature, pulling the number 11 to begin the main event.
However, the St. Catherines, ONT driver didn’t stay there long.
“I thought we had a car that could win tonight,” Williamson said. “Our car was really good and once we found the outside, we really started to make some moves and drive forward.
Williamson put his Behrent’s #3 Bicknell on the top groove early and got as high as third, even passing Sheppard at one point.
Unfortunately, a yellow flew shortly thereafter.
“We really didn’t need that caution to come out,” he said. “I had just gotten around Matt and that hurt a little as he knew where I passed him. Then, he was able to get the top working as well.”
At the 20th circuit, Sheppard was forced to the pits with his suspension issue and that put Williamson alongside the leader, but that was when the race began to unravel for him.
Just three laps later, Williamson was forced to shut his car down exiting the number four turn and his night was over.
“We’re not really sure what happened but the car just lost power,” he said. “It lost oil pressure so I killed the engine right away. Hopefully we caught it in time but Jeff (Behrent) said he was going to pull it apart on Monday and hopefully see what happened.”
Was there any warning?
“When I got to second, Stew kept pulling away,” he said. “I think that’s when something began to go sour in the engine. The car was a rocket ship from the drop of the green and I can’t thank Jeff & Harry (Behrent) and the team for their hard work. We had a winning car tonight.”