AFTON, NY – The ‘little series that could’ is set to conclude its 2015 season at a race, they said, would never work.
Yes, it is an unlikely pairing, but the Short Track Super Series (STSS) Fueled By Hi-Tek – a series aimed at weekend warriors, not high-budget teams – wraps up its 2015 Bob Hilbert Sportswear North Region this weekend, Friday-Saturday October 9-10, at I-88 Speedway with the eighth running of the Halmar International Short Track SuperNationals presented by Olum’s.
Dubbed the “Working Man’s Race” when it was created by Brett Deyo in 2006, then with Afton Speedway promoters Pat and Janet Jordan, the Short Track SuperNationals was designed to provide Friday, Saturday and Sunday night racers with an affordable option to the Columbus Day weekend festivities at the New York State Fairgrounds during Super DIRT Week.
Skeptics doubted the concept. Yet, the Short Track SuperNationals has persevered – and thrived – carving its own niche in the dirt Modified landscape.
The first SuperNationals was contested in ’06 at Afton with short-track specialist Mike Ricci taking the inaugural victory. Shortly thereafter, the Jordans ended their run as managers of the Afton oval. The event moved to Five Mile Point Speedway in Kirkwood, N.Y., for five years (2009-2013) before, with increased car counts and camping, the race had outgrown the rustic FMP layout.
Last October, buoyed by widespread improvements to the Afton Fairgrounds facility by promoters Jamie and Denise Page – the Short Track SuperNationals returned “home” to its birthplace at I-88 Speedway. A vast, flat pit area, plentiful camping room with water and electricity hook-ups, neat-and-tidy grounds and excellent, three-wide racing greeted attendees.
The change of venues was so well-received it was announced on the spot last October I-88 would again host the event in 2015 in another BD Motorsports Media LLC co-promotion.
With the marketing support of Halmar International’s Chris Larsen and Kevin Lillie of Olum’s, a huge weekend lineup has been set with 11 different feature events set for two busy days of racing.
Of course, the Short Track SuperNationals headliner is the 50-lap big-block/small-block Modified ‘Working Man’s Race” 50-lap feature on Saturday night offering $5,000 to win, $1,000 for 10th and $500 to take the green. A series champion – pocketing $15,000 – will be crowned when the checkered drops on Saturday night.
The aforementioned first Short Track SuperNationals rolled off in 2006 as a virtual unknown. Tillson, N.Y.’s Mike Ricci, a short-track ace and multi-time track champion put the first triumph on the board with a mid-race pass of Joey Grammes.
To date, there have been no repeat Short Track SuperNationals victors.
Grandview (Pa.) Speedway driver Kevin Hirthler of Boyertown, Pa., scored the ’09 victory in an upset. A year later, it was Kauneonga Lake, N.Y., driver Justin Holland taking the triumph. Duane Howard bought the trophy back to his Oley, Pa., home in ’11 at the controls of the Mike Petruska-owned No. 66. In 2012, Danny Tyler of Cottekill, N.Y., became the second Accord (N.Y.) Speedway regular – joining Ricci – to take top SuperNationals honors. Craig Hanson of Johnstown, N.Y., a Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway and Glen Ridge (N.Y.) mainstay, parlayed his first-ever SuperNationals start into the ’13 victory.
The theme of “working man winners” continued last year in the race’s return to I-88. Masonville, N.Y., low-key talent Shaun Walker thwarted the challenges of Mike Mahaney and Mitch Gibbs to earn what was easily the biggest win of his career before a partisan hometown crowd.
In its existence the Short Track SuperNationals mission statement has gone unchanged, to provide weekend warriors with a healthy payout, virtually open rules, a legitimate draw for position and a chance to showcase their talents.
The Series Finale
Saturday’s Short Track SuperNationals Modified 50-lap event serves as the final round of the eight-race STSS Bob Hilbert Sportswear North Region, which offers $15,000 to the champion and a $38,000-plus total point fund distributed to the top-12 finishers.
The series has visited six different venues in ’15, the lid-lifter at Middletown, N.Y.’s Orange County Fair Speedway in April, followed by trips to Big Diamond Speedway in Minersville, Pa., Accord Speedway, Thunder Mountain Speedway in Center Lisle, N.Y., (twice) I-88 and Woodhull (N.Y.) Raceway.
Stewart Friesen of Sprakers, N.Y., has enjoyed a dominant season on the STSS North Region with four victories: Orange County, I-88 in July, Woodhull and the most recent event, the Wade Decker Memorial at Thunder Mountain. Friesen takes a commanding lead of 109 points into the finale, just having to take the green to secure his crown.
Friesen has not entered a Short Track SuperNationals race since ’11. He will end a four-year absence from the event on Saturday. The Jeff Daley owned No. 44 “short-track car” will be awaiting Friesen’s arrival in the I-88 pits.
Trailing Friesen’s 665-point total with 556 markers is Danny Johnson of Rochester, N.Y., who is locked into a battle with Anthony Perrego of Montgomery, N.Y., (522 points) and Andy Bachetti of Sheffield, Mass., (521 points) for second in points. Jeff Heotzler of Wallkill, N.Y., completes the front five with 449 points.
Second-place in the STSS North Region pays $7,000, meaning the battle for the runner-up spot will be intense through the 50-lap main.
Rounding out the top-12 in the standings are Billy Van Pelt of Westfield, Pa., (425 points), Danny Creeden of Wurtsboro, N.Y., (424 points), Jackie Brown Jr. of Hurley, N.Y. (410 points), Mike Mahaney of King Ferry, N.Y., (403 points), Tommy Meier of Waldwick, N.J., (392 points), Jeff Strunk of Boyertown, Pa., (337 points) and Jerry Higbie Jr. of Newburgh, N.Y. (327 points).
Increased “championship points” will be distributed at the SuperNationals with 150 points going to the race winner and 60 to take the green flag. The first seven STSS North races this year operated on a 100-point scale.
North Region victors this season have included Friesen (four checkered flags), Jackie Brown Jr. (Accord) and Brian Malcolm (Thunder Mountain June event).
This season, in addition to the eight-race STSS North Region, a five-race South Region sponsored by Pioneer Pole Buildings Inc. was contested in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. One driver – Anthony Perrego – has run every event, both North and South, driving for Wurtsboro, N.Y., car owner Gary Mann.
Perrego, 21 years old, the series “ironman” driver, finished second in the South Region to Ryan Watt. He is in contention for the runner-up spot in the North Region, trailing Danny Johnson by 34 points. Should Perrego finish second in both regions, he will take home more than $10,000 at the series Awards Banquet.
The Short Track SuperNationals is annually one of the most lucrative events in the Southern Tier each year. 2015 is no different. The base purse structure for this event – before any bonuses or awards – is a massive $26,430. Bonuses will bring that number well over the $30,000 mark.
Additionally, there is plentiful lap money that will be distributed to the top-seven drivers during the event, topped by a huge $600 Halfway Leader bonus posted by Dale and Sue Smith of Afton, N.Y. The Smiths have sponsored the halfway cash at every SuperNationals beginning with the inaugural.
A massive total of $1,670 in lap money will be distributed to the top-seven drivers in the running order throughout the main.
Other bonuses include heat-race cash, a $200 Craig Decker Forest Products Top Crew Chief recognition, $288 Zubi’s Racing Hard Charger Award, $111 Crunchco Snacks 11th-place bonus and more. A full lineup of STSS contingency awards will also be handed out to Modified competitors.
The STSS Modified field at the SuperNationals is expected to draw competitors from at least seven different states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut.
But the headline division will not be the sole class bringing in invaders from afar. The 1000cc Mini-Sprints of the Empire Lightning Sprints are expecting a strong influx of Quebec-based racers. The division thrives in the French-speaking Canadian province in addition to New York State.
Last year, Alex Therrien of the noted Quebec racing family was able to notch a victory at I-88. Therrien will lead a list of his Canadian counterparts looking to win on U.S. soil this season.
Four drivers have perfect attendance in all seven Short Track SuperNationals events contested thus far. Mike Ricci, the ’06 winner, last year’s winner Shaun Walker, Joey Grammes and Bobby Varin. At least three are expected to be on hand this weekend: Ricci in the Halmar-backed No. 76, Walker in the family fielded No. 21 and Varin driving for Norm Hansell in the famed No. 357.
Friday’s program will be a busy one at I-88. Modified competitors will be invited to take part in a series of timed practice sessions. The fastest six cars move into a Dash, 8 laps in distance. The Dash winner receives a guaranteed redraw position for Saturday’s 50-lap main.
The Open vs. Crate 602 Sportsman are featured in a 35-lap main offering $1,500 to win and $125 to take the green flag. Crate bonuses are $200, $100, $75, $50 and a free pit pass for the first Crate 602 Sportsman across the line.
Also on Friday, XCel 600 Modifieds racing for $1,000 to win in a tour race, Empire Lightning Sprints in a preliminary program, Street Stocks, now racing for a minimum of $600 to win thanks to Green’s Flag Car Service and Star Spa Services, Four Cylinders and Empire Sport Trucks.
Saturday’s program of the Short Track SuperNationals will again be split into afternoon and evening sessions for the benefit of racers and fans. During the afternoon, GRIT American Series Crate 602 Sportsman ($1,000 to win), Empire Lightning Sprints ($500 to win), and XCel 600 Modifieds ($1,000 to win) will run their qualifying events. Vintage Modifieds will complete their feature.
At 6 p.m., Modifieds will hit the track for the first time on Saturday with hot laps, followed by qualifying. Features for the Crates, Lightning Sprints and XCel Modifieds will be cycled in leading up to the STSS Modified finale.
41 And Beyond
After hosting the very first BD Motorsports Media LLC event on Oct. 7, 2006 with the first Short Track SuperNationals, the Afton Fairgrounds is set for event No. 41 this weekend. Since that fledgling effort, BD Motorsports Media promotions have been held at 12 tracks in four states. In 40 events, 23 different drivers have visited Victory Lane, none more than Stewart Friesen who won his seventh career BD Motorsports Media LLC race at Thunder Mountain on Sept. 27.
Registration, rules, detailed weekend info and more can be found online at www.shorttracksuperseries.com under “Events” and “Short Track SuperNationals” on the main menu. Registration forms have been posted for the Modified, Open vs. Crate 602 Sportsman and Crate 602 Sportsman divisions.
To learn more about the Short Track Super Series or BD Motorsports Media LLC, visit www.shorttracksuperseries.com or www.bdmotorsportsmedia.com, call 845.728.2781 or e-mail [email protected]om. “Like” Short Track Super Series on Facebook or follow @ShortTrackSS on Twitter.
I-88 Speedway is located conveniently off I-88 Exit 7 (Afton), approximately 25 miles north and east of Binghamton, at 46 East Main Street Afton, N.Y. 13730. There is plentiful space for parking and camping. To learn more about I-88 Speedway, visit www.i-88speedway.com.
-BD Motorsports Press Release