Despite COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the 59th Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway, run Friday and Saturday, October 23-24, saw 208 race cars in four divisions on the historic Middletown, New York five-eighths-mile clay-surfaced track competing for more than $155,000 in prize money and special awards.
Fan attendance for the annual racing festival was limited to just the unique drive-in section as well as an online streaming service. But those who saw the two-day event witnessed 30 qualifying and feature races plus time trials that culminated with the Eastern States 200 for the United Rental DIRTcar-sanctioned Big-Block Modifieds, and won by Canadian Mat Williamson, driving the “house” car owned and maintained by Behrent’s Performance Warehouse of nearby Florida, New York. For his winning efforts, Williamson earned $25,000 from the race purse, $1,400 in lap leader money, and another $250 in gift cards bonus awards from Penske Shocks and Behrent’s. The winning crew chief and crew won a case of Busch Beer from Dana Distributors.
Stewart Friesen, a three-time winner of the 200, finished second. Friesen banked $12,000 from the overall $75,575 race purse, $1,000 as the halfway leader, $755 in memory of Astro Pete Gardner, $666 for leading lap 66 in honor of Jared Petruska, $100 gift card from Behrent’s for capturing his qualifying heat, $75 gift card from Penske Shocks, and in addition to $2,125 in lap money for leading 88 laps, an extra $50 gift card from East Coast Speed for leading the most laps.
Larry Wight, the only other leader of the 200, won the preliminary Race to the Pole race, earning $2,000 from Rapid Tire and led the first 55 laps, adding $1,450 to his winnings, but dropped out after 92 laps with mechanical issues. He also won a $100 gift card from Behrent’s for his top-six time trial lap and $500 from the base purse.
Tim Sears Jr. fifth at the checkered flag, was the highest finishing race rookie which added $500 from Big Apple Carting to his $3,500 purse money. Sears also timed fifth fastest, good for a $100 gift card from Behrent’s.
Other special awards winners from the 200 include Max McLaughlin, second in the Race to the Pole, worth $1,000 from Rapid Tire, and a $100 gift card from Behrent’s for sixth fasted time; Mike Mahaney won a $100 gift card third fastest time from Behrent’s and $50 gift card from Penske Shocks for finishing third in the 200; Superior Remodeling presented Marc Johnson with the $1,000 Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions (37th to 14th) during the 200. Johnson also won the Real Last Chance Race and a $100 gift card from Behrent’s. All the qualifying race winners received $100 gift cards from Behrent’s. In addition to those already mentioned, $100 Behrent’s awards went to Jeff Heotzler, Tommy Meier, Matt Sheppard, Tyler Dippel Anthony Perrego, Andy Bachetti, and Peter Brittten.
Rounding out the 200 special awards, 13th starter Ronnie Johnson received a $200 set of ear buds from Racing Electronics, while Peter Britten and Dillon Steuer in a random drawing each received a Hoosier Racing tire. The $200 gift card from East Coast Speed for racing Hard Luck went to Craig Mitchell.
Jimmy Phelps swept the 75-lap Hauser Brothers Mechanical and Plumbing H.O. Penn Small-Block Modified Championship, winning fast time and the pole position ($700 from Dig Safe New York), leading all 75 laps and winning the race. His $10,000 first place purse money was enhanced by $2,791 in lap leader money that included extra lap awards from Mike Sparta Trucking, Behrent’s, Hi Fab in memory of Tom Perrego, Ben Gardner/Crackers Motorsports in memory of Astro Pete Gardner, and the Petruska family and Friends in memory of Jared Petruska. Phelps also won a $50 gift card from East Coast Speed for most laps led, a $100 gift card from Penske Shocks, while the crew chief and crew of Phelps’ No. 98H received a case of Busch Beer from Dana Distributors.
Other Small-Block Modified special awards were presented top Billy Decker, $300 from Dig Safe New York for second fastest time and outside pole; other fast timers Tim Sears Jr., Dave Shilling, Rocky Warner, and Ben Bushaw each picked up $100 from Competition Carburetion; qualifying heat and last chance race winners Larry Wight, Gary Edwards Jr., Andy Bachetti, Stewart Friesen, Tyler Boniface, Kevin Root, Bob McGannon, and J Gill each received $100 from WLR Construction NY.
Tyler Dippel won the Escape Powersports Plus Hard Charger, advancing 24 positions from 36th at the start to 12th when the checkered flag waved. Second place in the 75-lap race earned Sears a $75 gift card from Penske Shocks and $300 from United Petroleum Services Inc. for being the Rookie of the Race. Third place at the checkered flag, Warner also won a $50 gift card from Penske Shocks. The $150 East Coast Speed gift card went to Rusty Creeden, who wrecked during a preliminary race on Friday. Mat Williamson won a Hoosier Racing Tire in a random draw. The total purse for the Hauser Brothers Mechanical and Plumbing H.O. Penn Small-Block Modified 75 was $32,125.
In the Sportsman 50-lap championship race, Alan Fink won the pole and $500 from Big Apple Carting, led the first 34 laps of the race, picking up the $500 halfway bonus, also from Big Apple Carting, a $50 gift card for the most laps led from East Coast Speed and an additional $99 or most laps lead in memory of Bob James, “Bobco,” and $540 in lap prize money. But he didn’t win the race. That honor went to young Tanner VanDoren, who took home $5,000, $225 in lap prize money, and $200 as Rookie of the Race from United Petroleum Services, Inc. VanDoren’s crew chief and crew also won a case of Busch Beer from Dana Distributers.
Winners of other Sportsman race special awards included Tommy Collins, $300 for outside pole starting slot from Powder Tech – Powder Coating; $75 from Interstate Batteries to qualifying race winners Joey Lawrence, Kevin Root, Tyler Murray, Gary Edwards Jr., Matt Janczuk, Mel Schrufer, Joe Toth, and Tyler Corcoran. Joe Toth, from 31st to sixth, won $500 from RJ Smith as the race’s Hard Charger; LJ Lombardo’s tenth-place finish was worth $500 in addition to his purse money from Velocita Racing Gear; Jesse Leiby received a Hoosier tire in a random drawing; and the $100 gift card East Coast Speed Hard Luck award went to Troy Arnold. The posted purse for the Sportsman 50-lap championship race $15,475.
The 25-lap Street Stock race was won by Jim Hajkowski, who earned $1,000 from Sleepy Hollow Turf Equipment and additional lap money, raised privately. The Rock Fantasy – Steve Keeler Halfway Leader $250 award went to Charlie Donald, while Joel Murns was the recipient of the $250 E. Tetz & Sons Hard Charger award. The 16 entered Street Stocks shared a posted purse of $3,200.