By Ralph Smith
WHITE LAKE April 22, 2003 A clear sky and bright sun greeted racers for the practice day held last Saturday at Kauneonga Speedway.
A total of 42 cars in five divisions took to the track for practice laps at David and Joanne Rockets quarter-mile asphalt speedway. The practice session was held in preparation for the season opener this coming Saturday, April 26.
Denis Pierce of Danbury, CT, who finished second last year in the IMCA Modified division, tried many different setups and probably logged the most track time of the IMCA group. Pierce won four feature races last year and is seeking his first championship title at the local track.
Charlie Howe of Neversink, a four-time IMCA Champion at Kauneonga Speedway, will again pilot the Connecticut-based Blackman Brothers #75. Howe seemed pleased with his practice session and looks forward to Saturdays opener.
2002 Rookie of the Year Wayne Kirkpatrick of Washingtonville says he made quite a few changes to his car over the winter, including a paint color change from black to white.
Gary Lane of Port Jervis and Steve Vasey of Waymart, Pa. have moved up to the IMCA Modified division.
Lane purchased the former Howie Conklin mount and rebuilt the whole car with a little help from his friends. Street Stock driver John Bailey lent his chassis building expertise and David Rocket painted and lettered the fine-looking car.
Vasey bought the car from Connecticut racer Sherman Forbell. Vaseys car now sports his trademark blue color and number 71.
Mike Aumick of Highland Lakes, NJ is back for his second season of IMCA racing.
Drivers expected to join the IMCA group for the opener are 2002 IMCA Champion Paul Martin, four-time 2002 feature winner John Cote and the return of 1992 IMCA Champion Jeff Richardson. Back in IMCA racing after an absence of several years, Richardson won a Best of Show award at the recent Middletown Motorsports Show.
The Street Stock contingent was led by last years top 10 point finishers Jesse Hilger, Bob Policastro and Gary Borrell.
Borrell of Cortland Manor has a sharp-looking car and picked up Best in Class at the Middletown Motorsports Show last month.
Policastro, also from Cortland Manor, has been working hard and came with all new body work in place and ready for the finishing touches.
Hilger, who hails from New Milford, CT, was being watched and tutored by his stepfather, IMCA driver John Cote. Hilger was a two-time feature winner last season.
Also getting track time in the Street Stock division were Roy Johansson, Brian Rogerson, Eric Grant, Tom Jones, Dale Morton, Mike Dutka, John Bailey and Marty Novick.
The Eight Cylinder Hobby Stock group was paced by two-time champion Daryl DeBetta of Rock Hill. Last year, DeBetta finished second in a tight battle for the championship with John DeMarmels.
Gary Van Orden of Hawley, Pa., who finished third in the 2002 points, practiced with his bright yellow Shanty Hill Racing #54.
Other participants in the Eight Cylinder Hobby Stock division were Ken Engle, Glenn Aumick, Mark Wolf, Tom Pickerell and Kenny Atkins.
Woody Wilson, Eric Andresen, John Clarke, Stephanie Babich and Mike Herman finished in the top 10 in Four Cylinder Stock 2002 points. All took to the track for practice time with Joe Wilson, Woody McGibbon and John Aumick.
Trying out their cars for the first time were newcomers Bert Long, John Hughes and Joseph Bertholf.
The INEX Legends were paced by Paul Dodorico from Long Island, who finished second in the 2002 Legend points championship. Other legend drivers were Bob Fiduccia, Dennis Deuel, Todd McCullum, Joe Sole, Ryan Steckel and Brian McElearney.
The 2003 season gets the green flag on Saturday night. Gates open at 4 p.m., hot laps at 6 p.m., and racing starts at 7 p.m.
For more information, call the speedway office at 845-778-7487 or check the tracks Web site at www.kauneongaspeedway.com.
Note: Please see the Kauneonga Speedway column in the Democrat each Friday this summer for all of the results from the track.