By Rob Potter
MONTICELLO The race card presented on Wednesday afternoon at Monticello Raceway was not an average weekday card at the Sullivan County oval.
Local harness racing fans had the pleasure of seeing some of the best drivers in the world compete in the third leg of the 2011 World Driving Championship.
After competing in the first leg of the championship series on Sunday at Harrah’s Chester in Chester, Pa. and the second leg on Monday at Tioga Downs, the 10 participating drivers made their way to Monticello on Wednesday.
Despite a steady rainfall throughout the card, the drivers put on quite a show. They competed in four races on the 13-race card.
Prior to the card, the drivers rode around the track in classic cars in a Parade of Champions. They then gathered in the winner’s circle, where each of them received a bouquet of flowers and a Monticello Casino and Raceway gift bag.
John Pawlak, who is Publicity Director of the United States Trotting Association, introduced the 10 drivers to the crowd and spoke about each driver’s career accomplishments.
“These are 10 of the best drivers in the world,” Pawlak said. “Together they have won 35,000-plus races in their great careers.”
The drivers are Corey Callahan of the United States, who has 2,000-plus career wins, Chris Lewis of Australia (4,000-plus wins), Jody Jamieson of Canada (5,800 wins), Birger Jorgensen of Denmark (7,000-plus wins), Franck Nivard of France (1,400-plus wins), Michael Nimczyk of Germany (900-plus wins), Enrico Bellei of Italy (7,400-plus wins), Dexter Dunn of New Zealand (700-plus wins), Juan Antonio Riera Rossello of Spain (2,800-plus wins) and Bjorn Goop of Sweden (3,400 wins).
The four World Driving Championship races were the second, third, fifth and sixth races on the afternoon card. Riera Rossello won the second race with Scoot For Glory in 1 minute, 59.2 seconds. Goop and Voteformuscle prevailed in the third race, which was run at a special distance of 1 and 3/4 miles, in a time of 3:44.0. Goop picked up his second win of the day in the fifth race by guiding Four Starz Ransom to the wire in 2:03.1. Jorgensen won the sixth race with Candy’s Pool in 2:01.2.
In a closing ceremony following the sixth race, Monticello Raceway Director of Racing Eric Warner presented Goop with a crystal trophy and some flowers. Joining Goop on the podium were Jorgensen, who was second, and Riera Rossello, who was third.
After the Monticello card, Dunn is in first place in the series standings with 99 points. Riera Rossello is second with 96 points and Callahan is third with 91 points.
“It’s great to have the World Driving Championship here in the United States,” said Callahan, who is currently ranked ninth in all of North America in terms of wins. “I thank the United States Trotting Association for bringing the World Driving Championship here. I am happy they asked me to represent our country in the championship. It’s definitely something special.”
Callahan had mixed feelings about his performance on Wednesday afternoon at the Mighty M.
“I had a rough day,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the draw.
“Overall, it was OK,” Callahan added. “I had two third place finishes, a fourth and a fifth.”
Warner was very pleased that Monticello Raceway was invited to host a leg of the World Driving Championship. Wednesday marked the second time the Mighty M hosted the World Driving Championship, which is held every two years. The first time the series was held at Monticello Raceway was back in the late 1970s.
“We are one of five tracks in the country to host a leg this year,” Warner said. “It’s an honor to host an event like this. It’s great exposure [for the track]”.
After competing last night at the Meadowlands, this year’s World Driving Championship is slated to wrap up tonight at Yonkers Raceway.