Broadslidin’ Blog: Looking Back on the Orange County Fair’s Hard Clay Open

Steven Ovens Asphalt Modifieds, Featured, Northeast, Staff Columns, Steven Ovens Blog 0 Comments

April 12, 2014 — Blog and photo by Race Chaser Online New York correspondent Steven Ovens — MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — Fenway Park.  Wrigley Field.  The Orange Bowl.  Daytona.  Indianapolis.

All of these are iconic venues in their respective sport, whether that sport is a stick and ball sport or auto racing.  And after this weekend, my Turn 5 co-host Clint Miller and I added the legendary Orange County Fair Speedway to the list of tracks we can say we have crossed off our bucket list.

I think Big-Block Modified competitor Matt Billings said it best this weekend when he said, “This place looks like it has a lot of stories to tell.” Orange County certainly does have a ton of stories to tell, race fans.

The hard clay is nestled within the Orange County Fairgrounds in Middletown, New York, which is about a 4 hour drive from the Casa de Pork Chop studios here in Penn Yan.

The buildings on the grounds may be worn, but they work for the purposes they serve.  The race track was our midway this weekend for sure. The pit area is located in the infield of the 5/8 mile speedway, much like what fans who have been to Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway have seen over the last few years.

The walls consist of larger than life concrete barriers that certainly could tell decades of stories, stories of drivers like Reutimann, Eurich, Johnson, McCreadie, Hearn and many more. There are two sets of covered grandstands that take you back to the days of Nashville and Darlington. When we pulled into the track at a quarter to 12, you got the feeling that you were walking into something special. I’m an old school kind of guy, so I really enjoyed that feeling as a former racer and now as a member of the dirt track media.

We were privileged to be able to work with Brett Deyo to not only help promote this show on Turn 5, but come out to the event and provide video updates and audio interviews covering pre-race, intermission and post-race activity.  That is an experience neither of us will forget as this was the first opportunity we have had to cover an event like this together.

The track surface certainly lived up to it’s nickname, “The Hard Clay”, and even the event took that name for the weekend, being billed as the “Hard Clay Open”. The track was dry and slick and took rubber as the day wore on, putting a good old fashioned whooping on tires. One driver we talked to said he even burnt off a right rear tire after his 10-lap qualifying event.

That was one unique feature to this event — tire management and the options you had for tires. Promoter Brett Deyo allowed any combination of American Racers or Hoosiers, and Brett Hearn, for the feature, even had American Racers on the front and Hoosiers on the rear.

That aspect took me back to hearing about how much dirt late model racing is about the tire game and how some like Chubb Frank and Scott Bloomquist have come to master it better than others.

The feature gave fans some great racing too. If you looked at the box score you saw that Andy Bachetti started on the pole, led all the laps and won the race, but that didn’t tell the story of the great battle from positions 2-8 throughout the event. Anthony Perrego and Danny Tyler nearly pulled it off with the small-block power plants, finishing second and third. That, Race Chaser readers, would have been an upset story to tell for weeks to come!

It was an incredible experience to roam Victory Lane and stand along side the crew members as their driver unbuckled and did the roof dance with the checkered flag. The Bachetti crew hadn’t won at OCFS in a long time in a big race and Sunday’s $5,000+ victory ended that streak of bad luck. It was complete elation on the front stretch of the famous 5/8 mile.

The ride home was a long one but the whole day was a trip that Clint and I will not soon forget. We absolutely love what we have been blessed with the opportunity to do here at Race Chaser Online and on the Turn 5 Racing Podcast.

Clint mentioned something to me on that ride home that put things in perspective. He said that doing this show and coming out and covering races like we do has changed racing for us. We both come from families with longstanding histories of racing in our DNA, and both of us have even spent our own time behind the wheel here on the Finger Lakes dirt. Now we do something a little different in racing, but all the different things we’ve done over the years has given us a whole new perspective on this great sport we love.

Keep it on the cushion race fans, until we meet up again.

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