Weekly Report (21 Oct 2018)
I guess I’m pretty fortunate, that during the course of the year I get to see a lot of auto racing events, so when it comes to missing a big one, I get very frustrated.
As mentioned in the last report , my mind wants to do a lot more things than the body will allow. I no longer have the energy to get up and go to the places I did ten years ago.
This past weekend was a prime example. It was the staging of the annual Eastern States Week End at the Orange County Fair Speedway, Middletown . NY. Reluctantly , I’d already decided to give it a miss a few weeks ago, so had no plans to attend. It’s one of my favorite Dirt Modified events of the year, third only in status to Super Dirt Week in NY and the World Finals in Charlotte NC.
I have some great memories of my trips there over the years, since the first visit in October 2001, just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of 911.
I was living in Maxville , Ontario at this time and my daughter Carla was at college in Washington DC living a short distance from the Pentagon, one of the targets of the attack.
My set of ‘wheels’ at that time was a Honda Civic, and this is an exert from my report of that first visit .
<< After work on Friday , I drove down to the track at Middletown NY, and arrived around mid night, just as the partying was getting under way. It soon became obvious that the Eastern States Weekend was one of the best social events of the dirt racing calendar, with the tracks bar, the 31st Lap being the hub of action.
Although the Honda Civic was a small car, there was a lot more room to sleep than you’d expect. It was the hatchback model and with the back seats folded down, and the front passenger seat pushed forward, there was enough room to make up a bed ( with plenty of cushions for padding). So, my first visit to the OCFS, also became my first ‘sleep over’ in the Honda.
The races that weekend were won by Danny Johnson (Big Block) Brett Hearn (358)
After Sundays big race I drove on to Washington DC to see Carla, where I was to stay in her apartment on Sunday night.
On Monday we spent the day together which included a drive to see the damaged Pentagon building.
I drove back to Canada later that night, stopping for a few hours sleep in the car at the Flying J Truck Stop near Gibson PA.
When I awoke there was snow on the car , which is what I got on my return to Maxville.>>
I really enjoyed my first visit to the Eastern States, and came away thinking to myself , I have to get back next year.
In those days the OCFS was part of the Dirt Motorsports Empire and it was common place for all the Division Championships to be decided that weekend. This meant a huge crowd , consisting of a large number of fellow Canadians.
Sure enough I was back there in 2002, but instead of going straight there. On the way down, I dropped into the nearby Accord Speedway to catch their Friday night Modified show. I remember it being very cold and didn’t stay to the end. Once the main feature was over, I was out of the gate and heading for Middletown.
I got there before the 31st Lap closed, and had plenty of time for a beer before getting my head down in the Honda.
On Saturday there was plenty of fun going on with the traditional New Years Eve Party. On Sunday morning , before the races, they have their, on track Pit Party where fans can get up close to the race drivers and their cars.
That year Brett Hearn won both the 200 lap Big Block race and Saturdays 358 race.
By now Carla was living in Baltimore MD, so after the races I drove down there to see her.
My gift for her was a T shirt from Frankies Diner, the favorite breakfast place for race fans that was located opposite the main gate. Sadly it closed a few years back.
These early visits to the Eastern States were before I got involved in the media side of the sport and I sat in the grandstand like a any other race fan.
In 2003 , I drove down to Middletown straight from work on the Friday and parked my Honda next to my buddy , the late Roger Aubin’s Motor Home. It was over six hours drive from Maxville and he and some other friends had left early Friday morning.
Winners that year were Alan Johnson in the 358’s , and Bobby Varin in the 200 lap Big Block race.
Roger Aubin , like me, also lived in Maxville and up until he passed away in January 2011, we traveled many racing miles together.
By 2004 I’d become involved in racing Media activities and was once again there to see Brett Hearn take both Big and Small Block races.
Over the years Brett has carved his name firmly in to the history books of this event.
For some reason or other I missed the event in 2005, ( I think it was to attend a Run What Ya Brung show at my local Brockville Ontario Speedway) but I was back at Middletown in 2006.
By now the Honda had been replaced by a Chevy Cavalier 2 door Coupe, which I still managed find room to sleep in.
2006 was another year that Hearn took the big race, with Billy Decker getting the 358 win.
I also remember the on track Pit Party where I signed my name on the Danny Johnson car.
In 2007 I was the owner of a better camera and was able to capture plenty of the action which you always associate with the Eastern States.
I’d also become buddies with one of the local photographers Boris Rudzinski who has helped me out many times over the years with pictures , when I’ve been unable to get them.
I had to leave as soon as the race was over in 2007 and Boris got me the Victory Lane shots of the 200 winner Jeff Hoetzler.
In 2008 I was there to see Danny Johnson take the big one.
In 2009 I chose events nearer to home and in 2010 I had to miss it due to a trip to the World Finals in Charlotte that was looming . You can’t do them all !
I was back in 2011 , this time sleeping in my recently acquired Chevy HHR . By this time I was living in Cornwall, Ontario, slightly nearer to the OCFS .
This year Danny Johnson got the big win and once again I relied on Boris for a Victory Lane shot. I needed to get out of the track before the big rush ( it gets very congested and it was a six hour drive home, with work early the next morning).
2012 was another great year and I remember lots of partying at the 31st Lap.
Thanks again to Boris for getting me the Victory Lane shot.
Yes Brett Hearn has made this event his own, and I was proud to have my sticker on one of his team cars that year.
In 2013, I was there once again, with the HHR as my accommodation , for the first night at least !
It was so cold that, I found a room at the Super 8 Motel for Saturday night.
As usual there was plenty of action on track and in the 31st Lap.
That year the big race win went once again to Hearn, with Stewart Friesen taking the win in the 358’s.
2014 turned out to be the last time I attended the Eastern States Weekend. The HHR was once again my ‘room’ for Friday night, as the cold weather forced me into a cheap motel for Saturday night.
Just like all my other visits, there was plenty of action and Brett Hearn was the man to beat.
He got the double again, with a 358 win on the Saturday and the Big Block 200 lapper on the Sunday.
For the 358 Victory Lane pictures I was honored to be asked up with Don Kruger, one of his sponsors that I’d got chatting to.
As stated , this was the last year I attended the event , as in 2015, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis.
Not many people have heard of this condition or know much about it, so anyone wanting to know , It’s best to ‘google it’ .
It hasn’t stopped me getting to the races, but it’s slowed me down a lot, and I haven’t been able to chase around doing the crazy stuff that I used to.
I’m not writing myself off just yet, and hope ‘I’m good to go’ next year.
In the meantime, I have to thank my good friend Boris Rudzinski from Middletown NY , who once again helped me out, by sending Stewart Friesens Victory Lane shots from this years Eastern States 200. Thanks Buddy, If I get down there next year , I owe you a beer .
While the 2018 event was taking place, I made camp on my couch at home in Cornwall , with a weekend of TV.
Saturday night I watched ‘my team’ the Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadians, and on Sunday I watched the live coverage of the USA F1 Grand Prix from Austin , Texas.
It was a great race from the Circuit of the Americas and good to see Finlands, Kimi Raikonen get the win in his Ferrari. Dutchman Max Verstappen in the Red Bull was second and UK’s Lewis Hamilton was third in the Mercedes.