April 2nd trip to the O.C.F.S and some of my Middletown Memories

2nd of April trip to the O.C.F.S  and some of my Middletown Memories

As mentioned in my last report , most of the COVID  border restrictions for returning home Canadians were lifted on the 1st of April .  It’s something I’d been waiting for, for over two years, so without further a do, I was heading out to the races.

My destination was the Short Track Super Series at the Orange County Fair  Speedway , in Middletown , NY.

Brett Deyo was putting on one of his Short Track Super Series races.

This report will be a bit different from usual, and will cover some of my memorable visits to the O.C.F.S

It’s hard to believe,  that my first visit there was over 20 ago and I’ve got many fond memories from that place. 

I first heard about the place back in the late 70’s when I was living in the UK.

Before the days of internet , people  had ‘pen-pals’ and one of the guys I wrote to,  was a race fan from Montgomery NY. 

He sent me lots of pictures and souvenirs from his local track, the O.C.F.S.

I remember hearing about the legendary  Buzzie Reutemann #00 and a young kid who was starting to make a name for himself by the name of Brett Hearn.


By the time I’d emigrated to Canada in 1994 , and got hooked on Dirt Modified racing, I knew all about the place. 

Their big event which is held annually is the Eastern States Weekend,  and on Friday the 19th of October 2001 , after finishing work , in Cornwall, Ontario , I jumped into my Honda Civic and headed off to Middletown.

I arrived at the fairgrounds around mid night,  the perfect time  to find the party in full swing.

The on-site tavern/bar named the 31st Lap is always a lively place.

I folded the seats down in the Honda and that was my accommodation for the next two nights. 

I was yet to get involved in race track photography , so watched from the stands like a regular race fan.

My records tell me that Danny Johnson won the Big Block race that year and Brett Hearn won in the Small Blocks. 

It was a great weekend and a place that has become high on my priority list for many years .

I’ve missed the Eastern States Weekend a few times for various reasons , but I’ve been there if I could.

Here’s a few picture memories over the years.

Race fan me, in the grandstands

My name on the rear panel of the Danny Johnson car

The Pit Party was always a favorite , held before the races on Sunday.

Just outside the speedway gates , sat Frankies  Diner  where a lot of  fans went for breakfast. I bought the T shirt in there for my daughter Carla. The place is now long gone and a hairdressing salon is on the site.

Another a place long-gone, and located just across the road from Frankies,  was a ‘strip joint’  

For most of my visits, I continued to use the car as accommodation , simply because, the night life in the 31st Lap was just too good, and drinking and driving isn’t an option.

The Eastern States Weekend is the big party to end the racing year with plenty of good racing. On Saturday night a New Years Eve Party is held , complete with party favors and streamers.

Since I’ve been involved in racing photography , the O.C.F.S has become one of my favorite tracks for photo ops.

There’s always plenty of action.

The Eastern States which always takes place in mid October used to include the final points races for the various divisions in the Dirt organization . The place would be packed and guess  nearly half the people in attendance were Canadian.

I can remember being there when my friend Mario Clair of Quebec took the 358 Championship.

Over the years , I’ve seen a lot of different winners, but the one guy that has stood out above the rest was that same young upstart mentioned at the start of this story .

Yes,  Brett Hearn has won many of the big races, but has recently  gone into semi-retirement as he has moved on to become the tracks manager.

Bringing things up to date and with the freedom to travel made easier for Canadians it was time for a road trip.

I left home in Cornwall , Ontario at 6-45 on Saturday the 2nd of April bound for Middletown. Not for the Eastern States Weekend this time, but for the Short Track Super Series.

By 2-00pm I had booked into the Super 8 Hotel in town, with plenty of time for a rest before heading to the track. No more sleeping in the car, I think I’m getting too old for that.

It was a dry and clear day, if not a tad chilly.

As I did my pit wander , I chatted with fellow Canadian, and Sportsman driver, Jessica Power .

She and her family travelled down from Kingston with the # 707 Greg Brinklow team .

Parked next to them was another Canadian, Mat Williamson  driving the # 3W.  Modified .

Once the racing got started I took my place in my favorite spot on turn three.

LEFT TO RIGHT Duane Canfield,, Boris Ruzinski, AJ Yarbroady and Mark Kane

It was great to see so many of my ‘tog’ buddys again.

As the anthems were played, Mat Wiliamson did a lap flying the Canadian flag , while Bob McGannon did likewise with the Star Spangled Banner.

There were over 70 Modifieds in attendance and more than 50 Sportsman.

I feared it would be a long drawn out night with so many cars, but I was glad to be proved wrong. Brett Deyo and his team worked well , with no unnecessary delays on this cold and chilly night. 

The track was in great shape and we had some good racing to match.

Matt Sheppard and Mike Mahaney were on the front of the grid for the big one.

Glad to say it was only a 50 lapper, as I prefer this distance for high profile races. (no need for 100 lappers, in my opinion).

Mahaney took the early lead but soon came to a stop with what appeared to be an engine failure.

After this , Sheppard stayed in charge right to the checkers.

Max McGlaughlin was second and Mat Williamson third.

The 35 lap Sportsman Feature followed  this which was won by Jared LaBagh.

I must admit, this was a name I wasn’t familiar with.

The show was all over, shortly after 10-00pm , so congrats to the management for getting through a potentially long program , in such a short time. I say it again , who needs 100 lappers ? not me and definitely not on a cold night.

Before heading back to the Hotel, I had a quick Coke in the 31st Lap, just for old times sake.

Early  Sunday morning, I filled out my Arrive/Can app in the hotel before heading for home. After a few stops along the way , and driving through a snow storm in the Catskills, I was back home about 2-00 pm.

No problems at the border this time, the Arrive/Can app worked well.

I still think it’s still a pain in the butt, so hopefully it wont be long before that is  thrown out too , so we get back to how things used to be.