At long last, racing returns. Varying degrees of ‘normal’ await this weekend as point-paying Super DIRTcar Series action returns to New York after an extended layoff.

April 10 will mark the kick off of the championship chase, opening at Can-Am Speedway with the $7,500-to-win Thunder in the Thousand Islands 100.

Last fall, Anthony Perrego won Can-Am’s leg of the Oktoberfast series. Defending series champion Mat Williamson is expected to be on hand, along with multi-time champion Matt Sheppard. Sheppard won the prior two SDS tour events in 2019 and 2009, with Gary Tomkins winning 2008 and Tim Fuller and Steve Paine splitting twin feature wins in 2007. Sheppard and Tim McCreadie are the only drivers to have won Can-Am SDS events in consecutive stops. Matt Sheppard owns the Series’ track record there, lapping the oval in 19.084 seconds. Paine has the most series wins at the track, winning four times (1991, ‘93, ‘97, ‘07). Doug Hoffman won the first SDS stop at Can-Am in 1988.

The Bartlett family has been overseeing Can-Am Speedway, hosting weekly DIRTcar 358-Modified action, DIRTcar Sportsman and DIRTcar Pro Stock racing on Friday nights in LaFargeville. A track configuration update, along with surface improvements have made the track more of a true oval, and racing has been entertaining.

Regular driver Fuller has seen the changes implemented in a long career at Can-Am, starting in 1992. He is currently eighth on Can-Am’s all time win list with 28 victories and ranks eighth in Super DIRTcar Series wins.

The DIRTcar Sportsman and DIRTcar Pro Stocks will be on the card, racing for Hoosier points; gates open at noon and the grandstands open at 4:30 pm. For additional news and outdoor gathering protocols, visit Can-Am Speedway’s website at racecanam.com

Local Notes:

Outlaw Speedway hosted testing over the weekend as they prepare for the Cindy Lane Memorial Spring Nationals April 16. The card includes Patriot Sprint Tour 360 sprint cars, Modifieds, Street Stocks, American Racer Tire and Hoosier Tire Sportsman, Hobby Stocks and Four-Cylinders. The track will host another test session this weekend, and advise fans to keep up to date with outdoor gathering guidelines posted on the track’s Facebook page... Land of Legends Raceway will host testing on April 17 at 4 pm… Thunder Mountain will test again April 10 before their opener April 24… Genesee Speedway will host testing April 18… Tyler Johnson took the win at Five Mile Point’s cold cracker... Duane Howard won the Bruce Rogers Memorial 50 at Grandview... Tommy Meier won at Orange County Fair Speedway... Dominic Buffalino won at New Egypt...

Jack Johnson passesLegendary driver ‘Jumpin’’ Jack Johnson passed this April 1, following a battle with ALS, a degenerative disease that affects nerve cells and muscle control. He was 76.

Johnson has been honored in multiple Hall of Fame inductions, including the Northeast Dirt Hall of Fame in Weedsport.

Johnson amassed more than 400 wins in his time as a driver, scoring his first in 1971 at regular home Fonda Speedway. He first began in Modifieds five years prior, jumping in the cars in 1966.

Major wins included the Super DIRT Week crown jewel in 1979 and 1984; his fall win in ‘84 completed a season sweep of the action at the mile. He also scored victories in the Eastern States 200 and the Fonda 200, contested at Orange County Fair Speedway and Fonda Speedway. He last won at Sharon Speedway in 2009 and has not been in a car since July of that year, following a significant crash. His win total includes victories at 35 different speedways in 10 states and two Canadian provinces.

Remembered as a tenacious racer with a big heart, Johnson is revered as an ambassador of the sport who will be greatly missed.

His son, Ronnie, continues to race Modifieds, and his daughter, Natalie, is married to Andy Bachetti.

Big Money events set for URSUtica-Rome Speedway has booked a number of higher-paying modified events for the 2021 season, the first under the direction of Brett Deyo and the BD Motorsports Media LLC group.

Booked on Fridays for 2021, the ‘Grand Reopening’ is set for May 7. The regular offerings will include Modifieds, Crate 602 Sportsman, Pro Stocks, Limited Sportsman and four-cylinders. All-Star and Junior Slingshots will race the inner oval bi-weekly.

Eight higher-stakes races have been booked. The first is May 14, with the Thunder on the Thruway Series paying $4,000-to-win to the Modifieds and $1,500 to the sportsman. Another $1,000 it set aside for the Pro Stock winner.

Utica-Rome has three Thunder on the Thruway dates, with July 30 set as another $4,000-to-win event. The Thunder on the Thruway finale is set for September 5, paying $10,000 to the winner of the 100-lap New Yorker 100. It marks the close of the URS 2021 campaign.

As a side note, the other three TOTT events will be May 8, July 3 and July 24 at Fonda Speedway; each will pay the modifieds a minimum of $4,000 to win.

Back at Utica-Rome, the second-largest purse of the season will be distributed on July 22, when the Short Track Super Series’ North Region visits for the 61-lap Richie Evans Remembered event. The race pays $610 to take the green, and $6,100 to win.

Memorial Day weekend will start May 28 with twin 20-lap Modified features paying $1,500 with a $500 bonus set aside for a driver who can sweep both 20-lappers. Additional increased purse events are set for June 18, July 2 and August 6, with each paying $3,500 to win.

A full schedule and pay breakdowns are posted online at www.uticaromespeedway.com.

Chris Marquart’s “Motorsports” appears every other Tuesday during racing’s offseason. Contact Chris at (315) 729-3999 or at smashedempirefilms@gmail.com.

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