The 4th Turn: 4/15/2021

~ By Tom Boggie

No matter how hard I try, it seems like every time I write about Kim Duell, it turns into a history lesson.

I talked to Kim last Friday at Albany-Saratoga Speedway’s practice session, and stayed focused on the present, and even discussed the future a little bit.

But as soon I started typing, it turned into a history lesson.

Hey, it’s not my fault. Duell, who turned 60 earlier this year, has been winning races since 1980, for God’s sake (it actually might be earlier than that, but I’m going with what I know). That’s five decades ago! That’s longevity! That’s history!

Long before Duell became associated with the Curtis Lumber Wagon pro stock, he was a very successful modified driver. After starting in hobby stocks and then taking advantage of C.J. Richards’ decision to mandate 358 cubic inch motors for his Champlain Valley Racing Association modifieds in 1985, Duell found his racing niche at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Vermont. He picked up the first modified win of his career at the Bowl in 1988, and won two more features the next season.

He never recorded a modified win at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, but he was close on a number of occasions. During the 1988 campaign, he finished third, behind legends Jack Johnson and C.D. Coville, on July 8, and a couple of weeks later, scored a career-best second-place finish, again following Jumpin’ Jack across the finish line.

His most recent success has come behind the wheel of his iconic No. 14 pro stock. He’s a two-time Albany-Saratoga champion (2008 and 2010) and begins the 2021 season needing just three victories to overtake Joe Santoro, who ended his career with 26 wins, at the top of the all-time Albany-Saratoga pro stock win list.

I jokingly asked Duell how much longer he planned to show up on Friday nights at Albany-Saratoga, and he answered, “As long as I can get through the window, and as long as I’m competitive. I just turned 60, I’ve got more sponsorship than I’ve ever had, and we’re still having fun.”

He was definitely competitive last season, even though he didn’t win a race at Albany-Saratoga (he did pick up a win at Devil’s Bowl). But facing drivers like Luke Horning, Josh Coonradt, Chad Jeseo and Nick Stone on a nightly basis, it’s tough for anyone to win. During the offseason, Duell teamed up with two other longtime competitors, Jay Fitzgerald and Dean Charbonneau, to form what amounts to a pro stock think tank, where they can share ideas and concepts. And having Dave Madej, another former Albany-Saratoga pro stock champion, on his crew has been a big help in the Duell Racing Team’s adjustment to coil springs.

The chassis that Duell will be running this season is one he designed himself. “I call it a Twister,” he said. “I’ve been building my own chassis for a long time. When I retire, I want to have my own shop and start building chassis for other people.

“If you took the body off my car and the body off that car (pointing to Fitzgerald’s car, which was parked next to the Curtis Lumber Wagon), mine looks nothing like his.”

Duell will be involved in two battles this season. One will be the battle to get back into victory lane, and the other will be the battle with Rob Yetman in the quest for the top rung on the all-time win list. Yetman also goes into 2021 with 24 career wins.

“Yetman and I both need three to pass Santoro,” said Duell. “I should have it by now, if not for all the races I let get away. I would like to get that and be at the top of the list for a while.

“I know Yetman really wants it because he drives a Lazzaro car (owned by Joe Lazzaro of Lazzaro’s Autobody in Green Island) and the car at the top of the list right now is also a Lazzaro car.”

Duell, who reached a milestone with his 50th overall career win in 2018, is showing no signs of slowing down, and could be making a little more history in 2021.

Talk about legends. Alan Johnson won last weekend’s season-opener at Outlaw Speedway, extending his streak to 47 consecutive seasons with a victory. Three of Johnson’s career wins came at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in 1995, when he was driving for Dennis Tremont.

Stewart Friesen, who is scheduled to compete in Albany-Saratoga Speedway’s opener Sunday, won last weekend’s Super DIRT Series “Thunder in the Thousand Islands” race at Can-Am, picking up a check for $7,500. Peter Britten (sixth) and 2021 Albany-Saratoga modified champion Mike Mahaney (eighth) both finished in the top 10.

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