The 4th Turn: 5/27/2021

~ By Tom Boggie

Killing time last Friday, I mosied over to Elmo Reckner’s pit at Albany-Saratoga Speedway to discuss his fourth-place finish in the modified feature the previous week. After all, top-five finishes have become somewhat of a rarity for Reckner, and us white-haired guys have to stick together.

During the discussion, he casually mentioned, “I figured since this is going to be my last year, I had to get a motor to run with these guys.”

Whoa!!! What??? Elmo’s considering retirement?

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said the 60-year-old Reckner. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me at the Bowl that it had been 25 years since I had a win there.”

Just for the record, Reckner followed up his fourth-place run at Albany-Saratoga with a victory in the sportsman/modified feature two nights later at Devil’s Bowl. His last win at the Bowl had come in 1996, when he was running in the pro street stock class.

By Reckner’s reckoning (how’s that for a pun!) he’s been running modifieds continuously since 2002, but he’s starting to see the handwriting on the wall.

“It’s so hard to find help,” he said. “Most of the modified guys are getting older or have moved on. It’s a lot of work to get these cars ready. There are some other things I want to do before it gets too late.”

As I stated in last week’s column, Reckner is on a short list of drivers who have won features (regardless of division) at Albany-Saratoga, Lebanon Valley, Fonda, Devil’s Bowl and Glen Ridge Motorsports Park. His only modified win at Albany-Saratoga came on May 5, 2006, when he led flag-to-flag to beat A.J. Romano and Jack Johnson.

But one of his best seasons came at the Ridge.

In 2013, Reckner spent the entire season at the Ridge, picking up two of his five career wins at the bullring. He also had seven runner-up finishes that season. Four times, he followed Bobby Varin across the finish line.

In 16 starts at the Ridge in 2013, he had two wins, seven seconds and four thirds. Those are impressive numbers, regardless of who you’re running against.

So Elmo will finish out the year at Albany-Saratoga, with a new motor from Dave Hunt under the hood (Reckner has left the name of good friend Walt Markert on the hood for sentimental reasons) and a 2017 Bicknell chassis that only ran a handful of times last year. And if he says this is going to be it, I believe him.

“I’m still going to stick around, but instead of spending my own money, I’ll help other people spend their money,” he said with a grin.

While it was good to see Peter Britten finally get back to victory lane at Albany-Saratoga last Friday, Todd Stone’s run was pretty impressive.

Stone finished second, the first time he’s been in the top five since the 1999 season, which, if I remember correctly, is the only time he spent a full season at Albany-Saratoga in a modified.

Lapped traffic cost Stone a shot at his first win at Malta since 1999. In particular, he had a hard time getting by John Lutes Jr., which allowed Britten to make his move late in the race.

“I couldn’t get a good run up the middle to get by him,” said Stone of his battle with Lutes. “I probably should have hit him and moved him out of the way, but I didn’t want to do that.”

Most of Stone’s racing since his one full season on the dirt at Albany-Saratoga has been done on asphalt. He has been behind the wheel of both asphalt modifieds and late models, and has raced up and down the East Coast, from Devil’s Bowl to New Smyrna, Fla. He was the NASCAR modified Vermont state champion in 2013 and most recently, won the 150-lap Motor Mountain Masters late model race at Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania in 2019. That victory was worth $10,000.

“For our team, running against this field of drivers is like winning the Daytona 500,” he said after the Jennerstown win.

Britten’s return to victory lane was a long struggle. He began the year wrecking a brand new car at the Super DIRT Series at Volusia County Speedway in February and has been slowly getting his new race team in top shape ever since.

“I’ve had some good runs,” he said. “I got off to that bad start, but we rebounded after Volusia, but for the most part, I just haven’t had good results. It just seems like there’s always some kind of incident. The first night here we weren’t good and we left scratching our heads. But we found some things that caused that issue and it finally looks like we got it right.”

Kim Duell was running the number 14 ¾ on his pro stock Friday as a tribute to his father Gordon, who died on May 19 at the age of 94. Gordon Duell used the number 14 ¾ when he raced at White’s Beach in Ballston Lake.

Talk about bad luck. Kris Vernold won his modified heat last Friday, which put him in the Service Tire Truck Centers Dash for Cash. But something let go in Vernold’s car on the final lap of the dash, and he had to scratch from the modified feature.

Jackie Brown Jr.’s luck went the other way. He came back to the pits after warmups smoking heavily, with oil dripping out of the engine compartment. But a quick inspection revealed that the E-vac system came off, pumping oil into the cockpit and engine compartment. It initially looked a lot worse.

Although Reckner said modified guys are getting older, they’re not all going away. Working on Britten’s crew is Tom Simek, who worked with Andy Romano for years, even when Romano went through his asphalt modified mid-life crisis. And I was stunned to see Jeff Carter stick his head into Stone’s car last Friday. Carter was the pseudo-crew chief for Dave Lape during many of Lape’s best years at Fonda before taking a full-time gig with Stone’s racing team.

Jay Fitzgerald, a veteran of the pro street stock and pro stock wars at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, recorded his first career pro stock win at Lebanon Valley last Saturday. Fitzgerald had bent the frame in his car the previous week at the Valley, and even skipped last Friday’s racing at Malta as he and his crew continually worked to get the car ready for Saturday. This is Fitzgerald’s first season at the Valley and even though he’s been to victory lane in the pro street stock class at Malta, he’s never had a pro stock win there.

Anthony Perrego has had a good week. He finished sixth at Malta last Friday, picked up his second 358 victory at Orange County on Saturday and then won Tuesday night’s feature at New Egypt Speedway. He outran Malta rival Mike Mahaney to get the win at New Egypt. Stewart Friesen, back in his modified, won the $200 hard charger bonus, coming from a 21st starting position to finish fifth.

Speaking of the racing Friesens, Jessica made history last Friday when she became the first female to win a modified feature at Utica-Rome Speedway.

Frank Hoard III got a well-deserved win at Devil’s Bowl last Saturday, Hoard III destroyed a new TEO chassis and injured his back in the Bowl’s opener on May 5, and has been trying to get comfortable in a race car ever since. He started on the pole last Saturday and led flag-to-flag.

The Buffs had a good night Sunday at Glen Ridge. Zach Buff won the twin limited sportsman features while his brother Andrew was third in the modified feature, behind winner Cody Ochs and Tony Farone.

Former modified driver Jeff Trombley finished second in last Saturday night’s CRSA sprint car race at Land of Legends Speedway. Trombley crossed the finish line third, but was moved up to second when winner Alysha Bay failed post-race inspection. That gave the win to Bobby Parrow.

Don’t forget. Lebanon Valley will cap off a big weekend of holiday racing by hosting the Super DIRT Series on Monday night. The 100-lap feature will pay $13,500 to win. The sportsman and pro stocks will also be in action, with each winner getting $1,500.

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