Stratton crowned “King of the Clay” in popular upset at Devil’s Bowl Speedway

WEST HAVEN – Neil Stratton scored a major upset on Sunday night, Oct. 5, at Devil’s Bowl Speedway to become the winner of the inaugural “King of the Clay” race for Big Block and Small Block Modified stock cars. The Bennington, Vt., driver persevered through rough track conditions, then seized a golden opportunity to steal the win and the $5,000 top prize at the “Battle at the Bowl” dirt track series.

Six-time Devil’s Bowl champion Kenny Tremont, Jr. looked the part of a winner early, posting the fastest time trial speed and handily winning his qualifying heat. He took the lead from Tim Fuller on the fourth circuit of the 50-lap main event and fended off second-place runner Elmo Reckner through three early restarts and heavy lapped traffic. Reckner’s bid for the win ended during a caution period on lap 42 when he pitted for a deflating tire, giving Stratton a chance to challenge Tremont.

Stratton’s No. 87 car was quick on the final two restarts, but Tremont was able to nose ahead. Disaster struck for Tremont with just two laps remaining, however, when a broken driveline component slowed his car, Stratton pounced and grabbed the lead as the large grandstand crowd erupted in cheers, crossing the line comfortably ahead of the field for the win.

Ballston Lake, N.Y., veteran Reckner recovered from his pit stop to out-duel Josh Sunn for the runner-up spot. Woodstock, Vt., racer Sunn was a surprise in third place, running a Sportsman car with nearly 400 less horsepower than the Big Block engines. Tremont was able to limp his car home in fourth place as the final driver on the lead lap, while Brian Whittemore took fifth, one lap down.

Vince Quenneville, Jr. of Brandon, Vt., scored an immensely popular victory in the Sportsman division’s 30-lap feature, becoming the first driver in Devil’s Bowl Speedway history to win on both the half-mile asphalt and the one-third-mile dirt tracks in the same season.  Quenneville’s No. 78 car led every lap. Sunn capped his spectacular night with a runner-up finish, with Tim Hodge of Woodstock, Vt., third. Derek Graham and Adam Pierson completed the top five.

Quenneville’s dual-surface record only stood for about 15 minutes, as Jamy Begor of Mooers Forks, N.Y., matched the feat in the 20-lap Renegade division race. Long known as an asphalt specialist, Begor copped the win in just his second start on a dirt track; he was in the right place when leader Bill Duprey of Hydeville, Vt., spun with four laps remaining and bounced through a rough bottom groove to take the win. Duprey quickly recovered for the runner-up spot, with Frank Monroe of Granville, N.Y., in third.

Tim Martin of White River Junction, Vt., made his first Devil’s Bowl start a productive one, taking an easy win in the 15-lap Mini Stock feature. Newcomer Jason Porter of St. Albans, Vt., surprised even himself with a runner-up finish, while asphalt regular Mike Whalen, Jr. of Peru, N.Y., swapped paint with Jacob Roy to take a tight third-place finish.

The Enduro Series ran its final event of the season – and its first ever on the dirt track – with a 50-lap crunchfest that left many cars wrecked or otherwise disabled.  Richie Turner of Fairfax, Vt., took the lead at lap 14 and never looked back, joining Quenneville and Begor as a multi-surface winner in 2014.  Tyler Rhoades of Milton, Vt., finished second as the only other driver on the lead lap.  Andrew Lopes of Colchester, Vt., finished third, two laps down.

Eric “Mongo” Messier of Hinesburg, Vt., limped home in seventh place five laps down, but scored enough points to sneak ahead of Plattsburgh, N.Y.,’s Shawn Fountain and win his second-straight Enduro Series championship.  Fountain, a two-time winner during the season, suffered a broken fuel tank and was officially scored 21st in the race. Messier clinched the title by just two points, 206-204.

The three-race “Battle at the Bowl” dirt track series wraps up with “Vermont Freedom & Unity 100” on Saturday, Oct.18 at 2 p.m. The event features a 100-lap, $2,000-to-win race for the Modifieds. General admission is $20 for adults and free for kids age 12 and under.

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