By: Ron Szczerba
Fonda, NY – The “Jeffer” as he is called by many, Jeff Heotzler won his first career Sunoco Modified feature at the “Track of Champions” Fonda Speedway on Saturday evening in the $4,000 to win Firecracker Showdown. The race was named as such as it was a shakedown run for the Firecracker 50 to be held on Wednesday, July 1.
Saturday evenings racing events were sponsored by long time track sponsors School House Pools Inc. of Amsterdam, NY.
Heotzler won the event in the iconic Palmer’s Service Center #76 Teo Pro car owned by Carole and Alton Palmer. Heotzler was named as the driver of the car earlier this year and the combined experience of both Heotzler and car owner and former driver Alton Palmer make it a very potent race team for sure.
In the Fuccillo Automotive Group Mike Cole Memorial victory lane, Mimi Lazzaro was honored to interview Heotzler, who her father Lou Lazzaro used to race with during his career while Mimi grew up around them all in the pit area.
“Thanks to Alton and Carole for choosing me to drive this racecar,” Heotzler said in victory lane. “We really couldn’t get a handle on this Teo Pro car, but we were finally able to do so this week. Hopefully, we can keep it up front.”
Heotzler dedicated the race to Jared Petruska who passed away earlier this year. Petruska and his family owned the Atlas Paving #66 who Heotzler drove for at times during his career. “This one is for Jared Petruska,” Heotzler said.
Early day rain made some hard work for the track crew to get the track ready for the racing events on Saturday evening, but they did a tremendous job which led to some really quick lap times during the evening.
In heat three, Danny Varin came close to breaking the track record of his father Bobby who set the record back on April 11, 2009 with a lap of 18.136. Danny’s turned a lap of 18.199 secs in heat race number three on Saturday evening.
Ed Biittig Sr. won the 50/50 on Saturday evening worth $751.
Fonda Speedway head starter Joe Kriss opened the racing program with a fantastic rendition of the National Anthem.
DTD TV did a fantastic job videoing the racing events on Saturday at Fonda as there were no fans allowed in the grandstands for the racing events.
It was the first night of handicapping of the 2020 racing season and after winning heat race number one Jeff Heotzler was handicapped to start on the outside pole and he took the lead at the drop of Joe Kriss’ green flag in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. After starting in the sixth position, Danny Varin gained two spots up to fourth just before the first of only two caution flags slowed the event.
On the restart, Craig Hanson was the new second place car with Varin just behind in third with ninth place starter Josh Hohenforst and 10th place starter and defending track champion Rocky Warner completing the top five. At the halfway point in the event the top five remained the same with the leader in lap traffic by lap 16.
Varin got by Hanson on lap 17 for the second position and one lap later Varin started putting pressure on the leader. Hohenforst and Varin swapped the second position a couple of times with the final caution of the event out with five laps to go for Hanson whose great run came to an end with a flat right rear tire. Hanson would pit for a new tire and rejoin the rear of the field.
Warner took the third position away from Hohenforst with three laps to go with 14th place starter Matt DeLorenzo following him through for the fourth position. Warner got by Varin for the second position with two laps to go in the event but Heotzler kept the car straight and true to the checkered flag for his first career win at Fonda.
Warner, Varin, DeLorenzo, and Hohenforst completed the top five along with a great run by Scott Huber to finish sixth.
“This is another one for the bucket list,” Heotzler said. “I haven’t got many years left but it’s always great to come to Fonda. Thanks to Carole and Alton for giving me this opportunity.”
HOWES CAVE, NY – Alton and Carole Palmer announced Saturday that veteran driver Jeff Heotzler Sr. will pilot the Palmer Service Center 76 weekly at Fonda Speedway and other select events.
For over 40 years the Palmers have supported Fonda Speedway, initially with Alton as the driver of the 76. Their love of racing grew into the Palmer Service Center fielding cars for some of the best ever at Fonda including Lou Lazzaro, Dave Lape, Jack Johnson, Ronnie Johnson and most recently, Bobby Varin.
Heotzler has also had a stellar career as a driver and has raced since 1978 earning wins or championships at tracks such as Orange County Fair Speedway, Accord Speedway, Albany-Saratoga and Fonda Speedway.
Heotzler, who was inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in February of this year, is anxious for the season to begin with his new car owners. “I haven’t had much going for me in a while. Let’s face it, I’m near the end of the road of my career racing. Alton and Carole are giving me the opportunity to go out on a high note.”
Heotzler met with the Palmers and the members of their crew on Saturday at the team shop in Howes Cave, NY. The team plans to run weekly at Fonda Speedway on Saturday night and at other select races.
“We’ll be at every race at Fonda,” stated Alton. “This is one of those screwed up years,” he continued, “and it will be a short season if we ever get going.” When the time to get started does happen, the Palmer Race team will have Heotzler ready to go with a full arsenal of cars and motors.
According to Alton, “we have JPM motors and Teo chassis cars to go to any track. All of the cars for this year are outfitted with what I call a ‘Deyo body’, meaning we can run any Brett Deyo promoted race.” Palmer went on to state they also are prepared with DIRTcar legal panels and motors if needed.
At the beginning of the year the Palmers had announced they would be providing support for Sportsman runners Ricky Quick and JaMike Sowle, and for Pro Stock runners Kenny Gates and Andy Graves. That decision was reached when their driver for the past few years, Bobby Varin, informed the Palmers he needed to step away from full-time racing in 2020. However, Varin recently announced he would be in a new ride for 2020, leaving the Palmer Race Team without a Modified driver for the several special events they had been planning to run.
Hoetzler and Palmers feel they will be a formidable combination at Fonda Speedway in 2020 with cars ready for any type surface. “We’ll be running a 430 weekly at Fonda,” said Alton, “and we also have the combinations to run anywhere else we choose. Our focus is on Fonda and select Deyo shows elsewhere, like Orange County>’
Fans can look forward to also seeing Jeff Heotzler Jr. in a Palmer Service Center car occasionally during the season. He will be accompanying his dad weekly to Fonda and working with the Palmer team.
“Alton and Carole are down to earth and honest,” said Jeff Sr., “and I’m really excited about the opportunity they are giving me. I had no idea they were considering me and when the phone call came, it was a surprise. I hope I can help them out with strong performances each and every week.”
Story By: NYSSCA – ALBANY, NY – After great deliberation, the New York State Stock Car Association’s Hall of Fame committee has narrowed an outstanding field of candidates to three super star drivers and an outstanding mechanic/crew chief for induction to NYSSCA’s Hall of Fame.
The slate is headed by “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin, a man who could truly drive anything and win, with his career taking him from the Weedsport NY bull ring to the superspeedways of NASCAR. McLaughlin is joined by two other notable drivers, central New Yorker John McArdell and Orange County Fairgrounds Speedway star Jeff Heotzler, and ace mechanic Charlie Langenstein, the winning ingredient behind a bevy of star drivers over the years.
The 51st Annual banquet and HOF ceremony will be held on Saturday, February 22, 2020. The formal induction will take place at 11 am at the Saratoga Automobile Museum in Saratoga Springs, NY, site of NYSSCA’s permanent Hall of Fame display, with the banquet to follow at 4 pm at the Polish Community Center on Washington Ave. Ext. in Albany, NY.
Jeff Heotzler is best known for his success at the Orange County Fairgrounds Speedway, where he was the big block champion in 1997, ’03, ’05 and ’07 and the small block titlist in 1980 and ’86. His 53 wins put him third on the OCFS all-time win list. But Heotzler also has 53 wins on the Accord Speedway bullring and was the track champion at the Catskills oval in 1983, ’84, ’85, ’86 and 2015.
Big wins on the DIRT Hall of Fame member’s resume include a 358 Championship score on the Syracuse Mile, the Mr. Dirt Track USA races at Lebanon Valley in 1987 and ’95, the Race Of Kings at Lebanon Valley in 1988 and ‘90 and the 2007 Eastern States 200 at Orange County. Other tracks where “The Jeffer” has visited Victory lane include New York’s Albany-Saratoga and Rolling Wheels Speedways and Florida’s Volusia County Speedway.
The all-new JHR T-Shirts and Hoodies are here! All prices INCLUDE shipping. We hope to see everyone sporting their black and white JHR apparel at the track!
The Jeffer put the Extreme Energy Solutions, Four Star Motorsports J17 on the front row for the prestigious Eastern States 200 at the Orange County Fair Speedway, earning him the $1000 Outside Pole Award. The Jeffer’s day came to an early end when an engine failure sidelined the J17 on lap 40. Although disappointing, The Jeffer showed the big block modified world that he still is a force to be reckoned with. The Extreme Energy/ Four Star team will be back better than ever in 2019.
MIDDLETOWN, NY – A battle between two of the most iconic Modified drivers in the history of the Orange County Fair Speedway took center stage last Saturday evening as the track presented its final regular season program of the 2018 racing campaign.
Jeff Heotzler Sr. and Richie Eurich, who are only two of four drivers to crack the 50-win barrier during their illustrious OCFS careers, brought the crowd to its feet with another barnburner as they fought for the first-place prize of $6,000 in the 30-lap main event.
When the dust settled, Heotzler raced home with the 53rd victory of his OCFS career after chasing down Eurich, who dominated the race for so many laps.
“The track was really greasy tonight and hard to figure out,’’ said Heotzler. “I just hung back and conserved my tires for later in the race. But I noticed the car was getting better as the race progressed and I really started pushing it with about 10 laps to go.’’
Eurich, meanwhile, started on the pole and was enjoying a comfortable lead over Brendan Finley, Heotzler, Donnie Wilson and Gary Edwards Jr. throughout the event. But Heotzler was finally able to work himself past Finley on the 26th lap and then quickly turned his attention to Eurich.
Heotzler closed in on Eurich during the next circuit around the five-eighths mile, hard clay oval and then found an opening while racing off the second turn on the 28th lap. He moved past Eurich down the backstretch and then went on for the win.
“It was just like the seas parted,’’ said Heotzler. “I knew I had a good car tonight and I just went for it when I saw the opening. This car has been a work in progress, but we’re getting better each time out and I’m pleased how things are going right now.’’
Eurich, who has 50 career wins to his credit, settled for a second-place effort with Finley, Tommy Meier, Stan Frankenfield Jr., Edwards, Craig Mitchell, Brian Krummel, Mat Williamson and Jerry Higbie rounding out the top 10.
By FRANK CATIZONE
MIDDLETOWN, NY – Jeff Heotzler Sr. carved another notch into his racing belt at the Orange County Fair Speedway last Saturday night as he drove to his 52nd career Modified victory at the historic track in the 30-lap main event.
Heotzler, who has struggled throughout the early season, feels he may have finally hit on something good as he took control of the race from the second lap and never looked back.
“Finally, I think we might have something here,’’ said Heotzler. “We’ve been working to get the right set-up for this car and really missed on it a week ago with the new track surface. But I think we’re finally pointed in the right direction.
“I really felt comfortable in the car tonight, and hopefully, this is just the start of some better results this season. I’m hoping I can make a few more visits here (victory lane) before it’s over.’’
Heotzler, after starting on the pole, surrendered the lead to Kirk Horton at the drop of the green and raced in second for one lap. However, he powered past Horton following a second-lap restart and never looked back.
The Jeffer put the Extreme Energy Solutions/Four Star Motorsports Teo Pro Car in victory lane on Saturday night after taking the lead on an early restart and never looking back! The win was much needed after a series of bad luck plagued the team over the last month. The Jeffer looks forward to getting back at it again next Saturday on the Hard Clay. Thank you to all of JHR’s sponsors and supporters to continuing to make the dream a reality!
The Jeffer drove the Extreme Energy Solutions/Four Star Motorsports TEO ProCar to a solid 3rd place finish in the 30 lap feature on Saturday night. The team looks to build on that success this upcoming Saturday!