Racing Around: Boehler enjoying first win
Anyone who ran into Justin Boehler after he left Fonda Speedway on Saturday night would have just thought it was a regular night of racing.
He was laid back, calm and just quietly enjoying a late-night dinner with his crew and friends.
You would not have known that just over an hour earlier he was standing in Victory Lane after holding off a top-notch field of competitors to win the season-opening 50-lap Ice Jam for the first career feature win in a modified.
That changed Sunday morning.
“It has sunk in and, to be honest, it is a little overwhelming now,” Boehler said. “I knew it was a big deal to me and to my parents [Craig and Marie], but I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big deal for everybody. That kind of threw me off guard. It really sunk in the next morning; that is when it really hit me. I think the only time I was more excited was just before I took the checkers; I was freaking out in the car.”
Boehler turned in a strong run in his qualifier and started in the inside of the third row thanks to the heads-up starts on opening night.
He ran second to Stewart Friesen for the majority of the race before slipping back to fifth on a restart.
“I came into turn one under a guy and drove into a water puddle at the bottom of turns one and two,” he said. “I slid up over the berm and it killed my momentum. When I got to turn three I wasn’t up to speed and dropped back to fifth. A caution came out and I got a few spots back on the restart. I had been watching [Billy] Decker and [Tim] Fuller and they were pushing up going into turn one. I took a little different angle and when they went into turn one I was able to hold it down and sneak underneath them and come off two ahead of them.”
When Friesen’s right-rear tire blew with five laps to go, Boehler was in the right spot to take over the lead with Fuller and Decker on his rear bumper.
Boehler didn’t panic; he focused on hitting his marks and getting the job done.
“When you come off of turn four and you know you hit your line right and your wheels are straight and you are on the throttle, you just know nobody is getting by you,” he said. “That is what happened on the last lap. When I was coming off turn four I just got a perfect drift and I was full throttle. At that point I knew nobody was passing me. I got a little excited.”
Throughout his career, Boehler has had good equipment under him as he came up through the sportsman and modified ranks, but this year’s Teo chassis is special.
“This year we actually sat down and bought a car and it showed up to Ronnie Johnson’s shop bare-framed,” Boehler said. “From start to finish my father and me, the crew at Jumpin’ Jacks [Speed Shop] and Ronnie built that entire car in their shop. Every single nut, bolt and washer on that car.
“Our motor wasn’t brand new, it was last year but we had issues with it and were losing compression, so we didn’t have all the horsepower we thought we had. Doug Holmes went through it, fixed it and it was an absolute animal the first night out. I wish we didn’t need a $30,000 to $50,000 big block but I love the power.”
After the Victory Lane celebration with his wife Amanda, parents and crew Boehler hadn’t had a chance to really think about becoming the 127th driver to win a modified feature in 64 years of racing at the Track of Champions.
“It is such a surreal feeling, to get the first one. You kind of put yourself in shock when you realize what you did,” he said. “Maybe I underestimate what I did because I was in the car and not viewing it from outside. I know that for me physically, I have never worked so hard in a race car than I did last Saturday. It was literally painful work and totally worth it. I want to get back out on the track but I have a lot of stuff to go over and go through. I want to make sure that car is back to where we started last week, so we can keep a consistent, competitive edge throughout the year.”
Around the tracks
Glen Ridge Motorsports Park will again try to get its season opener in the books Friday night with a regular show including the Outlaw Midgets on the card.
Albany-Saratoga moved its rained-out program from last week to Friday with the $3,000-to-win modified feature headlining the program.
Caroga Creek Speedway will open its games Saturday at noon to kick off its 25 date racing schedule.
Promoter Todd Moran announced there will be a special warmup session for competitors from 2-4 p.m. Saturday followed by the regular racing program staring at 6 p.m.
Track points will start for all divisions on May 6.