Racing Around: Gates set to defend his title
Drivers are always looking to get the season off to a fast start and have the pack chasing them for the rest of the season.
That is what Kenny Gates did last season.
After a controversial end to the 2015 season where he was declared co-champion with Pete Broderson in the pro stock division and later after the points were refigured following a disqualification of Chuck Dumblewski being overturned, Gates showed up with a new car and a new attitude.
The veteran driver opened the season with a close second-place finish to Luke Horning on opening night before running off three straight feature wins en route to a seven-win season and his fifth track championship.
“I had wanted an off-set chassis for a while and had driven Brett Belden’s car and had good luck with it,” Gates said. “I had been running against JACR chassis for years, so I knew they were a good car. When we hit the track we were fast right out of the box. I had good information from working on Brett Belden’s car, which also is an off-set chassis. Plus I have been doing this for 20 years so I had good notes and knew the feeling I was going for and what I thought I was going to need. Sure enough, we came out of the box and finished second the first night and then three wins in a row. That set the tone for the season.”
The season went fairly smoothly for the West Windfield driver with no major setbacks with figuring out set ups or finishing races.
“There weren’t any bumps in the road, there really weren’t,” Gates said. “I am not a familiar [with the JACR] as I was with the HRD chassis I had since 2003 — and I still have it. So I am still learning and I think we can be actually better on certain track conditions. I know we can. The car has got to be getting better because I am getting old so the car has got to do all the work.”
Gates has been known as “Mr. Inside” for his ability to keep his car in the bottom groove and seems to find a way to the front late in the race.
“I am so glad that everybody thinks I am ‘Mr. Inside’ because that played to my advantage last year,” he said. “Guys really started to hug the bottom against me and I was able to drive around the outside of them. I think this car is a little more forgiving to me because this car seems to be happy wherever I put it.”
Looking forward to the 2017 season, Gates has expanded his outlook.
“Our goals are the same as they are every year – win as many races as we can, concentrate on Fonda and winning the track championship there,” he said. “Then see how it goes from there. We would like to go to Oswego again, because I think if they get that surface right, that place can be a blast but last year the track was a disaster. But I want to go back. We also had fun running the Malta races that we did so we may try to do the best of 16 for points again and when they close for the fair we may go to Utica-Rome.
His travels may also take him North of the border to compete.
“I want to try to hit one track in Canada,” Gates said. “I hear they treat you great up there and put on some really good shows. I would like to experience that. I really do like the experience of trying a new track, plus I have a daughter who speaks French, so I have a built in translator.”
After a late-day rainstorm forced the cancellation of last Saturday’s season-opener at Fonda Speedway, the featured 50-lap, $4,000-to-win Ice Jam for the modified division has been rescheduled for this Saturday.
Saturday also marks the opening night of the point battle for the track championship in all divisions.
Also scheduled on the opening-night show will be a 25-lap feature for the 602 DIRT sportsman, a 20-lap pro stock feature and a 15-lap street stock main event as well as features for the rookie sportsman division and cruisers and a 20-lap CRSA 305 sprint feature.
A grandstand general admission is set at $15. for adults and $5. for kids 12 and under. 12.
The track is honoring pit wrist bands from last week’s rained-out program with no increase in admission and the grandstand rain checks will also be honored this week.
The grandstand gate is set to open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are set for 6.15 p.m. and the green flag scheduled to drop on the first heat race at 7 p.m.
Weather permitting Glen ridge Motorsports Park is scheduled to open for the season Friday night.
Last year, The Ridge had its first five race events of the season rained out
Wet grounds have already forced the postponement of two practice and inspection sessions at the track.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway is scheduled to open the 2017 season also on Friday night with a $3,000-to-win modified feature, 4-cylinders and the Sowle Trailer Repair Series. Racing begins at 7 p.m. with grandstand gates opening at 5 p.m.