Going Along For a Ride With a Race Team.
Story & Photos By: OTTO GRAHAM / RACERSGUIDE.COM
Weedsport NY.- October 21, 2016- First let me introduce myself: I’m Otto Graham, and as a young man I was a racer, (1960’s at Fonda and Victoria Speedways), since then I’ve been a picture taker, taking photos for my now extinct website “Ottos Race Action” and of late taking pictures for the website www.racersguide.com.
The Ride Along is a concept I thought up in 2011. Basically I get in with a race team and go along with them to their race destination where I write about the experience and take photos of the action.
My first “Ride Along” was with Bob Varin and Kenny Saya’s race team to Selinsgrove in 2011.
A ride along with Stewart Friesen to the Eastern States 200 came along that fall.
The following summer I went with Jessica Zemken Friesen (presently Stu Friesen’s life partner) to Williams Grove and Lincoln Speedways.
That fall I rode along with Otto Sitterly to the Bud Classic at Oswego Speedway, where Otto won his third Classic.
There have been several other Ride Alongs, but I think you get the idea.
This Ride Along will be with Bret Belden’s race team to Weedsport Speedway where Bret will be competing in a “Go Nuclear” Late Model event.
GO NUCLEAR IS: Since 2011 the Go Nuclear Late Model Series has been the premier Crate (604) late model touring series in New York and Canada. Utilizing the most advanced suspensions in dirt racing the Dirt Late Models routinely offer two, three, and even four-wide racing.
Some highlights of Bret’s 90 plus win race history is recorded below.
In 1981 Bret was Dick Sweet’s “Street Stock Crew Chief, and that continued until 1983.
In 1988 Bret drove a “Street Stock”, competing in 68 races that summer, Can Am, Malta, Fonda, Evans Mills, Utica-Rome and in Brewerton where Bret won the Street Stock track Championship.
In 1989 Bret won the Brewerton Prostock Championship.
In 1991 Bret Won the Prostock Championship at Utica-Rome. Later that year Bret purchased a Modified Stockcar.
In 1992 Bret won a Modified feature race at Fulton Speedway with the modified he purchesed in 1991.
In 1996 Bret drove a Prostock, and did that until 2012. Bret won the majority of his ninety plus wins during this time period.
In 2013 Bret competed in the “Go Nuclear Late Model Tour”, winning the “Rookie of the Year” award.
Today Bret continues competing in the “Go Nuclear Tour” when their races are New York State, otherwise Bret Races the Late Model at Fulton Speedway every Saturday night.
Bret’s favorite memory’s are: Winning the Modified event at Fulton Speedway, and winning a one hundred lap Pro Stock race at Brewerton Speedway.
Bret told me he couldn’t have raced anywhere without his biggest fan’s and supporters, his wife Brenda and his daughter Ashley.
Were going to a “Go Nuclear” race at Weedsport Speedway on 9/18
SO COME ON ALONG, IT’LL BE FUN.
On a sunny very hot September 18th the Belden race team and I headed out to Weedsport for the Gillies NAPA Auto Parts 30, a “Go Nuclear” tour event, under a weather forecast that indicated the possibility of rain. Highlights on the trip to Weedsport were Checking out Jason Porter’s salmon fishing rig when we picked him up (I’m a fly fisherman), and a beautiful eight point buck munching on grass beside the Thruway, unconcerned about the traffic whizzing past thirty feet away.
Upon arriving at the Weedsport Speedway a look around made it evident the venue is a much improved race facility from the last time I was here years ago when it was a Dirt headquarters and speedway. Now the pits are paved, new grandstands are in place, a big improvement in track lighting plus a Jumbo-tron in the infield that shows race action and replays. A beautiful race facility.
Through the afternoon the Late Models began arriving, some from Canada, others from western Pennsylvania, and with most from around New York State. The field finally totaling out at 33 Late Models.
The afternoon slowly passed by until the weigh-ins and pre race inspections were completed and the person on the PA system called for the Late Models to line-up and prepare for heat number one. Our guy Bret was in the first heat and ran second to Auburn NY’s Chris Fleming for the 8 lap heat race. Remaining Late Model heats were run off, then the Sportsman’s and finally the 600 Micro Sprints. During the last Micro Sprint heat race we began to feel rain drops, then turning to a light rain canceling the Micro’s.
I’m in the infield taking photos, and by the time I try and cross the track the wet clay had turned into a very slippery surface. If you have ever been on a wet clay surface it’s kind of like it’s covered with wet slippery snot, difficult to cross without falling. I somehow inched my was across the track without falling down before a now deserted grandstand, my shoes picking up clay as I went and finally exiting the race surface with at least three inch’s of the sticky clay stuck to the bottoms of my shoes.
By the time I got back to the pit the race teams had loaded up and were preparing to head out for their home base. Bret told me he had drawn the pole position for the Late Model feature, nice, now after the whole thing had been called off. We exited Weedsport Speedway and headed home on the Thruway in a huge downpour that continued until we were east of Syracuse. Now we have one shot left at a “Go Nuclear” event, the 9/30 “Go Nuclear” fifty lap race at Fulton Speedway will be the last race of the season.
Unloaded from the hauler beside AJ Kingsley’s number 9.
Bret going through weigh in, with his buddy AJ Kingsley looking on. Notice the platform scale, not a scale for each wheel like in other venue’s, plus the weigh out could be read inside the scale room on a digital display.
Opened up the quick-change and adding some gear.
Jason Porter fuel’s her up, with Scott Weatherby looking on.
Bret keeps his crew in the family. (L-R) Nearside is his brother-in-law Brian Aikins, beside Brian is cousin Scott Weatherby (the PR Man that keeps the sponsors coming in), next is Bruce Aikins, Brenda’s dad and Bret’s father-in-law, Bret, fellow competitor and friend Trent Ontario Canada’s Kyle Sopaz, and on the far right Bret’s son-in-law Jason Porter.
GO Nuclear tech men always do stringent inspections prior to every race.
First heat race, here we go.
Bret ran second to Auburn NY’s Chris Fleming’s #10 all race. The remaining four Late Model heat were run to completetion, then the Sportsman heats, and finally the 600 Sprints did their heat races. The B-main for the Late Models were lined up and ready to go when the rain came, and then soon came down in buckets. Weedsport Speedway called it a day.
Friday Sept 30 the Belden race team headed out for Fulton Speedway for the second leg (and last race of the season) on the “Go Nuclear race schedule. After settling down in the Fulton Speedway pit’s Bret’s wife Brenda set a table (with a table cloth no less) in the Belden hauler, then started warming up a big batch of Macaroni and cheese, plus a huge pot of sausage, peppers and onions, enough to feed all the racers and crew on the south side side of the pits.
The Belden team was relaxed and ready to go racing as soon as the call came out to do hot laps. Hot laps completed the “Go Nuclear” racers were second up on the race card for heat race qualifying. Qualifying over, the team and many guest’s dove into and enjoyed Brenda’s dinner while they waited for the feature race action to start.
The Belden #81 Late Model started back a couple of spots in the line-up, and after the four wide “Outlaw” parade lap the race action got under way. Several laps into the Late Model feature a yellow flag came out for an accident between turn one and two, and with me being between three and four the action on the far end of the track was out of my sight.
When racing was restarted the Belden Late Model didn’t come around, a sure sign that Bret had encountered trouble and was the reason for the yellow flag. The race continued with Charlie Sandercock making a late race pass on the leader and took the checkered flag a couple laps later. Sandercock was the winner, plus he was the season ending points leader of the “Go Nuclear 2016 tour.
Back in the pits following the completion of the Late Model race the Belden #81 was in the hauler and buckled up for the ride home with the front end missing. Bret was inside sitting on a tire enjoying a beer, “just a racing deal” he explained to me. A few seconds later a racer entered the hauler saying, “Jeez Bret I’m so sorry, the dust was thick and by the time I saw you I was already on you”. Bret unperturbed said, “I understand, so relax and have a beer”. The two men talked about it over a couple beer’s and soon departed friends.
You know, I’ve never seen Bret upset, he’s as cool and collected as a cucumber, never discouraged, never angry and always upbeat, my kind of wheelman.
I enjoyed every minute of the Ride Along with the Belden team from start to finish! Thanks Bret and team, I hope we can do it again next year!
The #81 crew in the Fulton pits, relaxed and ready to race.
Bret’s the pivot man on the “Outlaws” style four wide pre race pace lap.
Here Bret races Kyle Sopaz early in the fifty lap event. Soon after bret didn’t come around with the rest of the group. Turns out he got a bit sideways between one and two and the racer behind him ran over and distroyed the front of the #81, eliminating him from the competetion.
Charlie Sandercock made a late race pass on the leading Late Model and ended up in victory Lane, the race winner and points Champion for the 2016 “Go Nuclear” tourists.
Check Out Ottos Ride Alongs At: http://WHARTONVALLEY.COM