SPORTSMAN WINNER TYLER BONIFACE FINISHES OFF SEASON WITH ESW WIN
MIDDLETOWN – Tyler Boniface put an exclamation point on his most successful season ever at the Orange County Fair Speedway Friday night as he led the entire distance to capture the 50-lap championship for the Sportsman division during the 55th annual Eastern States Weekend Racing Festival.
Boniface, a 23-year-old driver from Pine Bush, got the jump on pole-sitter Jared LaBagh at the drop of the initial green and never looked back as he posted his fourth win this season behind the wheel of the R.J. Smith owned No. 4RJ. The win was worth a first-place prize of $1,000 as well as all of the lap money posted for the event.
“This has been a heck of a season and I can’t thank R.J. Smith enough for letting me drive his car,’’ said Boniface. “I lost the motor in my car sometime in July and R.J. allowed me to use the car to salvage some points. But we did so good in the car that he let me drive it for the rest of the season.’’
The switch to Smith’s car enabled Boniface to win three features and several other top finishes as he walked away with his first track championship at OCFS in impressive style. Smith’s closest rival Jesse Leiby finished 98 points off his winning pace.
Boniface used an outside pass entering the third turn to wrestle first place away from LaBagh and then started putting quite a distance between himself and the rest of the 30-car field as the race progressed for the first 18 laps without any cautions. Chris Stevens, meanwhile, was also able to move past LaBagh into second place with a pass off the second turn on the 14th lap.
“I was having trouble with my car locking up,’’ said LaBagh, who continued losing positions as the race progressed. “I thought I was losing my power steering or was possibly getting a flat tire. I slowed right down after one restart because the car just wasn’t handlng.’’
LaBagh, while riding fourth, lost several positions following a restart at the midway point and never proved to be a factor from that point on.
Boniface, meanwhile, continued his dominance as Stevens continued to follow in second with Frank Venezia, Howie Finch III and Matt Stangle racing in the top five. Boniface had one anxious moment later in the event when Stevens passed him following a restart. But another caution on that start restored his lead.
“I was having carburetor issues, and my car was spitting and sputtering on the restarts,’’ said Boniface. “But I I was able to clean it out after that restart and the car was good to the finish.
“I also had some problems with lapped traffic early in the race. But those drivers are also racing for position. I can’t blame them. This is a tough track to race on and we’re all trying to finish the best we can.’’
Boniface continued his dominance when racing resumed until Phil Johnson slowed action with 33 laps completed when he spun between the third and fourth turns. Venenzia passed Stevens on the ensuing restart and remained in second place until the finish.
Stangle took over third place on the 49th lap as Stevens had to settle for a fourth-place showing when the checkered flag waved and Jesse Leiby rounded out the top five.
However, during the post-race inspection, both Venezia and Stevens were disqualified for racing with illegal cams on their engines. That moved Stangle into second place with Leiby, Allison Ricci, Howie Finch, Tim Hartman, Chris Lynch, LaBagh, Joe Falanga and Brad Horton rounding out the top 10.
Sportsman Feature Finish, 50 Laps: 1. Tyler Boniface, 2. Matt Stangle, 3. Jesse Leiby, 4. Allison Ricci, 5. Howie Finch, 6. Tim Hartman, 7. Chris Lynch, 8. Jared LaBagh, 9. Joe Falanga, 10. Brad Horton, 11. Mike Sabia, 12., Corey Cormier, 13. Patrick Murphy, 14. Leo Fotopoulos, 15. Jimmy Johnson, 16. Cole Hentschel, 17. Joe Conklin, 18. Anthony Falanga, 19. Robbie Speed, 20. Jeremy Pitts, 21. Mel Schrufer, 22. Tony Kawalchuk, 23. Kyle Plumstead, 24. John Virglio, 25. John Illanovsky, 26. Phil Johnson, 27. John Criscione, 28. Jeff Hulseapple. Disqualified: Frank Venezia, Chris Stevens.