Higgins Makes It Three in a Row; O’Brien Triumphs at Can-Am Speedway
By: Jeremiah Fish - June 24, 2006
LaFargeville, NY – Have you ever heard the saying? “Winning never gets old.” Well it is definitely true. Can-Am Sportsman division points leader Chris Higgins, a young warrior out of Syracuse, New York, started his string of wins back on June 10th, and remained undefeated in the month of June with an outstanding win last Saturday night in his Remax Realty Plus sponsored 19H. That translated into 3 wins, in a total of 6 races on the season. No wait, let’s reset that for a moment to further emphasize the job he is doing in this intensely competitive Sportsman division at the great Can-Am Speedway. Through the six total races run at the track, Higgins, this young gun, has finished in the top 10, every time he has taken the green flag, in fact, that Bicknell 19H, with Higgins at the helm, has placed only once outside of the top 5 this season. That one time that he wasn’t in the top five? It was a sixth place finish back on May 27th.
Domination? That is not the feeling you get when you are around Chris and his crew/family. They are just as surprised and happy to be in victory lane as anybody watching from the stands on Saturday nights at the LaFargeville oval. In this day and age of dancing in the end-zones, by spoiled NFL millionaire football players and 7 foot goliaths in the NBA sticking there enormous fingers in one another’s faces each time they make a routine lay-up or defend a shot, this young man acts gracious in his victories, almost more humbled by them than made exuberant by them. Three in a row, I have to admit this, I may do the funny “ride the imaginary horse” dance myself if I had won three in a row at anything, chess, underwater basket weaving, whatever. This guy can flat-out drive a racecar.
If I already haven’t spoiled it for everybody, Chris Higgins won the Sportsman modified feature event. The 20 lap, prime-time show down saw John Mason’s 25
car and the Josh VanBrocklin 10 lead the tightly packed field to green out of turn number four. Mason dove to the early lead as the field sliced and diced for
position inches away from his rear bumper. The first lead change of the night came 4 laps in, as Brandon Sweet powered his 24 car to the front. That lead
would be short lived however, as Higgins had followed him past Mason and was drawing in for the lead as the 5th lap clicked off the infield scoreboard. With the
lead in hand and 15 laps left, Higgins went into full zone defense. Holding his line and driving with his head, not his right foot, in charge. Higgins worked hard
and managed to fend off a charging Robby Bellinger for the victory. Bellinger’s beautiful number 8 Troyer, sponsored by JT Construction was second, followed
home in third by Mike Mandigo in the 26. Fourth place finisher, Jeff Stevenson in the car #28, Mark Webb and his 36C car, rounded out the Sportsman top
Five. Jack Meeks, Rick McCready, John Mason, Brad Winters, & Josh VanBrocklin would complete the top ten finishers for the Sportsman modified division.
Next week, Can-am Speedway race fans, look to this division to put on another spectacular thunder and lightning show, as they will be the only modified racers on
the schedule for next week’s big event as the big blocks and 358’s are away next week.
With a warm up act like the Sportsman division getting the crowd fired up for there event, the combination big-block and 358 modified’s were going to have to bring the best they had for their feature event on this night. With show-stoppers in the field like Billy Decker, current high point runner on the Advance Auto Parts Super Dirt Series in his Gypsum Wholesalers / Stadium International number 91, and World of Outlaws Late Model Series tour standout, and Watertown, New York’s own, Timmy McCreadie, along with the O’Brien Gang, Stewart Friesen & many more, all the ingredients were in place for an incredible show. McCreadie is gaining national celebrity on the World of Outlaws - Late Model Series tour and is currently 2nd in points on that series behind Rick Eckert. As impressive as those stats are for the 2nd year man on the Outlaw tour, the big buzz at the speedway on this night was the car he was driving, not his familiar Sweeteners Plus sponsored #39 modified, nearly identical in paint scheme to his Late Model ride, but instead, Tim’s appearance was in the famous and familiar Kinney Drugs #9. This is a car that has been chauffeured, for what seems to have been forever, by his legendary father Bob McCreadie. Bob had been involved in an accident away from the track a few weeks back and hasn’t been up to racing obviously, so the ride was there and the young McCreadie was in it, and for these fantastic fans at the Can-Am Speedway, that was enough. Tim was showered with cheers virtually the entire time he or the car was on the track. In a class move by track management and promoters, Tim was brought out on to the track, during the intermission and gave an interview, and the fans responded emphatically and enthusiastically.
Emphatically and enthusiastically, for anyone who has never had the pleasure of making that drive up north of Watertown to the Can-Am Speedway, those two words just about some up how the folks up there put together a racing program. In no way, shape or form, do I mean to say that this is the most state-of-the-art facility that you will ever visit, but that just may be the point here at Can-Am. The track is exactly what you picture in your head when you think about real Saturday night short track racing. One thing that really stands out, and makes this a fun track to check out is the rich racing family traditions at the track. For instance, the O’Brien gang, yeah, they're Irish, and they know how to win races, and have been winning them at this track for more than 3 decades. Here’s a stat for you. The O’Brien’s, Pat and Danny are ranked 1st (71 wins) and 5th (30wins) respectively, on the all-time feature wins list at the track. What is an even cooler stat, and frankly kind of amazing, of the 600 or so feature events run on the 4/10 mile oval at Can-Am, the 300th race was won by Pat O'Brien, back in 1990, the 400th, by Danny O'Brien, and the 500th race, in 1998, was won by Pat O'Brien. Another prominent racing name, McCreadie, also has been an integral part of the racing action and tradition at Can-Am for many years. The MeCreadie’s call Watertown home, and Bob McCreadie, or Barefoot Bob as legend refers to him, has made his home away from home, on 35 occasions, Victory Lane at the Speedway. Bob’s son, the previously mentioned Tim McCreadie is an accomplished driver in his own right. Tim has won 16 Features at Can-Am and has made a living in racing on the Dirt Modified and World of Outlaw Late Model Series by being a consistent performer. To top all of that off, a great group of drivers, staff, promoters, and just about anybody you come into contact with at this track, everybody has a great attitude and makes it one of the best kept secrets in all of racing in New York State. I had a ball and you will too.
Back to the evening’s racing. The headlining division of modifieds at Can-Am is comprised essentially of two divisions. The Big Blocks and the 358 (small blocks) join forces for the feature event and award points congruent with the top place finisher running a small block on a given night out. On a track under a half-mile, the racing intensity is certainly not at all compromised with the difference in cubic inches and horsepower. On this night, the pitch of the race was furious, and the competition on the track kept the crowd out of their seats for all 30 heart-pounding laps. 2 fairly distinct lines began to work in on the track, each one working differently for each driver’s style. With two of the O’Brien’s, Pat in the 6 and Tim in 8 coming up through the pack along with Decker, Friesen and Frankie Caprara
The passing that was taking place on the track was high, low, or wherever an available square-inch of real estate presented itself on this night. In the end, it would be Pat O’Brien first to the checkers. Following Pat to the line was Tim O’Brien, Stewart Friesen in the Troyer 10, the FX1 of Frankie Caprara, Billy Decker in the 91, The first Small Block across the line was Bob Henry in the B2, The 60S of Kenny Stafford, Billy Dunn and his Number One Speed Supply 49, another Small Blocker, Bill Gill in the 60, and grabbing the 10th spot, driving the 99, Mike Adderly.
Others collecting wins at the Can-Am on Saturday: The A&P Auto Parts 19 of Dale Caswell in the IMCA Feature, for the Super Stocks it was Josh Verne in the 22. The Midstate Vintage Stock Cars also put on a great show, with Bill Kisselstein bringing home the Marsh Rocket #37 in first place. Those vintage cars are a blast to watch race. Quite a few of my racing heroes ran these types of cars at one time or another, Jim Shampine, Richie Evans, Troyer, I could go on forever, and the kick in the seat is, I never got to see any of them run them in person, only in history books and in pictures, so seeing this great group of people from the Midstate Vintage Stock Car organization go out and put on the show they did was pretty spectacular to me. It was sort of like getting out of my car in the parking lot and stepping back 30 plus years into one of those history books that I have looked at a million times.
What a great weekend of racing at the Can-Am Speedway, if you ever get the chance to go up there, do it, their website is www.can-amspeedway.com and you can go there to check out their upcoming schedule. Next week we will be visiting the Oswego Speedway on July 1st for the 75 Lap Grand Prix race for the Supermodifieds and a full card of racing from the Limited Supermodifieds, of course a big Fireworks show will take place at the Fast 5/8’s mile oval as well. The following night, Sunday July 2nd, Luvracin.com will be at the Cayuga County Fair Speedway for the World of Outlaws Late models show. It will be a full fender battle royal as the Outlaw Late models will have $10,000 dollars on the line at the ‘Port. There may not be a dry eye or an unblemished body panel in the whole place, should be fun. See you there.