Almost any race car driver will tell you that, nine times out of 10, the thrill of winning a close race on the track is as good as — or maybe even better than — winning a championship over the course of a full season.
A race win is instant gratification. Fifteen or 50 or even 200 laps of hammering down and getting the job done. There’s no question that it’s a rush. For a hockey player scoring a goal, or a football player in the end zone, the celebration is almost always bigger in that moment than the one for winning a full game.
Stock car racing championships are not usually won in a single day; they are the culmination of a winter’s worth of homework and a summer’s worth of driving and fine-tuning. Sometimes that driving is done with reckless, all-out abandon, and sometimes it’s done with a pent-up frustration only experienced by a driver who has a car capable of winning but settles for fourth place if it protects the bigger picture.
Championships are always two things, however: Relief and satisfaction. For Kenny Tremont Jr., a dirt track racing legend with more than 50 titles to his credit, that relief and that satisfaction feel far different than what Scott FitzGerald must be feeling.
Tremont’s career — 41 seasons old at this point — is about chasing the next big milestone. This year, it was about breaking a tie with rival Brett Hearn for the most career Modified championships at New York’s Lebanon Valley Speedway — Tremont got it done, winning his 14th — and about reaching double digits at West Haven’s Devil’s Bowl Speedway as the first driver to win 10 titles there — mission accomplished, one week early.
Tremont is a racing history buff and pays attention to his own career numbers to see how they stack up against the test of time. His next big goals are to reach 400 total wins for his career (he’s just 18 away) and 100 wins at Devil’s Bowl (only a dozen to go).
For FitzGerald, though, there will never be a 400th win. There may not ever be a 40th, for that matter. Locking up the Super Stock crown at Devil’s Bowl means that a dream that began as a kid has finally been realized. The first win came some 25 years ago — three or four years into his fledgling career as a driver, and already a decade or two into a life committed to the sport.
The West Rutland racer took 20 years off from driving but returned in the early part of this decade to give it another shot. He’s been tantalizingly, heartbreakingly, frustratingly close every year since: Third in 2014, second in 2015, second again (by just two points) in 2016, third in 2017, and second one more time last year.
This year, though, FitzGerald ran away with it. He opened with 10 consecutive top-five finishes, and he has won fully one-third of the season’s races entering Sunday’s finale. He locked up the title two weeks ago with his most recent victory, and he can enjoy himself on Sunday knowing that something that started with a handful of busted knuckles working underneath Lee Nutting’s race cars 30-plus years ago will come together with a walk across a stage this winter as a champion.
Nick Sweet has always said that he’d rather win a race than a championship, because the adrenaline rush from the immediate payoff of a checkered flag beats making a speech at a banquet. But you can bet that Sweet is watching the PASS Super Late Model point standings, too, and to him the 31-point gap that he needs to overcome must feel like 300.
A championship will mean different things to different people. To Kenny Tremont, it’s another stat line in a remarkable career.
To Scott FitzGerald, it’s the signature achievement of a lifetime.
To both, it’s relief and satisfaction.
Bear Ridge Speedway — Bradford
LAST WEEK: Hometown driver Jordan Fornwalt won Saturday’s DIRTcar Sportsman Modified feature and Joe Krawiec took the USAC Dirt Midget Association win. Topsham’s Josh Harrington won the Sportsman Coupe race and Johnson’s Kelly Miller Sr. was the Limited Late Model winner. East Corinth’s Buddy Welch won the Four Cylinder race and Tom Keith won the Twin State Dirt Stock race. THIS WEEK: Racing is Saturday at 6 p.m. with four weekly divisions, the Granite State Mini Sprints and the New England Antique Racers.
Devil’s Bowl Speedway — West Haven
LAST WEEK: Brandon’s Joey Scarborough won Sunday’s Sportsman Modified race as Kenny Tremont Jr. clinched his 10th track championship, and Brandon’s Dave Snow was a first-time Limited Sportsman winner. Fair Haven’s Chris Murray won the Super Stock race, Milton’s Shawn Moquin won the Mini Stock feature, and Rutland’s Shawn McPhee won the eighth 500cc Mini Sprint race. THIS WEEK: The season finale is Sunday at 6 p.m. with five weekly divisions and an Enduro.
Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl — Barre
LAST WEEK: No racing scheduled. THIS WEEK: The American-Canadian Tour’s Labor Day Classic 200 program, which was postponed on Sept. 1 during qualifying, will resume on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Albany-Saratoga Speedway — Malta, N.Y.
LAST WEEK: Tim Hartman Jr. won Friday’s DIRTcar Sportsman Modified 100. THIS WEEK: Racing is Friday at 7 p.m. with five weekly divisions.
THIS WEEK: Thunder Road’s Labor Day Classic 200, which was postponed on Sept. 1 during qualifying, will resume on Saturday at 5 p.m.
Claremont Speedway — Claremont, N.H.
LAST WEEK: Aaron Fellows won his 15th consecutive Late Model Sportsman race on Friday and Ascutney’s Chris Riendeau won the Street Stock feature. THIS WEEK: The season finale is Friday at 7 p.m. with four weekly divisions.
Fonda Speedway — Fonda, N.Y.
THIS WEEK: Racing is Saturday at 6 p.m. with seven divisions including a $4,000-to-win Modified race, the CRSA Sprint Cars and the championship finale for the King of Dirt Racing Crate Modified Series.
Glen Ridge Motorsports Park — Fultonville, N.Y.
LAST WEEK: Josh Hohenforst won Sunday’s “Vengeance” Modified feature at the season finale and Andrew Buff won the Crate Modified race. Rocky Warner won championships in both divisions.
Lebanon Valley Speedway — West Lebanon, N.Y.
LAST WEEK: Jason Herrington won Saturday’s Small Block Modified race and John Virgilio took the Sportsman Modified win. THIS WEEK: The season finale is Saturday at 5 p.m. with four divisions.
Monadnock Speedway — Winchester, N.H.
LAST WEEK: Ben Byrne and Matt Kimball split wins in Saturday’s twin NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Sportsman Modified features. Justin Littlewood won the three-segment Late Model Sportsman race. THIS WEEK: Racing is Saturday at 5 p.m. with five weekly divisions for the Tri-Track Open Modified Series 100.
Plattsburgh Airborne Speedway — Plattsburgh, N.Y.
LAST WEEK: Saturday’s races were rained out and the regular season was deemed complete. NEXT EVENT: Enduro 125 — Sept. 29.
RumTown Speedway — Rumney, N.H.
LAST WEEK: Saturday’s results were not available. THIS WEEK: Racing is Saturday at 4 p.m. with five weekly divisions plus the Sprint Cars of New England and the Granite State Mini Sprints.
Speedway 51 — Groveton, N.H.
LAST WEEK: Rained out (Saturday). THIS WEEK: No racing scheduled.
White Mountain Motorsports Park — North Woodstock, N.H.
LAST WEEK: Ben Belanger won Saturday’s 75-lap Flying Tiger Triple Crown race. Barton’s Shane Sicard won the track championship and Waterbury Center’s Jason Woodard won the Triple Crown title. Waterford’s Andy Hill and Norm Forest split the Dwarf Car double features and Hill won the championship. The Late Model feature was postponed by rain to Sept. 21. THIS WEEK: No racing scheduled.
Justin St. Louis is a motorsports journalist, publicist, broadcaster, historian and former driver. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter: @Justin_StLouis