Don Spatorico was denied a place in history Saturday night when his drive shaft became history just two laps from the conclusion of the 35-lap 358 Modified feature at Little Valley Speedway.
Joe Plazek won the race and history will record he took the checkered flag as Little Valley's first-ever 358 Modified winner.
Dick Barton also made racing news this weekend in another special event staged in Western New York's Southern Tier. Barton was best in the New York State Super Late Model Championship event held Friday at Freedom Raceway.
After lying dormant as a racing venue for many years, Little Valley began racing cars again in 1997, featuring mostly ESS Sprint Car shows. Until Saturday's event, many wondered if 358 Modifieds would ever come to Little Valley. They became reality when track management booked them this past winter.
"I was happy with my car," Plazek said. "The car responded well to some changes we made just before the main. I wasn't going to catch Spatorico, however. He was on a different page. He was unlucky tonight and we were lucky.
"I could smell something with about five laps to go and I thought it was either someone around the race track or Spatorico. When he went high in three and four, I knew something was wrong but I didn't know he broke until I came around the next time."
Spatorico took the lead at the drop of the green from his pole start and survived four caution restarts in the first eight laps as well as the challenges of Bill Van Pelt to maintain the lead. Meanwhile, Plazek was working up from his sixth starting spot. He gained second, scooting by Van Pelt on lap 11.
Spatorico held off a few challenges from Plazek and then built a comfortable six car-length lead. On the backstretch on lap 33, Spatorico suddenly pulled up high on the track and came to a stop in turn four. As the caution flag waved, Plazek took the lead.
Spatorico was pushed by tow truck to the pits. When the race resumed, Plazek went on to win with John Moravec, Charlie Donk, Van Pelt and Brian Stevens completing the top five.
While Plazek celebrated, Spatorico could only sit in his pit stall and think about what could have been.
"Going down the back stretch, the drive shaft broke," said Spatorico, a Ransomville Speedway competitor. "That was it. I couldn't believe it. It guess it was just going too good tonight. The last time I had a drive shaft problem was about four years ago. It doesn't happen very often."
Plazek will now represent Little Valley in the Victoria 200, in October at Fulton Speedway.
Thirty-five 358 Modifieds were on hand. In all, 143 cars were in the pits representing the four divisions.
Other Little Valley winners were Barton, Late Model; Dave Williams, Super Stock; and Bob Frisbee, Street Stock.
Meanwhile, if Freedom's race Friday had been a tennis event, Barton would have taken, game, set and match. The veteran driver from Ashville won his heat, the dash and the 35-lap championship feature race.
In the 35-lapper, Barton took off from his pole-position start and was never seriously challenged. The only real threat to his dominating run came on lap 11 and it occurred when the lapped car of Al Brewer spun out in front of him on the backstretch. Barton was able to steer clear in time. Rob Blair finished second in the race followed by Dan Dunham.
"We had a lot of car tonight," Barton said. "This car was new about a month and a half ago and we've been trying to find what the car likesnd at least for tonight we found exactly what the car likes."
Freedom also ran divisional NAPA King of The Hill races Friday. Winners were: Bill Malloy, Super Stock; Ron Previty, IMCA; Shaun Tidd, Mini-Stock, and Josh White, Street Stock.
Steve Hall won the 40-lap Hoosier Tire/Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT Sportsman Championship Trail feature Saturday at Genesee Speedway. Kevin Jordan claimed the 40-lap Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRT Pro-Stock Championship Trail race. Don Newton Jr., Mini-Stock and Jon Rivers, Pure Stocks, were other winners.