POWNAL — Like many stock car drivers, Olden Dwyer started as a boy in go-kart racing, probably thinking early on of a feature win at a major dirt track like Lebanon Valley Speedway.
Now 28, the Pownal resident has worked his way up through the racing divisions at the West Lebanon, N.Y., track and others, and on June 11 he claimed his first “big block” feature victory at the Speedway.
“Honestly, it was probably more of a relief than anything,” Dwyer said. “I’ve come so close so many times. Finished second a few times; I’ve blown motors leading with a really fast race car. So you know, for me and all my [crew] guys, it was more of a relief than anything.”
“A couple of times over the past few years, with a real fast car, I was leading with the race almost over, and something stupid happens,” Dwyer said.
That was his first win in the fastest division — with light-weight cars powered by motors producing near the 800 horsepower range, which are well-suited to the longer dirt tracks, like the high-banked, half-mile clay track known as the Valley of Speed.
But Dwyer previously won seven “small block” modified features, with cars with motors up to 358 cubic inches in size, and has also won in the sportsman division.
For Dwyer, racing comes naturally in many respects; he’s the son of longtime driver Ron Dwyer, who also raced at Lebanon Valley.
Among the sponsors of the Dwyer Motorsports big and small block cars are the family-owned Dwyer’s State Line Beer and Wine and his O D Auto Sales and Service, located across Route 7 from one another in Pownal.
Despite the first big block win, Dwyer said the 2022 season “has started off rough” for the team, which also includes driver Dylan Gibson of Pownal. Many of the problems have been related to the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation, he said, which has had a harsh effect on the entire sport.
“We have had, because of the parts shortage, been letting things go longer and stuff,” he said. “And so I didn’t freshen [overhaul the motor] my small block during the off-season and I’m paying for it now. We’ve had issues — it just doesn’t seem to have the power that it should, because it’s tired.”
He added, “So I am really just running big blocks and have only run two small block races this year.”
With price increases affecting everything — “fuel especially” — Dwyer said he also is not traveling to other tracks in the region this season, as he has in the past.
“For this year at least, we are just going to run The Valley and go from there,” he said.