Local drivers join NASCAR star at Devil's Bowl

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WEST HAVEN — Local basketball promoter Hunter Stratton is promoting an event of a different kind on Sunday.

Instead of the gym, Stratton's next event revolves around the race track.

Stratton, along with Devil's Bowl Speedway owner Mike Bruno and media coordinator Justin St. Louis, will host the "Battle of the Bowl" Big Block/Small Block Modified Challenge, along with the King of Dirt Racing Crate modified series, starting at 6 p.m.

It's taken almost a year for Stratton's idea to come to fruition.

"I had the idea last fall and we tried to put it together," Stratton said. "Working with Mike and Justin, it's a good partnership. They can handle the track stuff, I can handle the promotion."

Sunday's event will be much different from even a regular racing event that Devil's Bowl puts on each week.

Even how the field will line up for the 50-lap feature has a twist. After heat races determine the order, there will be two 25-lap qualifying races. The top-10 finishers from each qualifier will move on to the main event. Of those 20 drivers, the fastest 12 will compete in "March Madness-style" 1-on-1 match races.

The match races will be two green flag laps, with the winner of the final match race sitting on the pole for the feature.

And the prize is nothing to sneeze at, the winner of the 50-lap feature gets $10,000.

"It's fun, fresh and something new, a chance to see the best racers on dirt," Stratton said.

Stratton said that as of Friday, 32 drivers had committed to run in the Big Block/Small Block challenge and nearly 40 for the King of Dirt series.

"There's about 10 guys who are bringing a couple of different cars, one for the challenge and another for the KOD series," Stratton said. "A lot of guys will be switching in and out."

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Some local drivers competing in the event including Manchester's Frank Hoard III, North Bennington's Marty Kelly and Kim Davis, and Cambridge's Alex Bell — all regulars in the series. Another local driver, Neil Stratton, who usually races at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, will also compete for the big prize.

"The fans will see a bunch of new drivers, the last time Devil's Bowl had a big block race was 2000," Stratton said.

The track was asphalt between 2010 to 2017 and converted back to dirt for last season.

They'll also see drivers including Brett Hearn and Matt Sheppard, who race in the Super DIRTcar series.

One driver scheduled to compete has a full-time ride in the NASCAR Gander Truck Series. Stewart Friesen, a Canadian driver, has raced for the past two years full-time in the trucks, but also makes a lot of time to continue his dirt racing career, on tracks all over the country. But his home base is some of the New York tracks, like Fonda Speedway and Utica-Rome Speedway.

He's never been to Devil's Bowl.

"I got connected to Stewart through my brother-in-law, Scott Duell," Stratton said. "I called him, he's a great guy who loves dirt racing, he races 50 dirt events a year."

When Friesen committed to the event, he immediately became the face of the event.

"It's something new and I told him we needed the draw, so we worked out something to help the Crossroads Center [for Children, a school for children with autism in Glenville, N.Y.]," Stratton said.

Friesen joined an exclusive list on August 1, getting his first major NASCAR series victory at Eldora Speedway.

"He's racing [today] at Michigan Speedway, then flying to Albany and coming up to Devil's Bowl," Stratton said.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $40 for reserved seats.

The track is located on Route 22A in West Haven, about five minutes from Fair Haven and 1 hour, 15 minutes from Bennington.


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