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WNY Auto Racing /By Larry Ott

Marston completes comeback

Updated: 10/15/07 6:53 AM

Pete Marston received a gift Friday evening during the IHRA drag racing season point finale at Lancaster Raceway Park.


The gift was delivered by Jason Horvatis, who purposely red-lighted his chances in the finals of the Snowmobile eliminations so that teammate Marston could complete a tremendous come-from-behind drive and edge Steve Skrobacz for the division championship.

Also securing Lancaster divisional drag racing championships Friday were Matt Hughes (Street), Pete Maduri Jr. (Pro) and Alan Fletcher (Motorcycles). Andy Gregoire (Super Pro) and Dale Eckert (Heavy) had already clinched their titles earlier this season.

Marston’s spectacular lateseason run came thanks to his excellent driving, the collapse of Skrobacz and then the lucky break to face his teammate in Friday’s final. Over the final two point nights Marston outscored Skrobacz, 70-10.

Skrobacz had a 50-point lead heading into the final two point nights and his advantage was 30 entering Friday.

Skrobacz started the night by suffering a first round redlight loss. Marston won the first three rounds to tie Skrobacz in points but Skrobacz still controlled the tiebreaker at this point (he had four wins this season compared to Marston’s two). Marston had to win Friday’s final to take the championship and as fate would have it, he faced Horvatis in the final.

Horvatis purposely left the starting line too early to trigger the red-light loss and Marston won the final to gain the decisive 10 points he needed for the title.

“It was a long couple weeks and I didn’t sleep very well,” said Marston. “When I faced Steve in the second round a couple weeks ago he could have closed me out then but he didn’t. I took care of it and kept it alive. I did what I had to do. It was lucky that I faced Jason in the final but that’s what teammates are there for.

“I’ve been racing here for 10 years and this is the first year I’ve joined the points. I decided to take it seriously this year.”

Marston came into the last two point nights trailing Skrobacz by 50 points. With only four rounds of racing to be run each of the last two nights in the snowmobile class, and drivers getting only 10 points for each elimination round they win, Marston’s chances for the title seemed bleak.

During Lancaster’s previous point meet on Sept. 21, Marston and Skrobacz each won their first round but then Marston did himself a tremendous favor by beating Skrobacz in a head-to-head matchup in the second round. Marston would win another round before losing to Scott Trapp in the final. That cut Skrobacz’s leading margin to 880-850 heading into Friday’s finale.

In the Street class Friday, Hughes’ rookie status did not mean he would crack under pressure. When he won his second- round race and Rick Thurnherr Sr. lost his, it secured the championship for Hughes. For good measure, Hughes went the distance Friday edging Ted Skarupinski Jr. in the final.

“It feels good to be the champion because I’m a rookie and I could never have expected this,” said Hughes. “It’s been three weeks since the last points race so there was a lot of time to think about it.”

Maduri lost in the first round Friday but when his closest point pursuer Bill Leber Sr. lost in the second round, Maduri secured the crown. His sister Gina was also happy as she already won this season’s Lancaster Junior Dragster championship.

“I was extremely nervous for my brother tonight but I have confidence in him because he’s a really good racer,” said Gina Maduri.

Fletcher, a multi-time champion at Lancaster, came into Friday’s event with a 50- point advantage over Ken Babiak Jr. Babiak chose not to compete Friday. Fletcher put the exclamation point on his title by defeating Mike Puglia in Friday’s final.

Also winning divisional race’s Friday were Jamie Stoneman (Super Pro), John Bongiovanni (Heavy), Shawn Beatty (Pro) and Sam Christian (Super Rod). Lancaster will run non-point Box-No Box type drag races during the remaining Saturdays in October.