Watkins joins Utica-Rome series

VERNON, NY - The competition in the DIRT Pro Stock division at the New Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon just took a "Mighty" leap upwards. Liverpool's Mike Watkins, one of the most popular drivers in the Central New York area, has joined the Jason...

VERNON, NY - The competition in the DIRT Pro Stock division at the New Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon just took a "Mighty" leap upwards.

Liverpool's Mike Watkins, one of the most popular drivers in the Central New York area, has joined the Jason Rood racing team and will drive Rood's backup Predator chassis Pro Stock at the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sundays and also at the Fulton Speedway on Saturdays.

"I'm really looking forward to coming down to Utica-Rome to race, after sitting in the stands there for a while now," said Watkins, who is nicknamed "Mighty Mike". "That Rood car is an awesome car - probably one of the best I have ever driven, and it won two times down there at Utica-Rome last year."

Watkins has spent some seat time this year on several occasions at Fulton in the Rood backup car, most recently Saturday August 5, when he finished in a very solid third place. That good run, and some help Watkins has given the Rood team, has given Watkins a ride in the Rood backup car No. 18w for the remainder of the season.

"I've been working with Jason and the whole Rood family on their two cars, helping them with setups and working on the cars," said Watkins. "They are great people, and I am glad to be on their team and to be helping them. Jason has a lot of talent, and many people don't realize he has only driven for a few years now."

Watkins, who always carries a huge throng of fans with him wherever he races, has only raced at Utica-Rome one time, which came in 1990. Over the last several seasons, the versatile Watkins has driven 358 Modifieds, Sportsman, IMCA Modifieds, Pro Stocks (Street Stocks), Enduros, Demo Derbies, and Pure Stocks. Last season at Fulton Speedway, he drove Dan and Neicy Brown's No. 21 Camaro DIRT Pro Stock to 3 feature wins, 10 top fives, 15 top tens, and a second place in 1999 final point standings.

One of Watkins' fiercest competitors in the late 80's and early 90's in the Street Stock division at Brewerton Speedway was West Edmeston's Bret Belden, who won the Brewerton championship several times. Belden, who won the Street Stock track championship at Utica-Rome in 1990 and 1991, is currently in third in Pro Stock point standings at Utica-Rome and one of the weekly contenders for a win.

When told about Watkins racing at Utica-Rome, Belden's eyes opened wide. "Yeah, I remember him," laughed Belden. "We had some great races back then at Brewerton. Those were the good old days, and I'm sure he'll be tough at Utica-Rome."

With Watkins now in the weekly Pro Stock field at Utica-Rome, it just ups the ante more for the drivers, such as 4-time winner Tom Denton, 1-time winner Jerry Holmes, Bret Belden, Wayne Archer, and Jason Rood. Throw in special appearances by 2-time winner Frank Twing, Mike Fritz, Tom Kuck, and others and you have an all-star field of Pro Stocks at Utica-Rome on a weekly basis.

"I'd like to thank the Rood family plus all of our sponsors for making this possible," said Watkins. "Our sponsors include Beep's Garage, Law Manufacturing, Pozzie's Auto Refinishing, Nile's Towing and Recovery, Sweet's Inn, Frank's Garage, and the engine builder, Joe Slawiak."

Keep an eye on the Rood/Watkins team at the New Utica-Rome Speedway for the rest of this summer, they could be tough and in contention for some feature wins.

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