Saturday, July 31, 2010

Local Newspaper Previews Drivers Championship

From Saturday's Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin:

Reigning champion Jason Bartlett will be among a nine-man field for the fourth annual Driver's Championship at Tioga Downs, to be held Sunday at the Nichols track.

The event brings together the top seven money-winning drivers in North America of 2010, as well as top driver from the host track and one sponsor's exemption. They'll compete for the top prize of $25,000, with $5,000 to the runner-up.

A look at the participating drivers:

* Jason Bartlett: Youngest driver in this year's championship at 29 years old, he sits fourth in North America for money won with his horses making $5 million-plus. A Maine native, Bartlett is leading driver at Yonkers Raceway. He won the Driver's Championship at Tioga in 2009 and also represented the United States in the World Driving Championship.

* Tim Tetrick: Leading 2010 money winner in North America, his horses have earned in excess of $7.5 million. He recently won the $1 million Meadowlands Pace with One More Laugh, and is making his fourth consecutive appearance in the Driver's Championship at Tioga Downs.

* George Brennan: Currently Meadowlands' leading driver, Brennan's horses have made in excess of $6 million in 2010, and he ranks second in North America in money. From 1995-2007, he finished among the top 25 money winners in the sport, though that streak ended in 2008 when he missed 4 1/2 months due to a compound fracture of his right wrist, suffered in a racing accident at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

This marks his Drivers Championship debut.

* Brian Sears: Tied Yannick Gingras in the inaugural Driver's Championship in 2007, and presently ranks third in North America in money won. He was named "Driver of the Year" in 2009 by the United States Harness Writers Association and won the $ 1.5 million Hambletonian in 2009 with Muscle Hill. He's making fourth appearance in Driver's Championship.

* Ron Pierce: His mounts have made over $4.8 million this year, and this will be his fourth start in the Driver's Championship. Pierce is in Harness Racing's Museum and Hall of Fame, located in Goshen. He has won such classics as the Little Brown Jug, Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup.

* Dave Palone: Named Harness Tracks of America driver of the year in 2008 and was enshrined in Harness Racing's Hall of Fame on July 4. His horses this year have made over $4.7 million, and he is the leading driver at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino near Pittsburgh, Pa.Palone was to have made his first appearance in the Driver's Championship last year at Tioga Downs, but with flight problems and then traffic problems he was a last-minute scratch.

* Yannick Gingras: He tied for first in the Inaugural event with Brian Sears, and won the event outright in 2008. He is a native of Quebec, and is regularly in the top five drivers at the Meadowlands. Gingras' drives have won in excess of $4.5 million this year. This marks his fourth straight appearance in the Driver's Championship.

* John Campbell: Recipient of Tioga Downs' sponsor's exemption for the championship, this Hall of Famer is making his debut in the event. He has earned more money than any driver in the sport's history, with a lifetime bankroll of $267,177,419 through the end of the 2009 season -- more than $85 million ahead of runner-up Mike Lachance. He led all North American drivers in earnings 16 times in his career.

* Bruce Ranger: He is Tioga Downs' current leading driver in 2010, and thus earns his first appearance in the Driver's Championship. This is Ranger's first summer at Tioga Downs. He has been a mainstay of Pompano Park in Southern Florida during the winter and took up residency at Rockingham Park in the summer until its closing earlier this year. He also trains a stable of horses at Tioga Downs.