Amber Van Orden takes the next step in her young driving career
Following a seven-year-career driving street stock racing cars at Bethel Motor Speedway, local driver Amber Van Orden has upped her game.
Last year she claimed her third series championship and with it, opportunity knocked. The chance to compete in a super stock series fell into the lap of the 2012 Wallenpaupack alum.
Last year car owner Steve Vasey knew he’d have an open seat the next season and after seeing Amber’s performance one night at Bethel, he offered her a ride.
The challenge to race faster, more powerful machines on different tracks was both welcome and a bit daunting, Amber admits, but so far, she’s happy with her decision to get behind the wheel of Vasey’s Grimm Construction Chevrolet.
“The variety of the tracks is the big change I’m going to have to get used to,” Amber said. “At Bethel, we only had to adjust the car for weather. I knew how the car was supposed to respond.
“Now, I might know if the car is loose or tight, but not what adjustments to make.”
While more horsepower and slick tires are also new to Van Orden, she bigger tracks and wider turns have dulled her perception of the increased speed and better handling of the car.
“Stock car” is a very open-ended term. It can refer to a consumer level vehicle that has been modified for racing to a purpose-built machine.
In relation to what Amber has been driving for her career up to now, apply the former. In relation to what she’s now piloting, apply the latter.
“It’s a 2013 chassis,” said Amber’s father, Gary, who is not only a fellow street stock driver, but her mentor, coach, and crew member too. “But, about the only thing you could get at your local Napa for this thing are the spark plugs.”
Looking at Amber’s old street stock car, it’s easy to see the resemblance to someone’s daily driver but to the untrained eye, her new ride could easily be mistaken for something that would be at home making laps on a Sunday afternoon at a major speedway.
While the body design might mimic something seen on a NASCAR track, the materials, engine, and transmission package are much different. Still, it’s nothing to be scoffed at.
Now she’s laying down 22 second laps on a ½ mile track as compared to 15 second laps on a ¼ mile oval.
At Spencer Raceway in New York Amber averaged around 77 mph. She figures she was doing about 50 in the turns and near 110 on the straightaways. Spencer is a flat track.
Her speeds should increase as she tackles tracks with steeper banking.
In the Books
Amber’s initial venture in the series proved fairly fruitful.
Starting 10th in a field of 23 she made it as high as 7th but crossed the checkered flag in 8th. In her second feature race, also at Spencer, she started 16th and climbed to 11th.
Working on moving up a spot, Amber got spun out and restarted in 22nd.
Through the final laps she pushed through attempting to take 13th in the final lap when she got pushed into the wall and slid across the line.
“It’s tough competition,” Gary said. “This is some hardball racing.”
There’s just one other rookie on the circuit with Amber. Most of the other drivers have two to three years of experience. She knows there’s a lot of work left to be done before she’ll contending for top finishes.
“I’m focused on just trying to improve through the season and get better finishes,” Amber explained, “I have to learn the new tracks and we’re still tweaking things with my car, but we’re going to keep at it.”
The NYSS runs through the middle of October.
Many of the Friday night affairs take place at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY, about three hours and 45 minutes away from Hawley, east of Rochester.
The track at Evan Mills, NY is almost as far away but her race at Chemung Speedrome is a brief two-hour trip. Anyone wishing to see Amber in action at a local track should head to Evergreen Raceway in Drums, PA on September 15. 75 laps on a 1/3 mile oval might be worth the 90 minute drive from Hawley.
Supporting the #17 car this year, in addition to major sponsor, Grimm Construction, are Waymart Building Center, Cricket Hill Golf Course, S. Utegg Rim Protected Tire Mounting, Branning Plumbing & Heating, Roadhouse Camper and RV, A. Jones Electric.
Longtime sponsors of the Van Orden racing family, Saaf Speed, Southerton Automotive, and Teeple’s Auto Salvage are also back onboard.