PHOTO: Middlebury’s Todd Stone will enter the Airborne Speedway season opener on Saturday. (Leif Tillotson photo)

-by Ricky St. Clair

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Ten years ago, Middlebury’s Todd Stone picked up his first career American-Canadian Tour victory in the Spring Green 100 at Airborne Speedway.

Fast forward.

After the conclusion of the 2004 ACT season, Stone made a transition back to to his roots, running dirt-style Modifieds at tracks throughout the northeast.

Stone is committed to race at Airborne Speedway’s 58th season opener on Saturday night where he’ll be expected to be a contender in the Della Motor Group “Fast 50” main event. And despite making rare appearances at the track, Stone still has a sentimental value for the half-mile speed plant.

“I really like Airborne,” Stone said. “When I first started racing Late Models, that’s where I started, and I really enjoyed that racetrack. It’s a great place to race.”

Stone had no recollection of his win ten years ago and noted that it wouldn’t be on his mind when competing on Saturday night.

“I didn’t even know until another guy on our crew told me that we had won ten years ago, and honestly I had forgotten about it,” Stone chuckled. “It’s not really on my mind. I’m just going up to have fun and do the best I can do.”

In order to pickup the checkers on Saturday night, Stone will have to get by the likes of perennial favorites and former track champions Patrick Dupree and Martin Roy.

“They’re good competition. They’ve had a lot of laps around that place in a Modified. I like to come up to run the extra-distance races. I’m ready to throw my hat in. I think I’ve got something for them,” Stone said.

Stone was consistent throughout a practice session held at Airborne last Saturday. He had the quickest time in one of his two practice sessions and set the fastest time of the day in his father Gardner’s Modified in the fifth and final practice after breaking a brake bracket on the right-rear corner on his own car.

“My car felt good,” Stone said. “I only went out for two practices with my own car. However, I didn’t get to run in the last practice because we broke a bracket on the right-rear and I didn’t have another one to fix it.”

Stone is one of few drivers in the northeast who have made the transition from racing asphalt Late Models to dirt Modifieds; Stone says that he loves running his Modified more than anything.

“I really enjoy racing my dirt Modified,” Stone said. “When I had stopped running ACT and I started running dirt again, I really noticed how much I enjoyed racing in a dirt car. But that’s not to say someday maybe I won’t make the switch and race an asphalt car again. Who knows what’s going to drag on here in the next three or four years?”

Although Todd Stone is a front-runner every time he makes an appearance at Airborne, he won’t be running the full schedule there in 2011.

“I would love to do it, but I am already committed to running the full schedule up at Mohawk International Raceway every Friday night,” he said. “I work at the [family-owned G. Stone Motors] dealership every other Saturday, so it would be hard for me to run the full schedule up there. I’ve got three kids and I enjoy spending time with them.”

Just because fans won’t see Stone on a weekly basis, don’t count out the No. 1x car to make multiple stops at the speedway in 2011.

“My father and I will be up there in September for the extra-distance race. We’ll see what happens and hopefully I can run up there a little bit more up there than I did last year,” Stone said.

Airborne Speedway’s 58th season opener kicks off on Saturday at 5pm. The Modifieds will be competing in a 50-lap event, while the remainder of the track’s weekly Sportsman, Renegade, Mini-Modified, and Bomber divisions will also be competing on the half-mile.