Weedsport, NY — April 21, 2009 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director
*Alex Bruce Photo
Its not uncommon for inclement weather to affect Northeastern race agendas come Spring time. However, after a long winter out of the cockpit it would seem rather unusual for a driver not to be disappointed with an early cancellation, especially when it meant delaying for another week the opening round of the Mr. DIRTcar Series.
Yet that was the case for reigning overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified points king Pete Bicknell, who was forced to miss the initial Small-Block tour event on tap at Can-Am Motorsports Park before rain forced postponement.
“My schedule wasn’t set before Can-Am, but with the rain, that might just put me in the hunt again,” remarked Bicknell, who last autumn at the age of 53 became the oldest driver ever to wear the coveted Mr. DIRTcar crown. “It was originally a hit-or-miss deal on the series, now there might be a few more hits.”
“We had our driving school last weekend so we couldn’t make the opener. The next two tour stops are at our regular tracks, we’ll just have to see how we stand. There’s a lot of racing in between, it might turn into a race by race decision when the fall season rolls around,” figured Bicknell, who continued an unlikely trend among champions in ‘08, for the third straight year clinching the title without making a trip to victory lane. The seasoned Small-Block veteran from St. Catharines, Ontario did produce seven top-10 feature finishes and four front-5s behind the wheel of his self-designed Bicknell Racing Products no. 42 Lucas Oil Products entry, finishing fifth at Merrittville.
With negotiations still underway to reschedule the Mr. DIRTcar 358 Series show at Can-Am, for the second straight year Merrittville Speedway will host the tour opener. The April 25 lid-lifter will once again attract a talented mix of Merrittville and DIRTcar stars for the ‘Spring Sizzler 100’ with $4,000 (US) saved for the winner.
Racing action is slated to get under way at 6:30 p.m. with hot laps prior to time trials at 6:15. Both the grandstand and pit gates will open at 4 o’clock. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $6 for Juniors and kids under 8 are free. An economical Family Pass is also available.
Merrittville is a can’t miss event for Bicknell, not only because he ranks as the winningest driver in track history, he is also a co-owner along with wife Nancy and partners Randy and Tracy Williamson. Its a unique conflict of self-interest when DIRTcar Northeast’s career 358-Modified win leader also assumes the responsibility of strapping into the grader to help prep the track prior to race time.
“It’s certainly a challenging position to be in, although I think its hurt me a little bit lately,” admitted Bicknell, who has scored 118 of his 197 DIRTcar 358 feature wins at Merrittville, with another 45 registered in Big-Block competition on the Niagara Frontier. A 13-time 358-Mod track champion since 1990, ‘Mr. Small-Block’ won twice in ’08 and settled for third in points behind champion Chad Brachmann and Scott Wood. “I still put in 80 hours of work every week, but its mostly at the track now instead of on the race car. And on race day grading or watering during intermission usually takes my mind off the racing, fortunately my crew does such a great job.”
“As the promoter, I’m probably a little more cautious when I’m out there but I still want to win every time I race. Some of my fans want me to win more and they’ve even threatened not to come back. I just don’t want to be the bad guy if something happens. Maybe I can be a little more aggressive when the guys come from out of town,” smiled Bicknell, who posted his lone Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series win at Merrittville in 2002, the year before assuming track ownership.
Viewed internationally as a good guy in the chassis industry —over 700 feature wins for BRP cars last year— Bicknell was an early advocate of crate engines in the DIRTcar Sportsman class and senses an upswing in the higher level Modified divisions.
“It’s a big jump from Sportsman to Small-Blocks, and 358s are definitely still a stepping stone to the Big-Block Modifieds,” stated Bicknell, who singled out more than a half-dozen rookies in Merrittville’s 2009 crop of 358-Modified drivers approaching 30 registered. “There’s a solid rules package in place with the rev chip and I know I can get a motor re-freshened now after 2500 laps instead of around 600 like before.”
“Its great to finally see some new blood coming into the 358s class. A lot still has to do with track locale, when, where and how much teams can race, but everything is going in the same forward direction. Even with a lot of guys moving up to the Modifieds, our Sportsman division remains healthy and that’s a good sign for things to come,” Bicknell added.
Expected to join Bicknell on Saturday in Canada will be many of last year’s top traveling teams led by Brachmann, Carey Terrance, Mark Smoke, Tommy Flannigan and ’07 Mr. DIRTcar Mario Clair. The list of leading newcomers is anchored by Mike Mahaney and Bobby Herrington, along with recent Sportsman graduates and Merrittville favorites Mark D’Ilario, Mat Williamson, Mike Bowman and James Michael Friesen.
For additional information, please contact 358-Modified Series Director Gaston Salvas (450/655-5022 or 514/817-2270; e-mail email@example.com) or DIRTcar NE Director Cory Reed (cell 315/224-9009) at the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during normal business hours. In the meantime, log into the homepage at www.dirtcar.com to find out more about the Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series as well as the entire circuit.
Track information can be found at www.merrittvillespeedway.com or by contacting Public Relations Director Jim Irvine at 905/892-8266. Merrittville Speedway is accessible from any direction in the U.S., taking the Peace Bridge in the Buffalo, NY/South Niagara Region, Rainbow Bridge and Queenston-Lewiston Bridge in Niagara Falls, or in Canada following the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) south to Niagara from the Hamilton or Toronto areas.
MR. DIRTcar 358-MODIFIED CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Merrittville Speedway (18 Evts)
DATE FIRST – SECOND – THIRD – FOURTH – FIFTH
4/26/08 Dale Planck – Danny O’Brien – Chad Brachmann – Todd Burley – Pete Bicknell
8/1/05 Alan Johnson – Brett Hearn – Pete Bicknell – Larry Lampman,Jr. – Matt Sheppard
8/2/04 Alan Johnson – Danny Johnson – Brett Hearn – Pete Bicknell – Brian Weaver
8/4/03 Alan Johnson – Dale Planck – Scott Wood – Brett Hearn – Larry Lampman,Jr.
8/5/02 Pete Bicknell – Brett Hearn – Danny Johnson – Steve Paine – Larry Lampman,Jr.
8/6/01 Alan Johnson – Danny Johnson – Scott Wood – Steve Paine – Pete Bicknell
7/2/01 Danny Johnson – Brett Hearn – Steve Paine – Matt Sheppard – Alan Johnson
8/7/00 Danny Johnson – Alan Johnson – Brett Hearn – Scott Wood – Tim Fuller
8/2/99 Danny Johnson – Jimmy Begolo – Dale Planck – Tim Fuller – Pete Bicknell
8/3/98 Alan Johnson – Brett Hearn – Pete Bicknell – Tim McCreadie – Brian Stevens
8/4/97 Alan Johnson – Danny Johnson – Tim Fuller – Pete Bicknell – Brett Hearn
8/5/96 Danny Johnson – Joe Plazek – Steve Paine – A.J. Romano – Pete Bicknell
8/7/95 Brett Hearn – Alan Johnson – Danny O’Brien – Joe Plazek – Don McGinnis
9/8/94 Don McGinnis – Fred Cade – Joe Plazek – Jimmy Begolo – Pete Bicknell
8/1/94 Jamie Turner – Brett Hearn – Don McGinnis – Fred Cade – Jimmy Begolo
9/12/93 Jimmy Begolo – Ron Smoker – Harvey Hainer – Pete Bicknell – Brian Stevens
8/2/93 Steve Paine – Ron Smoker – Brett Hearn – Pete Bicknell – Don McGinnis
9/27/92 Davey Moore – Pete Bicknell – Pat O’Brien – Don McGinnis – Al Blanchard
DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds www.cayugacountyfairspeedway.com, home of the 2009 DIRTcar All-Star Weekend, July 17-19, featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Sportsman and Big-Block Modifieds in the richest short-track show of its kind in the nation — the $20,000-to-win Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series “DIRTcar All-Star 100” on Sunday, July 19.
Headquartered in Roanoke, Va., Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, accessories, batteries, and maintenance items in the United States, serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets As of April 19, 2008, the Company operated 3,291 stores in 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Additional information about the Company, employment opportunities, customer services, and on-line shopping for parts and accessories can be found on the Company’s web site at www.advanceautoparts.com.
The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Advance Auto Parts, Hoosier Racing Tire www.hoosiertire.com and VP Racing Fuels www.vpracingfuels.com. Promotional partners include Rite Aid Corporation www.riteaid.com, Dig Safely New York www.digsafelynewyork.com and the University of Northwestern Ohio www.unoh.com and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks www.barsproducts.com, Bert Transmission www.berttransmission.com, Bicknell Racing Products www.bicknellracingproducts.com, Bilstein Shocks www.bilstein.com, Brodix Cylinder Heads www.brodix.com, Ferris Industries www.ferrisindustries.com, Integra Shocks www.integrashocksandsprings.com, Intercomp www.intercomp-racing.com, KSE Racing Products www.kse-racing.com, Motorsports Safety Systems www.motorsportssafetysystems.com, Penske Shocks, www.penskeshocks.com, Racing Electronics www.racingelectronics.com, Rislone Oil Stabilizer www.barsproducts.com and Wrisco Industries www.wrisco.com.