Weedsport, NY — December 31, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director
Officially established during the nation’s Bicentennial, 2008 marked the 33rd successive year of operation for DIRTcar Racing with Billy Decker, Pete Bicknell, Chris Raabe, Pete Stefanski and Nathan Peckham crowned overall champions in the Northeast.
Season-long Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series for Big-Block Modifieds and companion traveling tours for 358-Modified, Sportsman, Pro Stock and Street Stock teams continued to lay the foundation for these five Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar titlists.
Registered in the DIRTcar NE record book, 705 main events — Big-Block Modified 148, 358-Modified 138, Sportsman 191, Pro Stock 101, Street Stock 127 — were staged at 34 speedways in ’08 with 12 Big-Block drivers, 19 Small-Blockers, 35 Sportsman pilots, 11 Pro Stock wheelmen and 22 Street Stock chauffeurs reaching victory lane for the first time. 67 of those features were extra-distance touring events that were run from April through October.
Advance Auto Parts Modified winner Decker collected the $50,000 top prize from the annual DIRTcar Northeast ‘Night of Champions’ Awards Banquet for his second overall Big-Block title, tying a single-season series standard of 10 wins along the way. Three-time Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified champion Bicknell pocketed $10,000 while teenage Sportsman titlist Raabe earned $5,000. Stefanski became the first driver to claim three consecutive championships in full-fender Pro Stock tour competition and took home $2,000 while Peckham claimed the second-ever Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock high-point honors worth $500.
It was a fitting 10th Anniversary celebration for Decker after claiming his initial Mr. DIRTcar Championship season in 1998, while Bicknell earned the coveted 358-Modified title for the first time since 1994. Decker also topped the season victory list with a career best total of 22 with no other driver able to reach double figures. The ‘Franklin Flyer’ logged only one 358-Modified win but it was the biggest after taking the checkered flag at the Syracuse Mile during Super DIRT Week.
Decker used an Advance Auto Parts Series-best 10 wins to improve his career tour total to 49, ranking him fifth with all-time leader Brett Hearn nailing down his 100th tour triumph on hometurf at Orange County Fair Speedway in ’08. With Decker improving his DIRTcar count to 172 (6th), only Alan Johnson (358) owns more Big-Block feature wins than Hearn (345) although Brett continues to be recognized as DIRTcar Racing NE’s all-time open-wheel leader with 518. The ‘Jet’ (173) also stands behind only Bicknell (197) on DIRT Northeast’s 358-Modified all-time list although he remains the career 358 Mr. DIRTcar Series race winner with 68 extra-distance triumphs.
While Bicknell (53 yrs.) was the oldest driver to garner a Mr. DIRTcar Championship, 2008 was also highlighted by the youngest champion ever as Raabe (17) brought the 19th Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman title chase to a close in convincing fashion. The ‘Teenage Tornado’ ended the year with a division-best 19 victories, including his first in series competition. With a dozen victories scored coming into ’08, he increased his DIRTcar count to 31 while collecting track point crowns at Brockville Ontario Speedway, Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and Thunder Alley Speedpark, along with earning high-point honors in the DIRTcar ‘North’ Region final standings.
2008 marked the 14th season that DIRTcar Racing offered a Mr. DIRTcar Championship for the premier Pro Stockers and that just continued the full-fender legacy for Stefanski as he emerged as the first driver in any division to record three straight overall point titles. He racked up three consecutive series victories in August then closed out his record-setting campaign winning three of the final four trail races to become the all-time Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Series winner with 20 first-place trophies. The two-time reigning Genesee Speedway points king registered a division-high win total for the fourth straight year, in 2008 reaching victory lane 12 times at 7 tracks to retain his position as DIRTcar Racing Northeast’s all-time career win leader with 78.
The past season also included the crowning of the second-ever overall Street Stock Champion with Peckham ending the five-race post-season points trail with all top-10 finishes and three in the front-four. A three-time feature winner during the regular-season, Peckham was a weekend warrior at both Cayuga County Fair Speedway, 7th in points (2 wins), and Canandaigua Speedway where he finished 15th in points
An impressive influx of new talent on the DIRTcar Racing Northeast circuit in 2008 helped account for 99 first-time feature winners in one of the most competitive seasons ever. Headed by Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE Rookie of the Year award winners Larry Wight (Advance Auto Parts Big-Block Modified and 358-Modified), Dave Marcuccilli (Sportsman) and Bruno Cyr (Pro Stock), some of those same drivers gained even more familiarity with solid showings in their respective home track point standings. Before 2008 came to an end, Wight had set another mark by winning a feature event in all three open-wheel divisions in the same season.
The 2009 race season is expected to bring further success as DIRTcar continues to raise the level of excitement in the world of short-track auto racing. It all begins this coming February when racers make their annual pilgrimage to Florida for the start of DIRTcar Racing Northeast’s 34th straight season. The 38th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park will be highlighted by the 21st trip to the Sunshine State for the DIRTcar Big-Block contingent with Florida Tour ’09 featuring the mighty Advance Auto Parts Modifieds during the week of Feb. 11-14.
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 and Sunoco Race Fuels. Promotional partners include AMB i.t., Rite Aid Corporation and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Crane Cams, Integra Shocks, MSD Ignitions, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks and Wrisco Industries.