Intense action among 305 cars in Oswego pit area highlights DIRTcar Day
By Joe Grabianowski, Jordan DeLucia, Robby Knowles, Bill Foley and Chris Dolack
OSWEGO, NY — Oct. 11, 2019 — From hot laps and time trials under the bright sun to intense heat race competition under the lights to a concert just outside the pit area, Friday’s NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week action at Oswego Speedway did not disappoint.
With a combined 305 cars in the pits, all four racing divisions competed on Friday, which has become known locally as DIRTcar Day with special offers for local residents and college students:
Super DIRTcar Series — The legacy of NAPA Super DIRT Week’s previous home, New York State Fairgrounds, has been retained in many ways at historic Oswego Speedway. One of the most important are the large, extra distance Heat Races that set the Feature lineups from position seven to 30th.
At Oswego, they’ve been upgraded to 30-lap Heat Races, but the mystique remains. In the first of three Triple 30s, Jimmy Phelps rocketed by leader Tim Fuller on a lap 11 restart to get himself in Victory Lane for the second time in the night as Phelps parked his DIRTcar 358 in Victory Lane too.
While it hasn’t been a race reason to remember for Phelps, he’s happy to be picking up momentum in October.
“It feels really good to be up front,” Phelps said. “It’s one of those deals where we haven’t had a whole lot to show for the whole season. I guess if you are going to get the monkey off your back, this is the place to do it,” said Phelps.
Looking ahead to the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on Sunday, Phelps is cautiously optimistic.
“We have a long way to go but it feels really good to be where we are at right now,” he said. “I think the track during the Big Block race was close to what we’ll see on Sunday. That made me feel good that our car was decent.”
Triple 30 number two winner, Matt Sheppard, who despite his success, never seems satisfied. Sheppard put the No. 9s on the outside pole for the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 and still wanted more.
“We threw a whole different set up in the car from what we had in Time Trials,” Sheppard noted. “It was good enough to win the race and that’s good, but I still don’t think we are where we need to be to win this race on Sunday.”
Sheppard has another day of work before strapping into his Big Block Modified on Sunday. He and his team will use Saturday’s practice session for fine tuning.
“I think we learned some things tonight and hopefully we’ll make the right calls tomorrow and get it dialed in a little bit better,” he said.
In the third and final Triple 30 Heat Race, Mat Williamson kept the Buzz Chew No. 88 squarely in front for most of the race. However, Erick Rudolph, was not about to let Williamson run away with it.
Rudolph made a few strong attempts on the race-winner but failed to clear him. In frustration Rudolph drove up along the No. 88 under caution and made his presence known.
“Erick is fun to race with,” Williamson said. “We all get emotional and I guess you could say we have a rivalry. It’s fun racing. We kind of grew up together. But it’s great for the fans.”
It took the first quarter of the season for Williamson and his Buzz Chew team to get in the groove. First, they became consistent and constantly on the podium and then the team broke through with back-to-back wins at Brewerton and Mohawk International Raceway, launching him up in the points.
“Every person I have behind me has had something to do with this. These guys deserve it way more than I do. It’s just awesome to be a part of it.”
DIRTcar 358 Modifieds — Jimmy Phelps, Mat Williamson and Tim Fuller collected wins in the DIRTcar 358 Modified Series Triple 25s.
Phelps held off Justin Haers on a lap 22 restart to capture the victory in the first 25 lap qualifying event. Phelps restarted on the inside and slid up to the cushion, breaking Haers’ momentum and opening up a hole for Michael Maresca to take the second spot away on the inside.
“We got a little surprise from the 3 car (Haers) on the restart,” Phelps said. “We both really wanted to win it, but we survived. We will just watch the weather and keep an eye on the track for tomorrow.”
Maresca hung on for the second spot, while Haers had to settle for third. Dave Marcuccilli and Billy Decker rounded out the top five. Brett Hearn drove from position 14 up to sixth, Billy Whittaker, Ryan Susice, Danny Johnson and David Hebert completed the top 10 and are all qualified for Saturday’s 150-lap event.
In the second Heat Race, Williamson survived four restarts with Erick Rudolph to pick up the win in the second 25 lap qualifying event.
“I have to thank my good car owners for the success we’ve been having,” Williamson said. “We have a good hot rod, so we’ll see what we can do this weekend.”
Rudolph had cleared Williamson in turn two on lap 11, but Ryan Bartlett came to a halt in turn three, negating the pass and bringing out a yellow flag.
Larry Wight and Kenny Tremont Jr. were both on the move at the halfway point. Wight had worked from position 13 up to sixth and Tremont Jr. from position 18 to 10th.
On a lap 23 restart, Mike Mahaney and Peter Britten were both in a qualified spot, but got together in turn two, ending the run for both drivers. Rudolph finished in second, with Wight completing the top three. Apparent fourth place finisher, Tim Sears Jr., didn’t make weight in post-race inspection, placing Tremont fourth and Billy Dunn fifth. Gary Lindberg, Chris Hile, Alan Johnson, Jessica Friesen and Pat Ward finished sixth through tenth and are qualified for the 150-lap event.
Fuller used a lap 3 restart to retake the lead and cruise to victory in the third 25-lap qualifying event. Corey Wheeler rolled the inside lane and worked around Todd Root to take the second spot away on lap 18. Mario Clair’s car came to life in the final 10 laps, as he launched off the inside of the second turn to get around Root and Anthony Perrego for third. Perrego would rally on the final lap though, as he drove his number 18 machine deep into turns three and four to take the third spot away.
Clair finished in the fourth spot, and Root crossed the line fifth. Root, who is already qualified for the 150-lap event from time trials on Thursday, was disqualified from the 25-lap event for being too light on the scales. Ronnie Davis III was placed fifth, while Jessey Mueller, Jack Lehner, Michael Parent, Demetrios Drellos and Tyler Meeks completed the top 10 and are qualified for Saturday’s event.
Last Chance Showdowns will take place on Saturday morning and will mark the final chance for teams to punch their ticket into the Salute the Troops 150 on Saturday afternoon.
DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds — DIRTcar Kyle Inman, Robert Delormier, Chris Mackey and Andrew Buff captured DIRTcar Sportsman Quad qualifiers at the Oswego Speedway to complete the Friday Night Lights program.
Over 100 Sportsmen took to the speedway for races that qualified five drivers each. Kyle Inman ran away with heat one as he outdistanced Alan Fink, Connor Cleveland, Zach Aqueitte and Gabriel Cyr while completing the top 10 were Moise Page, David Manchester, Brad Rouse, James Michael Friesen and Tom Collins Jr.
“It was really good for us as the car worked a lot better than earlier today,” Inman said. “I really felt I should have been in the top six, but couldn’t seal the deal. We were disappointed after the second quick time in hot laps.”
In Heat 2, Delormier felt pressure from Adam Pierson, but in the waning laps was able to pull away for the victory. Following Delormier and Pierson were Kevin Chaffee, Jason Gray and Brianna Ladouceur while finishing sixth through tenth were Mark Yorker, Kane Bristol, Cedric Gauvreau, Alex Lajoie and Brandon Carvey.
Reflecting on the win Delormier said, “It’s good to finish first, but I just figured I would keep it on the bottom and if someone wanted to pass me then they would have to go around the outside. We were here last year and finished last. I guess we learned a lot.”
The third heat was won originally by Shane Pecore, but a technical issue saw him disqualified and Chris Mackey was presented with the win. Jackson Gill finished comfortably ahead of Jack Speshock, Amy Holland and Zach Sobotka while completing the top ten were Mike Fowler, Will Shields, Scott Kerwin, A.J. Custodi and Derek Webb.
Mackey was enthused over the win, but noted, “I don’t like to win races that way, but we all play by the same rules. My goal was just to make the show and not use a provisional. Last year we didn’t make it.”
In the final race of the night Andrew Buff had a good battle in the early going with Matt Janzcuk as the two had the field covered. Cole Hentschel, A.J. Lloyd and Brian Hudson completed the top five and sixth through 10th were Darryl Nutting, Jessica Power, Nick Heywood, Richard Murtaugh III and Justin Buff.
“Starting on the pole sure helped and traffic was tough,” Buff said. “Knowing Matt Janczuk was behind me I couldn’t afford to make any type of mistake. We time trialed eighth and that is much better than I thought we would do.”
There are still last chance races to be held, but fans can rest assured that they will see the best of the best that the Sportsmen division has to offer in this year’s Chevy Performance 75.
DIRTcar Pro Stocks — Two Heat Races for the DIRTcar Pro Stocks kicked off Friday Night Lights action at “The Clay Palace,” five-time Wilkins RV 50 winner Rob Yetman and Oswego Speedway first-timer Chris Crane picked up the victories in the 12-lap races.
As the green flag dropped in the first Heat Race of NAPA Super DIRT Week XLVIII, Luke Horning grabbed the lead into turn one and held the top spot through the first 9 laps before a caution slowed the field with just three laps remaining. On the restart, Yetman dove to the inside of Horning and swiped the lead away as they raced through turns one and two.
Yetman held the spot into turn three, but Horning wasn’t going to let him take it. He dove to Yetman’s inside, making contact, but was unable to regain the spot.
“I timed that last restart a little bit better than I had earlier, and I got him, but when we got down into turn three, there… whoo, [Horning] just piled right in,” Yetman said of the contact made between the two.
Another caution flag flew after the field came around to complete lap 10, giving the lead to Yetman for the restart. He held that lead through the final two circuits and picked up the win, giving him a 7th-place starting spot in Sunday’s Wilkins RV 50.
“The track was racy for the Heat Races, it wasn’t so good for me in Time Trials,” Yetman said. “But seventh isn’t that bad. It’s got us on the bottom, and that’s where I want to start.”
The second Heat Race kicked off with second-fast Time Trialer Josh Coonradt showing the way early, and pulling away from the pack slightly, before misfortune struck his #00 on lap two.
Coonradt was moving strong into turn three but slowed at the exit of four, pulling off the track and into the infield before getting back around to complete the second lap. A reported fuel system issue thwarted his chances for victory on Friday night, but his strong showing in Time Trials will lock him into the field for Sunday’s Wilkins RV 50.
That incident immediately handed the lead over to then-runner-up Chris Crane, who paraded the other 18 cars around in his beautiful #711 for the remaining 10 laps to pick up his very first NAPA Super DIRT Week Heat Race win, earning him an eighth-place spot on Sunday’s starting grid.
“The car was really good. I just tried to hit my marks, and tried not to overdrive it into the corner,” Crane said of his run.
Atop Chris’s purple-and-highlighter #711 is his older brother’s name, Rich Crane. Rich normally pilots the car but was injured in a non-racing accident earlier this summer. Like the supportive younger brother Chris is, he jumped at the opportunity and has certainly made the most of his opportunity in his first-ever start at Oswego.
“Rich asked if I wanted to drive the rest of the Series races, so I accepted, and he’s been helping me out with everything, as have the Caseys [fellow competitors Jay and Jason]. It’s been a big group effort just to get the car to the track,” Crane said.
The top eight finishers not already qualified for Sunday’s Wilkins RV 50 transferred into the Feature, and leading that 30-car field to the green will be another new face to the dirt-covered Oswego Speedway, Tony Markou.