Weedsport, NY — December 9, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director
2008 was a break-out season for 17 year-old go-cart graduate Chris Raabe from Napanee, Ontario as he more than tripled his output from the previous summer, ending the year with a division-best 19 victories to increase his DIRTcar count to 31. The ‘Teenage Tornado’ emerged as the youngest champion ever in 33 seasons of DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast, putting an exclamation point on a career campaign that included track point crowns at Brockville Ontario Speedway, Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and Thunder Alley Speedpark, along with high-point honors in the DIRTcar ‘North’ Region final standings steering Gary McColman’s no. 01 Scott’s Industrial Services-TyRoute Communication/TEO entry.
Canadian chauffeur Greg Panunte was one of just two tour drivers to make a return trip to victory lane in ’08, with the open-wheel veteran from Port Colborne,Ontario scoring his two wins in three September races to help secure runner-up in the final standings. A three-time winner at his Sunday night home of Humberstone Speedway, Panunte racked up seven Top-10 finishes steering the Montgomery Gas, Heating & Cooling no. 99P Gaston’s Auto Sales/Bicknell machine.
Hard charging Mark D’Ilario was among 10 first-time tour winners during the 2008 Mr. DIRTcar Series, putting the Cheetah no. 08 Vavoline-Import/Bicknell ride in the winner’s circle at Rolling Wheels Raceway to spark a third-place finish on the points chart. The rising star from Smithville, Ontario added six more Top-Five tallies, including second at Merrittville Speedway, where he contended every Saturday during the summer.
Repeating as champion at both Cayuga County Fair Speedway and Fulton Speedway for a second straight year, Central New York standout Jeremy Pitcher finished a solid fourth in his first full season chasing Mr. DIRTcar Championship points. Pitcher posted a pair of front-five finishes in series competition, with his MDV Construction no. 14 Empire State Container/Troyer mount propelling the Fulton, New York racer to a win at each regular weekend stop over the summer.
Second-year tour follower Tyler McPherson completed the Top-Five in Mr. DIRTcar Series points for a second successive season, registering six Top-10s aboard the C. McPherson Trucking no. 777 Guy McPherson Haulage-Willard Racing/Bicknell entry in the ’08 title run. The recently crowned Humberstone Speedway champion from St. Catharines, Ontario scored a third-place tour best at Brockville and fourth closer to home at Merrittville where he logged his only other tour front-five finish this season.
Mat Williamson settled into a quiet sixth-place in the final standings, netting a half-dozen Top-10 feature finishes after traveling to and qualifying for all 15 series shows. Contending at Merrittville and Humberstone speedways throughout the summer, the St. Catharines, Ontario runner found Rolling Wheels to his liking on tour with three Top-Five finishes registered behind the wheel of the Scott’s Marine Interior no. 6 Bermingham Construction/Bicknell car.
Making a full-scale assault on the Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Series for the first time in 2008, John Pietrowicz qualified for every event and ended up seventh in points with Rolling Wheels Raceway and Brewerton Speedway the sites of his two top-five tour tallies. The familiar red Gypsum Express no. 85 Gypsum Wholesalers-Bombadils Tavern/TEO team car also placed in the Top-10 on six occasions as the Phoenix, New York driver found his way to victory for the first time this season, taking a total of three checkered flags at Fulton Speedway.
After clinching the 2008 points title at Merrittville Speedway, Mike Bowman could only muster a fifth-place at his Thorold, Ontario home track in the tour special and eventually figure into eighth in the final Mr. DIRTcar standings. A runner-up finish in May at Rolling Wheels and third-place at Humberstone in September were the bright spots in a year of misfortune for this St.Catharines, Ontario wheelman recognized in the Seaway Hose & Hydraulics no. 71 Eaton Aeroquip/Bicknell entry.
A full schedule of Series stops and weekend racing at both Genesee and Ransomville speedways afforded Justin Wright ninth position in the year-end Mr. DIRTcar rankings. The Piffard, New York pilot cracked the front-five once at Rolling Wheels on Labor Day and the AJC Motorsports no. 19W Pat O’Brien’s Steam Flaked Corn/Bicknell machine made its way into the Top-10 at Canandaigua Speedway one last time in autumn.
Third-generation driver James Michael Friesen rounds out the Top-10 in points on the strength of three Top-Fives in his 11 events, with that trio of second-place runs highlighting the month of September. The grandson of Northeast Modified Hall of Famer honoree Stan Friesen, this St. Catharines, Ontario racer captured the Ransomville Speedway points title and not only won his first career DIRTcar Sportsman feature, he went on to claim 10 more regular-season victories buckled into the Blue Moon Potatoes no. 52 Rad Toyz Collectibles/Bicknell ride.
For the first time following the Mr. DIRTcar Championship trail, 2008 Holley Hard Luck award recipient Eric Giguere rolled to 11th in the point standings wheeling the Safety Awareness Solutions no. 67G WB Automotive/TEO mount. The Canandaigua Speedway mainstay from Waterloo, New York made his way around the Northeast in tour competition, tallying Top-Fives at Brockville and Rolling Wheels with a third-place best claimed in the April lid-lifter at Black Rock Speedway.
Behind the wheel of the Monroe Wheelchair Racing no. 66 Shuttleworth Asphalt Sealing/Troyer entry, Dan Wiesner garnered his first career tour triumph in round two this year at Rolling Wheels, salvaging the final point fund payoff spot by finishing 12th in the ’08 standings despite missing the final three events. The eighth-year Sportsman pilot from Geneva, New York topped the points chart much of the way —remaining there with the addition of track bonus points issued after Labor Day— until a final DNF at Fulton in October curtailed his second try at earning DIRTcar Northeast’s highest honor.
2008 Overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series
Point Standings (FINAL)
Rank No. Driver Points Series Track Diff. Wins T-5 T-10 Starts
1 01 Chris Raabe 1,304 1,004 300 0 1 7 9 14
2 99P Greg Panunte 1,258 978 280 -46 2 4 7 15
3 08 Mark D’Ilario 1,232 984 248 -72 1 7 8 15
4 14 Jeremy Pitcher 1,188 904 284 -116 0 2 8 14
5 777 Tyl. McPherson 1,158 880 278 -146 0 2 6 15
6 6 Mat Williamson 1,153 897 256 -151 0 3 6 15
7 85 John Pietrowicz 1,148 866 282 -156 0 2 6 15
8 71 Mike Bowman 1,106 822 284 -198 0 3 6 13
9 19W Justin Wright 1,091 817 274 -213 0 1 2 15
10 52 James Friesen 1,061 769 292 -243 0 3 4 11
11 67G Eric Giguere 1,051 781 270 -253 0 3 5 14
12 66 Dan Wiesner 1,019 739 280 -285 1 5 6 12
13 20X Kevin Ridley 753 475 278 -551 1 2 4 8
14 10 Tim Currier 753 485 268 -551 0 0 0 10
15 17T Todd Town 739 495 244 -565 1 2 6 8
16 29G Steve Gray 738 454 284 -566 1 2 3 7
17 12 Chad Chevalier 728 464 264 -576 0 0 3 9
18 24 Brandon Sweet 722 430 292 -582 0 0 2 5
19 M1 Dave Marcuccilli® 708 436 272 -596 0 1 1 7
20 2 Rob Knapp 703 445 258 -601 0 0 1 9
21 17K Sam Reakes IV 698 418 280 -606 0 3 4 7
22 4 Daryl Hilkert 660 406 254 -644 0 0 0 7
23 18R Brad Rouse 630 340 290 -674 1 1 3 4
24 33 Mike Ruggiero 617 325 292 -687 2 2 2 4
25 26H Luke Carleton 602 358 244 -702 0 0 0 8
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.