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2008 Mr. DIRTcar Northeast Champions Crowned At Turning Stone Resort

2008 MrDIRT champs

Ken Dippel Photo - Mr. DIRTcar Champions (L-R): Pete Stefanski (Pro Stock), Pete Bicknell (358-Modified), Brian Carter (World Racing Group CEO), Billy Decker (Big-Block Modified), Chris Raabe (Sportsman)

Verona, NYNovember 15, 2008 – By Tom Skibinski, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast PR Director

Ten years doesn’t figure to be a very long time as one moves on in age and all the seasons seem to suddenly mesh together. For Billy Decker, the past decade chasing points on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series rolled on at a snail’s pace as that’s exactly the amount of time its taken for the Unadilla, New York driver to climb back to the top of the DIRTcar Racing world in the no. 91 Gypsum Express.

For the second time in his career, Decker moved to the forefront in Big-Block Modified racing as he was honored Saturday night as the overall Advance Auto Parts Series Mr. DIRTcar Champion to officially bring the curtain down on the 2008 race season.

“Yes, it sure did seem like a very, very long time since the last (title),” remarked a charismatically low-key Decker, now 43, and firmly entrenched in the DIRTcar record book as one of the best ever to turn a wheel in the Northeastern Modified ranks. The seasoned open-wheel chauffeur finished his 23rd season of Big-Block competition atop the list with 22 feature wins after matching all-time Advance Series winner Brett Hearn’s single-season tour mark of 10 victories. “Every year we always had some good portions, just couldn’t put something together and keep it there for a whole season.”

“We were definitely better prepared this year. We focused more on the Big-Block program, I think the late model events we ran a year ago took away from what we wanted to accomplish. And combined with a lot of different mechanical failures and some unlucky circumstances, it was just a frustrating time for everybody on the team. We certainly believe in Big-Block racing. The respect from everybody and the ability among all the competitors makes winning a championship like this so special. I feel blessed to be part of such a quality program,” Decker said.

On Saturday, November 15 a solid turnout of over 450 drivers, owners, crew members, officials, media members and corporate VIPs filled the Turning Stone Casino Resort Events Center in Verona, New York to celebrate during the 33rd Annual DIRTcar NorthEast “Night of Champions” Awards Banquet. Customary inclusion of four Mr. DIRTcar winning cars —parked triumphantly near center stage of the spacious dining room floor— once again served as a formidable backdrop, offering plenty of photo opportunities both before and after the festive stage production.

Familiar ‘voice’ of the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Shane Andrews emceed the program that was highlighted by captivating interviews with every major award winner throughout the night. World Racing Group Chief Executive Officer Brian Carter and WRG President and Chief of Operations Tom Deery also addressed the audience alongside Cory Reed, Director DIRTcar NE Competition & Track Sanctioning, while acknowledgements went out to Director of Operations Josh Wells, VP Public Relations Chris Dolack and Broadcast Services Manager Brian Dunlap that were in attendance from the World Racing Group on this special occasion.

Straying slightly from the norm in this year’s festivities, recognition for many of the 2008 DIRTcar NorthEast touring division track champions kicked off the banquet agenda with Regional Racing Series Champions honored before the standard 6:30 p.m. dinner fare.

Continuing in ‘08 with DIRTcar Northeast sanctioned tracks divided into regions for the Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified and Sportsman classes, Regional Racing Series point funds rewarded the top-15 drivers in each class, with total payouts equaling $45,150 for all nine open-wheel divisions. Recently crowned Regional champions earning $1,800 in the Big-Blocks were Decker (central), Brett Hearn (east) and Brian Swartzlander (west), Regional 358-Modified point winners collecting $1,000 were Kayle Robidoux (north), Jerry Higbie (east) and Pete Bicknell (west), while top point-getters in the Sportsman Regions receiving $800 were Chris Raabe (north), Todd Henderson (central) and James Michael Friesen (west).

Top point-getters in the Advance Auto Parts Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman, Pro Stock and Street Stock classes were recognized during this popular seasonal celebration and in the end more than $400,000 in cash and contingency awards were handed out to over 200 drivers in DIRTcar NE’s five major touring divisions.

Motorsports Marketing Supervisor Mike Paris presented awards on behalf Advance Auto Parts, Bicknell Racing Products Vice-President Randy Williamson rewarded teams in the name of Hoosier Racing Tire while Larry Bishop was in attendance from Dig Safely New York, a long standing supporter of DIRTcar Racing and sponsor of the Modified Non-Qualifiers race at Super DIRT Week. Bill Shay from Ferris Industries was also a special guest of DIRTcar Racing in this season-ending event.

In a special presentation made near the end of the night by Reed, Paris was recognized with a career achievement award. Paris received just the third-ever Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence which was created in 2006 to honor individuals, teams, associates, sponsors and others within the DIRTcar Racing Northeast community who exemplify characteristics that Glenn himself displayed. Pride, professionalism, dedication, loyalty and a genuine desire to excel are some of the attributes that qualified Paris to receive this year’s prized award.

“I might have received a lot of accolades from Cory (Reed, presenter) I’m not quite sure I deserve, its really all you guys that have made this program easy,” said a modest Paris, a native Virginian, whose devotion to Big-Block Modified racing has kept Advance Auto Parts in a prominent position within the Northeast automotive industry while many other company projects have come and gone since the DIRTcar association was formed in 1999. “There have been a lot of individuals with DIRTcar that have been able to make my job so much easier by watching over the program when I can’t be around. Without you, the fans —our customers— wouldn’t be coming out to the tracks.”

A custom trophy was given to Paris and his name will also be inscribed next to 2006 award winners John Holland and Al Heinke from H&H Motorsports and ’07 recipient Tim Burger from Rite Aid on a special plaque that will be put on display in the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame & Classic Car Museum located on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in Weedsport, New York.

Along with the $50,000 Mr. DIRTcar cash jackpot collected by Decker, the Southern Tier speedster received an additional $1,000 “Gater Leads The Way” prize package from Gater Racing Photo News editor Joe Patrick after the ‘Franklin Flyer’ led the most laps during the Advance Auto Parts Series which included 26 extra-distance feature races held from April through October.

“I have to start by thanking John and Laura Wight and the whole LJL Racing Team, they’ve provided us with a great foundation to build from,” Decker added. “And with any good program you’re surrounded by a good team and mine is led by Scott (Jeffery, crew chief). Everybody in this room needs no further proof of his abilities, they already know. He’s been a great team manager and just a lot of good people make things happen.”

“Sometimes there’s a good second-place finish, maybe even a good third, but we always show up to win. That’s all we really think about and I’m probably speaking for the rest of the guys on tour so that’s what makes this (Advance Series) so competitive. We really don’t want to points race, we want to race each and every one to win and let the points take care of themselves.”

For the first time since teaming with Decker and Jeffery in 2004, John and Laura Wight were called up to the podium and the Phoenix, New York couple accepted the coveted car owner’s award. The 2008 presentation marked their second Mr. DIRTcar Championship trophy with the first coming in ’04 when Pat Ward was the overall 358-Modified high points man.

“I knew we could do it, I was actually a little disappointed we hadn’t done it the last three years so I kinda expected it,” divulged John, who settled for fourth-place Mr. DIRTcar runs with Decker behind the wheel in 2004-05 and climbed to second in ’06 then stood third last season with 11 Advance Series wins scored those previous four years. “But we just didn’t come through and we had some problems. This year things started rolling our way and everybody did a great job.”

“It’s been a great season, really have to thank the crew for all the hard work they put into this. All I did was try and convey a desire to be number one, to win at whatever you do and to be the leader. I’m not someone who looks back and worries about what anybody else is doing and I think that’s the same for Billy. He never turns around to see who was just passed, he’s always looking ahead to see who he can get by next. Racing is just like business in that regard, it’s important to do the best with what you have control over and keep moving forward,” added Wight, a former owner of Can-Am Motorsports Park from 2001-03 before turning over the keys to current landlords Charlie and Billy Caprara.

In addition to his many monetary accolades, the World Racing Group provided a commemorative ring for the newest Mr. DIRTcar Modified Champion. Decker also carried off a rare and unique 38-pound hand-crafted “Tribute Trophy” that only World of Outlaws champions Donny Schatz (Sprint), Tim McCreadie (Late Model), Steve Francis (LM) and Darrell Lanigan (LM) plus 2006 Big-Block points king Hearn possess today for their own divisional championships.

“Its always exciting celebrating the champions,” said Brian Carter, as he addressed the banquet gathering in the popular Turning Stone showroom. “This year we have some first-time champions, some long-time champions, some with their careers budding and others in their twilight. The common denominator is that all of these successes are shared by friends and families tonight which is what makes this so special.”

“Our racing family continues to grow and our future looks quite strong. The numbers don’t lie showing so many new winners in all of our divisions and I’m darn happy about it. Racing has continued to survive and we’ve kept it entertaining by embracing our fans, sponsors and all the families that got us here. I’ve always felt what doesn’t kill you makes you that much stronger and with the weather this year we truly grew a lot stronger together. We’re very proud to carry forward the tradition begun by Glenn Donnelly. We have a lot of respect for what’s happening in the Northeast and DIRTcar Racing is a big part of what we have planned for the future beginning with 2009,” Carter concluded.

Added WRG President Tom Deery, “People still seek to be entertained and our track operators continue to provide fabulous avenues of entertainment as (DIRTcar) certainly maintains a very strong presence in this area.”

“Whenever there’s a challenge, racers always seem to reach out. This is our extended racing family here tonight and that’s what this sport is really all about. The great family that we are all a part of. We all have the same passion, we share the same love for dirt short-track racing and tonight is like our big family dinner. Above all, we care about each other and that’s what makes it so special getting together here tonight,” Deery noted.

For the third time in his career, Pete Bicknell captured the overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship. While Bicknell at 53 emerged as the oldest driver to garner the organization’s top Small-Block title, fellow Canadian Chris Raabe was recognized as the youngest as the ‘Teenage Tornado’ grabbed the group’s highest Sportsman honor at the age of 17.

“When I’m at the track until that first green flag drops I look at it from a promotor’s view now, but once the green lights come on I’m a racer and that’s all I’m here for,” said Bicknell, who also stands as co-owner of Merrittville Speedway and founder of internationally marketed Bicknell Racing Products based in St. Catharines, Ontario. “It’s a different perspective but that’s what makes it a lot of fun as you do learn a lot more. We did (Mr. DIRTcar) back in ’91 and ’94 so its great to win it again. We’re always so busy that we haven’t had a chance to travel too much so this year I said let’s do some traveling and try to go for it again.”

“I have to thank my brother Art, without his push I wouldn’t be here. Years ago I was thinking about quitting but he talked me into staying, buying all my stuff so he’s really the true owner of the race car. He fell off a ladder Monday and broke his hip so he’s in a hospital right now instead of joining me up here. So is my wife Nancy who’s helping him out. She’s always been behind me since day one. I also have to thank my daughters Erica, Darlene and Kristin, whatever happens out on the track they still have to put up with a lot of the crap and they’re not even the ones doing anything bad,” Bicknell said.

Teenage sensation Raabe from Napanee, Ontario earned $5,000 for his stellar performance in the Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman points chase after adding track titles at Brockville Ontario Speedway, Thunder Alley Speedpark and Rolling Wheels Raceway Park.

“We had a terrific season with so many great people behind me along with some solid sponsors and the whole deal put together by Gary McColman,” said Raabe, after becoming the first driver from north of the border to claim the coveted Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship since the touring format was established in 1990. “Its been a tremendous opportunity.”

“There was a little added pressure once we got out front but I try not to think about points too much. Just let things come to us. All year long I had that passion to succeed, I really love the sport and appreciate all the support I received. Not sure yet about next season, maybe some 358 or Big-Block racing. Don’t really have the finances right now but we’re looking to pick up some for next year, just nothing is set in stone at this point,” added Raabe, who led the entire DIRTcar NE Sportsman circuit with 19 feature wins.

Western New York Pro Stock standout Pete Stefanski took home $2,000 after collecting a record third straight full-fender title, winning a division-high 12 features to secure his second consecutive track points crown at Genesee Speedway.

“All I can say is that we wouldn’t be here without having the caliber of drivers we’ve got in this class, they run you clean everywhere we go,” said Stefanski, 38, after becoming the first driver in any division to lock up three successive Mr. DIRTcar Championships since the fledgling motorsports operation originated in 1976. “That’s the most important thing right now, being able to come from the back to the front without getting wrecked.”

“About 90% of this whole deal is my brothers Rob and Jim, the other 10% is me as they’re the ones that give me a car to win and I couldn’t do it without them. (4th title) would be great if it happened but that’s a long way off and we’re not sure if it could be pulled off. Whatever the outcome we’ll just go out and keep having fun, that’s what keeps us going,” Stefanski said.

The second full-fender honoree was Nathan Peckham, also 38 years old, although his title run was chronicled in just the second season of crowning and overall Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock Champion. “I never worry too much about the points, never do, if they come they come,” figured Peckham, who placed eighth in the inaugural Street Stock points chase held in 2007 and actually opened up the ’08 campaign sporting a Sportsman Modified entry on the Central New York circuit. “All the guys I race against are the fastest Street Stocks around so to win it (Mr. DIRTcar) feels real good. I’ll put this trophy right with the rest of my toys I have at home.”

Four rookie drivers were honored at the banquet and presented special achievement awards for their first-year success. An additional $7,000 in cash and prizes, including Extreme Mufflers and a ButlerBuilt Seat, were shared by 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE Racing Gear DIRTcar Northeast Rookies of the Year award winners Larry Wight (Mod & 358), Dave Marcuccilli (Spt) and Bruno Cyr (Pro).

‘Llive’ entertainment provided by the band Phatalyss closed out the gala evening in the events center while race teams, sponsors, track operators and guests were all invited back up to DIRTcar’s 4th Floor hospitality room for an after hours soiree to officially draw the curtain on DIRTcar’s 33rd season of auto racing promotion.

The start of 2009 is now only 88 days away as Volusia Speedway Park leads off down south with the 38th Annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH opening for Big-Block Modifieds on February 11. Check out often as further information for Volusia’s popular Winter tour events will be posted right up to race time.

Skidmarks: AARN Editor & Publisher Lenny Sammons made a rare appearance to present the annual ‘Area Auto Racing News Hard Luck’ award to Billy Dunn. Holley Carburetor ‘Hard Luck’ Awards were also handed out during the evening, with Dunn (Big-Block), Tommy Flannigan (358-Modified), Eric Giguere (Sportsman) and Dion Oakes (Pro Stock) rewarded for their perseverance throughout the season. Winnings continued to pile up for Dunn as he accepted a special Sportsmanship Award after making every event in the Advance Series ….. An informal Saturday afternoon media gathering in DIRTcar’s 4th Floor lounge pre-empted the dinner banquet with Cory Reed offering some brief notes about what transpired during the promoters’ meetings held Friday while corporate VP Media Chris Dolack and DIRTcar Racing Northeast PR Director also remained available to answer questions regarding the upcoming race season.


DIRTcar Pro Stock
Cornwall: Ron Morin Joey Ladouceur
Drummond: Yan Bussiere Jocelyn Roy
Edelweiss: Serge Lagace & Thunder Alley: Charlie & Billy Caprara (combined) Denis Gauvreau
Genesee: Mike Lauterborn Pete Stefanski
Lebanon Valley: Howard Commander Robbie Speed
Mohawk: Jody Swamp, John Lazore, Don Thompson Stephane Lebrun
Orange County: George Johnson & Ken Sands Mike Dutka

DIRTcar Sportsman
Black Rock: Dean Hoag Todd Henderson
Brockville: Paul & Cheryl Kirkland Chris Raabe
Can-Am: Charlie & Billy Caprara Brandon Sweet
Canandaigua: Jack Deery Kevin Ridley
Cayuga County: Jack Deery Jeremy Pitcher
Fulton: Art & Liz Halliday Jeremy Pitcher
Genesee: Mike Lauterborn Don Spatorico
Humberstone: Pete & Linda Cosco Tyler McPherson
Merrittville: Pete & Nancy Bicknell, Randy & Tracey Williamson Mike Bowman
Orange County: George Johnson & Ken Sands Mike Ruggiero
Ransomville: Jamie & Joel Friesen James M. Friesen
Rolling Wheels: Jack Deery Chris Raabe
Thunder Alley: Charlie & Billy Caprara Chris Raabe

DIRTcar 358-Modified
Airborne: Steve & Denise Fuller, Mike Perrotte Patrick Dupree
Brockville: Paul & Cheryl Kirkland Danny O’Brien
Can-Am: Charlie & Billy Caprara Larry Wight
Cornwall: Ron Morin Carey Terrance
Drummond: Yan Bussiere David Hebert
Edelweiss: Serge Lagace Laurent Ladouceur
Granby: Bob Gatien Kayle Robidoux
Merrittville: Pete & Nancy Bicknell, Randy & Tracey Williamson Chad Brachmann
Mohawk: Jody Swamp, John Lazore, Don Thompson John Lazore
Orange County: George Johnson & Ken Sands Jerry Higbie
Ransomville: Jamie & Joel Friesen Pete Bicknell

DIRTcar Big-Block Modified
Brewerton: Art Halliday Billy Decker
Can-Am: Charlie & Billy Caprara Frankie Caprara
Canandaigua: Jack Deery Steve Paine
Cayuga County: Jack Deery Alan Johnson
Fulton: Art & Liz Halliday Tom Sears Jr.
Lebanon Valley: Howard Commander J.R. Heffner & Mark Flach Jr.
Lernerville: Gary Risch Jr. Brian Swartzlander
Orange County: George Johnson & Ken Sands David VanHorn Jr.
Tri-City: Mike & Margaret Graham, Roger & Susie Crick Kevin Bolland

DIRTcar Sportsman Regional Champions
No. Driver Points               No. Driver Points                   No. Driver Points
1 01 Chris Raabe 720     18H Todd Henderson 862   52 James Friesen 868
2 24 Brandon Sweet 680 14 Jeremy Pitcher 810         5 Don Spatorico 818
3 74 Matt Billings 614       20X Kevin Ridley 798         71 Mike Bowman 814
4 11 Mike Mandigo 608    66 Dan Wiesner 776         777 Tyler McPherson 794
5 9R Tyler Rand 592         17D Tom Juhl 762             P38 Rob Pratt 786
6 32 Randy Gaudet 592     4 Daryl Hilkert 760             6 Mat Williamson 768
7 38W Luke Whitteker 590 29G Steve Gray 754         56 Steve Schumacher 766
8 83 Dylan Evoy 580            4 Mike Ruggiero 754        99P Greg Panunte 738
9 29 Tom Conklin 580         70 Brady Fultz 747             8S Justin Sharp 732
10 28 Jeff Stevenson 577  10 Tim Currier 746             19W Justin Wright 730
11 92 Adam Turner 558     19W Justin Wright 718     12 Chad Chevalier 716
12 96 Cole Dingwall 556   85 John Pietrowicz 712     11N Ricky Newton 710
13 15X Shane Pecore 546 17K Sam Reakes IV 706  0 Jipp Ortiz 708
14 7G Kevin Gamble 504  3A Fran Hilton 692             77 B.J. Willard 690
15 2X Ally Amell 502           3k A.J. Kingsley 692          18R Brad Rouse 690
44V John Venuto 674

DIRTcar 358-Modified Regional Champions
No. Driver Points                      No. Driver Points                 No. Driver Points
1 46 Kayle Robidoux 840       17 Jerry Higbie 388             42 Pete Bicknell 688
2 1 David Hebert 830              94 Tim Hindley 374             3B Chad Brachmann 668
3 23 Laurent Ladouceur 816 33-1/3 Tommy Meier 358   5/89B Todd Burley 648
4 96 Kyle Dingwall 808             4* Brett Hearn 326             38 Scott Wood 626
5 66X Carey Terrance 802     71 David VanHorn 326         23L Larry Lampman Jr. 616
6 90 Martin Roy 802                 211 Chuck McKee 322         28 Scott Kerwin 602
7 40 Joel Doiron 796               33X Craig Mitchell 320         20 Jeff McGinnis 586
8 22 Eric Gauvreau 776          7K Kirk Horton 316             123 Robbie Krull 584
9 14 Mitchell Jock 772             24 Chris Shultz 316             44 Brian Stevens 566
10 19 John Lazore 772             9 Johnny Guarino 314         26 Rick Richner 562
11 24 Patrick Dupree 770       77 Jimmy Johnson 310       41 Boyd MacTavish 520
12 124 Pierre Dagenais 766 80 Dom Roselli 286             72 Tommy Flannigan 520
13 39 Clement Therrien 762 313 Jeremy Markle 269         9 Kenny Cosgrove 510
14 22 Mario Clair 758             53T Tom Dakake 251         15J Tim Jones 508
15 16 Lance Willix 746            68 Neal Harris 245             93 Rich Vinson 504
15 19Z Jessica Zemken 746

DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Regional Champions
No. Driver Points                     No. Driver Points                     No. Driver Points
1 91 Billy Decker 900             20/74 Brett Hearn 554             83 Brian Swartzlander 704
2 14J Alan Johnson 850         4 Andy Bachetti 534               777 Kevin Bolland 700
3 9S Matt Sheppard 844         19 Chuck McKee 518             37MD Jeremiah Shingledecker 686
4 77X Dale Planck 832         77F Mark Flach Jr. 512             20D Del Rougeux Jr. 626
5 99J/98 Jimmy Phelps 824 115 Kenny Tremont 510         61 Dave Murdick 602
6 84 Gary Tomkins 822         74 J.R. Heffner 508                 28 Tom Winkle 578
7 7X Steve Paine 816             47 Jerry Higbie 492                 25 Joe Crawford 571
8 FX1 Frankie Caprara 770  71 David VanHorn 488           17H Kevin Hoffman 544
9 24 Jim Witko Jr. 740             66 Jeff Heotzler 472                 2 Mark Flick 514
10 6 Pat O’Brien 738               98 Eddie Marshall 464          41 Andy Priest 500
11 99 Ryan Phelps 714          79 Michael Storms 462         66 J.R. McGinley 488
12 3H Justin Haers 712         42 Guy Sheldon 462             12T Tim Doran 484
13 1X Willy Decker 706         33-1/3 Tommy Meier 446        38 Phil Evans Jr. 468
14 62S Tom Sears Jr. 694     25 Mike Kolka 442                  96 Mike Turner 466
15 99B Chuck Bower 688      43 Keith Flach 436                  6 Carl Murdick 456

Teenage sensation Raabe stayed in command from day one with a division-high total of 18 wins and track crowns at Brockville Ontario Speedway and Thunder Alley Speedpark to earn Northern Region accolades. Black Rock Speedway Champion Henderson racked up nine wins in the Central area while third-generation chauffeur Friesen enjoyed a memorable rookie campaign in the western wing by scoring 11 feature wins and wrapping up the Ransomville Speedway championship.

In the Small-Block ranks, the Canadian contingent of Robidoux (Quebec) and Bicknell (Ontario) were dead-locked atop the DIRTcar 358-Modified win list with seven victories apiece, with Robidoux capturing the Autodrome Granby title and Bicknell the high-point man at Ransomville Speedway. Higbie used a pair of feature wins to claim the Orange County trophy en route to the Eastern points title.

Collecting a fourth points title at Brewerton Speedway and leading the entire DIRTcar NorthEast circuit with 22 feature wins, Decker easily separated himself from the pack during the summer and cruised on to the Central Region crown in convincing fashion. All-time DIRTcar Modified feature winner Hearn, a six-time Big-Block victor in ’08, was the class of the Eastern Region for a second straight year, as was Swartzlander out West as the eight-time winner successfully defended his Lernerville Speedway season championship as well.

Top-5 Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock Championship
5. RON HAWKER 642 Pts
4. ADAM DePUY 599

The DIRTcar Racing organization has recognized touring division champions since it was established during the Bicentennial. 2008 marks the 33rd season of DIRT short-track competition and with it comes the crowning of just the second-ever Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock Champion. The Mr. DIRTcar Street Stock titlist is the individual that accumulated the most points in five extra-distance Championship Series events held this year from April through November, with hometrack bonus points added in from DIRTcar Weekly Racing Series events to match all other tour formats.

Consistency was the primary factor in crowning NATHAN PECKHAM as the 2008 Champion after he ended the championship trail with all top-10 finishes and three in the front-four. Yet the final outcome was still decided by a single point as Canandaigua Speedway titlist MIKE WELCH used one win and 4th in the last race to create the narrow margin. While Welch claimed round two at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, Peckham followed up with back-to-back runner-up showings in October at Fulton Speedway and Cayuga County Fair Speedway during Super DIRT Week to grab a lead he would never relinquish. At 38 years old, this 10-year full-fender veteran from Seneca Falls, N.Y. was a weekend warrior at both Cayuga County Fair Speedway, 7th in points with 2 feature wins, and Canandaigua Speedway where he finished 15th in points steering his #90 Industrial Services of Rochester-Seneca Falls Auto Value Chevrolet Camaro entry.

NICK RIZZO kicked off the campaign in September with a win at Canandaigua and became the only driver to repeat in ’08 at Cayuga County in October. RON HAWKER and ANDY FISK joined Peckham on the traveling tour with a division-high total of 3 top-5s while Shawn Frost added a checkered flag at Fulton Speedway and Rich Talada claimed the World 100 series finale at Black Rock Speedway.

Top-12 Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Championship
12. ROCH AUBIN 862 Pts.
11. BRUNO CYR 863
6. DION OAKES 977…Holley Hard Luck Award Winner
5. P.J. PETERS 1059

The newest overall Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock titlist to be crowned is the individual that accumulated the most points in 11 extra-distance Championship Series events as well as bonus points issued from DIRTcar Weekly Racing Series shows held during the regular season. Maybe the most remarkable feat was this driver’s extraordinary level of consistency that placed him among the top-five finishers in every tour event!

2008 marked the 14th season that DIRTcar Racing offered a Mr. DIRTcar title for the premier Pro Stockers and it ended with the first back-to-back-to-back champion in DIRTcar Northeast history. And the third straight crown for PETE STEFANSKI continued the area dominance as he captured the eighth tour title in the past nine years for Western New York travelers. The return of Canandaigua Speedway, Genesee Speedway, Can-Am Motorsports Park to the fold, along with the first-ever tour stop at Autodrome Drummond, extended the Series schedule to 11 extra-distance races as only the show at Mohawk Int’l Raceway fell to rain. But that was more than enough for Stefanski as he began his ceremonial season-ending speech after Super DIRT Week with a trip to victory lane over Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway still waiting to cap off another record-setting campaign.

Continuing to reign over his weekly Saturday domain of Genesee Speedway for a second straight summer, this full-fender standout from Wheatfield, N.Y. once again exhibited his superiority by scoring five feature wins to lock up a second straight track points title at the Fairgrounds oval. He was just as comfortable away from home posing in the winner’s circle at six more tracks beside the no. 2 Sunrise Racing-SanTer Sewing-Totem Pole Novelties/Chevrolet Monte Carlo EMS entry, taking two more trophies at Thunder Alley Speedpark in early season special appearances. He continued his record-setting campaign by closing out the Series winning three of the final four races, including his first-ever triumph at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park as well as a fourth consecutive victory in the Fulton weekend finale.

While racking up three consecutive series victories in August, our eventual Mr. DIRTcar champion grabbed his first points lead in July and never let go. LOUIE JACKSON at Can-Am and DON BARNES at Rolling Wheels kicked off the ’08 tour campaign with popular series wins yet Stefanski held steady with a pair of 3rd-place finishes scored in both. Frenchman DENIS GAUVREAU on home soil at Autodrome Edelweiss and first-year tour traveler DON CARLSON at Canandaigua Speedway temporarily halted Stefanski’s streak yet only Super DIRT Week winner SEAN CORR could get in his way the rest of the trip. Carlson, Gauvreau, JOEY LADOUCEUR and P.J. PETERS followed when the points chase finally came to a close in October at Orange County following Stefanski’s flag-to-flag run to the checkers.

Our newest Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Champion ended the season with 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. Those six tour victories also vaulted him past former full-fender rival Jipp Ortiz —himself a three Mr. DIRTcar Champion— on the all-time Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock Series win list, now with 20 first-place trophies in championship race competition. This year the top-12 share in the point fund in excess of $7,000, with PETE STEFANSKI taking home the lion’s share of $2 grand for a third straight autumn!

Top-12 Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship
12. DAN WIESNER 1019 Pts.
11. ERIC GIGUERE 1051…..*Holley Hard Luck Award Winner

The overall Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship was filled with 15 extra-distance events and our newest title-holder was one of 13 different drivers to take a checkered flag the first season that crate motors were mandated at every tour stop. Four tracks fell victim to rain with only Rolling Wheels Raceway Park among the 10 survivors staging more than one tour show and Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman ’08 held strong to score four top-5 finishes in the six main feature races held at the Centrally located Elbridge, New York oval. The crown was earned this year by accumulating the most points in six months of extra-distance Championship Series events while collecting bonus points from DIRTcar Weekly Racing Series events held throughout the regular season. The 2008 championship trail resulted in only two repeat winners while 10 drivers made their first-ever trips to victory lane in series competition.

Our newest champion brought the 19th Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman title chase to a close in decisive fashion, securing his first points lead late in September then outlasting both the rain and his closest opposition to earn the coveted crown. 2008 was certainly a break-out season for the “Teenage Tornado” as he more than tripled his output from the previous summer, ending the year atop the win chart with 19 victories at four different tracks to increase his DIRTcar career count to 31, previously recording just a single top-five finish in tour competition last year at Brewerton Speedway.

Ironically, our current champion opened the 2008 Sportsman trail failing to qualify, yet quickly rebounded by finishing —in order— eighth, fifth, third and second before winning his lone series show on home soil at Brockville Ontario Speedway. Central New York standout DAN WIESNER also notched his first career tour triumph in round two at Rolling Wheels and topped the point standings much of the way, remaining there with the addition of track bonus points issued after Labor Day. On September 19 at Humberstone Speedway where GREG PANUNTE won the first of his two in three races, another top-five tally by our eventual champion combined with 18th-place by Wiesner was enough to forge the deciding lead change. And the rain that forced an unceremonious cancellation of the finale at Can-Am Motorsports Park ultimately kept the slim advantage intact.

By season’s end our overall champion had registered (7) tour top-5 finishes to cling to a narrow 46-point margin ahead of runner-up and late-season charger Panunte to claim the prized Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar title. In doing so, CHRIS RAABE emerged as the youngest champion ever in 33 seasons of DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast with the 17 year-old go-cart graduate from Napanee, Ontario and driver of the no. 01 Scott’s Industrial Services-TyRoute Communication/TEO entry putting an exclamation point on a career campaign — one that also included track point crowns at Brockville, Rolling Wheels and Thunder Alley Speedpark along with high-point honors in the DIRTcar Northeast ‘North’ Region final standings.

Top-15 Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship
15. ROY TARBELL 583 Pts.
12. TOMMY FLANNIGAN 728….. *Holley Hard Luck Award Winner

2008 marked the 26th season for the Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Series Championship and the trophy remains in Canada for another year as our newest titlist will take it back home to St. Catharines, Ontario for a third time in his legendary career. In the tour’s Silver Anniversary season, 1983-2008, the top Small-Block drivers on the DIRTcar Northeast circuit chased points in 10 extra-distance Championship Series events, along the way earning bonuses while competing in DIRTcar Weekly Racing Series events held throughout the regular season.

DIRTcar’s premier Small-Block Series opened in the month of April for the first time since 2004, with eventual champion PETE BICKNELL finishing fifth at Merrittville Speedway — a track that he has held the deed at since 2003 and is also the all-time feature winner. Yet the trip across the border into the province of Ontario for DALE PLANCK made the All-American racer feel right at home as he took top honors ahead of DANNY O’BRIEN and CHAD BRACHMANN, both of whom would ultimately finish second and third on the final overall Mr. DIRTcar points chart. Bicknell had to wait until the end of August to crack the front-five again yet assumed his first official lead when track bonus points were issued after Labor Day. Bicknell remained on pace backing that up two weeks later with fourth-place run in the September stop at Autodrome Drummond, although August 31 Cornwall winner O’Brien also collected the $15,000 Drummondville winner’s share to close within 37 points of ‘Mr. Small-Block’ despite rain forcing cancellation of the annual show at Brockville, where O’Brien has captured the last three track crowns.

Back in the states, top Canadian challenger O’Brien rallied to finish fifth at Canandaigua Speedway and pulled closer as just 13 markers separated him from Bicknell, who was in line for his third Mr. DIRTcar Championship while O’Brien was even more hungry in search of his first overall title. Super DIRT Week opened at Brewerton Speedway and Bicknell regained his 30-plus points lead with a solid third, then chased O’Brien across the stripe the next night to maintain his narrow advantage. The difference was 32 points heading into Eastern States Weekend at Orange County Fair Speedway in what turned out to be the ’08 series finale —rain curtailed the efforts of Can-Am Motorsports Park for a second time— and Bicknell was up to task, finishing one spot ahead of the ‘Pocket Rocket’ to garner his first Mr. DIRTcar Championship in 14 years.

Enjoying his last overall Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Championship in 1994, now at 53 years of age Bicknell is the oldest driver ever to wear the coveted crown since the nationally recognized organization was established during the United States’ Bicentennial. The seasoned Small-Block veteran from St. Catharines joins fellow Canadians Pat O’Brien, Doug Carlyle, Laurent Ladouceur and Frenchman Mario Clair with 10 Mr. DIRTcar titles between them since the first Small-Block Championship was first offered in 1983.

Continuing an unlikely trend, Bicknell matched ‘07 overall Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Champion Clair and his predecessor Brett Hearn, the 2006 champ, both of whom did not reach victory lane during the Series en route to their lone titles. In his 10 tour starts this year the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Class of ’03 inductee did produce seven top-10 feature finishes, also posting four front-5s behind the wheel of his self-designed no. 42 Lucas Oil Products-backed entry powered by a Morrison motor much of the season. In 2008, with a division-best 7 feature wins, Bicknell increased his all-time high DIRTcar career count to 197 victories in 358-Modified competition while adding a fifth track points title at Ransomville Speedway.

Top-15 Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block Modified Championship
15. PAT O’BRIEN 1049 Pts.
14. LARRY WIGHT 1242
12. BILLY DUNN 1599….. *Holley / Area Auto Hard Luck Award Winner & Sportsmanship Award Winner
1. BILLY DECKER 2495….. *Gater Racing Photo News Lap Leader Award Winner

Since 1976, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast has been declaring an overall Advance Auto Parts Big-Block Modified champion. Over the past three decades the point fund has grown to reflect the magnitude of this championship and with nearly 30 tracks participating in this year’s title chase, a combined point fund in excess of $200,000 awaits the top 15 Hoosier Tire Mr. DIRTcar point getters, with over $50,000 in cash and contingency awards going to the 2008 overall champion.

In a turnaround from the previous year that featured a change in the point standings at the final event, the outcome of the 33rd edition of DIRTcar’s premier Big-Block Modified title chase was determined even before our champion suited up for the Eastern States Weekend finale at Orange County Fair Speedway. But that’s the way the season went from day one for BILLY DECKER as he won early and often before latching onto to his second Mr. DIRTcar title trophy when the 2008 campaign came to a close in October.

In a rare occurrence, opening race winner MATT SHEPPARD at Virginia Motor Speedway did not top the points chart as round one runner-up Duane Howard set the Integra Shocks Fast Time and copped his qualifying to take an early lead using bonus points to his advantage. Reigning Mr. DIRTcar points king BRETT HEARN settled for third at VMS and tallied two more front-five finishes at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park and the New Jersey Jet remained highest in the points standing as May came to a close with the Hall of Fame Classic at Cayuga County Fair Speedway. Decker and DALE PLANCK split the winner’s circle at DIRTcar founding member tracks Rolling Wheels and Cayuga County, and when they finished first and third at Fulton Speedway in June, this time they even shared the Advance Series lead as the top two approached the busiest month of the season dead-locked in points with two victories each.

But that was the closest anyone got to Decker as returned to victory lane in the July lid-lifter at Ransomville Speedway and scored his third straight tour win on Canadian soil at Brockville Ontario Speedway. He continued to build a commanding lead, returning from Quebec with an 81-point advantage despite Hearn winning at Autodrome Granby and Planck registering his first career Big-Block victory at Autodrome Drummond. And Decker remained dominant back in the states, adding his fifth win while pushing his lead to 93 points over Hearn, who became the first driver to reach the century mark after his 100th career Advance Series triumph was taken at Orange County to bring July to a close.

The month of August was even better yet for the ‘Franklin Flyer’ as Decker captured half of the eight Modified main events, with only one finish out of the front-four in his most consistent run of the season. In what would turn out to be his 10th and final tour triumph of ’08, Decker closed out Labor day Weekend with a decisive performance at Rolling Wheels and his lead ballooned to 189 points with just a handful of events waiting in the wings. And fortunately for him it was all that he needed as just one more top-five was tallied at Canandaigua Speedway with 6th-place at Rolling Wheels and 9th at Orange County his best outings in the “200s” that made up the Grand Slam segment of the Advance Auto Parts Super Series.

In the final chapter of DIRTcar Racing’s 33rd successive season, 43 year-old Decker parked the Enders-powered LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int’l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell entry in the winner’s circle on a single-season record-tying 10 occasions, figuring in 18 top-5 and 24 top-10 finishes in the 26 tour races staged along the way. Decker concluded his 25th season of open-wheel competition by capturing a division best 22 DIRTcar Big-Block feature wins at nine different tracks to extend his career count to 172; with another dozen victories registered in 358-Modified racing. The Unadilla, New York star also ranks 5th all-time on the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series win list with 49 extra-distance Modified victories with seven more logged in the Mr. DIRTcar Small-Block Champ Trail.

For the third straight time in 2009 both the Len Sammons Motorsports Productions’ Atlantic City Indoor Race and Motorsports 2009 events will be run in conjunction with each other the weekend of Jan. 16-17. Area Auto Racing News Editor & Publisher Lenny Sammons is presenting the ‘Area Auto Racing News Hard Luck’ award winner Billy Dunn two tickets to the shows, which includes Saturday night luxury hotel accommodations in Atlantic City.

Billy Dunn’s Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series highlights in the no. 49 Number One Speed-American Traditions-Fast Lube Watertown/Bicknell entry include 12th in the final 2008 overall Mr. DIRTcar Big-Block point standings with three Top-10 finishes in 26 starts.

The ‘Gater Leads The Way’ awards recognizes the big-block Modified driver that led the most laps during Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series feature race competition. Tonight, award winner Billy Decker, who led 618 laps in 10 main events & winning all 10, has earned a $1,000 package from Gater News for leading the most laps.

* 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE DIRTcar NE Pro Stock Rookie of the Year:
BRUNO CYR – Carignan, QUE (28 yrs.)
– driver of the no. 33 Soudure Boucherville-Secure Deck/Chevrolet Monte Carlo entry;
– competed at Drummond (2nd pts/7 top-5, 11 top-10), Cornwall (17th pts/2 Top-5);
– finished 11th in overall Mr. DIRTcar Pro Stock pts standings (2 top-10 finishes);
$1250 award; G-FORCE Helmet, 6-Pt Safety Belts/Driving Gloves; $225 HANS gift certificate; $250 cash;
and Extreme Muffler package.

* 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE DIRTcar NE Sportsman Rookie of the Year:
DAVE MARCUCCILLI – Cayuga, N.Y. (32 yrs.)
– driver of the no. M1 Barbay & Son Construction-Crew Boyz Racing-Stormin/Bicknell entry;
– competed at Cayuga Co. (8th pts/1 win, 5 top-5, 7 top-10 finish), Rolling Wheels (19th pts);
– finished 19th in overall Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman pts (1 top-5, 1 top-10 finish);
$1250 award; G-FORCE Helmet, 6-Pt Safety Belts/Driving Gloves; $225 HANS gift certificate; $250 cash;
and Extreme Muffler package.

* 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE DIRTcar NE 358 Modified Rookie of the Year:
LARRY WIGHT – Phoenix, N.Y. (16 yrs.) …..
– driver of the no. 99 Gypsum Express-Gypsum Wholesalers-Tracey Road Equip/Bicknell entry;
– competed at Can-Am (1st pts/4 wins 9 top-5, 9 top-10);
– finished 4th in overall Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified points (1 top-5, 2 top-10 finishes);
$1500 award; G-FORCE Helmet, 6-Pt Safety Belts/Driving Gloves; $225 HANS gift certificate; $500 cash;
and Extreme Muffler package.

* 2008 Motorsports Safety Systems/G-FORCE DIRTcar NE Big-Block Modified Rookie of the Year:
LARRY WIGHT – Phoenix, N.Y. (16 yrs.)
– driver of the no. 99 Gypsum Express-Gypsum Wholesalers-Tracey Road Equip/Bicknell entry;
– competed at Cayuga Co. (13th pts/1 win, 1 top-5, 2 top-10), Brewerton (11th/2 top-5, 6 top-10);
– finished 14th in overall Mr. DIRTcar Modified points (8th-place best at Virginia Motor Speedway);
$3000 award; G-FORCE Helmet, 6-Pt Safety Belts/Driving Gloves; $225 HANS gift certificate;
and Extreme Muffler package ….. plus $2,000 ButlerBuilt Racing Seat!

….. presented to Motorsports Marketing Supervisor for Advance Auto Parts MIKE PARIS
Introduced in 2006, the Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence honors individuals, teams, associates, sponsors and others within the DIRTcar Racing Northeast community who exemplify characteristics that Glenn himself displayed. Pride, professionalism, dedication, loyalty and a genuine desire to excel are some of the attributes that qualify recipients for this most prestigious award. *Inaugural winners car owners JOHN HOLLAND & AL HEINKE (2006) and Rite Aid Corporation Senior Vice-President TIM BURGER (2007) are great examples. These qualities separate DIRTcar members apart from the others and it’s the dedication and love of this sport set in motion by Glenn, that make this great image of DIRT racing possible. This award is earned, not won.

The Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series is recognized not only throughout the Northeast but around the entire country as the premier traveling tour for the mighty Big-Block Modifieds, pitting some of the premier race teams against each other in one of the most competitive point chases encompassing many of the most storied speedways in the region today. The recipient of the 2008 Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence has not only continued to enhance the status of this nationally respected series, over the past decade he has emerged as the single-most influential person responsible for solidifying the ongoing relationship between DIRTcar Racing and the Advance Auto Parts mainstream.

The introduction to motorsports came early as our award winner’s father took him to nearby Bowman-Gray Stadium at the age of 4 and interest was instantly instilled in the Modified division that was the headline class at this legendary oval in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Although a native of Martinsville, Virginia, his hometown track only hosted special events, thus prompting the weekly 50-mile excursion south to enjoy the Saturday night Big-Block battles. Interest deepened as one of his first assignments for the Martinsville High School student newspaper was to take Modified pictures at Martinsville Speedway, where he captured former NASCAR Cup crew chief and successful car owner Ray Evernham behind the wheel in an action sequence highlighted by a fiery crash. After graduation he attended Martinsville Community College —working at a camera store during semesters— and followed up with a degree in Business Administration from James Madison University in 1990. While at JMU he joined up in a PR capacity with some childhood friends and the Riggs Bros. Racing Team fielded top-notch rides for Bowman-Gray’s all-time Modified champion Junior Miller with tour travels taking him to New York for the first time. Soon after earning his college diploma, our award winner was contacted by Advance Auto Parts Company President and CEO, Garnett E. Smith, and thus began his current affiliation with the prominent auto parts chain dealing directly with store merchandise in 1992.

The Advance Stores Company, then a chain of two stores in Roanoke and one in Lynchburg, Virginia, originated in 1932 and his father served as a store manager beginning in 1952 before retiring after 36 years of service to the company — one that has since emerged as the second-largest auto parts supplier in the nation, boasting more than 3,200 retail stores with over 800 dealer stores in 48 states. Following in the “tire tracks” of his dad, he quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder training personnel, setting up and remodeling stores while maintaining his pasttime to become the official company photographer as well as chief track photographer at Martinsville. But even before the millennium came to a close, he faced one more opportunity, and this offer was greeted by great enthusiasm as it offered him a chance to return to his Modified racing roots. A letter of intent was submitted to DIRTcar Northast Marketing Director Jim Hillier in February and an official signing on March 12, 1999 brought instant notoriety in the world of short-track racing as the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series was suddenly born. DIRTcar Northeast has been the primary beneficiary ever since, with 2008 marking the 10th consecutive year of Advance Auto Parts affiliation which remains one of the longest continuous partnerships in motorsports today.

In recognition of our appreciation to the Advance Auto Parts Company for “Keeping The Wheels Turning” and to a man who has been instrumental in the success and continuity of DIRTcar Racing, tonight we would like to present the 3rd-ever Glenn Donnelly Award of Excellence to MIKE PARIS!

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

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.

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