Young Canadian Star Turns Back Decker’s Bid For Unprecedented Sweep Of Super DIRT Week XL
SYRACUSE, NY – Oct. 9, 2011 – Stewart Friesen of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., cemented his place in Super DIRT Week history on Sunday at the one-mile New York State Fairgrounds, winning the SEF Small Engine Fuel 200 presented by Ferris & Snapper for the second consecutive season.
One year after earning acclaim as the first Canadian to capture DIRTcar Big-Block Modified racing’s most prestigious event, the 28-year-old star authored an even more convincing performance in the event’s milestone 40th annual edition to become just the sixth driver to win back-to-back SEF 200s.
Friesen inherited the lead on lap 101 when Bobby Varin of Sharon Springs, N.Y., pitted and was virtually flawless for the remainder of the distance. He relinquished the top spot on lap 154 – when he joined every other lead-lap driver in making a mandatory pit stop between laps 150-175 – but was first out of the pits and cycled right back to the front the following circuit.
Four-time SEF 200 champion Billy Decker of Unadilla, N.Y., who turned back a late-race challenge from Friesen to win Saturday’s DIRTcar 358-Modified Nationwide Insurance 150, returned to the track second behind Friesen on lap 154 and stayed there to the finish. The 45-year-old veteran made several bids for the lead but wasn’t able to unseat Friesen, who held an edge of 1.087 seconds over Decker at the checkered flag.
Two-time SEF 200 winner Vic Coffey of Unadilla, N.Y., finished third, over four seconds behind Friesen. Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., who won the SEF 200 in 2004, placed fourth after winning Sunday’s Dig Safely New York Last Chance Qualifier and starting 37th, and Pat Ward of Genoa, N.Y., completed the top five.
“This is so cool,” said Friesen, who joined Buzzie Reutimann (1972-73), Gary Balough (1976-78), Merv Treichler (1981-82), Brett Hearn (1990-91) and Decker (2000-01) as a repeat winner of the SEF 200. “There was a ton of pressure knowing I had such a good handling car last year, so just trying to duplicate that and have a good race car again was tough. We spent a lot more time fine-tuning the setup this year than we did last year. We just tried to work harder at it – and after winning again, we can let out a sigh of relief knowing it was a job well done.”
Friesen’s exhilaration was tempered a bit, however, when his Teo-Pro car failed a portion of the post-race inspection process. DIRTcar officials found a technical violation in the machine’s fueling system and levied a fine of $25,000 – half of the race’s posted $50,000 first-place prize – on Friesen’s team. Officials said the fine money will be added to the 2011 Super DIRTcar Series points fund.
Driving the same Jeff Daley-owned car he steered to victory in a record-breaking fuel-mileage run last year, Friesen started fifth and only briefly ran outside the top five after making his first pit stop on lap 42. He slipped by Decker while racing through the pack and was up to second behind Varin by lap 72.
Friesen’s biggest threat ultimately was Decker, who worked his way to second just before the lap 150-175 mandatory pit-stop window arrived. Decker pulled his Gypsum Wholesalers Bicknell car up to Friesen’s rear bumper by lap 180 and a couple circuits made a dive to Friesen’s inside entering turn three, but Friesen shut the door and Decker had his momentum dulled for good after the race’s 14th and final caution flag flew on lap 185.
“We had a great race with Billy all day long,” said Friesen. “Billy definitely had a great race car, so the pit stop (on lap 154) was critical. We were able to get out in front of him, and then I got a line in turn three that let me stay ahead of him.
“I’ll tell ‘ya, it is pretty cool to beat Billy Decker to win here. He’s so good at this place, you have to bring your A-plus game.”
Decker’s runner-up finish left him just short of an unprecedented Super DIRT Week sweep – pole positions, heat wins and headline-race victories in both the Big-Block and 358-Modified divisions.
“We had a great week,” said Decker, who was also aiming to match Hearn’s record of five SEF triumphs. “But one of the things that goes along with a great week is super-high expectations. If we had a hunk of junk all week we wouldn’t have expected to finish very well today, but we thought we had the car to beat. Unfortunately, today was the worst it was all week.
“Having said that, my guys still did a helluva job. I can’t thank everyone enough. We were close, digging and clawing all day, and we actually had a shot before that last caution. I got alongside of (Friesen) once, but we couldn’t make it happen.
“Stew had a real good. Early on, when he passed me (after their first pit stops), I said, ‘He’s way too versatile. He’s rolling.’ Maybe I should feel lucky that I even got to his bumper once.”
Decker’s $25,000 bridesmaid outing was good enough to vault him into the Super DIRTcar Series points lead by 48 points over Matt Sheppard of Waterloo, N.Y., who led laps 42-71 but was an early retiree. He finished 29th after sliding to a stop in turn two on lap 145 and then losing a left-rear wheel when he attempted to drive to the pits.
Jimmy Phelps of Baldwinsville, N.Y., finished sixth in the SEF 200 after recovering from an unscheduled pit stop on lap 121 to change a flat left-front tire. David Hebert of St-Damase, Que., placed seventh; Kenny Tremont of West Sand Lake, N.Y., was eighth despite being dealt a stop-and-go penalty for speeding on pit road when he made his mandatory pit stop on lap 154 (he had left the pits behind only Friesen, Decker and Coffey); Mark Flach Jr. of Selkirk, N.Y., finished ninth and earned the $1,000 Rookie of the Race honor; and Vince Vitale of Phoenix, N.Y., rounded out the top 10.
Contenders who experienced late-race trouble included Ryan Godown of Ringoes, N.J., and Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y. Godown was running a solid third when he ran out of fuel on the final lap and plummeted to a 16th-place finish, while McCreadie had his repaired Sweeteners Plus car (it was heavily damaged in a Friday heat-race crash) perched in fifth place when its fuel tank ran dry during a caution period on lap 187 due to a prolonged gas leak.
Hearn’s tough Syracuse fortune since his last SEF 200 win in 1995 continued. He was able to make up a lap he lost after slowing with a left-front flat tire on lap 40 and climb as high as eighth before engine trouble forced him out on lap 104.
The race’s most serious accident, on lap 107, involved outside-polesitter Billy Dunn of Watertown, N.Y., and teenager Larry Wight of Phoenix, N.Y. Dunn’s car came to rest at the end of the homestretch with heavy front-end damage while Wight’s machine spun backwards in turn four and had to be cradled off the track. Neither driver was injured.
Sunday’s SEF 200 was taped for broadcast on the SPEED cable network on Sat., Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. ET.
For more information on Super DIRT Week XL, log on to www.SuperDirtWeekOnline.com.
Results of 40th annual SEF Small Engine Fuels 200 presented by Ferris & Snapper
|8||39||Kenny Tremont Jr.||200||Running||$3,400|
|9||32||Mark Flach Jr.||200||Running||$3,200|
|22||43||Tom Sears Jr.||196||Running||$1,600|
|36||19||Steve Hulsizer||98||Rear end||$1,500|
|*Started last in backup car|
|Time of Race: 2 hours, 54 mins., 00.338 secs|
|Lap Leaders: Decker (1-41); Sheppard (42-71); Varin (72-100); Friesen (101-153); Decker (154); Friesen (155-200)|
|Caution Flags: 14 for 66 laps (Laps 5-8; 40-48; 54-61; 69-75; 76-81; 83-87; 93-97; 98-103; 107-108; 118-123; 138-142; 152-158; 161-165; 185-189|
|Red Flags: 1 (Lap 108)|
|Provisional Starters: Tom Sears Jr., Tim Currier|
|Rookie of the Race: Mark Flach Jr. ($1,000)|
|Sharon’s Toy Fifth-Place Bonus: Pat Ward ($1,000)|
|Sharon’s Toy 10th-Place Bonus: Vince Vitale ($500)|
|Sharon’s Toy Third-Place at Halfway: Ryan Godown ($500)|
|Sharon’s Toy Last Car On Lead Lap At Finish: Roy Bresnaham ($400)|
|Final Running Sharon’s Toy Compound Driver:|
|Lap 100 Leader: Bobby Varin (Teo-Pro Car Chassis & Body)|
|Gater Racing News Best Appearing Car & Crew: Matt Sheppard|
Dig Safely New York Last Chance Qualifier (20 laps/Top 4 Transfer to SEF 200): 1. Tim Fuller, 2. Danny Johnson, 3. Kenny Tremont, 4. Roy Bresnahan, 5. Brian Murphy, 6. Dan Humes, 7. Darwin Greene, 8. Ted Christopher, 9. Greg Atkins, 10. Aaron Jacobs, 11. Eldon Payne, 12. Tom Sears Jr., 13. Tim Currier, 14. Dave Rauscher
Super DIRTcar Series Points Standings – as of Oct. 9 (Rank/Driver/Points/Deficit):
1. Billy Decker 2,132
2. Matt Sheppard 2,084 (-48)
3. Brett Hearn 2,014 (-118)
4. Jimmy Phelps 1,994 (-138)
5. Danny Johnson 1,846 (-286)
6. Justin Haers 1,824 (-308)
7. Rob Bellinger 1,680 (-452)
8. Pete Britten 1,679 (-453)
9. Tom Sears Jr. 1,634 (-498)
10. Larry Wight 1,608 (-524)
11. Rich Scagliotta 1,594 (-538)
12. Tim Currier 1,509 (-623)
13. Gary Tomkins 1,451 (-681)
14. Billy Dunn 1,289 (-843)
15. Bobby Varin 1,232 (-900)
DIRTcar Racing in the Northeast Region is brought to fans by several sponsors and partners; including Hoosier Racing Tire; VP Racing Fuels; GM Performance Parts, Nationwide Insurance and Safety-Kleen. Promotional partners include the University of Northwestern Ohio and Chizmark Larson Insurance Agency. Contingency sponsors are ASI; Bert Transmissions; Bicknell Racing Products; Bilstein Shocks; Brodix; ButlerBuilt; Comp Cams; Intercomp; JE Pistons; KSE Racing Products; Motorsports Safety Systems; MSD Ignition; Penske Shocks; Racing Electronics; R2C; Super Flow; Vicci Racing Apparel; WIX Filters; Wrisco Industries; Xtreme Lubricants and Extreme Mufflers.