Starting 12th on the grid at any track can be a tall task. But those challenges don’t bother Erick Rudolph.
Rudolph, the former Super DIRT Week Sportsman Modified champion from Ransomville, NY, surged from his starting spot all the way on the outside of Row 6 to the lead in under 60 laps Tuesday night, running away from the field after a late restart to score the win in the Cavalcade Cup makeup Feature at Weedsport Speedway.
The 75-lap main event, held-over from a weather-related postponement in September, featured a stacked roster of talent for Rudolph to compete against – all of which he drove around with ease to collect the $5,000 grand prize.
“I always think I have a shot at winning it, but [starting] 12th is tough,” Rudolph said. “You walk around the pit area and see who’s here – tons of good competitors. Tons of wins starting ahead of me.”
The majority of Rudolph’s passes were made after the halfway point. Through the first 30 laps, he had only advanced positions twice. That’s when he knew it was time to get going.
“First third of the race, we weren’t really doing much of anything, but we started hooking up, started gluing on the bottom, started to roll the middle really nice,” Rudolph said. “It seemed like [the car] just kept getting better and better in comparison to the other competitors.”
By the race’s second caution period 43 laps in, Rudolph sat fifth in line. Restarting behind Tim Fuller, Jordan McCreadie, Ronnie Davis III and leader Tim Sears Jr, Rudolph found the bottom lane and worked his magic around the 3/8-mile.
“They were running a different line than I was running, so I was able to get some clean air on the nosepiece,” Rudolph said. “We were able to get by [Sears Jr.] in a few laps, but [Davis III] –he was really good.”
Davis, 27, of Syracuse, NY, kept it up front after starting on the outside pole, got a run to the outside of Sears after the restart and took the lead away on Lap 47.
“I saw Sears roll us on the outside, so I figured I had to make something happen,” Davis said. “I figured once he got out there, it was gonna be tough to pass him. I ended up using the middle to the outside to get by him. Catching some of the moisture on the outside of Turn 2 really gave me a shot out of 2 to get by him.”
By this time, Rudolph was already making a beeline for the leaders. Having already moved by Fuller and McCreadie with great speed on the bottom, Rudolph zoomed by Sears with a blast off Turn 2 and gunned it for Davis out front.
By Lap 58, he had reached the bumper of the #32R. By Lap 59, Rudolph had taken the lead with a move to Davis’ inside.
“He just kinda popped in there coming out of Turn 4,” Davis said. “I think we were just as good; he was just a touch better and was able to keep putting a small length between the two of us.”
Ten laps left and an expanding gap in traffic, and the caution flag waved one final time. Rudolph knew his car was fast and skillset sharp, and handled the restart no-sweat to bag his first 358 Modified Series Feature win of the season.
“I was relieved that I didn’t have any lapped traffic to deal with, but then that bunches the field back up,” Rudolph said. “You’ve got everybody behind you that wants to win. I just concentrated on having a clean start and remembered what I was doing before the caution came out.”
Davis held on for second in his first 358 Series start of the season, despite concocting a master plan to take the lead back after the final restart.
“I thought about surging around [Rudolph] on the outside to see if it stuck,” Davis said. “But Fuller was behind me and I know that he likes to run bottom or shoot the middle, so I felt like I had to protect that.”
Fuller crossed the line in third after starting 10th, Sears Jr. held on for fourth and McCreadie completed the top-five.
The DIRTcar 358 Modified Series heads to Brewerton Speedway in Brewerton, NY, on Wednesday, Oct. 4, for the annual Hurricane Harvey 75, alongside the DIRTcar Sportsman Modifieds.
DIRTcar 358 Series (75 Laps): 1. 25R-Erick Rudolph; 2. 32R-Ronnie Davis III; 3. 19-Tim Fuller; 4. 83X-Tim Sears Jr; 5. 28-Jordan McCreadie; 6. 98H-Jimmy Phelps; 7. 99L-Larry Wight; 8. 35-Mike Mahaney; 9. 7Z-Zachary Payne; 10. 49-Billy Dunn; 11. 91-Felix Roy; 12. M1-David Marcuccilli; 13. 8H-Max McLaughlin; 14. 01-Chris Raabe; 15. 5H-Amy Holland; 16. 12-Darren Smith; 17. 60-Jackson Gill; 18. 6M-Mat Williamson; 19. 9-Brian Calabrese; 20. 31-Lance Willix; 21. 3-Chris Mackey; 22. 39-Ryan Bartlett; 23. 7S-Shaun Shaw; 24. 38J-Jarrett Herbison; 25. 21R-RJ Tresidder; 26. 117-CJ Castelletti; 27. J82-Will Shields; 28. 38-Jason Parkhurst; 29. 2-Robert Bublak; 30. 9M-Tyler Meeks