Officials See Huge Car Count During Early Inspection at NAPA Super DIRT Week
Drivers across four divisions prepping for massive event at Oswego Speedway
By Chris Dolack, Joe Grabianowski and Billy Foley
OSWEGO, NY — Oct. 8, 2019 — Cars don’t hit the track until Wednesday afternoon at Oswego Speedway, and already 144 of them rolled through NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week Early Bird Technical Inspection on Tuesday en route to what’s expected to be a huge car count.
The astonishing number of cars — 31 more than went through Early Inspection last year — were lined up before 9 a.m. and continued until 6 p.m. when two-time champion Danny Johnson’s #27J machine was the final car to pass through the inspectors before officials had to head toward Utica-Rome Speedway for Tuesday night’s DIRTcar 358 Modified and Sportsman events. Technical inspection resumes Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
“It’s a good crew, everybody has at least five years of experience in the tech line, all the same people all the time and it makes it go smooth, they know what they’ve got to check and they know what they’ve got to do,” said DIRTcar Technical Director Mark Hitchcock. “The teams know what’s expected of them, too.”
Of the 144 cars that went through Tuesday’s inspection, there were 51 Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds and 51 DIRTcar 358 Modifieds.
PARADE WEDNESDAY AT NOON: The annual parade through Oswego departs from the speedway at noon on Wednesday. Cars from every NAPA Super DIRT Week division will take a right on City Line Road, a right onto East Avenue, a right onto East 10th Street, a left onto East Utica Street, a right onto West First Street, a right onto NY-104 headed across the bridge, and a right back onto City Line Road to complete a five-mile loop. More than 30 race cars are slated to participate in addition to several of the official vehicles.
RACING’S BIGGEST PARTY! Nightly entertainment begins Wednesday at The Island, a new tent-covered venue between the pits and the green camping near manufacturer’s row. DJ Rick Uhl takes the stage 9 p.m. Wednesday, Mean Gene and the Flame Throwers at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, DJ Rick Uhl is back on Friday night — along with Big Wheel races — as well as on Saturday night. Check out the schedule on SuperDIRTWeek.com (or download the app) for a full schedule of events during the week.
WHITTAKER FOR THE WIN! Billy Whittaker isn’t only the sponsor of the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 for the Super DIRTcar Series, he’s also trying to win a car for a lucky fan. If Whittaker wins the Billy Whittaker Cars 200 on Sunday, a fan will win a Ford Fusion from Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux from entries gathered during the event.
“I’m very proud to sponsor this race with the history of it and all the big sponsors that were a part of it,” Whittaker said. “I’m proud to be able to sponsor this and race in it. I’m just fully involved and it’s just cool.”
Whittaker is definitely gearing up to go for the win, but he knows it won’t be an easy task.
“There’s a lot that goes into NAPA Super DIRT Week,” Whittaker said. “You gotta get through tech, get to the night shows, be able to process and get it ready with a short turnaround. The challenge for us part-timers is definitely tough. The professionals do this so well. We’re going to try to make the Salute to the Troops 150, as well.
“We have our work cut out for us this week, but we’ve got really good race cars. We’ve got a good team put together and we’re gonna have some fun, hopefully. Our main goal is to get into the 200. There’s a lot of competition, a lot of guys. Qualifying is our first objective.”
LOCKED IN: Rookie Demetrios Drellos won the most recent Super DIRTcar Series race, Sept. 21 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, and in the process guaranteed himself a spot in the Billy Whittaker Cars 200. He’ll do double-duty this week, also running the DIRTcar 358 Modified Salute to the Troops 150.
“There is pressure to qualify because you still want a good starting spot,” Drellos said. “But it does take some pressure off knowing you will be in the show no matter what.”
No doubt, Drellos is not underestimating the task ahead.
“At Super DIRT Week you have to prepare for having full fuel load for longer in the Big Blocks,” Drellos said. “You have to prepare a strategy for when you pit. It’s hard to get everyone to agree on a strategy. When is the best time to pit for us? We have to plan for when the race changes and how we adapt to that. It’s a lot more planning with the team.
“We give the cars a real good freshening up. We go through them thoroughly. We got new bodies, because you want to look nice, it’s NAPA Super DIRT Week and it’s great for the sponsors.”
WARD READY: Veteran racer Pat Ward is also running the Super DIRTcar Series and DIRTcar 358 Modified events at NAPA Super DIRT Week.
“We went through the whole car, put some new parts on her, a new body, and we’ll send her out there and see what happens,” Ward said. “We’re prepared. We’ve done this for a lot of years. It’s a lot of work because it’s a lot of racing. If you are going good, it’s fun; if not, it’s a long week.”
FIRST TIMERS: Michael Coffey Jr. is set to tackle Oswego Speedway in his DIRTcar Sportsman for the first time.
“I came the last two years helping Andrew Buff and Adam McAuliffe,” Coffey said. “Obviously both of them finished in the top five last year so I can learn a lot from watching them. Their notebook is top secret, but Andrew helped with the set up so hopefully we can have a nicely tuned car out there. … “The track is different than what it looks like when you get out there. It’s exciting to get out there and try to turn some fast laps.”
DJ Forbes makes his first NAPA Super DIRT Week start in a 358 Modified.
“We ran last year in the Sportsman Modified but we didn’t make the show,” Forbes said. “We run weekly at Fulton Speedway. We struggled at the beginning of the year just trying to get the car figured out, but we were able to pick up a couple top 10s. … We just want to make the show. We’re going to run the satellites shows at Brewerton and Weedsport.”
Another inaugural Oswego racer is Dylan Swinehart.
“It’s my first time racing at Oswego,” Swinehart said. “I’ve been here the last two years just coming to watch and checking out what guys have.”
A handful of DIRTcar Pro Stocks went through early tech on Tuesday, including Travis Welch. They’re definitely excited to get additional track time with Heat Races during the Friday Night Lights events.
“You gotta be on your ballgame, nut and bolt everything,” Welch said. “I think set up is crucial here. Gearing is huge. Keeping your nose clean is the biggest thing and try to work my way through. … We are stronger when we run a Heat Race. Last year we qualified 15th. We’re happy because we get more track time regardless.”
Ben Bushaw is another first time 358 Modified racer at Oswego, hoping to build on DIRTcar Sportsman success from the past two seasons.
“We’ve been here the last two years, but in a Sportsman,” Bushaw said. “Last year we came here and qualified fourth fastest out of 90 cars, but we were two pounds light on the scales. I’m pretty excited about this year in the 358. This car seems to like big tracks so we’ll see what happens. We went to Orange County this year and ran really well down there. Hopefully we get in the show and run pretty good.”
NEW DEAL FOR HAERS: Justin Haers is no stranger to NAPA Super DIRT Week, but this year he’ll have a new ride in the DIRTcar 358 Modified division.
“We’ve got a brand new 358, with Jake Marine from Delaware owning the car,” Haers said. “Hopefully we’ll have a good run with that.”
Haers is still confident with his Big Block Modified, too.
“We’re very prepared. We’ve definitely done that right,” Haers said. “I’m feeling pretty good. We’ve had a pretty good car the last quarter of the year. Obviously, the Big Block car that we ran probably half the year with, I’m pretty confident. There’s lots of race cars here and lots of different circumstances to play out.”
FARNEY IN THE FLAGSTAND: Starter Dave Farney is in the flagstand for his 27th NAPA Super DIRT Week. He started as an assistant flagger on the frontstretch at Syracuse for four years before moving into the flagstand, which at Oswego is on the infield side of the track.
“It’s completely opposite of everything I do all year,” Farney said. “It’s difficult. It affects a little bit of my routine, my schtick, but the excitement of NAPA Super DIRT Week gets you through it.”
Of course, when flagging from the infield side of the track, you’re looking directly at the fans in the massive grandstand.
“When we have had excessive yellow flag laps, the fans voiced their displeasure and I could look them in the eye … it makes you a little uneasy. You wanted to react, but usually I would just smile at them. I like our new rule, four consecutive laps and then freezing the lap counter.”