LIVE UPDATES 10/9: NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week Qualifying
The first action on the New York State Fairgrounds one-mile oval of NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week XLIII has begun. Hot laps for the DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds and 358-Modifieds hit the track at 10 a.m. in advance of time trials for both divisions.
After a break in on-track activity at 12 noon for the annual Media Day press conference, time trials for the ‘Salute to the Troops’ 358-Modified Championship 150 are scheduled to begin at 1:20 p.m. and the race against the clock for the Syracuse 200 Big-Block Modified classis are set for a 2:45 p.m. commencement.
The top six starting spots in the Syracuse 200 and ‘Salute to the Troops’ 358-Modified Championship 150 will be locked in after today’s time trials. Results will also be used to align each division’s heat races during Friday night’s Camping ‘Friday Night Lights’ program.
Click the ‘read more’ link below and be sure to refresh your browser regularly to read the latest live updates of the action on the ‘Moody Mile’ and other news and notes throughout the day, and check back later tonight for results from the DIRTcar 358-Modified Series ‘Hurricane 100’ at Brewerton (N.Y.) Speedway.
Sheppard nips Hearn for Big-Block pole
4:30 p.m. – Matt Sheppard nipped Brett Hearn on the clock by the slimmest of margins — a mere two-thousandths of a second — to earn the pole position in Sunday’s Syracuse 200 for the first time in his career.
Sheppard’s lap of 29.410 seconds during Big-Block time trials just beat Hearn’s circuit of 29.412 seconds, putting the 2009 Syracuse 200 winner at the top of the speed chart.
Hearn fell short of tying Billy Decker’s record of seven Big-Block fast-time honors but will still share the front row of the 200-miler with Sheppard.
Sheppard’s HBR Racing teammate, Jimmy Phelps, will start third in the 200 after turning a lap of 29.435 seconds. Decker was fourth-fastest at 29.466 seconds, defending race champion Billy Dunn will start fifth after a lap of 29.493 seconds and Duane Howard will go off sixth following a circuit of 29.545 seconds.
Complete results from Big-Block Modified time trials can be seen by clicking here.
Decker, Terrance fastest in 358 qualifying
3 p.m. – There wasn’t much of a surprise at the top of the speed chart when qualifying ended for the ‘Salute to the Troops’ 358-Modified 150.
Billy Decker once again was fastest in time trials, turning a lap of 31.116 seconds to emerge as the event’s quick-qualifier for the fourth time in the last five years. He will start from the pole position in Saturday’s 150-miler.
Carey Terrance was less than a tenth of a second slower than Decker, stopping the clock at 31.201 seconds to earn the outside pole for the 150.
Chris Raabe will start third after turning a lap of 31.219 seconds. Also locking into Saturday’s 150 were Ronnie Johnson (31.278), Tim McCreadie (31.396) and Stewart Friesen (31.426).
Full results from 358-Modified time trials can be seen by clicking here.
Gater Racing News honored
2:35 p.m. – Super DIRTcar Series director Joe Skotnicki made a presentation that was dear to his heart during the Media Day press conference.
Taking to the microphone to announce the recipient of the annual Buzzie Reutimann Outstanding Contribution to Super DIRT Week award, Skotnicki became a bit emotional as he spoke.
“Every year you walk down the infield road and there’s a (certain) tent there,” said Skotnicki, his voice cracking. “It’s not there this year.”
He was talking about the Gater Racing News tent, which is missing from Super DIRT Week for the first time because the central New York-based trade paper ceased operations during the summer after nearly 50 years of publishing.
“The Buzzie Award goes to the Patricks,” Skotnicki added as he recognized the family behind the paper for almost a half-century.
A former Gater News writer and close friend of the Patrick family, Skotnicki (far left) and DIRTcar Northeast’s Jeff Hachman (far right) posed for photos with Joey and Susie Patrick (photo below by Alex Bruce).
’15 Super DIRTcar Series sked revealed
2:20 p.m. – The annual NAPA Super DIRT Week Media Day press conference in the John Hill Media Center concluded a short time ago after the usual series of sponsor recognitions, driver interviews (Billy Dunn and Larry Wight, the top two finishers in last year’s Syracuse 200, attended) and special presentations.
The biggest news, of course, was the announcement of the 2015 Super DIRTcar Series schedule. Tour director Joe Skotnicki sat down with announcer Shane Andrews (photo below by Alex Bruce) to go through the slate of events.
Among the highlights:
* A first-ever visit to Ohsweken (Ont.) Speedway on Tues., June 30.
* The series will return to Andy Harpell’s historic quarter-mile Five Mile Point Speedway in Kirkwood, N.Y., for the first time since 1997 on Tues., July 14.
* Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa., is back on the schedule after a three-year absence with a Bob Miller-promoted Thunder on the Hill show on Tues., June 16.
* Brett Hearn’s Big Show 7 at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., will be contested on an appropriate date: 7/7.
* Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway has two dates: Thurs., Aug. 6, and Sat., Sept. 19.
* Fonda (N.Y.) Speedway, which last month hosted the SDS for the first time since 2003, will be back in ’15 but with a slight date alteration. After closing Fonda’s fall weekend with a Sunday-evening date this year, the series will compete on Sat., Sept. 26next season.
The ’15 schedule kicks off with four nights of non-point racing Feb. 19-22 during the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and the first points race will be Sat., April 25, at Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway. The tour concludes Nov. 5-7 with two 40-lap events during the World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C.
The complete schedule will officially be released tomorrow.
Dunn looking good
12:45 p.m. – Defending Syracuse 200 champion Billy Dunn was fastest in 358-Modified hot laps, circling the mile in 31.342 seconds. He hopes to avenge his bitter defeat in last year’s 358-Modified 150 when his fuel tank ran dry as he led on the final lap.
Stewart Friesen was second-fastest in hot laps at 31.418 seconds, followed by Chris Raabe (31.537), Larry Wight (31.872) and Billy Decker (31.875).
The first official competitive event of NAPA Super DIRT Week XLIII took place Wednesday night when the DIRTcar 358-Modified and Sportsman-Modified series hit Weedsport Speedway, the three-eighths-mile oval that has been completely remodeled under the ownership of Al Heinke.
Here’s some quick-hitting notes from the evening of action at Weedsport:
* Matt Sheppard of Waterloo, N.Y., captured the 75-lap 358-Modified Series feature at Weedsport for the second consecutive year — and even though last year marked the first time that he had ever won an evening satellite race during Super DIRT Week, this $4,000 victory was even more special.
This year, after all, he drives for Heinke and his team’s shop is based right on the grounds of Weedsport Speedway.
“This is big for us,” said Sheppard. “I really wanted to win the Big-Block (Super DIRTcar Series) race here (in August) because this is basically our team’s hometrack now, but we ended up second because Billy Decker had a better car. I thought I would end up second again tonight but we got the job done.”
* Chad Brachmann of Wheatfield, N.Y. — the driver Sheppard overtook for the lead on lap 54 — held on to finish second. He knows all about that position this season.
“Our year has gone just like tonight,” said Brachmann, a veteran racer from the Niagara Frontier circuit. “I think we have a dozen second-place finishes (split between New York’s Ransomville Speedway and Ontario’s Merrittville Speedway), and we finished second in Merrittville’s points and second in the Tri-Track (Series) points.”
Grabbing another runner-up finish against top competition certainly wasn’t disappointing for Brachmann, but he definitely could smell victory lane.
“I just want to rip off of these DIRT Week shows that has all the big guns here,” said Brachmann, who will also run tonight’s 358-Modified event at Brewerton and perhaps Saturday night’s ‘Win & You’re In’ Big-Block show at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park but isn’t fielding a car at the mile. “We’ve beaten them at home, but I really want to do it on the road one time.”
* Ryan Godown of Ringoes, N.J., gave his car owner, Bill Hewlett of Maple Shade, N.J., a real thrill with his solid drive to a third-place finish in the 75-lapper after leading laps 1-15.
“I’m just happy as can be to be here and run with these guys,” said the 77-year-old Hewlett, who teamed with Godown this season to enter selected Big-Block and 358-Modified events. “We took too much gear out for the feature (after winning a heat), but we had a great night. Hopefully we won’t take too much gear out again (Thursday night) at Brewerton and maybe we can be in the hunt.”
Hewlett has owned race cars for most of the past 56 years, but this season marks the first time he’s fielded a small-block Modified in 40 years, when he had New Jersey’s Parker Bohn run for him at the now-gone East Windsor (N.J.) Speedway. In that vein, Wednesday night’s event was the first time he’s had one of his No. 901 machines in a Super DIRT Week satellite event; he has, however, made several Big-Block Modified assaults on the Moody Mile with New Jersey’s Jimmy Horton.
* Rick Laubach of Hellertown, Pa., has been a Super DIRT Week stalwart at Syracuse for a decade — he’s started the 200 every year since 2002 — but Wednesday night was his first-ever start in an evening satellite show. He finished sixth in the Gary Spotts-owned machine that he drove to the 2014 DIRTcar 358-Modified championship at Big Diamond Speedway in Forestville, Pa.
Laubach mentioned that the distinctive look of Weedsport’s new clay surface almost left him wondering what track he was at.
“With that red clay,” he said, “I felt like I was at Hagerstown (Md.) or Charlotte (N.C.).”
* Young Erick Rudolph’s drive for a second consecutive DIRTcar 358-Modified championship hit a speed bump at Weedsport. The 22-year-old from Ransomville, N.Y., finished 20th after being banged around and spinning in two separate tangles, sending him out the pit gate leading the points standings by 71 points over Mario Clair and 72 points over Carey Terrance.
Fast start for Decker
11:40 a.m. – Four-time Syracuse 200 champion Billy Decker (photo below by Alex Bruce) quickly got up to speed on the mile, topping the morning’s Big-Block Modified practice charts with a lap of 31.320 seconds.
J.R. Heffner was second-fastest at 31.353 seconds, followed by Stewart Friesen (31.529), Vic Coffey (31.825) and Pat Ward (31.827).
The 358-Modified class is now on the track practicing for the first time.
It feels like Super DIRT Week
11:20 a.m. – Recent Super DIRT Weeks have been blessed with at least a day or two — if not more — or true short-sleeve weather, but this week is shaping up to be a bit more in line with the traditional fall-like conditions of so many past Syracuse spectaculars.
Forecasts indicate that daytime high temperatures throughout the week aren’t expected to climb much higher than 60, keeping the air cool for attendees. But it does look like any significant rain threats are looming — at least currently — which is a great sign for a week that has a jam-packed schedule.